There is something uniquely wild and alluring about Cornwall. Maybe it’s the sunshine and sea views, the secluded beaches and bays; the quaint villages and quintessential towns or its rugged and wild seemingly untouched clifftops.
Home to an abundance of wildlife and nature Cornwall is a place where memories are made, holidays taken and paths are walked; a home from home where even time seems affected by the sea air.
As you drive past the ‘Welcome to Cornwall’ sign life slows down in an instant and all that matters in that moment is that first glimpse of the sea.
From its nature and wildlife to art and culture, Cornwall is a place of inspiration for many, with spectacular walking routes that should be added to every must-do list. For many hikers, the coastal path is the holy grail, boasting unrivalled 360-degree views, whilst for others, it’s the shorter, lesser-known but no less beautiful paths that lure them in.
I’d like to include every Cornish walk but instead, I’ve selected just a few of what I consider some of the most unique and iconic walks, from the North to the South, from 8 miles to 630 miles; there’s a hike for every kind of hiker in this beautiful county in the south-west of England.
A Legendary Walk in North Cornwall
In the North of Cornwall, discover the King Arthur Way, a 150-mile long-distance trail that takes in some of the south’s most magnificent landscapes as you follow the story of King Arthur; from castles and coast to woods and heathland. This walk starts from Tintagel, which legend claims to be the birthplace of Arthur and is home to Merlin’s Cave – a 100-metre sea cave beneath Tintagel Castle that passes through Tintagel Island.
The walking route leaves the rugged Cornish coastline and takes in Rockey Valley, with its fascinating rock carvings, passes St Nectan’s Glen Holy Waterfall and then heads into the county of Devon. Climb Brent Tor and pass Castle Drogo before visiting the historical site of Burrow Mump and walk over the Somerset Levels to Glastonbury Tor and Abbey, where Arthur died and was laid to rest.
It may be a modern trail but it’s one created from legend, folklore and history, beautiful from start to finish.
A Classically Cornish Walk in South Cornwall
Kynance Cove and Cadgwith from the Lizard – 8 miles
This 8-mile looped trail on the Lizard Peninsular has to be one of the best walks in Cornwall.
Walk it in either direction and take in some of south Cornwall’s most popular spots. Starting at Lizard Point, the most southerly point of England, the circular trail takes in coves, untouched beaches and dramatic cliff path and rolling countryside.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were on a tropical island at Kynance Cove; known for its shipwrecks, rock stacks, sandy beach and turquoise waters. Explore caves at low tide and if you need sustenance, you can always sample Cornish classics at the café, from pasties to cream teas – you won’t go hungry.
From the tropics you’ll head across the Peninsula and step back in time as you make your way down into idyllic Cadgwith; a picturesque fishing village packed with thatched cottages leading to its small harbour with shingle beach and colourful fishing boats.
The path then takes you past the ‘Devil’s Frying Pan’, past Church Cove and onto Housel Bay where you can see the iconic Lizard Lighthouse.
A Long Distance National Trail
South West Coast Path – 630 miles
One most famous of Cornwall’s walking paths and the UK’s longest National Trail, is the breath-taking South West Coast Path. Although it starts from Minehead in Somerset and ends in Poole in Dorset, 300 miles of this 630-mile long-distance trail is walked in beautiful Cornwall.
It can be walked in either direction and usually takes hikers around 52 days to complete, although many walk its miles over the years, taking in sections with every returning trip. So, if you haven’t the time (or energy) to do the whole thing, pick a section and happy trails.
The southwest’s rugged coastal landscapes and countryside welcome walkers year-round; expect wild, dramatic cliffs, secluded bays and old smuggler’s coves as the path climbs and descends the magnificent coastline.
Pass through quaint fishing villages, bustling market towns and see the best of Cornwall on this beautiful path with an abundance of pubs, cafes and restaurants to refuel you on your way, and an assortment of accommodation options, from campsites to hotels.
An all-encompassing UK thru-hike experience; the challenge is worth it to spot dolphins, seals, rare birds, and reptiles as you roam, to walk to the beat of crashing waves and slow down and let the salty sea-breeze guide you.
A’Micro Pilgrimage’ – An Iconic Walk in Cornwall
In 2016 St Michael’s Way became the only footpath in Britain to be a part of the world-famous Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way, mapping the route chosen by pilgrims who abandoned their ships to avoid the treacherous seas of Land’s End.
The 13-mile St Michael’s Way crosses from coast to coast. A one-way walking route that officially starts in the medieval coastal town of Lelant near St Ives, at the church of St Uny, and crosses inland to St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island off the coast of Marazion, near Penzance. Walk across at low tide and climb to the top and look back at the bay to complete this ‘micro-pilgrimage.
Or at high tide, you can catch a boat to the island, where many visit to discover the small village, ancient church and the beautiful castle which is safeguarded and cared for by the St Aubyn family and the National Trust.
There you have it, just a few of the best walks in Cornwall, but no matter whether you plan to visit for a weekend or a month, there is a walk to suit every kind of hiker so plan your visit and check out the rest of the Cornwall routes on the Hiiker App.