Looking for the best Cornwall walks but not sure where to start? With more than 500 kilometres of coastline on the South West Coastal Path and even more trails inland, there is a lot of natural beauty to explore. In this guide we share our personal recommendations on the best trails in Cornwall, from short morning walks to long day hiking adventures.
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Cornwall walks: about the South West Coast Path
If it’s your first time planning walks in Cornwall, the first thing to know is about the South West Coast Path. This behemoth of a pathway is the longest natural trail in the UK, stretching over a thousand kilometres in total!
The path runs from Minehead in Somerset around the Poole in Dorset, which means that it incorporates the entire 500-kilometre coast of Cornwall. We might be a little biased, but we think the Cornwall sections of the path are without doubt the most beautiful.
We go for walks in Cornwall on the coastal path at least a couple of times every year, and usually more. I’ve done some of the Cornwall walks in this guide more than a dozen times. I’m told by my parents that I first did the Mousehole to Lamorna walk at the age of four, way back in 1987!
So, what can you expect from the South West Coast Path? In a nutshell, some of the most breathtaking and dramatic coastal scenery you will find anywhere in Europe. Some of the beaches around the Cornish coast look almost sub-tropical, washed with turquoise waters, dotted with towering rock stacks and riddled with gaping caves.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even take on the full 52-day route of the entire South West Coast Path, staying at incredible hostels, guest houses, B&Bs, hostels and campsites along the way. We haven’t got round to trying this ourselves, but it’s been on our bucket list for a long time! Watch this space…
Cornwall walks for all abilities
The beauty of the coastal path in Cornwall is that there are walking trails for any kind of ability or occasion. Some point-to-point routes take no more than an hour, but still feature spectacular scenes that you’re sure to love.
Other trails will take you on overnight adventures or epic dawn-to-dusk hikes. For example, we walked the full 23 kilometres from Sennen Cove to Mousehole, with many steep ups and downs along the way, when we were training for the Inca Trail in Peru.
Walks in Cornwall with dogs
Are you taking dogs on your adventure? Most walks in Cornwall are brilliant for dogs. We take our lurcher Regan on all our adventures these days. He’s never happier than when he’s on the South West Coast Path (and the many dog-friendly beaches you will encounter along the way!).
Every walk we’ve included in this guide is possible to walk with dogs. Sometimes the routes may pass through or near farmland, and in these cases it’s best to keep dogs on leads. Many of the beaches that are incorporated into the trails are dog-friendly all year round, but also make sure you check the signs and advice at the beach on arrival, as rules can change.
Preparation tips for walks in Cornwall
Before you set off on the trail, there are a few useful things to know about walking in Cornwall. Read our quick tips in this section to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
When is the best time of year for walking in Cornwall?
In general, Cornwall has some of the mildest weather in the UK, and you can walk on the coastal path at any time of year. The weather can be unpredictable regardless of the season though, so make sure you are well packed for any conditions.
In summer, even when it’s hot, the coastal winds have a lovely cooling effect. The downside to this season is that the popular trails can get quite busy.
If you don’t mind walking in the cold, winter in Cornwall is a fabulous time to take walks on the coastal path. You’ll often see wildlife that doesn’t come out when more tourists are around. Springtime is probably our favourite though, as it has the added benefit of blooming flowers along the trails.
What do I need to pack for Cornwall walks?
There are a few essentials that we recommend packing for any walks in Cornwall, especially on the coastal path:
- A hiking jacket that is waterproof and wind-resistant.
- Strong hiking boots. Trails are usually well marked but you’ll still find sections of slippery mud or loose stones. See our guide to hiking boots for travel for our recommendations.
- A good backpack to carry your essentials. Our guide to travel backpacks includes a section on day packs, which should do the trick for the walks we recommend in this article.
- A good water supply to stay hydrated. We usually take a camel pack on any hike, as it just makes things easier.
- Reusable waste bags to make sure you don’t leave litter on the trail.
- Picnic food, snacks and a picnic blanket. Even if we’re not planning to have lunch on a walk, we’ll always bring a good homemade trail mix.
