St Ives to Falmouth
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 South West 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.
Get Ready For
- Walk at low tide to the towering castle and church at St. Michael’s Mount
- The wild isolation of walking towards the most southerly point of Britain
- Madcap English eccentricity in St Ives at the tiny Richard Burton museum
- Marvel at the power of the Atlantic ocean pummeling the remote coastline
- Fall in love with the endearing seaside villages of Cadgwith and Coverack
- Lush valleys, subtropical gardens and open pastures enroute to Falmouth
An adventurous route
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 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.
St Ives to Falmouth
Arrive into St.Ives and transfer to your accommodation in this beautiful seaside town and fishing port. 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.
- 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).
- 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. Gurnard’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.
- 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 long 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.
- 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.
- 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’!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 wondering these endearing seaside villages.
- 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.
- 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.
This morning you can depart after breakfast.
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 around Land’s End.
- 13 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
- Pre-trip guidance and planning from experienced and dedicated RAW Travel staff
- Single supplement $1170
- 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 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
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 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
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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