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Location

Cornwall, England

Difficulty

6

Challenging

Length

21

Trip Cost

from $3750pp
twin share

Overview

  • Be charmed by delightful fishing villages and colourful harbours
  • Experience the warm hospitality of Cornish locals and quality B&B accommodation
  • Discover the history of the tin mining industry and Celtic church ruins
  • Indulge in award winning Cornish pasties, fresh seafood, and home-made ice-cream and cream teas (scones, jam & clotted cream) 
  • Relish spectacular coastal views of impressive, towering cliffs and wild seas

Measuring 1,015km in length, the South West Coast Path (SWCP) is the longest, long-distance footpath in the UK. Long before the South West Coast Path was used by ramblers and walkers like yourselves, the path was frequented by coastguards on the lookout for smugglers and lawbreakers. Fisherman also tread the paths, using the high cliffs as a good vantage point to check sea conditions and spot shoals of fish.

This is an area that is remarkably rich and diverse with its history and natural beauty; from ancient stone circles & burial sites, tiny fishing ports, surf beaches, cliff top theatres and art galleries, seals and basking sharks. This corner of Britain offers so many unique experiences in a compact area. All along the SWCP you will discover reminders of its prosperous industrial heritage of mining, fishing, quarrying and boat building. Celtic Saints also had a large influence on the area and they left behind chapels, holy wells and crosses that still mark the region today. 

This adventurous route hosts a multitude of hilly terrain that, while challenging at times, gives you amazing vantage points to witness the theatrical ocean and breathtaking coastline. Tread a path amongst bright purple heather that sprawls across the ground above aquamarine smugglers coves to long stretches of wind-blown beaches. 

This route passes through many delightful fishing villages and seaside towns such as Padstow, St Ives, Mousehole and Coverack. Here you can enjoy art galleries, boutiques, and cafes or sample hand-made fudge while taking in the activity at the harbour. 

WHAT MAKES OUR TRIPS DIFFERENT?

  • Specialist advice from our dedicated UK team
  • Hassle-free walking with exclusive use of RAW Travel’s specifically designed navigational hiking App
  • 24/7 support from Cornwall based RAW Travel team
  • Flexible custom-made arrangements available
  • We book all of our accommodation direct
  • Comprehensive travel pack
Extend Your Holiday – City Breaks

Double your holiday experience by including a stopover on your journey! A city break is a great way to explore another place, indulge in some extra shopping, dining or sightseeing and is a great way to break up a long flight. Our fabulous array of RAW Travel city breaks can be tailor made to your requirements and usually include an arrival transfer, 2 nights accommodation and a city sightseeing tour.

Read more about our city breaks.

Are you a first-time or solo traveller?

We’ll support you all the way! View our preparation and training resources.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Padstow: 

Today you need to make your way to Padstow. Long established as a thriving fishing village, Padstow is still a working port today with fisherman providing fresh seafood to the local restaurants which have become a major drawcard of the town. The arrival of celebrity chef owned restaurants elevated the town and region to a popular foodie destination. Padstow is also home to the infamous ‘Doom Bar’, a sandbar at the mouth of the Camel Estuary that has caused over 600 shipwrecks, supposedly the result of a mermaid’s curse. Padstow was introduced to tourism with the development of the ‘Atlantic Express’ railway in 1899 from London to Padstow and hasn’t looked back since. 

Meals: B

Day 2: Padstow to Porthcothan (21.5km,6 hours)

  • Total ascent: 770m

Today is a hard but rewarding hike and a good introduction to the north-west coastline. Sweeping views of the ocean, pretty bays and coastal villages will keep your camera in hand as you travel to Harlyn, a place of archaeological discoveries. Treasures have been unearthed in this area including a variety of bronze and iron ornaments in 1900, found in slate coffins in an Iron Age cemetery. 

