South West Coast Path Walking Holiday (South Coast) - Self Guided
What to expect
The South West Coast Path is one of the UK’s managed National Trail footpaths, running 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, round the South West tip of England all the way to Bournemouth in Dorset. This itinerary focusses on the South Cornwall Coastline, running along The English Channel from Penzance to Plymouth. This includes the popular landmark of Lizard Point and finishes just past the Devon boundary in the city of Plymouth.
Arrive in Penzance and stay overnight.
A: Penzance to Porthleven (13.75 miles / 22 km)
Beginning your trip with easy walking, the path from Penzance to Marazion offers an easy route with limited hills. Gradually, the path becomes more rugged past Perranuthnoe and ends with a much steeper gradient to reach Porthleven. Before you begin your trip, many enjoy a trip to St Michael’s Mount which can be seen from the start of the coast path on the view to Marazion. The path begins right at the edge of the coastline, overlooking the beach all the way to Marazion. Marazion has been a settlement in one form or another since 308BC and Henry III granted it a Royal Charter in 1257. Detouring slightly into Marazion, the path returns to the shore, following Trenow Cover, around Basore Point where you can see ‘The Bears’ stone stack and on past Perran Sands. Many stop to enjoy the views from Cudden Point which juts out into the sea, but you will need to retrace your steps to the path from here. The path continues around Hoe Point before descending onto Praa Sands where you can stop for refreshments. The path from here climbs back to the cliff tops and has a number of ascents and descents on the approach to Porthleven – your stop for the night. Porthleven features an early 19th Century granite harbour and fishing remains important to the town.
Stay overnight in Porthleven. Luggage will be transferred.
B: Porthleven to Lizard Point (13.75 miles / 22 km)
With natural coastal features including a sand bar, there is plenty of natural and historic sites of interest on today’s trip. The terrain is fairly easy to Mullion and relatively flat for the area, finishing with a number of little valleys and slopes on the way to Lizard Point. The cliffs along this stretch are particularly spectacular and there are plenty of natural stone stacks to look out for as well. Leaving Porthleven, the path quickly reaches Loe Bar, a natural sand bar blocking off a freshwater lake from the sea. The path crosses the sands here and continues straight all the way to Gunwalloe – a historic fishing cove where you can still see evidence of the trade. Just beyond on the path is Gunwalloe Church Cove where you will find the church of St Winwalow – originally dating back to the 13th century, much of the building was rebuilt in the 15th century, but you can still pop inside and see how the granite pillars lean. Following the cliffline further, you will reach the very narrow Poldhu Cove where you can stop for refreshments at the café, or you can continue to the nearby Marconi Monument. The path continues past Mullion Cliff and Mullion Cove, continuing to hug the cliffs all the way to Lizard Point – your stop for the night. Here you will climb 85 steps for a view of the lighthouse, and you can also look out for the multi-banded rock that the area is famous for.
Stay overnight at Lizard Point. Luggage will be transferred.
C: Lizard Point to Porthallow (15.25 miles / 24.5 km)
The route begins with a few short ascents and descents before levelling out and heading somewhat inland away from the coastline. Leaving Lizard Point behind, the path hugs the cliffs and passes a number of communication landmarks including The Lizard Wireless Station, the Lloyds Signal Station and the National Coastwatch Station at Bass Point. Watch out for the curious little houses of Church Cove as well as the natural landmarks of ‘The Chair’, the ‘Devil’s Frying Pan’ and ‘Carn Barrow’. Passing through Cadgwith, you can stop here to enjoy the thatched houses and small fishing boats before picking up the path and meandering all the way to the very pretty village of Coverack. Walking from here to Lowland Point, the path turns inland, passing through St Keverne before arriving at Porthallow. Porthallow is the official halfway point of the whole South West Coastpath, although not of this itinerary.
Stay overnight in Porthallow. Luggage will be transferred.
