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.
Reaching Zennor at the end of your walk you will find a wild, remote but fascinating settlement with a history going back over 4000 years. The name comes from Saint Senara, a Breton Saint whose original chapel was said to be on the land now occupied by the church.
Its most famous resident DH Lawrence talked of the village "nestling under high shaggy moor hills and a big sweep of lovely seas lovelier even than the Mediterranean" His summary being "It is the best place I have been in – I think". He wrote Women in Love here, named a short story after the village pub the Tinners Arms but we suspect was not quite so fond of the village after being ordered to leave during the First World War. Local police grew suspicious of Frieda his German wife and local tales and gossip alleging Frieda was signalling to passing U Boats from their cottage was the finish of the couple in Zennor.
The 12C Church of St Senara at Zennor is also worth visiting – it can be a sobering spot with its memorials to John Davey claimed on this coast to be the last Cornish Speaker, to those lost at sea and those lost in the mines. Wander round the graveyard to get an idea of how many unlucky sailors ended up under the ground here far away from their homes.
However it is the carved bench of a mermaid with her comb and glass that is the most famous item in the church representing The Legend of the Zennor Mermaid, a true siren of the sea. She sat in this spot to listen to Matthew Trewella a local lad and chorister singing on the Sabbath. So besotted was she with his singing that she enticed him down to the depths of Pendour Cove nearby, where though never seen again he can still be heard singing in the deep with his love.
For those wanting an evening walk you can head up rocky Zennor Hill behind the village for great views of the coastline and to seek the ancient stones at Zennor Quoit.
If that’s too industrious just outside the village look for Giants Rock the seat of the legendary giant of Carn Galva, the striking peak along the coast from the village.
Would be witches need to climb the rock nine times at midnight to gain their magical powers.
Accommodation is not prolific here though the old Chapel has now become a very successful backpacker’s lodge. Most walkers will end up at The Tinners Arms either to sleep or certainly to eat. This is a long tradition for travellers along the coast to Zennor, it was built in 1271 and not that much has changed. In later years it was the meeting place of local smugglers, or Zennor Gentlemen as they were called who landed their cargo in the cove below Church town where the mermaid was supposed to have lived.
If it looks familiar to horror fans it could be that it was the location for Dr Bloods Coffin a 1960’s film which saw mad scientist Kieron Moore dissecting unfortunate locals in a nearby tin mine! There is no TV or Fruit Machine here and no signal for your mobile phone but there is a warm fire in the colder months and a terrace overlooking the Atlantic for those warm summer nights.... either way its a great place to end the day in.
On the back of the copper and tin mines Pendeen grew to support the growing mining community until the end of the 19C. Pendeen may not be your picture postcard Cornish Village but this is a real community, its isolated location and common mining past has developed a strong sense of identity here in a village with its own community centre hosting many active clubs and groups as well as its own marching band. For the tired walker the village meets your needs with 2 pubs, a shop as well as fish and chips and some excellent short evening wanders from the village.
One big advantage of stopping overnight at Pendeen is that you can easily visit the fascinating Geevor Mine which is based here. This was Cornwall’s last working mine which finally closed in 1990. You can wander freely through the workings of the last surviving tin mine in Cornwall which finally closed in 1990 and take an hourly underground tour guided by a former miner down one of the narrow adits ‘ (a horizontal passage running into the rock). Known as ‘Wheal Mexico’ this is one of the passages worked around 200 years ago. Only after seeing this can you start to fully appreciate what dangers and discomfort the West Coast Tinners faced out here. The mine offices now house a museum telling the story of Geevor, and explaining the method of mining and the processes of crushing and washing the ore to recover the tin. Elsewhere on site are displays of original mining machinery and a fascinating museum. Refreshments are also available in a tea room with the most stunning Atlantic views and anyone who does visit this site will be all the better placed for understanding the many mining remains that you will come across on your next days walk to Lands End.
