5 awe-inspiring coastal hikes from the far west
Dan continues his exploration of Cornwall showing you 5 different coastal hikes in the West of the region.
Hiking through this stretch of the Coastal Path Dan has encountered every weather imaginable (besides snow of course). Wind, rain, hail and sun would sometimes all occur on the same day and the scenery would change just as frequently. Here he has tried to capture the highlights in five separate walks, but if you can afford the time and energy the whole section from the Lizard – Newquay is well worth a visit. The mileages here are based on an online distance calculator, and the walks vary greatly in difficulty so you should always research your route before setting out on a hike on the Coastal Path.
Lamorna - Lands End: 10 miles
The walk from Lamorna to Lands End is simply one of the most beautiful walks. He did this section over two days, covering the Lamorna to Porthcurno stretch in bright sunshine, and onwards to Lands End in dense fog and the classic Cornish ‘mizzle’. It’s a tough walk. The path is uneven and steep in parts but this invariably reveals hidden, excluded coves of shear, yet smooth Cornish granite giving way to brilliant, white sandy beaches. The landscape changes as you head to the mainlands most westerly point, with less sandy coves and jagged cliffs that lead the eye to hidden arches and caves that are only accessed by tiny streams and rapids that carve their way to the beach.
It is a challenging but rewarding hike and until you near Lands End it was a largely quiet and unpopulated stretch. Finishing up at ones of Cornwall’s most famous landmarks, you’ll be treated to a host of cafes and plenty of areas to sit and take in the far end of England, and your legs will most likely need it!
Sennen - Pendeen Lighthouse: 9 miles
The walk from Sennen Cove to Pendeen is another tough one, not so much from the steep climbs and descents but more in terms of the variable terrain in which you walk on. The route starts on the sandy beaches of Sennen and Gwenver before the path becomes rockier as Dan climbed around various headlands towards Cape Cornwall. This is one of the most remote stretches of the path and it is clear in how rugged the landscape is. Wave battered cliffs and an abundance of wildlife that take shelter from the exposed coastline make it a dramatic and wild walk.
Half of the beauty however is just how much the coastline varies through this short stretch. After the Cape Cornwall landscape that will inspire any Poldark enthusiast, you enter the heart of the Cornish mining history. The mines of Levant, Geevor and the beautiful Botallack line the cliffs as the coast gently bends to become north facing. The walk ends at the isolated and remote Pendeen Lighthouse, a suitably dramatic finish to a wild and challenging walk.
Gwithian - Portreath: 7.5 miles
This walk offers some of the best scenery of the whole coastline on a relatively easy and accessible walk. The bus route runs nearby Gwithian, a beach that when joined with Godrevy and Hayle stretches for miles into the bay of St Ives. If you manage to tear yourself away from the Café in the National Trust car park, there’s a short climb up to the top of the cliffs that lead to a relatively flat and well-trodden path all the way along the Heritage Coast. Dan walked this stretch on a windy, overcast day but still saw countless outstanding viewpoints and an abundance of your typical coastal wildlife. Seals take shelter from the strong Atlantic swells at the base of the cliffs and various species of sea bird glide in the wind.
It’s only a short walk, easily accessible at both ends and with refreshments along the route. The road runs parallel to the path for much of the way, which makes this stretch one of the easier sections of the entire coast path I’d walked so far.
Zennor - St Ives: 6.5 miles
Don’t mistake the shorter distance on this walk for a signal that it is easy going. The terrain is undulating and uneven and it is quite a taxing few mile of coastal path. This section was chosen for how remote and ‘out there’ it feels, despite being only a few miles from the tourist haven of St Ives.
The walk is mostly exposed cliffs and exposed coastline but the wildlife on this walk was what made it. An abundance of sea birds occur along this entire walk and Dan was fortunate enough to catch a solitary Peregrine Falcon scouting around the cliff tops just east of Zennor. In the sea, the familiar seals bob around in every cove and much to my amazement, a pod of dolphins was swimming against the inrushing tide with a young dolphin jumping and playing in the surf. There was something magical about this part of the path. It feels like Cornwall at its finest, and hiking around into the picturesque harbour town of St Ives is a nice end to a picturesque walk that takes in everything this coast has to offer.
Porthtowan - Perranporth: 8.5 miles
If there were one walk that Dan would say defines the far west of Cornwall it would be this section. Heritage, stunning views, and vast open beaches are all available on this great and challenging day hike.
Porthtowan, an exposed surf break, is surrounded by old mining heritage and as you climb to the east you are greeted by the famous mine buildings of Wheal Coates. The old workings are just up from Chapel Porth and provide a perfect opportunity for pictures. As the sun drops it illuminates the brickwork in that patented Cornish orange glow and it is truly one of the most special spots on the north coast.
The walk then winds its way around St Agnes head and yet more evidence of old tin workings reveal themselves in the cliffside before the path descends into the quaint surf-rich Trevaunance Cove, more widely named after the adjoining St Agnes. As you continue up and over the adjoining cliffs towards Perranporth more old slag heaps and workings hide away in the rocks and more panoramic views over the Atlantic are reward for hiking the tough climbs in and out of the beaches. This walk spans four sandy beaches in total, includes countless viewpoints high on the cliffs and amazing culture whilst being easily accessible and has abundant facilities along the hike; definitely one to try at your next opportunity!
Follow Dan’s journey on Instagram at @lovecornwalluk or @cheersthengone.
Let us know if you try any of these walks or have any other walking recommendations in the comments below.