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Everything to know about walking in Cornwall

Out of all the regions and counties where you could go walking in England or the United Kingdom, the South West county of Cornwall is one of the most idyllic. Spanning a peninsula of rolling moors and picturesque coastline jutting out into the Celtic Sea, Cornwall is home to Lizard Point, the most southerly location in the United Kingdom, while the rocky promontory of Land's End is the most south-westerly point on the mainland.

With the Gulf Stream bringing warm water and weather, Cornwall is blessed with a maritime climate that feels more akin to the Mediterranean than the rest of England. The southern coast is even called the Cornish Riviera. This makes it a fantastic destination for walking, from hiking along the rocky Cornish coastline with its colorful fishing villages, boat-filled harbors, and sandy beaches to meandering over lush, green, peaceful hills and moors. Here's everything you need to know about walking in Cornwall.


What makes Cornwall such a good place for walking?

Not only does Cornwall have fair weather enhancing its appeal for walking in protected Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like the granite moorlands of Bodmin Moor, but it's also a cultural goldmine. 

Along with the Cornish people having their own language and heritage, Cornwall also boasts a vibrant and unique Celtic culture and history. Neolithic burial chambers, Bronze Age standing stones, medieval castles, old tin mines, and charming villages like St. Agnes dot the peninsula bearing testament to the region’s fascinating past and cultural history.

In addition, exploring Cornwall on foot brings a wealth of opportunities to stop in towns and villages, sample traditional foods, and chat with the locals.


Top hikes and walking paths in Cornwall

Encompassing a wide range of landscapes from vast granite moorlands to rugged coastline, Cornwall offers walkers a variety of terrains that can be explored within just a few days. As you walk along the north coast, especially near Fistral Beach in Newquay, you may even get the chance to see some surfers out on the water. But if you're looking to see and discover the best that the region has to offer, here is our selection of the top walks in Cornwall.


1. The South West Coast Path

Stretching 630 miles from Poole Harbor in Dorset to Minehead in Somerset, the famous South West Coast Path is the longest waymarked walking path in England. With significant elevation changes and an extended route that takes between seven to eight weeks to complete its full length, this National Trail makes for a challenging but rewarding undertaking.


2. Cornish Coastal Path

If you don't want to take on the full South West Coast Path, the 296-mile Cornish Coast Path makes a great alternative. Forming a portion of the larger National Trail, the coast path follows the contours of the Cornish coastline from north to south. Ranging in difficulty from leisurely to challenging, walkers can choose to complete the full route or undertake rewarding day hikes.

3. St Michael's Mount

Looking a little reminiscent of Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France, St Michael's Mount near Penzance is a tidal island crowned by a 14th-century castle and chapel. The short and easy walk from the sandy beach of Marazion on the mainland along the historic causeway to explore the island is a Cornish holiday activity that can be enjoyed by everyone — except when the tide is high and the island is cut off. Explore this fascinating rocky island as part of our Walk West Cornwall Tour.  


4. The Saints Way Trail

Formerly used by Christian pilgrims and seafarers to avoid hazardous seas and coastal pirates near Penzance (yes, there really were pirates of Penzance!) the 27-mile-long Saints Way cuts across the peninsula from coast to coast. The two-day, leisurely and moderate route passes through rolling moors, valleys, and woodland, offering opportunities to visit rocky tors, historic ruins, and even enjoy a pint in a pub that is almost 1,000 years old, the 12th-century Crown Inn in Lanlivery.

5. Lamorna Cove to Mousehole

Traversing a spectacular and little visited section of Land's End in the West Penrith Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this 9-mile, leisurely and moderate coastal walk from Lamorna Cove Beach heads along cliffs and rugged coastline making up part of the South West Coast Path en route to the quaint fishing village of Mousehole.



Tips for a walking holiday in Cornwall

Here are some other important things to know before planning a walking trip around Cornwall:
  • Late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times to go walking in Cornwall to enjoy warm weather, long days, and seasonal colors. But thanks to the peninsula's prime placement close to the Gulf Stream, winter can also be a good time for exploring without the crowds
  • Even in summer, walkers should pack for all seasons with waterproof clothing and layers in case of cold or rainy weather
  • Pack a comfortable but sturdy pair of broken-in hiking shoes, as well as sunscreen and plenty of water
  • It's not a visit to Cornwall without trying some of the traditional local cuisine! With origins in Cornwall's mining days, the Cornish pasty is the county's traditional culinary speciality, consisting of a savory meat-and-veggie-filled shortbread pastry. You can find these and other delicious traditional dishes in classic Cornish pubs and restaurants
  • If you need help organizing a trip to Cornwall, save yourself the planning time and join a small group walking tour like our Walk West Cornwall Tour. Along with exploring many of Cornwall's most famous landmarks as well as off-the-beaten-path treasures, all booking, travel arrangements, and accommodations are taken care of for you in advance

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