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Best Walks In Cornwall | 10 Mapped Routes

Cornish local Anna Richards shares her favourite walks, from half-day stomps to multi-week adventures.

Divided from the rest of the UK by the River Tamar, the Cornish have always prided themselves as being set apart from everyone else. From the order in which they layer up their scones with jam and cream, to the Cornish accent, heritage and general outlook on life, there’s certainly plenty that distinguishes them. There’s also no denying that there’s something very unique about the landscape of Cornwall too, with its serrated coastlines, now-romantic relics from the era of tin mining, tucked away coves and gorse and heather filled moors, not to mention the wealth of beaches. 

Fortunately, there’s a wealth and variety of hiking trails available for landlubbers and those looking to do more than simply lounge on the beach when they visit Kernow. From the Cornish Coastal Path circumnavigating the entire county to ancient pilgrimages, there are hikes for all abilities to satiate the most discerning of hikers. 

Related: The Best Long-Distance Walks In The UK


Best Walks in Cornwall: The Top 10

  1. The Devil’s Frying Pan Loop 
  2. Chapel Porth to St Agnes Loop 
  3. The Saint’s Way (Forth an Syns) 
  4. Hell’s Mouth to Godrevy 
  5. St Mary’s Circuit, Isles of Scilly 
  6. The Cornish Coastal Path 
  7. St Just-in-Roseland 
  8. Rock to Polzeath 
  9. Rough Tor and Brown Willy 
  10. Mousehole, Lamorna and St. Loy


Walk 1: Wreckers, Smugglers and a Graveyard of Ships

The Lizard, the most southerly point of mainland Britain, is a watery grave for dozens of ships that met their demise on the stubby, semi-submerged rocks that pepper this rugged section of the Cornish coastline. This walk takes in thatched roof fishing villages, the frothing waters of a collapsed sea cave (The Devil’s Frying Pan), and Kynance Cove, arguably the most picturesque beach in the county. 

Anna says: “This is the Cornish coastline at its most unforgiving and dramatic. The toothy rocks, domed lifeboat stations and continual booming of the Lizard lighthouse reminds you that the sea in these parts is safer when you’re looking at it from the land! The trail gets very muddy, the downs in particular are saturated in mud during the winter months.”

Including the Dan Joel Surf School in Lizard, check out Mpora’s take on Cornwall’s best surf schools if you fancy a little wave break.


Walk 2: The Tin Mine Trail

It’s a shame that the Cornish miners spent their days labouring underground and didn’t have a chance to appreciate the beautiful view from their workplace. Mining has shaped this part of the coastline. The boulder-strewn coves, dusty paths and old engine houses will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into an episode of Poldark.

Anna says: “This part of Cornwall is starkly beautiful and steeped in history. Wheal Coates is one of the best-preserved tin mines in the county and a UNESCO heritage site. The engine house against the backdrop of the crashing waves of the Atlantic is a view that takes some beating.”


Walk 3: The Pilgrimage

It’s said that Christian pilgrims of old took this route before crossing to Brittany by sea to hike down to Santiago de Compostela. The trail passes ancient monoliths, tors and a 900-year-old pub. Early sea traders also walked this way, keen to avoid the treacherous coastline and the pirates around Land’s End. At 27 miles, it’s best split across two days, with campsites to aim for and a good selection of B&Bs, hotels and one youth hostel for those not keen to carry camping supplies.

Anna says: “This trail is proof that you don’t need to hug the coastline to get epic views in Cornwall. It’s a great hike to take over a long weekend, and it is very much worth spending a couple of nights in Fowey at the end.”


Walk 4: The Marine Safari

It’s not hard to see why people from all over the country flock to Cornwall to study marine biology. This loop walk is one of the best for experiencing Cornwall’s marine biodiversity. Basking sharks and dolphins are often sighted on this part of the coast, and seals are guaranteed. Mutton Cove has a year-round population of grey seals, often numbering about a hundred!

Anna says: “This is a great route to do as an afternoon dog walk and is flatter than most Cornish hikes. It’s clearly marked with very little time on roads, plenty of public toilets and a good selection of cafés for refreshment!”

Cornish Coastal Path
St. Agnes

Walk 5: The Tropical Archipelago

Legend has it that the Isles of Scilly were once joined by land to Cornwall, forming the mythical Arthurian kingdom of Lyonesse. One fateful night in the 11th century the sea swallowed the fertile plains joining the two, claiming the lives of all but one of Lyonesse’s inhabitants, a rider named Trevelyan who escaped on horseback. There may be no truth in this, but the Isles of Scilly feel other-worldly. The glittering beaches in this pocket-sized slice of paradise wouldn’t look out of place in the Indian Ocean. 

