Steep cliffs, lonely beaches, lush green paths, romantic villages by the sea; that’s Cornwall’s rough Atlantic coast. And running along this beautiful riviera, you’ll find the South West Coast Path: one of Great Britain's most breathtaking long-distance hiking trails. Extending more than 600 miles (965 kilometers), it winds its way through four counties, with a particularly beautiful and diverse part of the trail being the coastal hike between the art mecca of the Southwest, St. Ives and Falmouth.
The turquoise-blue sea and the little villages you'll encounter along the way are the perfect snapshots of the cozy Cornish life. The hospitality you'll encounter here in the Southwest is renowned all across the country, and the food, the art and the fresh sea breeze you'll be able to enjoy wherever you go is of a kind found nowhere else in the UK. What's more, the Cornish weather is famously better than anything you'll find further north in Britain, with May being comparatively warm to more Mediterranean destinations in the south of Europe.
Just remember: Cornwall is best enjoyed when you take your time. So, do just that, sink into a slower pace of life and absorb the beauty of Cornwall with every step.
Your multi-day hike on the South West Coast Path (herein out referred to as the SWCP) gets off to a perfect start in the colorful village of St. Ives. Arriving here from London is fairly easy, with bus and train connections bringing you across for an affordable fee. Just bear in mind it can take almost the whole day to get here if you don’t have your own car.
This first stage takes you to Zennor, a fairly short hike along the coast. Along the entirety of the walk, you’ll be following the signs marked with a yellow acorn. But don’t worry if you get lost: You’re skirting the water the entire way.
Stage 2 takes you from Zennor to St. Just. This walk, depending on when you go, can have a real mythical air around it, especially when low-hanging fog (which is common in these parts) lays like a blanket over the landscape.
As you go, you’ll be walking consistently uphill and back down again. Therefore, take plenty of provisions and try and conserve your energy where possible.
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On this stage, you’ll continue hiking along the coast. Early on your way, you’ll reach the beautiful village of Sennen Cove — just in time for a break. While you’re here, try and grab something quick to eat to recapture your energy before you head on to Land’s End.
When you arrive at Land’s End, you’ll be coming up on a place jam-packed with tourists. Therefore, after a quick photo of the world-famous sign, you might consider carrying on fairly quickly without much of a stop. You only have to walk a few steps further along the SWCP to leave the tourists behind.
As you walk towards Porthcurno, you’ll enter a particularly beautiful stage of the SWCP. Relatively flat, the trail retreats a little from the coastline before bringing you out in Porthcurno. Here, don’t expect to find a room if you didn’t book in advance as the town is only small and is perpetually full.
As you hike from Porthcurno to Penzance, you’ll really be able to recharge your batteries. With a little luck, you will spot some fisherman returning to the harbor after getting their catch of the day. Cafes in Lamorna or the picturesque village of Mousehole offer you the perfect respite from the trail and endless possibilities to recharge yourself. Don’t forget to get a clotted cream scone or some Cornish ice cream!
In Penzance, you’ll find a fully fledged city, with bus connections, supermarkets, tourist information offices, numerous accommodations options and shops/restaurants of all shapes and sizes.
The Cornish coastline is truly magical and incomparably beautiful. No matter where you hike on the SWCP, you'll hike from one breathtaking sight to the next
On this stage, you’ll encounter what is quite possibly the Highlight of all Highlights in Cornwall: St. Michael's Mount. Depending on the water level, this centuries-old structure is an incredible spectacle. Check out the pictures in the Tour Overview to see why it’s not to be missed.
While you’re in Porthleven, take a moment to watch the hustle and bustle. If the waves are good, you’ll even be able to spot a couple of surfers out in the water.
As you begin your hike, the start is a gentle one towards Mullion Cove. From here, you can hike right around Lizard, or you can take the bus from Mullion to Lizard and spend an extra day there. This is a recommendation that’s really worthwhile as you’ll then have plenty of time to visit the stunning Keynance Cove.
On this stage, the landscape continues to be fantastically beautiful. The view back towards Lizard is a true gift, something to enjoy before you arrive at the fishing village of Cadwight.
Here, in Cadwight, time seems to stand still. Enjoy your time here as you’ll quickly be moving on to Coverack.
Once you’re back on the trail, you’ll hike through a green grove, past vegetable gardens and alongside fruit trees. Once you arrive in Coverack, let yourself indulge in Cornish delicacies and consider spending an extra day in the village.
Coverack is also home to a reasonably priced hostel which will allow you to save on accommodation and meet new people. Here, you’ll meet travelers from all over the world.
This penultimate stage is an absolute highlight, especially when the weather is playing ball. The water along the coast is a stunning shade of turquoise, and once you reach Porthcallow, you’ve officially made it to the halfway point of the SCWP.
Here, in Porthcallow, you can stop for a tea and a walk around town before you head in the direction of Gillan Harbor.
Once in Gillan, feel free to ask the locals if someone can ferry you across the bay instead of having to walk all the way around. This is fairly common here and many will be happy to oblige. And who knows? You may end up experiencing what it’s like on a real-life Cornish fishing boat.
The Riverside Café near the church of Helford is a recommended place to stop for the day. Grab something to eat and head to your B&B for the night (which you will need to have booked in advance). Tomorrow is stage 9, the final day, and you’re heading to Falmouth.
Granted, the stage from Helford to Falmouth is a bit sobering after the previous 8 through rolling countryside and alongside a stunning coast. On stage 9 — your last hike — you’ll be walking along asphalt and will be in relatively built-up areas much of the way. Nevertheless, Falmouth serves as a great endpoint to your adventure as, from here, you can easily catch a bus back to London, find a room, fill your belly and enjoy a night in one of Falmouth’s quaint pubs. Beerwolf Books is a great insider tip here, an establishment that is equal parts bookstore and pub. They’ve got plenty of local cider on tap, and you even catch some local live music if you’re lucky. In addition, you can also go on wonderful day trips from Falmouth, such as to the Trebah Gardens of the Roseland Peninsula.