The area has two remarkable "Fogou’s" or underground Iron age burial chambers, both of particular interest as the entrances are open to those with the nerve and a torch. The largest is in the grounds of Pendeen House (ask at the farm to visit) and has a main passage 56 feet long with several chambers off it. Its a mysterious and unique place said to have been possibly used for winter solstice rituals but don’t follow a tall woman in white inside if she appears at the entrance, if you do its said you will see her change into a terrifying and deadly form once inside her lair.
The church here is based on Iona Cathedral and was built in some grandeur to keep unemployed miners busy. A nice evening amble would be back down to the pleasant beach at Portheras Cove. The Alacrity was wrecked here in 1963 and sharp metal is still found on the beach today so don’t go barefoot, if its low tide you will still be able to see parts of the wreck on the jagged rocks.
For rest and refreshments, the North Inn in Pendeen was a favourite haunt of tin miners until the local mine closed in 1990 and now has a warm welcome for wearsome walkers. It was voted CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) Cornwall Pub of the Year for 2003 and is always on their lists.
This is the last town in England and the only one where the mayor’s chain of office is made from Tin! Perhaps no huge surprise as this was the main centre for mining in West Cornwall. A granite town with terraces of granite cottages offering the best choice of facilities since St Ives, this most westerly of towns has bakers, cafe’s, shops and several pubs including that legacy of the mining days, The Commercial Hotel, all set around a bustling ‘triangular’ square.
The former mining town now supports a growing colony of artist’s, potters and sculptors drawn to it by the stunning surrounding area and there are several studios displaying some excellent local work. Good food is on offer with a tea rooms, the superb Cook Book Shop where you can browse 5,000 second hand books whilst you eat as well as a restaurant and several pubs which are all worth a quick visit to see the artefacts and pictures displayed on the walls.
The Parish Church is worth looking in on, its highlights being a 5th C Selus Stone and medieval wall paintings of St George tackling the dragon.
Close to the church the Plen-an-Gwarry is a unique medieval amphitheatre said to be the oldest surviving theatre in Britain and it still puts on plays during the towns festivals for more information about events and future plans see www.plenproject.com. Oldest theatre or not its worth noting that the amphitheatre is over 100 years older than Shakespear's Globe and still becomes the centrepiece of the town on Lafroda day in July at the end of a week of entertainments and spectacular community based street parades.
For an evening wander from St Just you are spoilt for choice, down towards the coast you have the fascinating Kenidjack and Cot valleys and between the two it’s an easy walk down to Cape Cornwall where you can be one of the last in the country to see the day’s sun set. Inland the Tregeseal Stone Circle is close to town and still used by pagans today for ceremonies. High above this is the Haunted Hooting Cairn, a stunning spot with fabulous views in all directions but perhaps one to avoid at dusk given the tales of devils on horseback, sprites, wee people and dancing lights at midnight
With St Just claiming the most westerly town title, Sennen Cove is without doubt mainland Britain’s most westerly village. More like a bay than a cove as such, Sennen is sheltered by the headland of Pedn-men-du and tucked away in the southern corner of Whitesand Bay where the golden sands run for over a mile back towards Cape Cornwall. A popular tourist destination for both swimmers and sun seekers but most of all a legendry Mecca for the surfing community which has been coming here since the 1960’s for the Atlantics fine waves and rollers. This has led to Sennen’s reputation as a laid back and friendly spot with good facilities for a place which is barely a few dozen houses deep. A fine Beach Restaurant, a popular pub The Old Success gives another eating option and a handful of cafes and souvenir shops provide the refreshments here. There is also the inevitable surf shop as well as a surf school and hire for those that want to venture into the waters. The Roundhouse and Capstain Gallery have been restored, no longer do they winch boats up the beach , this is now done by an electric rather than man powered winch. Instead the buildings now house paintings, ceramics, photography and sculpture from local artists. A 6 storey curio shop keeps browsers busy, add to this the RNLI Lifeboat and you have pretty much covered everything.