How difficult are trails on the Cornish coastal path?
With over 500 kilometres of coastal path in Cornwall, the difficulty of each trail can vary greatly. For each of the trails we suggest below, we’ve given an indication of difficulty and the type of terrain you can expect to encounter.
So, are you ready to begin? The walks in Cornwall I’m about to share are all routes I’ve walked myself at least once, and in most cases multiple times. Let’s dive in.
Best day walks in Cornwall
We begin with a selection of our favourite longer walks in Cornwall. These make for great days out on the coast! Pack a picnic to enjoy along the way. There’s always a sandy beach or viewing point with a bench where you can make the stop.
1. Sennen Cove to Porthcurno circular
📍 Distance: 10 miles / 16 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 5–6 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate to hard (some steep sections, lots of up and down)
In our humble opinion, the furthest western part of the South West Coast Path is where you will find the most stunning coastal views. This particular stretch between Sennen Cove and Porthcurno incorporates some incredible beauty spots.
We often do this as a one-way trail, but that’s tricky unless you have someone to pick you up at the end (thanks Mum!). If you don’t happen to have a helpful relative living nearby, you can instead extend the route into a glorious circular trail that hugs the coastal path before returning along a scenic inland route.
Sennen Cove Harbour Car Park is the ideal place to begin. You can park all day for £6 right at the beginning and end point of the trail.
The route is very simple: head towards Land’s End on the coastal path and continue all the way until you reach Porthcurno. It doesn’t take long until you reach some impressive sights; just past Land’s End is Enys Dodnan Arch, a spectacular natural rock stack and arch just off the coast.
Along the way, also look out for secluded beaches like Nanjizal, which can only be accessed via the coastal path, and more interesting features like Carn Boel, the site of an iron age clifftop castle. Just before you reach Porthcurno comes a major highlight of the route – the incredible Minack Theatre, carved into rock on the clifftop.
At Porthcurno, if you want to take the loop trail back, walk a little inland and then take the public footpath up to the village of St Levan. From here, you can continue onwards on the footpath that traces inland through sprawling farmland and flowery fields, roughly parallel to the coastal path, all the way back to Sennen Cove.
2. Porthleven to Lizard Point
📍 Distance (one way): 15 miles / 24 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 6–7 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate (mostly gentle, with occasional steep and narrow sections)
The Lizard Peninsula is home to some of Cornwall’s most desolate and rugged coastal scenery. Lots of the coastal path sections here are exposed to the elements, and so you will often get strong winds, which are wonderfully refreshing, but also make it a bit more of a challenge!
Lizard Point, at the base of the peninsula, is the southernmost point in the entire UK. The clifftop scenery around here is drenched in an array of natural green, yellow and red hues, fashioned by many centuries of fierce waves crashing against the coastline.
The walk from the small town of Porthleven down to Lizard Point traces along the western side of the peninsula. It’s a long day’s walk, but you’ll be rewarded with unrelenting scenery that includes one of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches at Kynance Cove. The route is simple: just keep following the coastal path all the way!
Mullion Cove is a lovely secluded little harbour and beach that is neatly located around the midway point of the trail, so you could stop there for a picnic lunch.
This is a one-way trail and too long for a single day return hike, so you’ll either need to have return transport arranged or stay overnight near Lizard Point before hiking back the next day. You could take the opportunity to stay at the stunning Housel Bay Hotel, which overlooks the sea from the clifftops just around from Lizard Point.
3. Lizard Point to Cadgwith circular
📍 Distance: 7 miles / 11 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 3–4 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate
On the eastern side of the Lizard Peninsula you will find peculiarities both natural and manmade. The short stretch between Lizard Point and Cadgwith Cove is less than four miles, but it incorporates highlights like the Lizard Lighthouse, Lizard Lifeboat Station (which features a small museum), and Devil’s Frying Pan, a collapsed cave that has left a huge water hole in its wake.
