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  • Writer's pictureNatashia Larkin

11 best coastal walks in Cornwall

Updated: Mar 6



I don't always love climbing big hills or hiking steep cliff faces, but I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a sea view so I’ll do what needs to be done. 


I do, however, love going for a long coastal walk with my husband and our whippet, Lunar. 

We like ticking off the different walks from our list and we’ve slowly been making our way around the South West Coast Path. Although we hope to do the entire thing properly this summer! 


In case you don’t know, this is the path that loops around Cornwall’s entire coastline from Bude to Plymouth. That’s 228 miles of footpath in total!


It is also one of the things that make this county so bloody special. 


The thing is, there isn’t always time to walk all 228 miles and sometimes you just want to plan a nice walk for a couple of hours.  


But if you’re anything like me and you find making decisions hard (don’t judge me, I’m a Libra) then you’ll need a little help narrowing it down. 


So, if you’re visiting Cornwall this year and you can’t decide which walks you should prioritise, I can help. 


Here are 11 of my favourite Coastal walks in Cornwall. 


1. Perranporth to St Agnes 

Distance: 3.6 miles 

Difficulty: Largely flat but with a steep climb at Trevaunance Cove


Let’s kick this list off with one of my favourite walks and one that we have completed the most, partly because it’s local and partly because we love it so much. This is the walk from Perranporth to St Agnes. 


The walk takes you up the cliff from Perranporth Youth Hostel, along the rugged cliffs and through the airfield, as well as some historic mining sites. 


Along the way, you can enjoy views of the 3-mile expanse that is Perranporth beach and the incredible soundscape of the waves lapping against the cliffside. 


As you approach St Agnes, you’ll get a beautiful view over the beach and it’s certainly worth heading all the way into the picturesque little village there. 


This is a really special walk but it’s so important to be aware that if you hug the coastline like we do, you will have to make a decision. You can descend the steps into Trevaunance Cove, and from there you can climb the rocks and head across the beach - but only at low tide!


Alternatively, you can walk up the steep rocky track that passes through the gates of the Motorcycle Club and then head down through the gardens. 


But for the easiest journey, we suggest that you stick to the South West Coast Path which you’ll see sign-posted along the way. 


2. Kynance Cove to Lizard Point

Distance: 2.9 miles 

Difficulty: Relatively easy with a few steeper inclines and some rock climbing on the beach


If you’ve never been to Kynance Cove before, you’ve probably seen pictures of it online. 

Thanks to its white sandy strips, turquoise water, rugged rock stacks and abundance of caves, the photos usually go viral on social media with a caption saying something like ‘can you believe this is in the UK?’. 


And starting at the incredible Kynance Cove, you can walk the path to Lizard Point, passing plenty of stunning coastal landscapes, rock formations and the quaint Church Cove.


3. Wheal Coates to Chapel Porth 

Distance: 1.8 miles 

Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat walk, although the walk down to the beach is steeper and slightly rocky 


If you’re looking for a shorter, albeit just as beautiful walk, the journey from Wheal Coates down to Chapel Porth is wonderful, especially at sunset. 


There is a National Trust car park up the top, just a short walk from Wheal Coates. Starting there, you can walk along the cliff side and either stop overlooking Chapel Porth - another National Trust site - or walk down to the beach there. 


There is even a small cafe down there that is open in the summer. 


It’s worth saying the beach is quite rocky and if the tide is in, there might not be much beach at all. But either way, it’s a really nice, easy walk offering some incredible views. In fact, on a clear day, you can see all the way to St Ives. 


Chapel Porth South West Coast Path

4. Godrevy Point to St Gothian Sands

Distance: 1.1 miles 

Difficulty: Very easy 

Starting in the National Trust top car park at Godrevy Point you can admire the lighthouse and incredible views across multiple beaches towards St Ives. 


But you can also take the short walk up the hill to Seal Cove. This little cove is tucked away where no humans can safely get to, but you can still view it from above. This has made it a popular spot for sunbathing seals, and they are quite happy for you to stop by and watch them lying on the sand, as long as you don’t make too much noise. 


Once back at the car park, you can enjoy the easy walk from that point down to St Gothian Sands. There is a lovely National Trust cafe on the way and also a nearby pub, The Rockpool. 


This is a pretty short walk but you can duck down onto the different stretches of sand, depending on the tide, or just enjoy the day there is the luscious field. 


5. Porthtowan to Portreath 

Distance: 4 miles

Difficulty: Moderate but with challenging steeper inclines

 

We have only attempted this walk once, but we intend to do it again very soon. Although the actual cliff walk itself is relatively flat, you do have to tackle some pretty steep steps on at least two occasions. 


And when I say steep, I mean it! But it is so worth it when you reach Portreath. 


The cliff walk itself is full of wild and rugged cliffs, as well as miles of sandy stretches. On a sunny day, this is so picturesque and you rarely see many other hikers on the way so it is very peaceful. 


You can walk either way, from Porthtowan to Portreath or vice versa. There is a lovely bar on the beachfront in Porthowan called Blue Bar or you could stop at The Waterfront Inn in Portreath once you’ve completed the walk. 


6. Porthcurno to Pedn Vounder

Distance: Between 1- 2 miles 

Difficulty: Easy to moderate 


Porthcurno, right at the bottom of Cornwall is otherworldly. Or certainly, other countryly (does that make sense, I know it’s not a real word?), in that when you’re there, it doesn't feel like you're in the UK at all. 


