Padstow to St Ives
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.
All along the Coast Path 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 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. Experience the surf and beach culture at Watergate Bay and Newquay.
This itinerary is bookended by the delightful seaside villages of Padstow, and St Ives. Here you can enjoy art galleries, boutiques, and cafes or sample hand-made fudge while taking in the activity at the harbour.
Get Ready For
- Savour the seafood delights of Padstow a favourite foodie destination
- Be awed by dramatic cliff-top walking along the moody coastline
- Enjoy the surf culture of Porthcothan, Mawgan Porth and Watergate Bay
- Meanders paths of flowering low coastal scrub and interesting geology
- Discover Cornwall’s legacy of prosperous tin and copper mining heritage
- Watch for seals at Hell’s Mouth as you pass above hidden smugglers coves
Padstow to St Ives
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.
- 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, dramatic and moody coastline leads you to your destination of Porthcothan.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
After breakfast you are free to make your way to St Ives Train Station for your onward journey. Feel free to leave your luggage at your accommodation for the morning should you wish to spend some extra time exploring St Ives.
*Extra nights suggested in Padstow and St Ives
On the Trail
The walking experience
The South West Coast path in this area is quite rugged and you are often following a narrow but spectacular trail which hugs the coastline tightly. The trail roller coasters up and down as it crosses various headlands, so there is quite a bit of descent and ascent each day. Sometimes you walk through open heathland, at other times rocky ledges with exposed boulders, so some care has to be shown. The video shows a selection of trail further down around Land’s End but gives an idea of what to expect.
- 7 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
- Pre-trip guidance and planning from experienced and dedicated RAW Travel staff
- Single supplement $790
- Travel insurance
- Train/ferry/bus 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.
A Cornish Camino – Cornwall
- Travel the path of Saints and pilgrims along the Cornish coastline
- Wander along cobbled streets past pretty whitewashed cottages
- Follow the path through tranquil woods and country lanes
- Walk the ancient cobbled causeway to St Michael’s Mount
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
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
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