Discover challenging and dramatic walking trails shaped by the footsteps of traders, smugglers, saints and pirates. Cornish walking trails will reveal ancient tin mines, clifftop castles, timeless fishing villages and wild moors as you travel through a landscape of huge cliffs and hidden coves that goes back to the depths of time itself. In between the coastal drama, iconic harbours such as St Ives and Padstow give walkers access to some of the UK‘s best restaurants and coastal hotels. A county encircled by the wild Atlantic ocean, there is over 330 miles of spectacular world class coast path here taking you around the farthest corners of England - put simply it feels like walking on the edge of the world.
Stretching from coast to coast across the southwest of England, Devon is a richly diverse county with rugged shores and cliffs in the north, and classic Victorian seaside resorts in the south. In between you'll find tranquil green pastures, wooded gorges and the two dramatic wild moors in the National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Choose Devon for its walking variety, and you'll find that the popular image of cream teas and thatched cottages is true - but that Devon is so much more once you explore it on two feet. Coast to coast routes like the Two Moors Way will offer a journey through it all from the wild northern shores that inspired the Romantic poets to the maritime ports of the south coast.
Free your soul and clear your mind! Walking on the wild moors of these National Parks is a wonderful antidote to modern living. England's last true wilderness, Dartmoor offers 365 square miles of virtually uninhabited freedom with high moors and twisted dramatic granite tors a land of myths, ghosts and legends. Exmoor, its smaller and more gentle neighour, is 250 Square miles of near perfect and unique beauty, with high uplands swathed in heather and steep, wooded gorges and rushing streams. See Dartmoor ponies and Exmoor stags in these wildlife rich areas, home to 30 species of mammals and over 240 types of bird. The moors offer a unique opportunity for more challenging walking where the only human sound you will hear is the rhythm of your own breath.
Avoid the crowds and discover “Secret Somerset” missed by so many rushing headlong for the far South West. The 'land of the summer people' was named in a time when this area could only be visited in the summer months as the sea receded. Today its a rich, fertile and 'for real' landscape crowned by the fine walking ridges of the Mendip and Quantock Hills both protected areas of outstanding natural beauty. Rising up over King Arthur‘s Vale of Avalon along with the magical Tor at Glastonbury, walkers will find hidden gorges, wooded combes and the best inland panoramas of the South West. Also boasting its own Jurassic Coast Path, providing a gateway into the wilds of Exmoor National Park, Somerset offers walking routes without the crowds for those who want to find..... what the rest miss.
Dorset has a comfortable old world “English” feel to it and its walking routes traverse a rather more green and agricultural land of thatched cottages, cream teas.... and fossils ! Walkers here will find the more gentle rolling farmland, pretty villages and chalk ridges beloved by Thomas Hardy that sweep down to end abruptly at the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Here, alongside the sea, those after more challenging routes can take a walking holiday through time itself amongst the dramatic chalk stacks, cliffs and arches of the Dorsetshire fossil coast. An area that can be very busy in high season but often suits walkers looking for more gentle and less exposed walking than the far west of the region.
Wales offers some of the best walking and outdoor activities to be had anywhere in the world. The 870-mile Welsh Coast Path was only fully opened in 2012 and is the world's first walk along the entire coast of a nation. The terrain is on an equally grand scale with towering cliffs, vast stretches of unspoilt golden sands, imposing castles, offshore islands and to the north there is the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park with its stunning mountains. Wales in general offers walkers great value for money compared to more popular areas like Cornwall with walking options to suit everyone, from those who want the cosmopolitan restaurants and facilities of towns like Tenby and St Davids, through to isolated and remote forests and coastal hills that sit on the very cusp of the Snowdonian Peaks. Bursting with confidence and pride in its “Welshness”, its Celtic history, language and culture there has never been a better time for walkers to enter Wales.