Its the blue flag beach that is the draw, its western location giving amazing end of day sunsets and the spectacular surf and space along the sands mean there is plenty to enjoy if you stay here wandering along the foreshore or behind into the Grassy hills and sand which roll down to meet the perfect sands. An area of outstanding natural beauty legend says that King Arthur and seven Cornish chiefs fought and beat marauding Danes here. At the large rock known as Table Men they held a great feast to mark their victory and the kings will only return to meet here once again when the end of the world is upon us. You may not see King Arthur during your stay here then but look out to sea for a good chance of porpoise and dolphins.....as the locals put it, ”at Sennen Bay the Dolphins Play”.
Porthcurno may be familiar to many upon arriving here as its one of the most photographed beaches in Cornwall. Its golden sands and dramatic cliffs are good reasons for this in a bay that always seems to be a beautiful shade of turquoise or jade green stretching out majestically below the ridge of cliffs that lead to the Logan's Rock headland.
Of course the most famous location here is high up in the cliffs and reached on the coast path just before you drop into the valley. The Minack Theatre is like no other in the UK, impossibly hacked out of the headland rocks its design is similar to the classical Greek and Roman amphitheatres but with its own Celtic twist. It was a labour of love for one Rowena Cade who bought the headland for the mighty sum of £100 in 1920. It took over 10 years of labour to get the basic theatre ready for its first performance in 1932......aptly the Tempest and in those early days lit by car headlights.
Today there is a season long run of dramas in this fantastic location and if you can catch a play then do so as there is nowhere else quite like it for atmosphere particularly on a stormy night when the seas pick up their pounding. If you can’t make a performance the visitor centre, museum and cliff top cafe are still well worth visiting along with an astonishing display of sub tropical plants that resides here.
Dropping down to Porthcurno proper its stunning sands and blue waters make it one of Cornwall's finest beaches protected from the road but with easy access inland to the popular beach cafe ensure - it’s a well used spot without being overrun.
There is also a beach shop and a general stores, a restaurant in the warmer months and the Cable Station Inn for beer and food and if the walk from lands end hasn’t finished you off - there are fairly regular buses running to Lands End and Penzance from the Cable Station.
Also housed at Porthcurno is the superb Telegraph Museum positioned in front of "secret" communications bunkers linked by granite galleries that were built by local tin miners as a precaution during the war. Porthcurno was the point that connected the UK with the rest of the world in the days before the internet and the Musuem takes you through this history and much more besides. Its an excellent and suprising Museum allowing you to freely explore the tunnels that run into the cliffs here with their huge underground bunkers.
More than 20 cables lay beneath the sands on the beach. You may be surprised to know that cable laying still goes on, the longest undersea cable in 1996 was laid from here to Japan via Egypt and India !
In Summer, watch out below the cliffs of Treen at the end of Porthcurno beach as this is where basking sharks are often spotted.
Lamorna is not a common overnight stop being pretty close to Mousehole and the start of the Mounts Bay Walk to Penzance. However when there is pressure on accommodation further along the trail there are some good B&B choices here. A robust granite harbour wall sits inside the very clear and blue waters of Lamorna Bay, waters with such clear visibility that divers flock here from Penzance. Sandwiched between two lumpy granite headlands the village is at the end of a beautiful lush wooded valley complete with its own bubbling stream.
Above the harbour one scar of human activity glares out in the shape of open granite quarry diggings, stone from here was taken all over the west country and even as far as London to build the Thames Embankment.
For those with time consider a short inland diversion from Lamorna to visit the Merry Maidens about ½ mile inland. This is probably Cornwall’s most famous stone circle. Nineteen stones, all said to be the petrified remains of maidens who were turned to stone for the crime of dancing on the Sabbath, The Pipers a pair of 14’ standing stones close by were the musicians who led the dance and who suffered the same fate. Close by, the Tregiffian Barrow or Fogou is a stunning megalithic chambered tomb very much in the style of those found on the Scilly’s and is around 5000 years old. All three can be visited easily as they are close together Use the OS mapping to locate them and guide you up the wooded Lamorna Valley.
