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The 9 Best Coastal Walks in Cornwall

By June 17, 2022June 28th, 2022No Comments
cornish coastal walks map

From idyllic beaches to hidden gems and untouched countryside, Cornwall is a staggering 92% rural. From Bude to Land’s End there is plenty to explore here, and each stretch of coastline offers a new landscape and sandy beach to soak in. From wildlife and microclimates to finding yourself amongst a historic engine house, Cornwall’s coastal walks are a must if you’re looking for free things to do in Cornwall.

Whilst it’s no surprise we’re partial to exploring Cornwall via our Padstow Sealife Safaris, we’re also dog lovers and some of our favourite dog walks in Cornwall just can’t be beaten. Exploring the sandy beaches, stunning cliffs, and picturesque harbours makes you realise Cornwall’s coastline has it all.

Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or a leisurely stroll, there’s a coastal walk to suit everyone in Cornwall. The South West Coast Path is one of the longest walking trails in the UK, and it offers fantastic views of the coastline as well as opportunities to spot wildlife such as dolphins, seals and seabirds. For those looking for a shorter walk, there are plenty of circular routes that take in some of Cornwall’s most beloved villages, like St Mawes, and a world heritage site.

Here’s a selection of 9 of the very best coastal walks in Cornwall, and everything you need to know about them.

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1. Harlyn Bay to Padstow

Distance: 6.7 Miles – 3 hours

Best walk for dogs and families with older children, with pubs and facilities on the route. A challenging coastal walk with a variety of terrain and landscapes to enjoy.

This stretch of Cornwall’s North coastline takes you from the sandy beach Harlyn Bay, a family favourite with the RNLI, food, and water sports on offer, to the bustling town of Padstow.

A gentle walk from Harlyn Bay to Trevone, along the low cliffs, provides an easy warm-up for your walk. Cutting inland at Gunver Head, you’ll find some more challenging terrain but be rewarded with the sights and spray of streams and waterfalls.

Following the South West Coast Path, you’ll spot Gulland Rock, an island home to local seals and their pups. Continue around to Stepper Point, and feel the power of the Atlantic on the exposed headland. Protected under environmental schemes, this stretch features rare plant species and endangered wildlife.

Amble onwards, and you’ll reach the beautiful Hawker’s Cove, an oasis of calm with a sandy beach and blue waters. Between here and the next beach, Harbour Cove, you’ll come across Gun Point, and the remains of the fort Padstow built to protect it from invaders. Both Hawkers Cove and Harbour Cove are dog friendly all year round. Soon you’re on the home straight and walking down the hill from St Saviour’s Point into Padstow town.

Padstow might be famous for Rick Stein, but this fishing village has a bustling community with plenty of independent shops, eateries, and gorgeous estuary views. From here you can get the ferry to Rock and continue the adventure, or hop on a bus back to your car. Regular buses travel between Harlyn Bay and Padstow, and it’s just a short ten-minute journey.

Explore the Harlyn Bay to Padstow route.

Evening Walk around the Padstow coast
Evening Walk around the Padstow coast
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2. Perranporth to St Agnes

Distance: 3.6 Miles – 1.5 hours

Best coastal walk for experiencing Cornwall’s North Coast mining heritage, and dog-friendly beaches. A moderately challenging walk, along the flat cliffs with one steep valley climb.

Perranporth to St Agnes (Trevaunance Cove) is a fantastic walk for a bracing burst of exercise, with all the adrenaline that comes from cliff top walking. With expansive sea views and more than enough sea air to blow the cobwebs away, we highly recommend this walk if you’re new to the Cornish coast path.

The starting point of Perranporth is home to the seemingly never-ending sandy Perranporth beach. Grab a coffee at The Watering Hole, a popular café and bar found by the beach dunes before you get walking. Head for Droskyn Point, on the west side of Perranporth, famed for its smuggling history.

With tall engine houses and mining heritage all around you on this walk to St Agnes, you’ll be in awe of the rich history appearing in the remote landscape. Walking past the impressive Shag Rock and through the Cligga Head quarry, you’ll feel the remoteness and power of the landscape here. Continue and you’ll see old aircraft shelters, and relics from the airfield used during the war.