The South West Coast Path is the UK's longest National Trail and one of the top ten walking routes in the world. It snakes, dips and rises continuously on its way through a staggering 1014km (630 miles) of pristine coastline, 450 miles of which is through nationally protected areas. It's a challenge too; walking the entire South West Coast Path is the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest four times! From towering cliffs to hidden coves, ghostly tin mines to lush subtropical wooded creeks. One minute a dramatic rock theatre hewn out of the cliffs, the next a prehistoric fossilized forest or a 20thC Art Deco Island Hotel. What sets The South West Coast Path apart from other trails is that around almost every corner is yet another surprise as you retrace the footsteps and histories of the tin miners, fisherman, smugglers, wreckers and the customs men who chased them.
Padstow was the landing spot for the animals, pilgrims and we are told the Saints themselves when they arrived from Southern Ireland and for today's Saints Way Walker it facilities hold an equal appeal as an embarkation point for the coast to coast crossing.
Hugging the edge of the stunning golden sands of the Camel Estuary you can see why it drew the early travellers, a sandy safe haven hidden in a rugged and violent coastline. For the 21st Century visitor its pretty much everyone's idea of the ideal Cornish Harbour town and sets the context and the relaxation for your coast to coast walk nicely.
Its new found fame is as Cornwall's Capital of Food thanks in no small part to the Chef Rick Stein who not only has his famous seafood restaurant here but a variety of other outlets including a cookery school. If you can't afford the restaurants you can join the queue at Rick Steins fish and chip shop and still eat "al fresco" all be it from the harbour wall. Otherwise check out his Patisserie or Deli for some tasty provisions to take along with you on the first days walk. As a place to stay this "Padstein" revolution has been no bad thing bringing a host of other top quality restaurants and cafes in its wake including Paul Ainsworths Restaurant No.6 which has become a fitting rival for the Padstow Crown.
For sure, in the high season during the day the town can become overrun but for those arriving on foot or departing on one of the trails you get to see the best of the place arriving just as the day trippers depart leaving peace in their wake for the later afternoon and evenings.
The exception to this is around May Day - you need to book early but if you do the streets go wild with the "Obby Oss" Ceremony another of Cornwall's bizare and to our mind slightly scary festivals ! With its origins in pagan fertility think The Wicker Man meets The Grand National - an anarchic mix of twirling dancers, musicians, singers, and staggering revellers who start a ramshakle chase after a rather disturbing caricature of a snapping horse (the Obby Oss) around the towns tiny streets. The Horse for its part has to attempt to catch young maidens under its skirts as it goes !
We have several very good B&B options close to the harbour and old town, a couple of hotel options and a very good Inn that just happens to be official home to the Obby Oss.
All are close to the start of The Saints Way route at St Petrocs Church and within a few minutes walk of the harbour and restaurants.
All in all then what with its fine food, good accommodation and friendly pubs you should see Padstow as a chance to get some luxury and good food reserves stocked up before you start your trek into the remoter Cornish interior on The Saints Way.
If you can, try and arrive early or add a rest day then Padstow won't dissapoint. Its a warren of tiny streets, hanging baskets, cafes and galleries with a very cosmopolitan feel (for Cornwall at least !) and when you tire of that relaxing in front of the working harbour as the fishing boats come and go is a pleasant diversion in itself.
You can take the ferry over the infamous Doom Bar to the hamlet of Rock enjoying superb views on the way and golden sands on the other side of the Camel Estuary at what is now dubbed "Kensington by Sea" by the locals. A short wander here takes you to pretty St Endoc Church, resting place of Sir John Betjeman, the great lover of all things Cornish in an iconic spot where the tiny church still gets covered from time to time in the shifting sands.
The admirable 6th C St Petroc's Church dedicated to Cornwall’s patron saint is the acutal start of The Saints Way and set in a wooded vale just above the harbour its well worth a look before you depart. Seek out the medieval pew adorned with a fox preaching a sermon to a gaggle of geese!
