The Best Coastal Walks in Cornwall 2022
The Top 10 Best Cornwall Walks to have in 2022 on the South West Coast Path
Cornwall is one of the most beautiful counties in England. With its rugged coastline, the longest stretch in Britain, encased by glorious, bejewelled seas and white sandy beaches and with the south west coast path for you to enjoy it all: The views are nothing less than stunning and its no wonder its an area of outstanding natural beauty, with many a great artist capturing beautiful seascape pictures from Cornwall over the decades.
Together with country trails and quaint villages, you will find a kaleidoscope of scenery to enjoy along the counties south west coast path, since Cornwall has so many walking routes, many can be made into a circular walk with a little bit of route planning.
Besides its beauty, Cornwall also has a rich heritage of fishing and mining. Together with the valuable history and mythical legends that make Cornwall unique, there is something to excite any adventurer. The landscape is littered with historical relics and monuments to bring the past to life.
Many authors have been drawn to the mysterious atmosphere of this western corner of Britain and have set their works here. The landscape has an ethereal quality that you will often see portrayed by both artists and photographers.
The best way to immerse yourself in the stunning scenery is without a doubt, by foot exploring the many coastal walks such as the long south west coastal path which takes you right to the cliff edge. There are so many walks you can choose depending on whether you are a dog walker, a serious hiker, or someone simply wanting to explore and experience the majestic landscapes.
Here are our top 10 to check out, so read on to check out some of the best walks in Cornwall.
Best for Dogs
Taking your faithful friend on a hearty coastal walk is the perfect way to discover Cornwall and enjoy the fresh air and with miles of the south west coast path for you to enjoy it, you couldn't be in a better place.
Some walks are better suited to dogs, particularly as some beaches have restrictions in the summer months. Dogs are welcome on all 630 miles of the south west coast path but do remember to keep your dog on a lead if it doesn’t have great recall.
Time: 2 hours Distance: 3 miles Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This beautiful circular walk can be reached by car, parking at the convenient Frogmore National Trust Car Park. It's one of the shorter coastal walks that will take you around the bays of Lantic, past some gorgeous coves and to a perfect white sandy beach at Lantivet.
You will traverse diverse landscapes as well as immerse yourself in the history of smuggling and fishing for which Cornwall is renowned.
Your dog will be rewarded by a magnificent stretch of white sandy beach where they can play, run and swim to their heart’s content.
Be aware that the climb up from the beach is steep and may not be suitable for people with an impaired ability or small children. There are also some styles on the route.
Cadgwith and Poltesco
Time: 2 hours Distance: 2.6 miles Level of Difficulty: Easy
Park at the Ruan Minor Car Park. This shorter walk takes you across the stunning heathland between the village of Cadgwith and the hamlet of Poltesco. There is even a dog-friendly pub called the Cadgwith Cove Inn where you and your pooch will be welcomed for a satisfying lunch. This walk has a good mix of inland and coastal walking and includes a dog-friendly beach for a good run.
Cadgwith Cove has a history of pilchard fishing and the village itself is filled with traditional thatched whitewashed cottages. As you pass by, you will see the original cellars used for pilchard processing.
Head on up to Enys Head where you will find panoramic views over Kennack Sands to capture some Bass Point Pictures or The Lizard Lighthouse Prints.
Finally, check out Carleon Cove which is famous for its coloured shingle. There is a waterway here once used by the Victorian Serpentine Factory, now the home of jumping brown trout.
St Agnes to Perranporth
Time: 2 hours Distance: 3.6 miles Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This dog-friendly walk on the Cornish north coast has one steep climb at the beginning followed by a flat clifftop walk which is mostly level and will suit a wide range of abilities.
As well as being a great opportunity for spotting birds and wildflowers you will also get to see evidence of Cornwall’s rich mining history, whilst passing many beaches and pubs which welcome dogs.
St Agnes Head is also the location for the TV Series Poldark’ and the setting for Poldark’s family home called Nampara.
Best for Spectacular Views
Since every view in Cornwall appears to be magnificent, it can be hard to pick out the ones that are extra special. However, these walks along the counties coastal path will reward your efforts with scenery that can actually take your breath away.