We like to walk this trail and then return from Cadgwith to Lizard village inland, creating a neat circular. If you take the road up from Cadgwith to the tiny village of Grade, you can then follow a public footpath through open fields back across to Lizard village.
This makes for a satisfying morning walk before having lunch in the village. Try the fish and chips at the Witchball, Britain’s most southerly bar.
4. Mousehole to Lamorna circular
📍 Distance: 5 miles / 8 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 2–3 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate to hard (several steep sections on the coast path)
Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I spent summer holidays in Mousehole, and every year we would do the Lamorna walk together as a family. I’ve walked this route more times than any other in the world, and yet it still doesn’t get any less enjoyable when I return.
We usually the Mousehole to Lamorna walk as a straightforward there-and-back trail. From Mousehole, you need to walk up the steep Raginnis Hill and then go through the gate onto the coastal path, which continues onwards to Lamorna.
However, in recent years we’ve tried out an alternative circular version of the walk, which brings an extra dimension to it and some glorious sea views from higher up..
In Mousehole village, just up from the harbour, you can find a narrow climbing footpath from Treen Villas (above Mill Pool), which then crosses over Love Lane. Keep on going up the footpath and you will soon emerge into open fields above Mousehole.
A footpath runs through a series of fields and farmland before the trail enters some woodland on the descent to Lamorna. You need to be careful in places to navigate around the farmland, and it’s not always clear where exactly the footpath is – but if you keep following the general direction towards Lamorna you won’t stray far.
Lamorna Cove is a peaceful spot with an old collapsed harbour, and a café where you can pop in for some lunch. When you’re ready, take the path leading up from the cove onto the coastal path, which you can just follow all the way to Mousehole. You get a nice view of the village from above as you descend back down Raginnis Hill!
There’s quite a bit of up and down on the coastal path between Mousehole and Lamorna, so take your time. In one particular spot there’s a gaping drop that terrified me as a child, but doesn’t seem so bad now as an adult! The trail is particularly pleasant in spring, when the jaw-dropping clifftop views are punctuated by colourful flowers all along the pathway.
5. St Ives to Zennor circular
📍 Distance (one way): 6.5 miles / 10 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 3–4 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate to hard (some steep and slippery sections, plus some clambering over rocks)
Many people visit St Ives for its vibrant art and craft scene or its variety of beaches. But one of the best things to do in St Ives is undoubtedly to explore the section of coastal path around the town, which is among the most scenic in Cornwall.
Immediately to the west of St Ives is a gorgeous stretch of the coastal path that leads across to the quaint village of Zennor, encompassing rocky headlands and hidden coves on the way.
The ideal starting point is at Porthmeor Beach, where there is a car park right at the beginning of the trail. A well paved path leads up to Clodgy Point, where a rock stack marks the tip of the headland. Continue on from here on the coastal path, and look out for Seal Island, which is often true to its name with seals hopping on and off.
Just past Porthzennor Cove, turn inland and follow the path uphill into Zennor village. This final section of coastline on the trail is particularly beautiful, overlooking Pendour Cove.
We love to wrap up this walk with a pub lunch in Zennor at the Tinners Arms, one of Cornwall’s oldest pubs. And if the sun is shining then you should try some Moomaid Cornish ice cream, located just a few paces away from the pub.
This walk is easily doable as a one-way trail as you can just hop on the Land’s End Coaster bus back to St Ives, which runs every hour.
6. Polruan to Lantic Bay circular (Polperro Heritage Coast)
📍 Distance: 4.5 miles / 7 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 2–2.5 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate (mostly gentle after a hill ascent at the beginning)
On one of our most recent trips to Cornwall we paid a visit to the pretty port town of Fowey (pronounced “Foy”) for the first time. It’s a charming little place perched on a river estuary, and on the other side of the water lies the Polperro Heritage Coast, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We took the opportunity to explore this section of the coastal path. You can take a ferry across the river from Fowey to the town of Polruan on the opposite side, with crossings running every 15 minutes through the day. Polruan is equally lovely, and it’s also the base for a beautiful circular walk.