Long before Rick Stein became Padstows namesake, Sir Walter Raleigh was the Warden of Cornwall here based at the Court House and if you do want to head somewhere with more of a sense of space visit Prideaux Place a grand Elizabethan manor house. Here you can wander through ornate state rooms, formal gardens, and a pleasant deer park - the recent film of Twelfth night was shot here if that gives you an impression !
Finally for the more active Padstow has one other great offering - you can hire bikes and pedal Cornwall’s finest off road trail. The Camel Trail which runs along an old railway line, is flat, car free and affords the most stunning views and coastal vistas back across an estuary teeming with wildlife as it heads inland to Bodmin. Explore Wadebridge on your way through, stop at little wooded cafe's even pedal to the award winning Camel Valley Vineyard to taste some wine. Suitable for anyone who can ride a bike and very easy to arrange. For a waterbased day off you can take boat trips around the rocky offshore islands which have tremendous bird colonies, take surfing or coasteering lesson (jumping into the sea from the rocks), go kayaking or just head for a swim at nearby Trevone or on a seculded cove near the headland.
Tucked away in the beautfully tranquil Ruthen River Valley, the "Red River" Withiel feels a million miles away from wherever you have come from! The whole parish has a Population of only 380 and in 1824 it was 300 which gives an indication of the fact that very little has changed here. To spend a night in a real of the beaten track rural Cornish location this is perfect located in a remote valley 6 miles from Bodmin on the Saints Way route.
We use an excellent 4* rated Farmhouse here in the centre of a 100 acre Cattle and Sheep farm where the host cooks delicious evening meals for hungry Saints Way walkers - there is no pub in the area. The area around the accommodation is a designated SSSI - (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and the farm nature trail passes through this if you want an evening stroll amongst the meadow butterflies. Withiel itself has the fine 13th Century Church of St Clements well worth a look at situated in amongst a handful of pretty cottages and the castle like Rectory. The Authors of The Saints Way Guide Cards note the exterior of the church is covered in Silver Lichen a sign of the purity of the air in this forgotten corner of Cornwall.
Near enough the mid way point on The Saints Way, Lanivet is the largest habitation you will find along the whole Eastern leg route to Fowey - don't be mislead by that however as the village is limited to a handy shop, pub, church and cafe and is a pleasant enough stop on the route.to the south coast. The Lanivet Inn is over 200 years old and must be the only one in the UK to have a Panda on its inn sign - a proud point for the small village. On the edge of the village at St Benets Abbey bamboo was farmed and harvested here before the Second World War and sent to London Zoo to feed the first ever Giant Panda's !
The fine Church is well worth a look with plenty of Celtic Crosses and carved tombstones including a rather mysterious Man with a Tail said to be on a stone marking the very centre of the Kingdom of Cornwall and a rare hogsbacked tomb said to go back to the Viking age.
There are a couple of pleasant B&B's in the village we use for walkers along with the option to upgrade to the atmospheric 15C buildings at St Benets Abbey which sit in very attractive grounds on the village edge. The impressive clock tower can still be seen in amongst more stone crosses in the undergrowth. Built in 1411 this was an Abbey of the Benedictine order said to have been subordinate to Monte Cassino in Italy and operated as an early medieval hospital for travellers... they picked a tranquil spot well, and as it has a tea garden these days you can visit whether you chose to stay there or not. Thomas Hardy penned a poem to the location "Near Lanivet" when came in 1872, to visit the parental home of his wife to be Emma Gifford.
Evening meals are available at The Lanivet Inn (no bamboo on the menu these days though) and at The Welcome Stranger cafe / restaurant which whilst doubleing as the village fish and chip shop does a range of food and wine.
Lanlivery is probably what most people think of when they think of the little English village - with a mere 300 people in the wider parish this is a minature slice of rural Cornwall, all congregated around the impressive church and the welcoming village inn.
The Crown Inn, the heart of the village is a former 12th century long house with low beams slate floors and open fires serving good food and real ale that in Summer you can take outside to their tranquil little beer garden.