The Rocky little cove still has a few fishing boats and good cafe where you can hire a kayak for an hours paddle around the bay. The area is another magnet for painters, potters, craftsmen and writers. During the last century it was very popular with the nearby Newlyn School artist’s community. The village pub is a popular one and the subject of a novel about a murder in Cornwall by Martha Grimes, which takes the pubs name The Lamorna Wink. The Wink as the sign outside the pub shows, refers to a time when a “Lamorna wink” would hopefully provide you with some illicit free trade brandy from the landlord. A popular pub and a good stop off en route to Penzance.
Pronounced "Mauzil" locally, this is one of Cornwall's gems. Said to have been named after the nearby sea cave - "The Mouse Hole", its a tightly packed fishing village set within an old stone harbour where the waters always seem to be azure blue and the views stretch west over Penzance for your first glimpses of the fairytale sight of St Michaels Mount.
Tiny streets and lanes of colourful granite cottages lead you to the harbourside which is a jumble of fishing boats protected by its impressive double breakwater. Wandering the twisting back lanes you will find a handful of galleries, gift shops and restaurants along with several welcoming inns, while in the harbour itself there’s a safe sandy beach at low tide popular with families.
In times past Mousehole was in fact the principal port of the bay long before Penzance grew but it was almost totally destroyed by the Spaniards in 1595 - only one building survived that attack and Mousehole never fully recovered its status in the bay.
Today the harbour offers the most relaxing end to the Lands End Way and for those that prefer a quieter and more atmospheric last nights stay it makes sense to stay here instead of Penzance.
Mousehole marks the end of the off road section of the Coast Path from St Ives - the 3 mile walk from here into Penzance, has great views and a lot of interest as it passes through Newlyn Harbour BUT the walking is now along the seafront for the final stage
There are plenty of buses running between Mousehole and Penzance for those that want to stay overnight here in these peaceful surroundings and leave next morning from Penzance station.
Arriving in Penzance from the South West Coast Path, walkers will find a bustling but relaxed atmosphere prevails with a mix of independent shops, galleries, restaurants and cafes. Alleys and narrow passages lead to the busy working harbour and the ancient buildings refer the visitor back constantly to previous centuries.
Named “Pen Sans” in the Cornish language, meaning Holy Headland, Penzance is sheltered within Mounts Bay, its microclimate giving lush subtropical gardens a chance to grow many exotic flowers and palm trees which cannot survive outside anywhere else in the UK. The headland on the western side of the harbour was the site of a chapel established by early Christians well over 1000 years ago, after the Vikings and Saxons had moved on, and before the Old Town was razed by the Spanish and then Turkish pirates in the sixteenth century.
One of the oldest standing buildings in the town is the Penzance Turks Head Pub, dating from the 13th century with an underground tunnel leading from the harbour where smugglers secretly transported their bounty, before celebrating in the inn and a couple of doors away from the unusal inn, The Admiral Benbow, a famous 17thcentury character. Inside the building, converted from an old cottage with a smuggler on the roof, the walls are decorated with authentic figureheads and cannon, salvaged by divers from the many wrecks around the notorious Cornish coast.
Close by, the flamboyant Egyptian House in Chapel Street dating from 1835, is one of the most ornate examples of architecture built at that time. It was originally owned by a geologist, whose collection is now in the Oxford University Museum, and stands out among the stately Victorian and Edwardian villas built over the following century along the promenade for successful merchants who settled in the balmy temperature and extraordinary light, made accessible by the Great Western Railway.
The Art Deco Jubilee bathing pool is still a fabulous example of the glamorous lido and art galleries pay homage to the once prolific Newlyn School (especially the Penlee House Gallery Museum) , as well as exhibiting high quality modern art. Live music is easy to find amongst a diverse range of inns and there are some excellent restaurants these days mainly in and around the art galleries in Chapel Street
From the harbour, including the berth for the Scillonian, the ferry to the Isles of Scilly, (a heliport to the Scillies is on the outskirts of town) looking east, the iconic image of St Michaels Mount rises out of the sea on the next leg of the Cornish Coastal Path.
The shoreside village at the end of the cobbled causeway leading out to the island, is Marazion which provides another of our overnight locations. Its only 3 miles beyond Penzance around Mounts Bay and can be an attractive alternative ending point to the Lands End Way for those wanting a quieter village location for their last nights stay.
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