Trudge up the hill on the south side of Polruan and keep following around the edge of the village, and you will eventually emerge over onto the coastal path. Don’t forget to look backwards as well, as there are some amazing views back across to Fowey from up here!
After that, you know the drill… keep following the coastal path. There are some really interesting features along this section as you scramble through sections of woodland and along high hedgerows. It can get a bit slippy in parts if there’s been any rain.
Less than a mile along the path from Polruan, you will see Lantic Bay emerging ahead. There’s a pristine beach tucked inside the bay, and you can enjoy a super view of it while approaching. It’s easy to get down to the beach once you’re there, and it’s dog-friendly all year round.
After the beach, take the public footpath inland towards the National Trust car park for Lantic Bay. Take the narrow lane that runs alongside the car park, and keep following it, through a little village with a church. After that, to the right of the lane, you can take a public footpath that rejoins the River Fowey and hugs the bank all the way back to Polruan.
7. St Agnes Heritage Coast circular
📍 Distance: 6.5 miles / 10 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 3–4 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate
We spend a lot of time exploring the Cornish coast between St Ives and Newquay, which is home to some of our favourite beaches, surfing hotspots and some particularly sweeping sections of the coastal path.
The St Agnes Heritage Coast is in the middle of this stretch. If you’re looking for a half-day Cornwall coastal walk with a mixture of scenic views and interesting historic features, definitely give this a try.
We usually park up in the St Agnes village and pivot from there. Walk down to Trevaunance Cove, and to the left side of the beach as you approach it, you can follow the trail up to the coastal path. Seals are often rife in this bay, especially outside of the summer tourist season. Our favourite walk here was in January, when we saw dozens of them splashing around the bay.
The path keeps rising up from Trevaunance Cove, and you can then follow it all the way to Chapel Porth Beach. A highlight of the trail is the old mining engine house of Wheel Coates, which looms forlornly on the hillside overlooking the sea.
At Chapel Porth, there is a road that leads sharply inland, and you can follow it up and around St Agnes Beacon, all the way back to St Agnes village. Treat yourself to a freshly made Cornish pasty from century-old St Agnes Bakery when you’re done.
8. Downderry to Portwrinkle
📍 Distance (there and back): 6.5 miles / 10 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 5–6 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate (some hilly sections with switchbacks)
The south coast of Cornwall near the Devon border features some of the lesser trodden sections of the Cornish coastal landscape. We had a lovely and relaxing week trip with Lisa’s family to the village of Downderry, which is also the base for this fabulous there-and-back coastal walk.
If you walk eastwards along the main road in Downderry, the road climbs out of the village, and just as it loops back on itself you will see a gate to enter the coastal path. The first part of the trail features some switchbacks as the path climbs further uphill, before you emerge high up on the open coastline with glorious views.
Down on the shore you will see a jagged rock stack protruding from the sea just off the coast. This is Shag Rock, where there is also a secluded little beach, and you can climb down to it from a path at the start of the trail if you like.
Once you’re past the headland of Cargloth Cliffs, just above Shag Rock, you will see the fishing village of Portwrinkle up ahead, where a little beach is protected by a lone harbour wall. If you don’t mind walking slightly further, you can get a cracking meal at Finnygook Inn, about half a mile onwards up the hill from the village.
We like to just walk back along the coastal path to Downderry, but there is also an option to make it a circular trail by looping back along the footpaths and country lanes inland.
Beautiful short walks in Cornwall
Some of our favourite walks in Cornwall are short trails that you can combine with seeing some of the county’s greatest natural attractions. Let’s take a look at our favourite trails on the coastal path that can be done in less than a couple of hours.
9. Bedruthan Steps to Mawgan Porth
📍 Distance (there and back): 3.5 miles / 6 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1.5–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy
Along with St Michael’s Mount and Kynance Cove, Bedruthan Steps is one of the most photographed places in Cornwall. And you can see why! Just north of Newquay on the north Cornish coast, this rock-stack-riddled beach is a breathtaking beauty spot.
