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.
Distance 11.5 miles - Grade 7 miles strenuous and 4.5 miles easy - what these grades mean
Today you walk possibly the most stunning and scenic sections in West Cornwall a parade of picturesque golden coves with the path spending much of the morning traversing the cliff top above the waves. The first steep climb is up to infamous Logan rock and theTreryn Dinas Iron Age Fort high above the churning waves. The Rock was a locally known as an enigma of balance, “one man being able to rock all 60 tonnes of it” ! The Navy’s Lieutenant Goldsmith had heard it said the rock could not be dislodged and decided to prove otherwise with his men. The rock duly fell causing an outcry in 1824. Local guides known as pinkers as they used to pick the sea pinks from the cliffs to sell were furious at this potential loss of guiding income and in the ensuing row Goldsmith was labelled a vandal and the Admiralty ordered him to replace the rock at his own expense. Somehow the 60 tonne lump of granite was hauled back into place where you can see it today.....but it lost its rocking motion in the process.
Drop into Penberth, an unspoilt fishing village of a few scattered cottages around a stone slipway at the end of a deep wooded valley where you can view the restored capstan which was the original method of haling the boats up the slipway. Wander above the whiter than white Tater-du Lighthouse and onto to Lamorna Cove and a chance to visit the notorious Lamorna Wink Inn. Walking onto Mounts Bay a more peaceful undulating coast path passes Carn-du Head covered in pink sea thrift and through Kemyel Crease Nature Reserve, a haven for butterflies and insects which glide through a rather unusual area of planted Monterey Pines.
At Port Spaniard you cross the spot where a formidable 16C Spanish raiding party intent on revenge for the defeat of the Armada landed in 1595 before moving on to destroy virtually every building in Mousehole, Paul, Newlyn and then Penzance.
A return to a road for the first time in days is made just before Mousehole a place which Dylan Thomas called The Loveliest village in England. It certainly boasts a stunning harbour, narrow alleys surrounded by whitewashed cottages and courtyards full of flowers. Its name taken from a smugglers cave just south of the town. It makes a good lunch stop and if you stop here for food you should try the local speciality Star Gazy Pie (try The Ship Inn) served with the heads of the fish sticking through the pastry of a large pie ..“or star gazing”. Around Penlee point you will come across the memorial gardens at the lifeboat station for the Penlee Lifeboat tragedy which devastated the community here at Christmas in 1981 when all hands were lost trying to rescue the Union Star. From here the new cycle walkway takes you on into Newlyn
Overnight stops in Mousehole on the South West Coast Path
Newlyn was Cornwall’s first artist’s colony and the Newlyn Art Gallery is on the coast path and costs nothing. If you don’t want to see the latest pioneering local art then the Pilchard Works houses a fishing museum dedicated to this most important of Cornish Fish. Better still wander past what’s left of the small medieval quay beside the new fishing fleets harbour with its nets, boats, and boxes of fish. Newlyn is Cornwall’s, indeed England’s busiest fishing port pause here and see the variety of catch brought in every day. Back on the walkway it’s not far to Battery rocks and the Art Deco swimming pool which announce your arrival in Penzance and unless you are heading on round the bay to St Michaels Mount and the inland path back to St Ives you end your coastal journey in the sheltered and hospitable town of Penzance.
Overnight stops in Penzance on the South West Coast Path
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