Near Constantine Bay there is an option to divert off the South West Coast Path (SWCP) to discover a historical surprise on the local golf course. Just near T-off for hole 14, is the remains of St Constantine Chapel and Well. The chapel was rebuilt in the 14th-century but abandoned in the 16th-century due to encroaching marshland and sand. The well is said to date back to the 3rd-century and have the power to end droughts if the water was sprinkled over crops. It is likely that these holy sites were dedicated to King Constantine of Devon and Cornwall (cousin of King Arthur) who gave up his throne upon the death of his wife to take on the simple life of a monk in Ireland. 

Finally, dramatic and moody coastline leads you to your destination of Porthcothan.  

Meals: B

Day 3: Porthcothan to Newquay (16.5km, 4 hours)

  • Total ascent: 535m

More spectacular scenery awaits you today as you continue along the SWCP to the lovely seaside holiday town of Newquay. While there are some steep stair and hill sections, the rest of the path is more moderate and easier going. You will notice a strong beach and surf culture in this area and for good reason. Three magnificent beaches, Porthcothan, Mawgan Porth and Watergate Bay mark the route and provide excellent locations for beach activities. Until the lighthouse at Trevose Head was built, this stretch of coast was once deemed very hazardous to passing ships due to the rocky outcrops and wild atlantic seas and was responsible for many wrecks. 

Your day ends in Newquay, a town whose history lies in the importation of coal and the export of mined ore during the height of the copper and tin mining years. It was also a fishing port town before the 15th-century. Now the town is a holiday destination, popular with the British and there are more pleasure boats than fishing vessels. 

Meals: B

Day 4: Newquay to Perranporth (20km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 482m

This morning you will escape the busy town of Newquay by crossing the pretty Gannel River towards Fistral Beach. The Boardmasters Surfing Championships are held here, attracting competitors from around the world. You continue along the cliff path to Crantock and Holywell Beach, also well known surfing spots. 

As you round Ligger Point, you will notice the vast Penhale Sand Dunes to your left. There is an option here to make a short diversion inland to see the remains of St Piran’s Oratory, St Piran’s Church and a Celtic cross hidden amongst the dunes. Along with St Michael’s Mount and the Holy Trinity Chapel at St Day, St Piran’s Oratory was one of the 3 great destinations of Cornish pilgrimage in Medieval times. Making your way out of the dunes the walk continues along the expansive golden sands of Perran Beach and into Perranporth town.

Meals: B

Day 5: Perranporth to Portreath (20km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 748m

After breakfast you will make your way uphill to the SWCP to be greeted with fresh, salty and invigorating sea air. The trail meanders through flowering, low coastal scrub and Cligga Head shows off some colourful and interesting geology. Continuing on you will find yourself in the heart of Cornwall’s mining heritage. Rich in mining relics, you will pass abandoned mine shafts, engine houses and stacks that are reminders of a once prosperous tin and copper mining industry that was in operation right up until the 19th-century.  

The route can be strenuous in sections with tiring ascents and descents however the views never fail to impress and urge you on to the next outstanding lookout. Also, keep an eye out for common seabirds of the area: kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills around St Agnes Head.

Meals:

Day 6: Portreath to Hayle (18.5km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 418m

The day starts with a steep ascent up to Western Hill with great views looking back to Portreath and the coastline that you followed yesterday. Hopefully you had a hearty breakfast as you’ll need the energy to get up and down a few steep sections early on in the walk. After this, the walk is predominantly easier going on flatter ground.

While treading a path surrounded by spring or summer flowers, you will pass above hidden coves such as ‘Ralph’s Cupboard’, once used by smugglers for stashing their loot. Seals can be spotted at Hell’s Mouth cove and then further along at Castle Giver Cove & Fishing Cove before you round Navax Point with views out to Godrevy Lighthouse.

From Godrevy Towans you can walk the beach (at low tide) towards Hayle, exiting alongside holiday parks and cottages before following the Hayle Estuary to Foundry Square. At high tide you need to take the trail through the dunes. At Upton Towans, you may notice ruins of stone buildings. These are remnants of the National Explosives Company that established a factory here in 1889. With a strong mining industry at the time, the National Explosive factory was very successful, employing over 1800 people at its peak and supplying large quantities of dynamite to Cornwall, other parts of England and even as far afield as Australia. It was later a supplier to the Royal Navy during WWII.