The beach takes its name from a legendary giant called Bedruthan, who was said to have used the huge rocks as stepping stones.
There are quite a few options for scenic coastal walks in Cornwall around Bedruthan Steps, and it’s a fun area to explore. We like the short trail between this beach and the one further down at Mawgan Porth. When the tide is out there’s a brilliant spread of sand interwoven with streams and pools, and it’s dog-friendly all year round.
If you park at the National Trust car park you can walk the short distance up to Bedruthan Steps, then double back down to Mawgan Porth. Another great option is to keep walking north past Bedruthan Steps on the coastal path to Porthcothan Beach.
10. Tintagel and Bossiney circular
📍 Distance: 3 miles / 5 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: moderate to hard (steep sections, especially the descent/ascent at Bossiney Cove)
Tintagel Castle is a one-of-a-kind fortress that is among Cornwall’s most awe-inspiring historic sites. The castle is built half-and-half across the mainland and a rocky outcrop, with a precarious-looking footbridge connecting the two parts.
As Tintagel Castle is in the northern region of Cornwall, we like to make a stop here to break up the drive if we’re heading all the way down to Penzance, where we usually stay.
This short loop walk is a great way to absorb the fascinating heritage and natural scenery that are so closely intertwined in the area around the castle. It’s best to park in Tintagel village and walk up to the castle first, allowing some time to explore the grounds.
Then, follow the coastal path onwards to the north-east of the castle, past the headland of Barras Nose, which was the first piece of land ever acquired by the National Trust. Continue past the Willapark promontory, the site of an iron age hill-fort, until you reach Bossiney Cove, where a slender beach with shimmering azure waters is shielded by a huge sheer cliff face.
When you’re done at the beach, it’s a simple walk up to Bossiney village and then along the main road back to Tintagel.
11. Sennen to Land’s End
📍 Distance (there and back): 2.5 miles / 4 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate (just a gentle climb from Sennen)
We began our selection of walks in Cornwall with the epic trail from Sennen Cove to Porthcurno. This shorter route follows the same path, but just the section between Sennen and Land’s End.
Sennen has always been one of my favourite beaches in Cornwall. It’s a gorgeous mile-wide stretch of white sand that often gets lively waves, and I spent long afternoons of my youth here body-boarding.
If you take a day out at Sennen, you can combine it with this gentle there-and-back trail to see the landmark of Land’s End at the south-west tip of England. A well paved path leads up from Sennen Cove Harbour Car Park and hugs the coast across to the famous Land’s End sign. Look out for the shipwreck of the RMS Mulheim on the rocks below as you walk above Mayon Cliff.
People have been visiting Land’s End for centuries, and a tourist complex has been developed at the site to welcome the growing number. There are shops, bars, restaurants and family activities so there’s plenty to do if you want to stick around a while. You could even stay the night at The Land’s End Hotel.
Land’s End isn’t just a gimmick though. The sweeping views around the headland are awesome in every direction. If you walk just a little further beyond the visitor’s centre, past Greeb Farm, you can catch a view of Enys Dodnan Arch.
Overall, this trail is definitely a great option if you’re looking for short, gentle and scenic walks in Cornwall to try.
12. Porthgwarra to Nanjizal Beach
📍 Distance (there and back): 4 miles / 6.5 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1.5–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate (with a bit of a climb/descent at each beach)
This fabulous little walk is another one that lies within the longer Sennen Cove to Porthcurno route. It’s a special one as it navigates between two of Cornwall’s most stunning secret beaches: Porthgwarra and Nanjizal.
Nanjizal in particular is a real hidden gem. You can only reach it by walking on the coastal path. The bay it sits within is strewn with gaping caves and colourful flowers on the hillsides. Down on the beach, you can see the Instagram-worthy Zawn Peggy, a high narrow chasm between two cliff faces.
It’s best to do this walk when the tide is not too high, so you can make the most of the beaches. The starting point is at Porthgwarra Car Park, which is a few paces away from the beach there. It’s a tricky road to drive down – see our tips for driving in Cornwall before you set off! Once you’re parked up you will very clearly see the sign for the coastal path.