After steeply walking down into Trevellas Cove and sandy beach, once a bustling tin mining valley, it’s back up out of the Blue Hills. With spectacular views of both nature, and an environment carved by man, this area is so exhilarating. Once you’ve caught your breath at the top of the hill, St Agnes village awaits you. Head back the way you came for St Agnes to Perranporth walk.

Explore the Perranporth to St Agnes walk in Cornwall map

St Agnes cliff path
St Agnes cliff path
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3. The Lizard Peninsula

Distance: 7 Miles – 3 hours

Best walk in Cornwall for a circular route via stunning beaches, interesting landmarks, dramatic scenery and those looking for a challenging hike.

The Lizard Point is the most south-westerly point of the British mainland and boasts a dramatically different landscape to the rest of Cornwall. If you prefer a circular route, this Lizard peninsula walk is a great one to do.

The first half of the walk takes you along the coastal path and across the cliffs, adjacent to the sea, providing stellar sea views. The second half brings you back inland via Lizard. Set off from Kynance Cove, famed for its idyllic beach and interesting rock formations, an area maintained by the National Trust, and nature’s own adventure playground. If you like to stop for a breather and a cream tea on your walk the Kynance Cove Cafe is a great little spot to sit out overlooking the idyllic cove.

Following the cliff path, above Pentreath beach, the disused Victorian lifeboat station and the Lizard Lighthouse, there is plenty to keep an eye out for. Pen Olver is a lovely picnic spot and was once used by Guglielmo Marconi for his pioneering radio experiments. The Trust brought the small station back to its former glory in 2000. From Bass Point Old Signal Station, you begin heading inland, via the village green and soon you’re back where you started, Kynance Cove.

Explore the Lizard Peninsula route map.

Kynance Cove coastal walk
Kynance Cove
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4. Fowey Hall Walk

Distance: 4 Miles – 2.5 hours

Best for a dog-friendly circular route through woodland and creek. Includes two ferry rides. A moderately challenging walk.

One of our favourite woodland walks in Cornwall is the hall walk-in Fowey. Fowey walks are a great way to explore the port town itself and the nearby River Fowey. This route can begin in Bodinnick, Polruan or Fowey, all of which have car parks and involves two short estuary ferry crossings.

If you begin at Bodinnick, follow the narrow footpath signed Hall Walk. Head past the ‘Q’ memorial, dedicated to the writer Arthur Quiller-Couch, and you’re walking through a beautiful, wooded area, alongside the Pont Pill. A rocky path brings you down to the small hamlet of Pont, once a thriving quay. Here lie a couple of National Trust holiday cottages if you’re tempted to stay near Fowey but surrounded by nature.

A wooden bridge lets you hop over to the Southern shore of Pont Pill, through fields and woodland towards Polruan. A pedestrian ferry from Polruan quay will take you to Fowey.

Spend some time in the town, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a town dating back to 1300. Enjoy walks around Fowey itself, home to beautiful medieval and Georgian buildings, a rich maritime history, a stunning church and high-end shops and restaurants. Hop back to Bodinnick on the ferry and you’ll have experienced the best Fowey has to offer.

Map of the Fowey Hall walk

River Fowey coastal walk
River Fowey
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5. Sandymouth to Duckpool

Distance: 2.5 Miles – 50 mins

Best for a short dog-friendly, moderately challenging walk with spectacular views, beach and great wildlife.

Further north, towards the border between Cornwall and Devon, the Sandymouth to Bude walk is a great way to stretch your legs and take in expansive sea views and sea air, without too much difficulty.

From the car park, follow the path down towards the beach and cliffs, there’s a handy café and toilets at this point before you get going. This is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and for the geologists amongst you, home to the ‘Bude Formation’ of Upper Carboniferous rocks.

Continue across the field and over the river, and you’ll find yourself on top of Stowe Cliffs. Keep following the coast path and finally, you’ll be looking down on Duckpool, a lovely beach with a freshwater pond behind the pebble bank.