Meals: B

Day 7: Hayle to St Ives (10km, 3 hours)

  • Total ascent: 202m

A shorter and easier walk is ahead of you today with the exception of a few hills. The path from Foundry Square travels along the roadside and estuary where a stretch of mudflats is home to a variety of birdlife and avid watchers patiently waiting with binoculars and camera in hand. Further on, quieter lanes lead you to Levant and the starting point of St Michael’s Way. 

The trail from here is a pleasant one along leafy, green paths that occasionally break to reveal spectacular views of gorgeous Carbis Bay. This is a great place to stop for a swim or a cream tea at the Carbis Bay Hotel overlooking the sea. From here it’s back on the SWCP for a short hill climb followed by a relaxing amble down to Portminster Beach and St Ives Harbour. St Ives is the home of a flourishing art scene with many galleries, museums and craft stores. Enjoy your afternoon wandering the warren of laneways, cafe’s, restaurants, shops and fishermen’s cottages. 

Meals: B

Day 8: Rest Day St Ives 

St. Ives was once known as a Pilchard fishing town and later became famous for being an artists haven and holiday town. Stroll through its charming, narrow cobbled laneways with many artists studios and shops selling local produce delights. Its walled harbour is the focal point of the town and the quay is lined with pubs and cafes overlooking the fishing boats. Look for grey seals in the waters alongside the harbour wall and climb on the hill behind for great views over the town. For artistic inspiration visit the renowned Tate Gallery and for a taste of English eccentricity at its best, the brilliant but tiny Richard Burton museum held in a private house is recommended.

Meals: B

Day 9: St Ives to Zennor (11km, 4 hours)

  • Total ascent: 576m

Your first day’s walk out of St. Ives really introduces you to the dramatic and isolated nature of this coast and is probably its most challenging section because of the rocky path underneath and sections of boulders you need to scramble over (don’t worry, it definitely gets easier as you go on!).

Today’s walk soon takes you away from the busy enclave of St. Ives into what soon feels like a remote and rugged landscape. All evidence of human habitation is left behind and you must make sure to bring enough food and drink as you’ll find none en-route. Ahead of you stretch the weathered granite headlands of which you’ll walk over and down on today’s route. The path is easy to find and stays close to the coast edge. The view down the coast is very dramatic watching the Atlantic waves battering against the cliffs. Keep an eye out for Grey Seals, which are a common sight along the coast.

Eventually you’ll have a last climb up to Zennor Head where you turn off the path and inland to reach the tiny hamlet of Zennor with its 12th-century church. Be sure to call into the church and see the unique roofing style unique to this area, resembling the timbers of an upturned boat and the 16th-century pew carved with a mermaid. A good day’s walking is rewarded by a hearty dinner in the atmospheric Tinners Arms (1271).

Meals: B

Day 10: Zennor to Pendeen (12km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 395m

More craggy coastline and stunning views await you today as the coast path winds its way past hidden coves and headlands. There are a number of historical points of interest from ancient iron-age ruins to 17th-century industrial ruins of the tin mining industry, of which you’ll see much more in the coming 2 days. You’ll pass the dramatic promontory of Gurnard’s Head which sticks out boldly into the sea on a long finger of land and is named after a type of local fish. Guranrd’s Head also contains the remains of iron-age fortifications.

This morning after passing Porthmeor cove the next place of interest is Bosigran, where the cliffs are usually alive with climbers. The granite walls provide perfect grounds for climbers of all levels from a nearby school. A good place to sit and eat lunch is on the Commando’s Ridge (named after a WWII training ground) where you can watch groups ascending the steep cliffs opposite.