On the right day, the incredible white sand, turquoise ocean and striking cliffs could leave you feeling like you're on a Caribbean island. I often feel like I’m living out some live-action Moana moments while I’m there (and yes, I do sing How Far I’ll Go and no, I’m not ashamed). 


If you've never been, you absolutely should visit. The only trouble is, it’s a small-ish beach with an even smaller car park. This means that in the summer, it is very busy and in my personal opinion, not worth fighting your way down there. 


Unless you're prepared to go super early that is! 


Whether you choose to go early or at a quieter time of year, you can also embark on the 15-minute cliff walk to Pedn Vounder. Another flawless beach, tucked away in a cove and often, quite secluded. 


On the other side of Porthcurno beach, you’ll see the Minnack Theatre, where you can catch a show with a backdrop of breathtaking views. It’s a really special experience in a really special place. 


Porthcurno coastal walks in Cornwall


7. Perranporth to Newquay 

Distance: 11 - 12 miles 

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. This is a long walk that requires a lot of ups and downs, including a steep incline if you walk along Perranporth beach 


I’ve left this one to last because it is by far the longest walk on the list, but it is also one of my absolute favourite coastal walks in Cornwall. 


It also incorporates several smaller individual walks that are also great to do if you’re short on time. 


As this was a longer walk, we decided to break it down into four main sections, which can be done all together or as individual walks. 


With that in mind, I’ll break this section down in the same way so you can see the four different walks. 


8. Perranporth to Holywell 

The walk from Perranporth to Holywell is 4.3 miles, though 3 miles of that is the lengthy Perranporth beach. You can walk through the dunes to get there but we prefer to go across the beach when the tide is out. 


Getting up onto the cliff is steep but after that, you will walk along the relatively flat cliff path. 

The walk takes you through the eerie derelict military camp on the cliff-top. Of course, this is no longer in use but is so interesting to see. You’ll also see lots of wild horses, rabbits and possibly seals if you’re lucky. 

Then you dip down to the lovely Holywell beach, another Nationals Trust spot, where there is a nice pub and a good chance to stop for a drink before you continue. You can also easily get a bus from here back to Perranporth if you don’t fancy heading back on foot. 


Newquay Perranporth Holywell

9. Holywell to Polly Joke 

The next stretch from Holywell is 2 miles towards Polly Joke beach, also known as Porth Joke. You’ll largely walk through the dunes and then up onto the cliff. On a clear day, the views can go as far as Trevose Headland near Padstow. 


You’ll walk through the fields and around Kelsey Head, allowing you more panoramic views of the Cornish coastline, before descending down towards Polly Joke beach.


10. Polly Joke to Crantock

The next walk is a 2-mile stint that takes you from Polly Joke to Crantock. On the way, you walk up past the poppy fields and at the right time of year, you can see the fields flush with beautiful red flowers. 


This is also worth a separate visit by car, where you can park in the top car park and head down through the fields at sunset for some incredible photographs.


But even when the poppies aren’t in bloom, the views are still beautiful. You’ll head over to West Pentire headland which is famous for its wildflowers and then head inland towards the Bowgie Inn. 


If you want to stop for some food and drink, I can highly recommend the inn. It is lovely and the views from the garden are incredible. 


You can then head back down towards the coast until you reach Crantock beach. This is a huge expanse of sand when the tide is out, and as the next stage of the walk requires you to cross the Gannel, it’s best to go at low tide. 


11. Crantock to Newquay (via the Gannel) 

The final stage is 2.7 miles long and requires you to cross the Gannel Estuary, and as previously stated, the tide must be out to do this safely. So you need to get your timings right!


At this final stage, you have two options. You can cross the estuary and take the steps up the hill towards the car park on Pentire Point East. You can continue the coastal walk through Newquay from there, passing Fistral beach and through to the town beaches. 


Alternatively, you can walk along the beach towards the tidal footpath and back onto the South West Coast path. You can then get out onto Trevean Way and follow the road into Newquay town centre. 


Then stop for a very well-earned drink or something to eat, especially if you’ve completed the 12 miles. 


Things to think about before going on any coastal walks in Cornwall  


coastal walks

I understand that coastal walks are extremely refreshing, they’re great for your physical and mental wellbeing and they are an excellent way to experience everything Cornwall has to offer. 


HOWEVER, it would be remiss of me not to cover some of the basics when going on a cliff walk as we have to be realistic. These can be dangerous places if you don’t know what you’re doing or if you don’t plan ahead. 


So, before you embark on any coastal walks in Cornwall, make sure to: 


  • Check the weather conditions to make sure it isn’t going to be too treacherous or windy

  • Make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing and footwear 

  • Be sure to pack water and a snack as some of these walks can be longer and more challenging than anticipated 

  • Make sure you’ve got battery on your phone 

  • Always follow any safety guidelines provided by local authorities and obey the signs along the trails 


And please, if you’re going to take your dogs, and you absolutely should, just be sure to keep them on a lead when near the cliff edge. 


We’ve heard far too many horror stories of people who have their dogs off a lead on a lovely cliff walk and before they know it they have chased a bird or a ball or simply slipped off the edge. 


The incredible RNLI have had to conduct many rescues over the years and it is just not worth the risk. 


But other than that, have fun and enjoy being one with nature. These are just a few coastal walks in Cornwall, of course, there are plenty more. So get your walking boots on and get out there!


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