The pub was extended to house the stonemasons who built the admirable church of St Brevita, which is located just behind the pub. They would have been there some time as the huge Church tower is over 100 feet high and one of the most striking in Cornwall, easy to aim at it when arriving on the Saints Way from miles away.
"One of the great churches of Cornwall" according to John Betjeman nearby the village school is still open in its rather gothic looking school house which has been in use for the last 100 years.
For those on the three day Saints Way route this is your last overnight stay just as it was for the drovers and their sheep and cattle in days gone by.
A last place of safety before they dropped into the wilder Fowey valley to herd the livestock on downriver to the ships in Fowey Harbour 8 miles distant.
For an evening stroll 10 minutes away is the Stone Clad Holy Well of St Bryvyth hidden in tiny wood.
Lanlivery is definately a place for an evening of gentle wandering around the village, peace and rest before you re-enter the bustle of the harbour at Fowey at the end of your journey.
Lostwithiel may sound like a spot from Middle Earth, but middle river would be more accurate. Cornish for the "place at the tail end of the woodland" this is your first introduction to your companion to the sea ... The mighty River Fowey.
Whilst not on the Saints Way Lostwithiel is a very pleasant town or around 2,000 inhabitants in the valley 1/2 mile below the Saints Way Route.
Those staying here have a choice of two Hotels and some very good B&B accommodation. You also have the option to take a beautiful route out to rejoin the Saints Way at Milltown via the protected saltmarshes and meadows of The River Fowey starting from the Medieval Civil War bridge still standing at the heart of the town.
The town has around 4 pubs, two cafes, and a reputation as the antiques capital of Cornwall with an array of rather quirky antique and oddity shops down its single high street. There are 3 very good restaurants including Trewithen which is one of the best in Mid Cornwall if you like your food. All the pubs serve food, The Globe is one of the perenial favourites and there is plenty to explore if you do decide or are forced to spend your last night on The Saints Way Here.
The town was founded by the Normans who also built the very impressive Restormel Castle - a dramatic spot, the Castle now in ruins is only 1 mile from the village and maintained by English Heritage. If you are keen its quite possible to visit this on the morning of the walk to Fowey and continue onwards to the coast and its a truely spectacular spot.
By the 14th Century the town was the proclaimed capital of Cornwall due to the Fowey river which until it silted up in later centuries was the main route for goods in and out of this part of Cornwall. The darkest times for the town were during the Civil War when a seige of Lostwithiel saw 10,000 of Cromwells troups cornered here - much of the town was ransacked, many starved - those who did not were driven to nearby Castle Dore one of Cornwall's biggest Iron Age Forts and just above The Saints Way in Golant. There a final surrender and bloody retribution was handed down by the people of Lostwithiel and the Royalist Kings Soldiers.
Reflecting this history, all within a short distance you can find the Duchy Palace and Old Stannary Parliament, Coinage Hall, Debtors Prison and the 13th Century Medieval Bridge at a stunning crossing point over the Fowey as well as the impressive church and Town Museum. For those who like their history or want a choice of eating options, Lostwithiel is a better choice than the much smaller Lanlivery for the final night. As John Betjeman pointed out "There is history in every stone in Lostwithiel".
At the southern end of The Saints Way route on the South Coast of Cornwall you reach Cornwalls finest natural harbour at Fowey and a fitting end to your efforts.
Pronounced "Foy", as in Joy... and it is just that. Two towns Fowey and its smaller neighbour Polruan stare at each other over the deep blue waters at the end of the stunning Fowey Estuary, teeming with wildlife, wooded creeks, tranquil coves and dramatic rocky coastline. Fairly unique for modern Cornwall it retains its historic charm without too much compromise to its modern day visitors, the town itself clinging to the steep hill side in a maze of atmospheric narrow medieval streets that emerge at regular intervals to offer breathtaking views across the bustle of the river the estuary head and the alluring open sea below.