Later in the day you’ll have a steep descent into Portheras Cove, which reveals a lovely sandy beach where on a warm day you might find people swimming. On the climb out, you pass the Pendeen Watch Lighthouse on your right before turning inland to the village of Pendeen itself, a former mining community ( the last mine closed in 1991). Your accommodation is a pub in the centre of the village.

Meals: B

Day 11: Pendeen to Sennen Cove (15km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 580m

You might like to start your day with a visit to the Geevor Mine and Museum in the village, where you’ll be taken underground to visit the original 18th-century tunnels. Today’s walk will take you into the heart of ‘Poldark’ country, the TV series that dramatised the local tin mining industry in the 1700’s. After leaving Pendeen you will soon see spectacular ruins all along the coast in an area listed as a World Heritage site for its industrial archaeology. Chimney’s and stone buildings dot the landscape and unseen below is the deep mining shafts that extended out beneath the sea and made the skill of the miners world famous – many came to Australia during the gold rush and were highly sought after. The walking along the narrow paths by the sea is really spectacular as you head towards the Crown and Bottallack Mines, the latter perched on the side of a sea cliff and a famous sight of Cornwall.

There are a few difficult sections today with hills and rocks slowing progress along the way, so although it seems a short day it may take you longer than you think. One of the reasons is the interesting sites you’ll pass such as the ruins of Kendijack Castle, built on the site of an iron-age fort. Dropping down from this hill you find more abandoned machinery from the tin mining days and a steep climb out. You’ll soon come to Cape Cornwall, once believe to be the most westerly point of Britain until Land’s end took that title. The old chimney on top of Cape Cornwall draws visitors and provides splendid views along your route today.

The last section of today’s walk drops down and hugs the shoreline on the approach to Sennen Cove, a renowned surf spot and arguably one of Britain’s best beaches. The small town here hosts a few pubs and eateries and is a popular spot on a summer’s day.

Meals: B

Day 12: Sennen Cove to Porthcurno (11km, 4 hours)

  • Total ascent: 565m

It’s hard to beat the spectacle of today’s walk along the towering jagged cliffs of Land’s End – this really is the highlight of the walk for most people. As you walk out of Sennen Cove and along the coast you first see the jagged Wolf Rock and Long Ships Lighthouse out to sea, often battered by high seas and storms. There are numerous offshore rocks that give this coastline it’s wild and spectacular appearance and even on a mild day the sea looks quite dramatic. In clear weather you can see the Isles of Scilly 40km offshore, and there is a small airport near Land’s End where you can take a helicopter ride out.

You’ll pass a cove with the wreck of a sizeable ship below, a German freighter, RMS Mulheim, that ran aground here in 2003. Land’s End itself is marked by a grand hotel and a rather tatty and over-commercialised area behind it (best avoided!). Many people cycle or walk here from the other end of the country at John O’Groats in Scotland, so it has a special significance for many visitors. The grandeur of the scenery is undeniable and you quickly lose the other visitors as you walk a kilometre or so away from the hotel area. There is a breathtaking section of weathered granite cliffs along this section that are worth veering off the path to see.

You’ll notice jagged stone walls running across the path, these are ancient iron-age field systems which indicate how well populated and significant this area was at those times. You’ll also pass some standing stones in a small valley, all reminders of the ancient Britons who lived here thousands of years ago. Towards the end of the day, you’ll get your first sight of the Lizard Peninsula on the southern side of Cornwall. There is a delightful tea-house stop at Porthgwarra, popular with walkers for a Cornish cream tea and painters from the Newlyn School often found down at the tiny cove. The narrow path winds its way through gorse bushes on the hills to Porthcurno. As you arrive at Porthcurno, you will pass the amazing clifftop amphitheatre of the Minack Theatre, hewn into the rock of the cliffside – it is truly one of the most unique settings for a theatre anywhere in the world. There are regular performances throughout the months of May to September. The village is tucked away in the valley to the right where you’ll find your accommodation.