The Lizard and Kynance Cove
Time: Two and a half hours Distance: Four and a half miles Level of Difficulty: Challenging
Its always worth a visit to the Lizard Peninsula and this circular walk to kynance cove begins at Lizard Car Park down on Cornwall's south coast, then winding through the Lizard, past the Lighthouse and the Lifeboat Station at Polpeor before reaching Lizard Point. You really have to take a moment here to stop and admire the spectacular views.
Next, you will continue along the coastal path, along the cliffs towards Kynance Cove. The path is filled with wildflowers and beautiful sea views including a shipwreck at Pentreath Beach.
The jewel of the walk is at the cove itself which will reward you with sparkling waters and multi-coloured rocks, standing tall like islands protruding upwards from the sea. This exceptional spot should be savoured and makes the perfect place to linger with a picnic and bathe in the scenery.
The return route takes you across the heathland, following in the footsteps of many a weary walker and you will soon then realise why this is one of the nicest walks in cornwall.
Porthgwarra and Porthcurno
Time: Two hours Distance: Two and a half miles Level of Difficulty: Moderate
This walk takes in some incredibly spectacular views across the bays sandy beaches and rugged coastline. It is short but quite rugged in places. You will climb from the quiet fishing village of Portgawarra to the clifftops which may involve some clambering between granite boulders. Your efforts will be rewarded as the view at the top is simply stunning.
The cliff path is level, and you will be able to experience the coastal views until you reach Porth Chapel. Here you will cross the valley before going up to see the Minack Theatre. This unique open air feature is perched high on a rocky granite outcrop on the cliffs looking down towards the Atlantic Ocean.
From here you climb down to the idyllic beach at Porthcurno considered to be one of Cornwall’s most spectacular beaches.
This walk may be tough, but it will reward you not only with spectacular views but also with an abundance of seasonal wildlife. The area is popular with birdwatchers who are keen to see some rare sightings. If you are lucky you will see Red Kites and Buzzards swooping above as they go hunting.
Autumn brings an array of moths drinking nectar from the abundant heather before they migrate south.
Mousehole to Lamorna Cove
Time: Three hours Distance: Five miles Level of difficulty: Moderate – Challenging
This walk has real contrasts of scenery from panoramic coastal views to unusual vegetation and is a great walk to undertake whilst on the south coast.
Start at the quaint fishing village of Mousehole, perhaps named after the mousehole cave which does indeed appear like a very large mouse hole and was much used by smugglers. Then take this pretty circular route along the coastal path to the delightful Lamorna Cove. This location has been chosen for films as well as inspiring many artists.
The path passes through the wooded area of the Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve. You will be surprised by the Monterey pines and Cypress trees which were planted originally by the Victorians as a windbreak to shield over 100 little fields known as quillets’.
As you carry on, you’ll reach the headland of Carn Du. From here you can take a short detour along a small path to admire the outstanding panoramic views.
Now make your way down to the stunning Lamorna Cove. Take a breath here to relax in the peace of its small pebble beach, before heading back the way you came along the coastal path.
You may choose to cut inland through the fields of clifftop farms and the dramatic landscape of the Lamorna granite quarries.
Best for History and Legends
These walks are perfect if want to immerse yourself in the spirit of Cornwall. You will want the opportunity to linger over the relics that bring the rich history to life and discover the legends that bring an air of mystery that matches the landscape itself.
St Ive’s Harbour to St Michael’s Mount
Time: Six hours Distance: 16.6 miles Level of Difficulty: Challenging
Start your walk at one of Cornwall’s most famous harbours. You can admire the working fisherman on their trawlers and soak up the bustle and beauty of the picturesque port and the surrounding St Ives bay.
Your journey will take you onto St Michael’s Way, an ancient pilgrimage trail. It is uniquely the only footpath remaining that was linked to a designated European Cultural Route.
You will pass by villages, wooded valleys and the Marazion marshes. Here on the largest reedbed in Cornwall, you will have the opportunity to see a variety of wetland birds.
Once you make it to the South Coast the big attraction of this walk will undoubtedly be the spectacular view of St Michael’s Mount itself.