D: Porthallow to Falmouth (16 miles / 26 km)
It is worth checking the local tide tables for today’s trip as a number of areas can only be forded if the tide is out, otherwise there are a couple of detours or short ferry trips required. The terrain has a few small ascents and descents but is otherwise considered easy and is often very scenic. Leaving Porthallow via the grey pebble beach, the path climbs 40 steps to reach the top of the cliffs. Crossing a number of fields, the route continues around Nare Point and all the way to Gillan Harbour. As long as the tide is out, there is a very short walk across the Harbour, otherwise you will need to detour for about an hour around the creek before returning to the path. Tracking around the promontory at Dennis Head, the path passes through the tiny village of St Anthony-in-Menage at the site of a Celtic Church before tracking the coastline to Helford. There are a number of amenities at Helford where you can wait for the ferry (payable locally) to take you across the Helford River to Helford Passage. The route continues along the coastline, passing through a number of wooded areas and continuing past Trebah Gardens (worth a stop if you have time) all the way to Falmouth. The beautiful Gyllyngvase Beach offers white sands at Falmouth and the path continues around Pendennis Point to Falmouth proper. There is plenty going on in Falmouth and you can also visit Pendennis Castle and see its counterpart at St Mawes, opposite.
Stay overnight in Falmouth. Luggage will be transferred.
E: Falmouth to Portloe (13.75 miles / 22 km)
Beginning the day with two ferry journeys (payable locally), the path starts out relatively easy but becomes progressively more challenging as the day goes on. It is important to check the ferry times as you will first need to catch a ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes and then the linking ferry from St Mawes to Place. The walking doesn’t start until you are at Place, where the route heads inland initially before returning to the coast. The first landmark is the bunker at St Anthony’s Head (where you will also find toilets) before the route gives way to mostly local cliff landscape for several miles. The route ends at Portloe, having enjoyed all the local scenery and breath taking views.
Stay overnight in Portloe. Luggage will be transferred.
F: Portloe to Mevagissey (12 miles / 19.5 km)
Today’s route has some rugged stages, interspersed with some easier flatter stretches and a short walk along the road. Leaving Portloe behind, the path is initially rugged, crossing Hartriza Point and across a footbridge followed by a 70-step flight. The path undulates gently before reaching more steps at Caragloose Point and then a short stint inland through a wooded area. You will then reach the tiny villages of West Portholland and East Portholland and can opt to stick to the coast path between the two, or walk along the sea wall that connects them. The coast path enters woodland beyond the two Portholland villages before running alongside Caerhays Castle and Porthluney Cove; the Castle is 200 years old and is open for visits of the Castle and Gardens from February to July, while the beach has a small café and toilets. From here, the next stretch of coast path features several quick ascents and descents, following the coastline around the promontory at Dodman Point and continuing beyond. The village of Gorran Haven is the next opportunity for refreshments and from here the path hugs the coastline around Chapel Point before reaching Mevagissey – your stop for the night. Mevagissey was first recorded as a settlement in 1313 and has been a harbour since 1745.
Stay overnight in Mevagissey. Luggage will be transferred.
G: Mevagissey to Polmear (11.75 miles / 19 km)
Much of the day is filled with ascents and descents today, some of which are steep, but the route becomes easier after Charlestown. The first part of the walk closely resembles a rollercoaster, numerous are the ascents and descents although only a few are steep. Looking inland, many mistake the view for snow-capped peaks in the distance, but in fact these are the spoil heaps from the china clay works around St Austell. The route heads inland briefly at the village of Pentewan where there is also a beautiful beach, before returning to the coastline. The path skirts Black Head where there is a small fort and also a big block of granite in memory of the Cornish Poet AL Rowse. The next major landmark, following the cliff path along the coastline, is the village of Charlestown, just outside St Austell. Charlestown traded extensively in china clay and there’s an interesting Shipwreck and Heritage Centre here as well. If you aren’t feeling too tired, many also divert inland to St Austell for a little while; St Austell is one of the biggest towns in Cornwall and was an important mining town and porcelain producer. There is also a fantastic brewery. Continuing the coast path, you have the option to cross the sands or follow the cliff path at Carlyon Bay and again at Par Sands. Just beyond Par Sands is Polmear, your stop for the night.
