A Cornish Camino
This is a special itinerary as it combines sections of the Cornish Celtic Way, The Saints Way, St Michael’s Way and the well-known South West Coast Path (SWCP). We have chosen a route that showcases Cornwall’s history, scenery and pilgrimage hiking – not to mention delicious home-made treats!
Treading the path of Saints, pilgrims, missionaries and drovers, the trail will lead you across untamed and rugged coastline, where the fierce, salty wind is invigorating and views demand to be captured in a photograph or quiet memory. On some sections of the SWCP, you will encounter centuries old-mine shafts and engine houses, remnants of a once prosperous tin and copper mining industry.
The Saints Way pulls you inland to experience the beauty and calmness of flower-filled country lanes and romantic English cottage gardens, rustic barns, peaceful woodlands and the greenest and lushest of rolling hills dotted with grazing sheep and cows. Celtic crosses and churches representing significant Celtic saints of the region, mark the route in religious history.
Quaint cobblestone lanes lead you through delightful seaside villages like Looe, Fowey, Padstow and St Ives, where you can enjoy art galleries, boutiques, and cafes, or sample hand-made fudge while taking in the activity at the harbour. Many of these villages are still a working fishing village and supply a multitude of excellent seafood restaurants with their fresh catch of the day.
Your last day has you walking on St Michael’s Way, historically significant as it was part of a network of pilgrim routes to St James’ Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. St Michael’s Mount is an impressive sight. The castle is perched high up on a small island and is home to legends of giants, mermaids, and angels. A destination for pilgrims and monks, it is a fitting way to end a walking exploration of Cornwall.
Get Ready For
- Be smitten by pretty fishing villages that inspired the Wind in the Willows
- Discover the history of the tin mining industry and Celtic church ruins
- Home-made ice-cream and clotted-cream teas with scones and jam
- Follow the footsteps of Saints and pilgrims along dramatic Cornish coastline
- Walk the causeway to St Michael’s Mount; learn about the legends of giants
- Delight in the engaging seaside villages of Looe, Fowey, Padstow and St Ives
A Cornish Camino
Today you will need to make your way to the seaside town of Plymouth. If you have time, there are a number of sites to visit including the Royal Citadel, Merchant House Museum, Hoe Park and the red and white banded Smeaton’s Tower (lighthouse) that offers grand views of Plymouth Sound and the city, from its lantern room. A stroll through the Barbican district is worthwhile and here you will find cobbled laneways, antique and souvenir shops, pubs and cafés. History buffs may be interested to know that the Mayflower Steps memorial are said to be located near where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World in 1620.
Train from Plymouth to St Germans: Walk St Germans to Looe (14.5km, 3.5 hours)
- Total ascent: 602m
This morning you will take a short train ride from Plymouth to St Germans where the St Germans Priory church marks the start of your journey on the Cornish Celtic Way. One of the oldest and most historic parish churches in England, the Church of St Germanus is set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is Grade 1 listed. Take some time to admire the exceptional architecture of the church and its surrounds before making your way up a steep incline out of the village.
The trail flattens out as you walk along a wide farm track that is hedged with a tangle of wild mint, blackberries, chestnut trees, ivy, holly and the occasional purple thistle. Breaks in the hedge reveal rolling hills, farmland and distant lakes and rivers.
As the day continues, the path meanders through fields, forests and across the Downderry pebbled beach to Seaton. Here you join the South West Coast Path (SWCP) that offers wonderful views of the ocean and, as you approach, the pretty town of Looe, nestled along the banks of the estuary. A busy fishing port, Looe has a wonderful network of narrow streets through the old town that are worth exploring.
Looe to Fowey (18km, 6-7 hours)
- Total ascent: 1,020m
You will need to fuel up on a hearty English breakfast this morning to give you the energy to tackle the steep hills and stair sections, but the spectacular views along the way make it all worth it. Not long into your walk there is the option for a short detour to visit the remains of the medieval Lammana Chapel. Originally built on Looe Island, it was relocated after many pilgrims died trying to cross the water in bad weather.
Continuing around the headlands you will arrive at the Cornish fishing village of Polperro. Wander past the small harbour and through the narrow streets lined with whitewashed cottages with colourful flower boxes adorning the window shutters, cosy cafes and interesting craft shops. Just before reaching your final destination you arrive in Polruan – a very old fishing village with a long history of boat building. Before taking the ferry over to Fowey, you may wish to visit the Blockhouse. There are two of these, the other sitting opposite on the banks of the estuary in Fowey. Built at the end of the 14th-century to protect the harbour from pirates and the French, the blockhouses were strategically designed so a chain could be pulled up between them across the river to stop vessels entering the harbour.
Fowey is located in an Area of Outstanding Beauty and sailing enthusiasts and tourists alike enjoy the spectacular backdrop that surrounds the harbour. Cornwall and in particular Fowey, has been a source of inspiration for authors such as Daphne du Maurier and Kenneth Grahame.
Fowey to Lanivet (25km, 7-8 hours)
- Total ascent: 287m
Walking out of Fowey today, you will take the SWCP along the estuary to Readymoney Cove and the start of The Saints Way. Also known as the ‘Drovers’ Way’, this cross-country route originates from a time when Welsh and Irish drovers and traders sought a safer route to sailing the treacherous Land’s End waters. Christian missionaries and pilgrims possibly used these ancient pathways during The Dark and Middle Ages en route to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. From Readymoney Cove, The Saints Way takes you through tranquil woods before continuing on country lanes and more lush green forest sections. Old slate stiles and steps propel you into vibrant green fields, past run-down, character-filled farms & barns.