This walk is brilliant for enjoying the wildflowers in Summer. Look out for wild thyme, milkwort, thrift and yellow iris, and even green hairstreak butterflies flitting between them.

Map of Sandymouth to Duckpool.

Bude coastline
Bude coastline
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6. Lantivet Bay Circular Walk

Distance: 2.8 miles – 2 hours

Best for a dog-friendly circular walk, with both beaches and inland walking. Moderately challenging with some steep climbs.

On the south coast of Cornwall lies Lantivet Bay, a National Trust area that is incredibly picturesque and idyllic. This circular walk can begin at Lantivet Bay car park, taking you over the cliffs with stunning views overlooking Palace Cove. The cove was once a pilchard ‘palace’ or cellar, and if you venture into the cove you’ll find beam holes in the back wall, and steps cut into the rock.

Amble along the seafront to Pencarrow Head, a great place to stop and soak in your surroundings. Thriving plant life, birds and insects, means you’ll be looking closely at the local habitat. Look up and you can see out to sea for miles, sometimes even seeing Devon’s Bolt Head to the east and the Lizard to the west.

With Little Lantic and Great Lantic beaches to your left, you can venture down to them or begin making your way inland. On the beaches, you’ll find salt-tolerant wild plants, such as sea birdweed, sea spurge and sea knotgrass.

Explore the Lantivet Bay circular walk map.

Dog taking a dip in Lantivet Bay
Dog taking a dip in Lantivet Bay
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7. Nare Walk

Distance: 4 Miles – 2.5 hours

Best for a dog-friendly circular walk (double-loop), with historical landmarks, that is moderately challenging.

The Roseland Peninsula is bordered by the Fal estuary and St Austell Bay. A designated part of Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Beauty, this Nare Head walk provides beautiful views alongside a healthy dose of historical landmarks and it’s only a short drive away from the pretty fishing village of St Mawes when you’re done.

Start at the Carne car park and follow the footpath to the Carne Beacon. A Bronze Age Barrow (burial mound), that according to legend was the burial site of Gerent in 590AD, the King of Cornwall. Walk through Carne village and following the grassy footpath you’ll soon spot Nare Head. You’ll pass the remains of Mallet’s Cottage, a fascinating stone and cob building with no roof, that is thought to have been empty since the mid-1800s.

A perfect change of scenery comes when you enter Paradoe Valley woods, before walking down towards Kiberick cove. Further down this route, you’ll find a field with a World War 2 decoy bunker and observation post, built-in 1963. This bunker is opened a few times a year to the public. Following the path will bring you back past Mallet’s Cottage towards Carne beach, a haven for lichen, before you venture around Gerrans Bay, and back to the car park.

Explore the Nare Walk map.

Nare's Head coastal walk
Nare’s Head
st ives to zennor walk

8. St Ives to Zennor circular walk

Distance: 12.6 miles – 7 hours

Best for experienced walkers, with tricky terrain but dramatic cliff scenery, sandy beaches and pretty coves.

This St Ives to Zennor walk combines the artistic legacy of Cornwall with the remote landscapes that have long inspired the creative community here. St Ives is famous for its light, and artists such as Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron and many more have been enchanted by it. 

Although this is a long walk, it’s worth spending time in St Ives itself another day, wandering through the narrow streets of former fishermen’s cottages and exploring the galleries. But for the walk, you’ll head out through the Ayr district, past Porthmeor Beach and the Tate Gallery. 

Walking along the coast you’ll continue to Zennor Head, a 750m long promontory facing the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape in Zennor is hardy and remote and feels very different to the rest of Cornwall. 

From the cliffs, there are views over to the Carracks, rocky inshore islands, where a colony of Grey Atlantic Seals live. Our Sealife Safari Tour has meant these mammals are a firm favourite at our headquarters. At Zennor Head, you turn inland towards the little village, through beautiful countryside. Passing farms and the lands of Tremedda and Trevalgan before you’re back in St Ives.

Explore St Ives to Zennor circular walk on this map.

