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.
More information and examples of these walking grades
Distance 12 miles
History of the Trail
The St Michaels Trail is an inland coast to coast Pilgrim's route perfect for those wanting to complete a circular walk from Penzance or St Ives around the Lands End Peninsular. The route is part of the much wider Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way a highly symbolic and significant European Cultural Route that follows the pathway of Pilgrim's and their Saints. Landing from Ireland at Lelant close to St Ives Pilgrim's crossed Cornwall by land to avoid the treacherous seas round Land End. Leaving the UK at the breathtaking island of St Michaels Mount which was formally an important port, the route continued on through France over the Pyrenees and finished at St James's Shrine in Santiago Northern Spain.
Overnight stops in Penzance at the start of the St Michaels Way
Leaving Penzance it’s an easy start to your walking following the national cycleway (or the pebble beach if you prefer) around the sheltered and striking Mounts Bay. At Marazion you will take in Cornwall’s iconic image – the fairytale looking St Michaels Mount which dominates everything here, a Benedictine Priory, fortress and a major port for tin and copper and that’s only half its story - you can visit by wandering down its cobbled causeway at low tide of take a ferry boat if the water is in. Those who want to spend as much time as possible visiting this stunning island can opt to stay overnight in Marazion instead of Penzance and see the Mount and its causeway at all stages of tide and sunlight - just tell us when you book.
Overnight stops in Marazion at the start of the St Michaels Way
This is the start of the St Michaels Way and you now turn inland to cross Cornwall's interior. The first section follows the Red River through Marazion Marshes a well known RSPB site for aquatic birds and the rare Cetti's warbler. At the village of Ludgvan you find the White Hart Inn and St Pauls Church both worth exploring for different reasons ! Medieval pilgrims gathered here at the Church to wait for a guide to find the route through to St Michaels Mount and help them avoid the robbers that were prolific in the wooded marshes.
The next sections crosses several streams with pretty meadow sided valleys. Fording the Red river once more a very steep climb on a path through wilder and more gorse ridden landscapes heading towards the imposing rocky summit of Trencom hill ahead. The summit is slightly off the official path but is a breathtaking short detour.
Trencrom Hill at 550ft is one of the finest viewpoints in Cornwall and a great spot for those completing the Lands End Circle as you see much of the last 4 days walking from here. Stunning views to St Ives and onto Zennor Head one way and out past Mousehole towards Lands End the other. Trencrom was another Cornish Hill Fort and on the ramparts hut circles can still be seen as slight hollows. Legend is that The Trencom Giant and his cousin at St Michaels Mount created the massive mounds of boulders hereabouts in sporting boulder fights.
A quick drop to the golden sands of Carbis Bay brings you to meet the Coast Path once more and a particularly pleasant stroll alongside St Ives Bay to end up back in St Ives your circle of the Wild West of Cornwall now complete. Please click on the underlined text if you need accommodation or information on exploring St Ives for the end of your walk.
Overnight stops in St Ives at the end of the St Michaels Way
Continue on along the South West Coast Path to Zennor and Lands End
Map of all
for this walk
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