Fowey offers an excellent range of accommodation for The Saints Way walker with options from pretty whitewashed tudor houses offering B&B through to several luxury hotels overlooking the harbour and coastline. From the grand Fowey Hotel beloved by Daphne du Maurier and perched above the harbour mouth to The King of Prussia Inn named after Cornwall's infamous smuggler there is something to match every taste.
The centre of the town is a mish mash of high quality restaurants most offering straight off the boat seafood, riverside bars and inns and a tiny main street that can barely accommodate a car but for those on foot provides an array of interesting galleries, cafes, second hand bookshops and absorbing and unusual little independent shops. In that sense its a real decompression chamber back into the hustle and bustle of maritime Cornwall after the remote hamlets you have visited on the Saints Way.
Occupied since Roman times everyone has wanted to visit and Fowey has defended itself against everything from endless attempts by the Spanish and French to raze the port from medival times onwards through to a modern day restistance to the usual tacky bucket and spade shops that have spoilt so many other harbours on the UK's south coast. Wander through the maze like streets and you will break out to find remains of castles and medival blockhouses guarding the entrance from the sea and with tiny little foot ferries plying the 10 minute journey over the water to Polruan every visitor gets to take to water at some point as you explore the place.
Cook, Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake have all passed through here whilst Charles The First was shot at and nearly ended his days in the wooded creeks around Polruan.
Fowey has always inspired with writers such as Kenneth Graham (Wind in the Willows) and Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca, House on the Strand and The Birds) finding the location the perfect setting for their novels. More recently its attraction was confirmed again from those who voted it the most desirable place to live in the UK and who are we to argue. Its a popular spot for visiting boats and yachts who moor overnight and arrive in little rowing boats for some shore leave ensuring the town is always a lively place to visit and never loses its seafairing atmosphere.
Late August if you choose to arrive then brings a nonstop carnival party during Regatta Week or for more high brow experiences book early to arrive here for the Fowey Festival in early May with three weeks of walks, events, plays and live music.
Around the quay is the small but fascinating Fowey Museum, quirky and tiny aquarium and on both sides of the river the ancient ruined Blockhouses which protected the port in days gone by when huge chains stretched across the rocky harbour entrance to stop raids by the French and Spanish. Below the towns fine church you can find the Daphne du Maurier Literary Centre covering the story of Foweys most famous resident and staying here gives the chance to wander past locations from most of her works.
If you can't stay an extra day then finish off your break on the day you depart with a morning amble on one of Cornwall’s classic walks “The Hall Walk”. Only four miles but using two tiny ferries to cross the natural harbour at each end of the walk this takes you into dense wooded creeks awash with old shipwrecks and long lost mills home now to kingfisher and cormorant. The walk breaks out regularly to give the most fantastic views over the whole natural harbour area and onwards for miles down this superb section of coastline - its inspiring.
Those with more time can head for the nearby Eden Project (6 miles) - or ask us about building in a visit and walking back to Fowey as an option. You can catch the little Mevagissey Ferry which crosses St Austell Bay and gives a great look at the coastline without more walking. Those on it often spotting seals and dolphins and if you are very lucky the occasional basking shark on the way to the nearby fishing village of Mevagissey. This then allows the chance to visit the fascinating Lost Gardens of Heligan (4 mile circular walk or a short bus ride from the ferry) before returning to Fowey.
From the Town Quay area you can hire little motor boats to explore upriver on your own, take guided boat trips, hire kayaks and paddle up to the inland villages of Golant and Lerryn or join organised canoeing trips to explore the hidden creeks and wildlife of the upper Fowey estuary. Other circular walks take in wild sections of this protected coastline towards Polperro or West to the striking Gribbin Head Tower and are easy to undertake giving a very different perspective to The Saints Way - just ask for help with planning these.
Yes Fowey is pronounced as in Joy.... and no one visiting this spot leaves dissapointed - all the more so if you arrived here in celebration having completed your Coast to Coast crossing from Padstow on foot.
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