Steeped in legend, surrounded by coast and with world-renowned scenic beauty, Cornwall has long been a magnet for lovers of the great outdoors. The South West Coast Path gives access to the entire length of its mighty coast – a landscape of craggy cliffs, abandoned tin mines, sandy beaches and quaint fishing villages huddled into the sheltered spots. Join us to set foot in a landscape which has inspired both artists and authors.
Our Top 6 Walking Routes in Cornwall
All these walks are available on our guided and self-guided walking holidays in Cornwall. Many other routes also available - three each day of different grade for maximum flexibility and choice.
1. Portreath to Perranporth
Distance: 12 miles (19.5km)
Total ascent: 2,800 ft (860m)
Estimated walking time: 5 hours 50 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: Including sections within the Godrevy and St. Agnes Heritage Coast areas, this walk follows one of the most scenic sections of the North Cornwall Coast Path.
Don't miss: The mineral stripes in the granite at Cligga Head. Look out for the blue copper staining in the rocks below.
The route is almost entirely on high, sheer clifftops with fantastic views in all directions. In spring, St Agnes Head is alive with nesting sea birds including kittiwakes, razorbills and guillemots. You may also spot seals bobbing in the waves below. Look out for the Millennium sundial at Perren Bay – showing Cornish time (20 minutes behind GMT) and the iconic ruins of Wheal Coates tin mine perched on the cliff edge.
The area is rich in minerals; signs of past mining activity are plain to see. Although Cornwall is renowned for its tin, at Cigga Head you will pass a Wolframite mine – a mineral from which tungsten can be extracted. This is also the site of an explosives factory used to manufacture munitions in the Second World War.
2. Mullion to the Lizard
Distance: 8 or 10 miles (13 or 16km)
Total ascent: 900 or 1,700 ft (270 or 520m)
Estimated walking time: 4 hours 10 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: A glorious coastal walk taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in Cornwall.
Don't miss: Look out for chough with their red legs and bills. Once locally extinct, they are now making a come-back.
From the village of Mullion the route heads to the coast path via Mullion Cove – a tiny hamlet tucked into the coast and protected by a sea wall. Heading up and over the cliffs, the rest of the route is across the the wild and exposed west coast of the Lizard Peninsula. With farmland on one side and the sea on the other there is little in the way of human habitation along most of the route. It's a fabulous place to put one foot in front of the other and enjoy the scenery and sea air.
Just when you thought the scenery couldn’t get any better, Kynance Cove is revealed in all its glory. On sunny days the water looks turquoise over areas of sandy seabed – a beautiful contrast to the serpentine towers of rock which the waves crash against. This is classic Cornish scenery that has long been a draw for visitors. It’s not surprising that this place was used as a location in the BBC’s adaptation of Poldark.
The route continues to Lizard Point – the southernmost point of mainland Britain – before finishing at Lizard village, complete with a variety of gift shops selling locally made serpentine crafts.
3. Mullin to Helston
Distance: 8 miles (13km)
Total ascent: 1,000 ft (320m)
Estimated walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: A walk which encompasses both Cornish coast and the shores of The Loe - an interesting freshwater lake.
Don't miss: The Marconi Monument which marks the place from where the first transatlantic radio signal was sent.
Heading towards the coast from Mullion village, the route joins the South West Coast Path near Poldhu Point before heading northwards. Looking out across Atlantic Ocean it’s amazing to think that the next land is the USA! The coastline here is classic Cornish rugged rock but as the route continues this eventually gives way to the Porthleven Sands – a long stretch of sandy beach backed by wind-swept dunes. Passing Gunwalloe Fishing Cove the beach passes ‘the Loe’ – the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. The only thing separating the lake from the sea is a stretch of sand known as the Loe Bar.
Here the route turns inland into the Penrose Estate where the landscape changes to woodland. Walking along the lake shore it's possible to spot freshwater ducks such as widgeon, teal and pochard. From here the Loe Valley leads on to the town of Helston, most famous for its annual celebration of spring on Flora Day – one of the oldest British customs still practised today.
4. Geevor Mine to Land's End
Distance: 10 miles (16km)
Total ascent: 1,900 ft (640m)
Estimated walking time: 5 hours 10 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: An exhilarating walk along the north coast of Cornwall passing through the heart of historic mining country.