Get a preview of its magic in this fine art print from Sebastien Coell Photography
This iconic rocky island is home to a medieval castle and church. The oldest buildings date back to the 12th century. You may even be able to take a boat trip to the island or at low tide brave the infamous causeway.
You can then return to St Ive's by bus and whilst your there why not enjoy the magnificent views across St Ives bay.
Time: One hour Distance: One and a half miles Level of Difficulty: Easy
This is a nice gentle walk on Cornwall's north coast starts in the village of Zennor, a historical village that was one of the last places where residents spoke traditional Cornish. Start at the Parish church of St Senara where you can find the medieval carving of a mermaid. The mermaid is linked with a legend telling the tale of a local singer who was entranced by a mermaid and never seen again. Did the tale inspire the carving or did the carving inspire the tale? You decide.
The walk will then take you through the countryside and farmland ending at the south west coast path and rugged cliffs at Zennor Head. Take your time to enjoy and admire the flora and fauna of Cornwall. You will find a variety of birdlife including Cornish choughs making their home here.
From the headland, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the coast and white sandy beaches that stretch both east and west.
A mile from the headland is a rocky ridge known as The Carracks. You may not spy any mermaids but if you are patient and look carefully you may be able to spot the colony of grey seals basking on the rock.
Best for Challenging Hikes
For those who crave the adventure of a more challenging walk, and have time to really explore, you will be rewarded with some of the most magnificent views, towering cliffs, pristine beaches, windswept moors, hidden coves and beautiful beaches in these longer duration walks.
Saints Way – Padstow to Fowey
Time: 11+ hours Distance: 27 miles Level of Difficulty: Challenging
On this walk, you can imagine the early Christian pilgrims travelling from Ireland and Wales to France or Spain on what was probably the start of their epic pilgrimage. Relive their experiences by taking on the challenge of this arduous walk. You may wish to divide it over two days by stopping overnight in Bodmin.
Start at Padstow, filled with restaurants specialising in the fish caught by the Padstow trawlermen and made famous by Rick Stein. Then head along Little Petherick Creek, over St Breock Downs and onto Lanivet.
The second part of the walk goes to the rocky Helman Tor before going south. You will follow along the edge of the Fowey River adjoining the ancient town of Lostwithiel.
You will end this Pilgrim’s trail to the sea, at the river at Golant and complete the last stretch towards Fowey, where the pilgrims would have set sail across the sea.
Engine House Trail - OK so this one isn't coastal!!
Time: 10+ hours Distance: 24 miles Level of Difficulty: Challenging
This multi user trail is suitable for hikers, cyclists and horse riders and makes for one of the longer walks in cornwall.
This long scenic walk challenges experienced walkers to discover the history of South Cornwall and explore the industrial history of the region.
The walk begins at Hayle with its stunning golden sands before reaching Carn Brea, an ancient monument consisting of Neolithic stones rumoured to have been used for human sacrifice.
The Engine trail is named after the numerous empty old engine houses which are scattered along the old Minerals Tramway route. They provide a glimpse into the workings of the long-vacated tin mines from the bygone era of Cornwall’s rich industrial heritage.
Finally, having earned the chance to refuel and recharge, you will end up in the lively city of Truro.
One more for a Bonus 11th walk
Towanroath short circular walk - My Favourite
Time: 1 hour Distance: 4 miles Level of Difficulty: Easy with some steep parts.
This trail is one of the easier routes in Cornwall but one of the best coastal walks with the most rewarding views in my opinion. This north cornwall route involves walking past the vast old mining works of Wheal Coates and then onto the beautiful Towanroath mine shaft below which sits on the south west coast path.
The views really are spectacular, giving sweeping views along the coast and out to see, framed beautifully by the mine works in the area.
Towanroath mine shaft is maintained by the National Trust to good standard and makes it a great place to explore.
Photographic wise, the area can be a great place to photograph wildflowers during the spring and summer months
This short scenic circular walk starts at the Wheal Coates visitor car park in St Agnes
What are your favourite places to visit in Cornwall? Let us know in the comments.
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Meet the Author:
I am a Devon based photographer, who enjoys travel, hiking, rugby and photographing the beautiful world in which we live in, I see photography as a creative expression upon visiting beautiful places. Each picture often tells a story.
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Sebastien Coell Photography