Meals:

Day 13: Porthcurno to Penzance (18.5km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 520m

Leaving Porthcurno the path continues up and down along the low hills and cliffs of Boscawen, passing the small Tater-Du Lighthouse before arriving at the delightful Lamorna Cove. From here you start to round the coastal headland that eventually brings you to the bay of Penzance and the dramatic sight of St. Michael’s Mount, standing like a sentinel on an outcrop of rock.  Your next encounter is the wonderful port village of Mousehole, a great spot to break and take your lunch overlooking the lovely harbour.

Further on the trail you’ll find the Penlee Lifeboat Station, once the scene of a dramatic rescue attempt and loss of the crew’s lives which made it famous all over Britain. The next town is Newlyn, home to one of the biggest active fishing fleets in the UK and a very busy harbour. The town is also renowned for its artist colony, the Newlyn School. The final stretch from Newlyn to Penzance is through a fairly continuous built up area. Penzance itself is a lively town that is worth some exploration and the Egyptian House on Chapel Street is a remarkable building. Penzance has long been established as a working port, but in more recent times it was the railway to London, opened in 1852, that made the town prosper and its fame was further enhanced by the Gilbert and Sullivan opera ‘The Pirates of Penzance’!

Meals: B

Day 14: Free Day Penzance 

Today is yours to explore, shop or relax. You may wish to walk to Marazion and spend some time exploring St Michael’s Mount. You will pass it on your walk tomorrow but may not have much time to spend there. At low tide you can walk out on the narrow causeway to St. Michael’s Mount, at other times you’ll need to make use of the boat service from Marazion. The Mount has a beautiful little harbour and houses, with the towering castle and church above it, now all managed by the National Trust and the St Aubyn family who still reside in the castle. As far back as 495AD, tales tell of seafarers lured by mermaids onto the rocks, or guided to safety by an apparition of St Michael, the patron saint of fishermen. A series of miracles were said to have happened here during 1262 and 1263 would have only added to the religious magnetism that drew pilgrims from far and wide. People say its unique energy is thanks to age-old ley lines which course under the sea, and cross at the heart of the Mount. These legends have drawn pilgrims, monks and spiritual seekers to the island ever since.

Meals: B

Day 15: Penzance to Porthleven (22.5km, 6 hours)

  • Total ascent: 540m

It’s an easy and flat walk this morning as you follow the promenade of Penzance towards Marazion and St. Michael’s Mount which is clearly visible further along the bay. The village of Marazion used to provide accommodation for the pilgrims who had visited the mount when it was a monastery. Continuing on from Marazion, the SWCP begins to narrow and gently undulates along the clifftop to the broad beach at Praa Sands. The latter half of the walk reveals a landscape representative of its mining heritage, lovely sandy beaches and dramatic granite cliffs. There are some strenuous climbs before making your way into the pretty town of Porthleven and your accommodation for the night.

Meals: B

Day 16: Porthleven to Mullion (11.5km, 3-4 hours)

  • Total ascent: 335m

Today’s route is not frequented by walkers and you will be embraced by the solitude and remoteness of this wild landscape. This stretch of coast is particularly beautiful and unique. The trail starts out reasonably level and easy, but you will encounter a narrower path with some steep sections as you make your way along to Mullion. However you will be rewarded with magnificent views over Mullion Cove. This area is part of the Lizard National Nature Reserve where rare wildflowers and heather brighten the landscape.

Meals: B

Day 17: Mullion to Lizard (11km, 3.5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 405m

This morning you set off towards the most southerly point of Britain, the Lizard Peninsula. The landscape depicts a sense of wild isolation that is both invigorating and calming. Trails are flanked by striking yellow and pink Hottentot Fig flowers and scenery evokes some of Cornwall’s most enduring myths and legends, including the tale of the lost land of Lyonesse – a country from Arthurian legend which built 140 churches. Legend says that Lyonesse was swallowed whole by the ocean, however, locals say if you listen carefully you can still hear the bells of the many churches softly ringing.