Anna says: “It’s worth taking the full day for this hike, which takes you all around the perimeter of the largest island in the Scillies. You’re likely to have many of the pristine beaches in the north of the island to yourself, so it’s worth allowing extra time for plenty of swims.”


Walk 6: The Salt Path

If Cornwall has too many hikes to choose from, why not embrace the incredible diversity of the county by walking the entire lot? Start from Morwenstow and the Hawker’s Hut, the former home of opium-smoking eccentric Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker, writer of the Cornish National Anthem The Song of the Western Men. The north coast is dramatic with fierce waves and cliffs that drop sharply whereas much of the south coast has softer edges and sleepy little bays. Finish with a ferry ride across the Tamar to Plymouth, it feels like a real border crossing. 

Anna says: “Don’t underestimate the Cornish Coast Path: you may not have to cope with altitude or snow and the route is reasonably easy to follow (follow the signposts marked with acorns), but expect to be scrambling up and down hills each day, not much of the coastline is flat! The recommended time to complete it is a month, but a fit person could cover it in three weeks. Bring small change for ferry crossings.” 

Including the River Tamar, here’s a list of some of the best places for kayaking and canoeing in Cornwall.


Walk 7: Mother Nature’s Church

Atheists and Christians alike flock to St-Just-in-Roseland’s church to worship at the altar of the great outdoors. On a clear day, the 13th century church is mirrored perfectly in the tidal creek below. The mossy graveyard, over several tiers and brimming with palms and bamboo, could well be the finest in Cornwall. St Mawes, at almost exactly the half-way point, has a wealth of pubs and cafés to reward hungry hikers.

Anna says: “This half-day hike rewards minimal effort with maximum views. It’s not part of the Cornish Coastal Path although it hugs the waterline almost the entire way round. As a result the second half of the walk is much wilder and little-marked, so it’s worth using a route planning app such as Komoot.”

For advice on using Komoot, check out our article on how to plan a hiking route.

Walk 8: The Pub Crawl

The French were onto something when they decided to combine wine and running in the Marathon du Médoc, a marathon through the wine region with 23 boozy vineyard stops. Cornwall’s equivalent is much less taxing at just six miles long, and can be taken at a much easier pace. Start and finish in Rock, home to Rock Gin and Sharp’s Brewery. If you time it right, you could coincide your walk with Polzeath’s August beer festival. At other times of year Polzeath still boasts plenty of pubs to quench your thirst.

Anna says: “The enormous Doom Bar sandbank is one of my favourite views, especially at low tide. As with most places in Cornwall there’s a legend behind it. A hapless mermaid fell in love with a local man. Not returning her sentiments, he shot her and with her dying breath she cursed the harbour with the ‘bar of doom’, a notorious obstacle that, through time immemorial, has caused many a shipwreck. 

Doom Bar


Walk 9: Cornwall’s Mini Mountain

At just 420m, the highest point in Cornwall isn’t much of a mountain peak, but views from the top of Brown Willy span both the north and south coast on a clear day. The name Brown Willy raises a few eyebrows, but the Cornish origins of the name aren’t rude at all. ‘Bronn Wennill’ means ‘Hill of Swallows’ which is all the proof that we need that the English butchered the Cornish language. 

Anna says: “Weather up on the moors is very changeable and often completely different to the rest of the county. Take waterproofs, sturdy boots, a torch and a device with GPS. If the fog sweeps in it is almost impenetrable.”

For waterproof jackets recommendations, check out some of our reviews, including best jackets of 2021.


Walk 10: The Fishing Village Trail

Mousehole harbour looks like it has been created in miniature. Tiny fishing boats, a quay lined with tiny cottages, a narrow harbour mouth impenetrable in bad weather. It seems like the last little bit of civilisation before heading into West Penwith. This part of Cornwall feels untamed and wild, full of giant granite cliffs, ancient stone circles and weather that changes every few minutes.

Anna says: “Mousehole is home to a very distinctive dish: star-gazey pie. It’s pastry filled with whole pilchards, and traditionally fish heads and tails are stuck into the crust. It looks thoroughly unappetizing, but this is quite a taxing hike so you might just be hungry enough to tuck into this at the end!”

Main image: istock/william87


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