Fancy blowing the cobwebs away with a hike along the edge of the ocean? You’re spoiled for choice in Cornwall – Britain’s most southerly county is synonymous with golden beaches, secret swim spots and epic cliffs. Almost every mile of them can be explored by foot on the coast path.
You can’t talk about coastal walks in Cornwall without championing the South West Coast Path. England’s longest long-distance trail hugs Cornwall’s 422 miles of coastline and is well-signposted and well-maintained, so it’s easy for anyone to plan walks of all kinds of distances and difficulty. You could take a gentle stroll to a beach, do a long day of hiking up a storm between two coastal communities or even spend a week or two taking on a whole section of the coast path, camping along the way.
Cornwall is edged by two very different coastlines. While the north coast and the south coast are both unique landscapes, they’re also close enough together that you can walk the more rugged and storied north, along the Celtic Sea, and the gentler, garden-lined south, along the English Channel, all in one weekend – and these four walks are all perfect for a day of walking and exploring.
Sample the wild landscape and ancient myths of the north coast with a six-mile hike between Boscastle and Tintagel. Here be legends – the charming village of Boscastle is home to the Museum of Witchcraft, which honours the local witches who used to ‘sell the wind’ to visiting sailors. From here you’ll hike along soaring cliffs that drop down to sparkling ocean until you reach Rocky Valley, a deep natural gully home to waterfalls and ancient stone carvings. Then you’re rewarded for your efforts with an amazing view of the beautiful broad sweep of white sand at Bossiney Haven before you finally spot Tintagel, home to a castle said to have once been King Arthur’s Cornish stronghold.
To sample all the Cornish classics – beautiful old mine shafts, wild flowers, surf culture, deep blue ocean and, of course, a warm pub waiting at the end – walk six miles between Porth Chapel and St Agnes. Pass photogenic Wheal Coates mine, spot little surfers below you at Trevaunance Cove and then finish up with a pint by the fire at Driftwood Spars pub in St Agnes – the perfect blustery walk in autumn and winter.
On southern shores, a 4.5 mile walk around the remote Lizard Peninsula is the perfect place to start. This really is the end of the line – and the path around the most southerly point in Britain is home to mermaid coves and lofty lighthouses. Start and end in the village of Lizard and loop the coast with a stop at Kynance Cove, one of the most beautiful (and most painted) beaches in Cornwall. Rosemullion is the gentler and more sheltered side of the Lizard Peninsula, and the 4.5 mile Rosemullion Coast Path circuit is the perfect ramble for a relaxed sunny day, starting in the village of Mawnan Smith and following a path shaded by palm trees and giant ferns down to the ocean for a cove-hopping hike. This may not be a very demanding walk, but you could easily spend a whole day following it, swimming at each beach and exploring Trebah’s subtropical gardens.