You will be challenged by some ascents and descents as the trail dips in and out of steep valleys leading to Kynance Cove, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty(AONB). Its turquoise coloured waters and white sands is a well photographed spot along the coast. The SWCP then leads you on to the town of Lizard.

Meals: B

Day 18: Lizard to Coverack (17km, 5-6 hours)

  • Total ascent: 654m

The coastline of the section you will walk today is very scenic with vegetation thriving in the sheltered coves and inlets. There are some striking geology features along the path and you will come across granite, schist and serpentine. Even some of the stiles have been beautifully crafted out of serpentine, a stunning greenish coloured stone. Located in an AONB, the Lizard Peninsula includes some of England’s prettiest coves and golden sandy beaches.

There are a few short but steep hills early in the walk followed by some more challenging climbs until you begin your approach to Coverack where the path becomes easier. A highlight of today’s walk is its charming and unspoilt settlements such as Cadgwith and Coverack. You will not be able to help but spend some time wandering these endearing seaside villages.

Meals: B

Day 19: Coverack to Helford (21km, 6 hours)

  • Total ascent: 663m

The South West Coast Path today offers a scenically diverse route. An easier path this morning takes you around the edge of Bronze Age field systems to Lowland Point, a pebbly beach backing onto boggy fields. Between here and Dean Point you will be walking through an active quarry. The route then leads you inland before merging with the coast again at Porthallow and on to the picturesque Gillan Creek.

The trail leads you through woods and along the coast with excellent views ahead to St Anthony Head, The Roseland Peninsula and Dodman Point before you arrive into the sleepy village of Helford. This village was once an important port with the Helford River busy with trade ships stocked with rum, lace and tobacco.

Meals: B

Day 20: Helford to Falmouth (14.5km, 4-5 hours)

  • Total ascent: 654m

Making your way out of Helford, you will cross the river once popular with smugglers, traders and pirates. From here the way is fairly easy going and pretty trails take you across lush valleys, subtropical gardens, open pastures, through tranquil woods and above stunning coves. On arriving in Falmouth, you will discover that there is much to see. Take in superb views from Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII in the 16th-century, in defence against the threat of invasion from Spain and France, or perhaps take a cruise up the River Fal to Truro or Frenchman’s Creek which inspired author Daphne du Maurier and her novel of the same name.

Meals: B

Day 21: Depart Falmouth

This morning you can depart after breakfast.

Meals: B

 

 

Dates

Self-guided trips offer flexibility, independence and choice. Set your own agenda while someone else worries about the logistics. Our self-guided walking holidays are fully flexible which means you can normally start your walk on any day during the season and customise by adding extra days for resting or sightseeing. As you’re walking independently, you’re free to follow the trail at your own pace. You set your own speed as you are not limited by the constraints of group travel.

Please note that completing this booking form does not guarantee confirmation of your trip. Confirmation is subject to availability so please refrain from booking flights and other travel arrangements until you have received confirmation from a RAW Travel staff member.

  • Date Format: DD slash MM slash YYYY
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Inclusions

  • 20 nights comfortable accommodation including historic B&B’s, guest houses and small hotels
  • Daily breakfast of fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals and/or a hearty, cooked English breakfast to support your day on the trail
  • Pack free walking with luggage transfers on each hiking day (1 x 20kg bag per person)
  • Hassle-free walking with exclusive use of RAW Travel’s specifically designed navigational hiking App
  • Comprehensive information pack including detailed walk notes and OS map, luggage tag and laptop case
  • 24/7 support from our Cornwall based RAW Travel staff member and Australian office
  • Pre-trip guidance and planning from experienced and dedicated RAW Travel staff
  • Not Included

  • Single supplement $1,500
  • Travel insurance
  • Flights
  • Train/ferry/bus tickets
  • Lunch and dinners

 

 

Map & Guide

Reviews

https://rawtravel.com/destination-guides/cornwall-dg-download/download-guide.pdf

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Trip Expert

Stuart Holland – Camino, Cornwall & Great Ocean Walk

(03) 5976 3763

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Trip Grading

This trip is rated as Challenging