Cornwall is one of those places in the UK that is more of a country in its own right than a county.
It has attempted to secede from the UK at one stage too, in 1497 where they nearly toppled Henry VII!
Today it has mellowed out a little, and while being one of the poorest counties in the UK in terms of GDP (you can’t eat the views) it is still one of the most popular tourist destinations.
Why? It has stunning scenery, beautiful little fishing villages, great surfing and sailing, and of course its pubs aren’t too bad either!
What about the walking? That’s quite special too.
Generally the ones we cover here are stretches of its coastline on both the Atlantic and English Channel, but inland there are a fair few jewels too.
As ever we’ll start with a monster – the 680 mile South West Coast Path and wind our way down the routes in distance order.
Climbing and descending a whopping 35,000 metres over this epic adventure, you will see one of the finest stretches of UK coastline in all its glory.
Starting in Minehead and ending in Poole, you will climb vast cliffs and visit some stunning little fishing villages like Clovelly, Polperro and Port Isaac.
The suggested itinerary is over eight weeks, B&B hopping and campsite hopping as you go.
The Cornwall stretch starts at Westward Ho! in North Devon at the start of week 2 and ends in Plymouth on week 6.
A walk around the Cornish coast will take the lion’s share of this long and rewarding journey.
As ever with these bigger walks you can do sections at a time, perhaps a week here and two there over years as necessary – no matter how you do it you will get a certificate and a mention on the South West Coast Path Hall of Fame upon completion!
Many of the walks we cover in the rest of this piece are stretches of the SW Coast Path – highlights that you shouldn’t miss.
In terms of gradients this would be the easiest walk of all our walks here as it follows a disused railway line.
It has merit as it takes in much of the more beautiful parts of North Cornwall you may otherwise pass thoughtlessly in a car – that’s the point in hiking isn’t it?
Following the Camel Valley down from Padstow, it joins another disused railway line at Bodmin and heads up to Bodmin Moor where it ends in the picturesque village of Blisland.
A seasoned trekker should bash this off in around six hours and you will crave a hill or two at the end as thanks to being a railway path you ascend false flats at most!
That said you will enjoy the varied views of this part of the county as you go, from woodland to open moorland.
Par to Polperro
Fowey is a large fishing village on a river and is very much worthy of the journey in its own right.
The walk starts fairly easily with a wander on a National Cycle Route along the cliffs (if a cyclist gets too close you know which way to push them) before descending into Fowey.
Fowey is a bustling fishing town with moorings for yachts, and can be a lot of fun both during the day and into the evening.
Enjoy your lunch here and prepare for the next leg at your leisure.
You have to cross the river by ferry at this stage before ascending the cliffs above the stunning little fishing village of Polperro.
Built hundreds of years ago, it is one of those places where time may as well have stood still.
Yes, the fishing boats have engines and cars squeeze through its narrow streets but you get the vibe!
Porthleven to Lizard
This is a mixed terrain walk as coast path walks go, from sand dunes to wetland and of course the cliffs.
You will pass the Loe, the biggest freshwater lake in Cornwall and nearby which King Arthur’s Excalibur is supposed to have been thrown into the sea.
Beyond the Loe you will climb some ship-killing cliffs at Halzephron Cove (Halzephron means ‘cliffs of Hell’ in Cornish) and then beyond you get to see one of the most stunning stretches of Cornish coastline at Kynance Cove.
Kynance Cove is hidden by large stacks and arches but as soon as you round them you will come to understand why so many think it is so beautiful.
Beyond some natural amphitheatres you get to Lizard Point, the end of your journey and the UK’s most southerly point.
Sennen to Lamorna
Starting on high cliffs and moorland you will get a varied experience of the Cornish coast and culture as you do this walk.
You pass Land’s End as you do this, a sadly tacky tourist trap best avoided even though it is the SW-most point of the UK and start of many a trek to John O’Groats.
On a clear day you can see the Scilly Isles from up there and the famous Bishop’s Rock lighthouse.
Beyond you will climb and descend cliffs and will spot The Irish Lady islet off the coast, named after the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and purportedly home to her ghost after she drowned.