As you head towards Luxulyan, there is an option to take a detour to the Treffry Viaduct. Built in 1839-1842 and made up of 10 arches, it is the longest in Britain. It was an important transport infrastructure for the china clay industry up until the early 20th-century. From Luxulyan church, you will make your way on peaceful forest trails takes and boulder-strewn fields to Helman Tor Gate then along country roads towards Lanivet, the geographical centre of Cornwall.
You will see a number of Celtic crosses today. The first two are located at Tregaminion Chapel (1813) but originally stood beside The Saints Way. Keep an eye out for 3 more Celtic Crosses along the country roads leading to Lanivet as well as a further 10 located in the Lanivet parish and an additional 2 in the churchyard, indicating the importance of Lanivet in Celtic times.
Lanivet to Padstow (23km, 7 hours)
- Total ascent: 230m
The trail begins today at Lanivet Church and takes you along narrow roads out of the village. Much of the walk is along narrow country lanes and fields peppered with cows and black-faced sheep. You will cross or walk alongside several small streams and through sheltered sections of woods. There are spectacular 360-degree views from high on the hills as you make your way towards St Breock Downs. Wind farms dominate the panorama making the most of the high winds sweeping across the countryside.
Keep your eye out for the two ‘standing stones’ at St Breock Downs, one of which dates back to the Bronze Age. An ancient settlement was once established around this area and the stones have been used as meeting places since medieval times.
On arrival at the small but quaint town of Little Petherick, you make a turn off to continue the trail that takes you alongside the estuary to Padstow.
Rest day 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 hasnt looked back since.
Today is free to explore and there are a number of activities you can choose from; Cycle along the Camel Trail, a beautiful route that meanders through the Cornish countryside alongside a disused railway line, or perhaps take a ferry over to ‘Rock’ (a.k.a Little Chelsea) a hip place to be seen by the young and posh from London. Alternatively, pop into the Padstow Museum for an insight into the history of Padstow over the past 200 years, before relaxing with a pint at a beachside bar overlooking the hustle and bustle of harbour life.
Padstow to Porthcothan (21.5km, 6 hours)
- Total ascent: 770m
Today you are back on the SWCP. It 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 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, a dramatic and moody coastline leads you to your destination of Porthcothan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Sooner 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. Both St Ives and Carbis Bay started attracting holiday makers with the extension of the railway in the early 19th-century and more recently with the opening of the Tate Gallery. 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.
Walk St Ives to Marazion (16km, 4-5 hours)
- Total ascent: 410m
Retracing your steps back to Carbis Bay this morning, you will link up again with St Michael’s Way. This ancient path is part of the famous route to Santiago de Compostela. St Michael’s Way led pilgrims from Wales and Ireland across Cornwall from Lelant to St Michael’s Mount in Marazion, avoiding hazardous waters at Lands End, and then onwards to the Cathedral of St James in Spain.
Following the scallop shell markers, you make your way along quiet roads and lanes towards the 18th-century Knill’s Monument that is perched above St Ives. From here, the path takes you along country lanes, across farm paddocks and agriculture fields.
Catching your first glimpse of St Michael’s Mount across green rolling hills to the sea evokes a spring in your step, and an eagerness to reach your destination. The route continues to Ludgvan Church which was a place of medieval pilgrimage. Pilgrims would gather at the church to meet a guide who (ideally) would lead them safely past wolves through perilous marshes and woods to reach St Michael’s Mount. Your last stretch of walking will be less daunting and quite pleasant. The trail takes you through several paddocks and along a lovely shaded boardwalk that eventually emerges to the beach in Marazion and the inspiring St Michael’s Mount.
Savour your last cooked English breakfast before making your way to Penzance Train Station for your onward journey.
What you get
- 13 nights quality 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
- Single supplement $1200
- Travel insurance
- Train/ferry tickets
- Lunch and dinners
Cornwall – a romantic county on England’s rugged southwestern tip – has much to offer the adventurous hiker. This place is home to the iconic South West Coast Path, England’s longest waymarked trail (1015km), and the lesser-known but no less compelling routes of The Saints Way and Saint Michael’s Way.
South West Coast Path: Padstow to Falmouth – Cornwall
- Be charmed by Padstow’s village and delightful fishing harbour
- Discover the history of the local tin mining industry
- Indulge in home-made ice-cream and Cornish cream teas
- Relish spectacular coastal views, towering cliffs and wild seas
South West Coast Path: St Ives to Falmouth – Cornwall
- Discover aquamarine smugglers coves and wind-blown beaches
- Embrace the solitude and beauty of the wild remote landscape
- Be charmed by delightful fishing villages and colourful harbours
- Experience warm hospitality and quality B&B accommodation
South West Coast Path: St Ives to Marazion – Cornwall
- Walk the ancient narrow causeway to mystical St Michael’s Mount
- Experience the dramatic and isolated Cornish coastline
- Savour craggy landscapes, hidden coves and stunning views
- Explore ‘Poldark’ country and the heart of Cornish tin mining
South West Coast Path: Padstow to St Ives – Cornwall
- Enjoy warm Cornish hospitality and quality B&B accommodation
- Savour an area of rich and diverse history and natural beauty
- Relish impressive coastal views towering cliffs and wild seas
- Explore St Ives’ laneway-filled artsy galleries and museums
The Saints Way – Cornwall
- Discover Celtic crosses, churches and rich religious heritage
- Tread a path once walked by drovers, pilgrims and missionaries
- Enjoy a relaxing walk to Padstow harbour for fresh fish and chips
- Pass dramatic Helman Tor on your way to pretty Fowey village
TRIP date selection
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