Grey Seals on St Ives to Zennor coastal walk
Grey Seals on St Ives to Zennor coastal walk
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9. Lamorna Cove to Mousehole

Distance: 9 miles – 3.5 hours

Best for nature and landmarks, with regular facilities via local towns. A moderately challenging walk.

The walk from Lamorna Cove to Mousehole harbour, home to St Michael’s Mount, is one of the less rural walks on this list, taking you through pretty Cornish villages and past historical Cornish landmarks. Lamorna Cove is a southerly point just before Land’s End and walking east along the coast path brings you to Mousehole, Newlyn, Penzance and Marazion. 

These fishing villages have a rich working history with picturesque buildings and bags of character. From Lamorna Cove, a former hub for artists drawn in by that famous light, you’ll follow the Land’s End South West Coast Path signs, and head towards Mousehole. 

Seals and basking sharks are often spotted here, and the yellow gorse and wildflowers will accompany you en route. Mousehole’s fishing village was once described by poet Dylan Thomas as ‘the prettiest village in England’ and he’s not wrong. The picturesque harbour and houses are a charming reminder of times gone by. 

Leaving Mousehole harbour behind you’ll head to Newlyn, and shortly after Penzance. Working fishing towns with all the amenities you could want, from pubs and shops to people watching. You’ll walk past Penzance’s popular outdoor Jubilee Lido, which has recently been refurbished with a geothermal pool. Along the coast from Penzance harbour sits the infamous Minack Theatre and picturesque Porthchapel Beach which are also a must-see.

Finally, you’ll come to Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. The mount is one of Cornwall’s wonders, only accessible on foot at low tide. Head back the way you came, and fall in love with these villages all over again.

Explore the Lamorna Cove to Mousehole walking map.

St Michael’s Mount coastal walk
St Michael’s Mount

It was almost impossible to narrow down the best coastal walks in Cornwall, but each of these shows Cornwall at its finest. There are plenty of walks for everyone, whether it’s nature, family-friendly, dog-friendly, or adrenaline that you’re after. 

We’re lucky enough to have an award-winning selection of pubs in Cornwall too, so whether you’d prefer a gentle amble with a halfway pint, or a more challenging hike and rewarding yourself with a hearty roast, we’ve got you covered. 

Don’t forget to research your walk in-depth beforehand, so you won’t come across any unexpected surprises. The South West Coast Path and National Trust are brilliantly informative, complete with detailed routes and maps. 
Soaking up the outdoors in Cornwall is restorative, and you can take our word on that as we’ve been doing it for a long, long time! If you catch the exploring bug and want to get even closer to nature, at Padstow Sealife Safaris we give you the opportunity to do this through sensitive wildlife observation.

Wheal cotes engine house at St Agnes
Wheal cotes engine house at St Agnes

FAQs

Where is the best walking in Cornwall?

We’re biased with our love for Padstow, but the Harlyn Bay to Padstow walk shows you the best Cornwall has to offer rambling along the southwest coast path exploring glorious beaches and along the route why not stop for a break to enjoy a delicious a cream tea!

How long does it take to walk the Cornish coastline?

On average it takes 7-8 weeks to walk the Cornish coastline, at around 330 miles, and the South West Coast Path takes you the whole way around. We often have coast path walkers join us on our Sealife Safari Trips, and love hearing their tales of different cornish gems they have found, like abandoned engine houses.

Where does the Cornish coastal path start and end?

The Cornish coastal path begins on the north coast, just after the border with Devon, in Bude. Follow the exhilarating coastline all the way around the county, and you’ll end up in Saltash on the south coast.

Looking for an exciting new adventure on the coast? Look no further than Padstow Sealife safari boat trip! Our friendly and knowledgeable crew will take you on a journey along the rugged coastline, where you’ll have the chance to experience all the wildlife and coastal beauty that this area has to offer. Whether you’re a nature lover or simply looking for an entertaining day out, our Padstow Sealife safari boat trips are a perfect choice! So join us today and come explore the beauty of Padstow’s coastal adventures. We guarantee you’ll have an unforgettable experience.