Stay overnight in Polmear. Luggage will be transferred.
H: Polmear to Polperro (13 miles / 21 km)
One of the more tiring stretches of the itinerary, the route starts off fairly easy before becoming steeper and more tiring towards the end of the day. The route is typified by headlands and coves one after another. Following the cliff path out of Polmear, look out for the hidden cove at Polkerris which you will quickly reach. Today, you will walk around Gribbin Head, which has been prominent in your views for the last couple of days and which is marked by a red and white daymark that was erected in 1832. Continuing around the far side of the headland, the route brings you to Southground Point and on to Readymoney where the tiny beach is overlooked by the 16th century Catherine’s Castle. Entering the town of Fowey, you need to catch the regular ferry (payable locally) across the estuary to Polruan (please note in bad weather, the ferry departs from Town Quay further towards the centre of Fowey). From here, the path gradually gains height to overlook Lantic Bay and around Pencarrow Head. Follow the cliff line through West Coombe and then East Coombe to be rewarded with a stunning view of Polperro – your stop for the night. Polperro has great character and a lovely atmosphere and still maintains a small fishing fleet. While you are here, visit the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing for an insight into the town’s history. There is also a model village to enjoy.
Stay overnight in Polperro. Luggage will be transferred.
I: Polperro to Portwinkle (13 miles / 21 km)
Most of the day’s walk is easy to moderate with a few short challenging bits, but plenty of easy interludes. The path is easy out of Polperro all the way to Talland Bay and on to Hore Stone with a stunning view of St George’s Island from here. Following the path past Portnadler Bay and Hannafore Point, you will reach the town of Looe and see the distinctive ‘Banjo Pier’ with its circular tip. The town is divided in half (West and East) and you can walk through the town to the small footbridge or opt for the short ferry ride which saves about half a mile. At Looe, the Old Guildhall Gaol and Museum and there are also some boat trips which run to St George’s Island when available. Leaving Looe behind, get back on the coast path heading towards Seaton and past the National Trust managed of Bodigga Cliff. There is a small monkey sanctuary off to the right which also has a café, or you can continue on the path running slightly inland all the way to Seaton. From Seaton, it is a short walk to the village of Downderry; some of the route here is along the road so walk with care, but if the tide is out, you can instead walk along the sea wall and beach. Finally, the day ends with a short walk to Portwinkle - your stop for the night.
Stay overnight in Portwinkle. Luggage will be transferred.
J: Portwinkle to Plymouth (12.75 miles / 20.5 km)
Much of the day’s walking is through woodland today and is mostly classed as easy. It is also the last stretch of the coast path in Cornwall, moving into the county of Devon to end the day in Plymouth. Not long after Portwinkle there are two options for the route; the first sticks to the coastline all the way to Tregantle Fort but is part of a military training zone and cannot be used on active firing days. The second tracks inland skirting the military danger zone and on around the Fort. Continuing on past Sharrow Point there is a short stretch near to Tregonhawke which runs along the road after the footpath was closed a few years ago. It quickly returns to footpath and on to Captain Blake’s Point before reaching Rame Head. The path doesn’t go all the way out onto the headland here, but if you want to you can head out onto the headland to visit St Michael’s Chapel which was built in 1397. Leaving one headland to walk immediately around the next at Penlee Point, it is not long until you reach the villages of Cawsand and Kingsand, both of which have refreshments and amenities. From here, the path follows the cliff line through Mount Edgcumbe Country Park and past Fort Picklecombe to Devil’s Point in the Estuary. Here, you will need to catch the ferry across (payable locally) to Plymouth – your stop for the night. Plymouth is the biggest City anywhere on the South West Coast Path and there is plenty to see and do.
Stay overnight in Plymouth. Luggage will be transferred.
Breakfast will be provided.
Luggage Transfers, Full Tour Pack, Smartphone App with GPS routes, 24-hr emergency helpline.
What to bring
Entrance to attractions, Buses and/or Ferries unless otherwise stated, Tourist Taxes where applicable