The walk over to Nanjizal takes about 45 minutes at a steady pace, following the coastal path. There’s a bit of a climb down to the beach once you arrive there. Bring a picnic with you to enjoy on the sand, and you might just have the entire place to yourselves.
13. Kynance Cove to Lizard Point
📍 Distance (one way): 2.5 miles / 4 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1 hour
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy (not much elevation gain at all)
The short but scenic trail between Kynance Cove and Lizard Point is the final section of the longer day hike from Porthleven. It typically takes around an hour, so you could make it a return hike, maybe stopping for lunch at Lizard village.
Park at the National Trust Car Park for Kynance Cove, and instead of heading down to the beach, take the coastal path in the opposite direction, heading southwards. You will soon reach the lesser-trodden beach of Pentreath, which is a nice, peaceful place to stop for a while.
The path continues from here down and around the headland to the southernmost tip of the UK at Lizard Point, clinging closely to the clifftops all the way, with sprawling fields and hedgerows stretching inland as far as the eye can see. It gets particularly gusty up there on one of the most exposed parts of Cornwall’s coastline, so you may need to wrap up warmer than you expect.
We sometimes prefer to do this walk in reverse. There’s a car park a few paces from Lizard Point, then you can just walk north-west around the coastal path to Kynance Cove.
14. Lelant to St Ives
📍 Distance (one way): 3 miles / 5 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1.5–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy (one little steep part if you take the headland path between Porthkidney and Carbis Bay)
It is notoriously difficult to park in St Ives. Whenever we try, we find ourselves queuing for a spot at the large Trenwith Car Park at the top of the hill before schlepping down to the harbour.
That was until we discovered a much better option, which is to park for free in nearby Lelant, and then walk the coastal path from there into St Ives. You can then take a train back from St Ives to Lelant after exploring the town (which also happens to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the UK!).
The most convenient starting point is at St Uny’s Church in Lelant, where there is some free parking. You can pick up the coastal path from the church, which traces along the Hayle River estuary, and then opens out onto the enormous Porthkidney Beach.
The path hugs the sand dunes at the rear of the beach. When the tide is low, you can walk down onto the far western side of the beach and then climb up a little path onto the cliffs, which leads around to Carbis Bay. From the top of the cliffs here you can get a great view of St Ives. If the tide has cut off this route, you can take the path inland behind the beach instead.
We like to stop for fish and chips on the beach at Carbis Bay before continuing onwards on to St Ives. The coastal path soon joins a road that leads down to Porthminster Beach on the east side of the town. The train station is directly above the beach for the return journey.
15. Falmouth to Maenporth
📍 Distance (there and back): 3 miles / 5.5 kilometres
⏰ Walking time: 1.5–2 hours
🥾 Walk difficulty: easy to moderate
Falmouth is Cornwall’s main student town, home to the county’s only university. My nephew has stayed living in the town after studying there, and I always enjoy my visits. Whenever the chance arises, one of our favourite things to do in Falmouth is this coastal walk along a forested path across to the nearby cove of Maenporth.
The trail begins at Swanpool Beach, on the far south side of the town. You will very clearly see the path ascending from the southern side of the beach, and the route is simple – just follow the coastal path all the way to Maenporth.
Parts of this trail are encased in trees and vegetation, and then at frequent intervals you can catch a glimpse along the coastline of Maenporth emerging in the distance. Stop on the way to enjoy the viewpoints. In particular, it’s worth taking the short detour to Stack Point, from where you can see back across to Falmouth.
Once you reach Maneporth, you might want to treat yourself to some food at The Cove. This is a great restaurant that faces onto the beach. Then you can walk it off on the return trail, and try one of the famous ‘quirky ice creams’ at Swanpool Beach Cafe when you arrive back.
Have you tried any of these walks in Cornwall, or do you have a favourite that’s not included here? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Thinking of working remotely from Cornwall to experience it differently? See our guide to taking a workation in Cornwall.
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