Don't miss: The old tin mining engine houses which perch precariously on the cliffs - iconic Cornish scenery.
Starting at Geevor tin mine – one of the largest persevered mine sites in the country – the route heads north-west to the South West Coast Path. Signs of the past mining activity are all around with spoil heaps and ruined buildings. This is one of the most beautiful stretches of the coast path – no wonder many of the coastal scenes from the BBC Poldark series were filmed right here!
Heading in a generally south-west direction, the path reaches Levant mine – an old copper mine now owned and restored by the National Trust. As the route continues, each turn of the path reveals yet more of Cornwall’s stunning heritage coastal scenery – towering flower-peppered cliffs which plunge straight down to the ocean below.
The path reaches Cape Cornwall – a distinctive headland which is the only ‘cape’ in England and was once thought to be its most westerly point. It is capped by a tall chimney – another remnant from the mining industry.
At Whitesand Bay, the sheer cliffs finally give way to an expanse of sandy beach. Sennen Cove sits at the end of it and provides a base from which surfers test their skills on the Atlantic breakers. From here it’s around another three miles to Land’s End – the most westerly point in mainland England. After some obligatory photos under the iconic signpost, it’s time to enjoy a celebratory pint and to reflect on the day’s wonderful walk.
5. Porthcurno to Mousehole
Distance: 9.5 miles (15.5km)
Total ascent: 2,050 ft (620m)
Estimated walking time: 5 hours, 5 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: A leg-stretching walk featuring plenty of ups and downs along the South West Coast Path to take in some classic Cornish scenery.
Don't miss: Views down to the open-air Minack theatre where the backdrop to the stage is the open ocean.
The start point is Porthcurno, a tiny village with two claims to fame. Firstly, it is home to the world-famous Minack theatre – a cliff-side theatre hewn from solid rock. Secondly, Porthcurno was once at the heart of international telecommunications with the largest telegraph station in the world. In the Second World War, Cornish tin miners were employed to dig underground tunnels to protect the communications equipment from enemy bombs. It became an important secret hub for wartime communications.
From Porthcurno, the route heads eastwards, passing the Logan Rock – a giant boulder perched above the sea. It was once so perfectly balanced that it could easily be rocked and provided an important tourist attraction for the nearby village of Treen. In 1824 a group of sailors from the Royal Navy ship Nimble decided to dislodge the rock, tipping it into the sea below. The culprits were ordered to put the rock back at considerable cost and effort but it never rocked again.
The route weaves its way around many small coves and bays with little in the way of habitation until Lamorna Cove – a larger bay with a pretty wooded valley which leads to Lamorna. This hamlet has long been popular with artists, writers and craftspeople. Dylan Thomas once owned a cottage here.
From Lamorna the path takes a north-easterly direction finally ending in the historic fishing village of Mousehole. Its picturesque harbour provides a classic Cornish scene of colourful boats surrounded by fishermen’s cottages nestled into the folds of the landscape.
6. Beside the Helford River
Distance: 4.5 miles (7km)
Total ascent: 700 ft (220m)
Estimated walking time: 2 hours 35 minutes
The walk in a nutshell: An easier walk with few serious ascents and descents which takes in the beautiful Helford River estuary.
Don't miss: The beautiful sub-tropical Trebah Gardens set out across a Cornish valley with year-round interest.
The route starts in Mawnan Smith – a pretty village complete with thatched cottages and a 15th century church. A footpath from the village leads to Bream Cove, just south of Falmouth on the South West Coast Path then on to Rosemullion Head, a headland which has the remains of an Iron Age cliff castle and also a 19th century boundary stone which marks the limit of the Borough of Falmouth’s jurisdiction. It was also the site of a gun emplacement in the Second World War.
Rounding the headland, the path leads south-west towards the wide mouth of the Helford River. Toll Point marks the place where the river mouth starts to narrow. From here there are glorious views westwards which reveal the pretty beaches and coves that line the north bank of the Helford estuary. From here, it’s a short walk to Trebah Gardens. Straddling a small ravine, the sheltered spot provides a fantastic micro-climate which allows sub-tropical species to thrive. Four miles of footpaths take walkers under canopies bursting with exotic blooms and to the garden’s secluded beach on the river. In spring the rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias put on a splendid display while in early autumn the blues and whites of Hydrangea Valley are the main attraction.