After a stroll along Portchapel Beach you will see the famous Minack Theatre, a theatre built into the cliffside and still used for Shakespeare’s and other famous plays.
Portreath to Hayle
There are some hidden jewels on this walk that could make this a day long adventure.
You will often find free carparks with paths down to beaches – in particular do pay a visit to Fishing Cove (known as Fishies to locals) which is down a steep path a few miles before you get to Hayle.
There’s more to this than hidden beaches!
There are high cliffs such as Hell’s Mouth – when you look over the cliff you will understand – and wildlife of a huge range.
Seals hang out at Godrevy Lighthouse, and there is a huge range of flora and fauna beyond.
Lunch should be planned at the Sandsifter Bar at Godrevy with its live music being played through the day.
After a sometimes strenuous stretch you will find Gwithian Towans beach that at low tide can be walked right to the end at Hayle.
Do be careful with the tide though as you could end up stuck on an isolated beach with a vertical, high cliff above and only the RNLI to get you out…
Crackington Haven to Tintagel
Leaving Crackington Haven you’ll sweat your way up Cornwall’s highest cliff, at 223 metres known as High Cliff (who’d have guessed?!).
Before descending to Boscastle you will see the 40 metre high Pentargon Waterfall plunging into the sea.
Boscastle was made infamous after a sudden cloudburst sent a torrent of water through the village in around 2004, and many residents had to be evacuated in a major hurry by a squadron of air sea rescue helicopters.
It’s recovered since and all you will hear is locals’ stories if you’re lucky enough to meet one.
After lunch then head up the cliffs and on. At Willapark you will sea seals chilling out, and in other places you may even see puffins!
Tintagel is steeped in Arthurian legend and is worthy of a wander in its own right.
Arthur is supposed to have been born in the castle, while his wizard Merlin lived in a cave down below the cliffs.
While touristy, it is hauntingly beautiful in its way.
If you’re feeling energetic you can combine this with the next walk, 9.7 miles on to Port Isaac.
Tintagel to Port Isaac
On the rugged Atlantic coast of Cornwall, this is one of those walks where you may only cover 10 miles but your legs will hate you at the end.
It is classed as a ‘strenuous’ walk and that means some hard climbs and descents over the high granite cliffs.
One area worthy of a pause is Dannonchapel, an abandoned hamlet whose ghostly remains have who knows what stories to tell.
Barrets Zawn used to be a slate mining area, and has a tunnel down which donkeys laden with the rock headed to load up ships.
Beyond this you will see the old port settlement of Port Gaverne that has rock pools and caves that you can explore as a little meander from your route.
At the end is the pretty little fishing village of Port Isaac where you can refuel and relax – your legs will thank you for the first time all day!
Pentewan Valley Circular
Yes, you are on the South West Coast Path for some of this route – but for a good four miles you’re going inland and exploring the countryside around Castle Gotha.
Castle Gotha is a Bronze Age settlement that is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and will be protected for time to come.
After that you head to the Pentewan Valley and King’s Wood, a deeply forested area where you can wander among the trees and flowers.
You come out of the forest and onto a track by the St Austell River before strolling back to Pentewan.
Despite its shortness it is very hilly and your legs won’t thank you if you push too hard. That said this is one of those inland walks that is extremely rewarding.
Brown Willy and Roughtor
No, this is not some bizarre sex game but a genuine walk!
You will have seen Brown Willy and Roughtor from the A30, perhaps stuck in a traffic jam as so many are.
The road doesn’t come too close (so you won’t hear cars all the time) but it is one of the highlights of a drive down into Cornwall.
Roughtor is a tor high on a hill and is a bit of a climb, while Brown Willy is a high point that you can get to in a relatively short ramble.
There are steep parts on the walk but one thing to bear in mind is the boggy ground that can catch you unawares – wear good walking boots for this one.
It is a desolate moorland and bewitching in its own right. You can imagine people being lost in the mists on the moor in times before the dual carriageway when Cornwall was a distinct country in its own right…
So there we have it!
Cornwall is a fascinating county with a varied, often stunning coastline and we hope you have been inspired to explore some – or even all – of it.
Some of the walks are as strenuous as you will find in the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District, but with quite different and bewitching views.