4 Stunning Walks on the North Coast of Cornwall
I spent Easter this year in walking boots, roaming up and down the north coast of Cornwall, stunned by the sheer cliffs, the rugged and remote bays, the long expanses of beach, the brave surfers tackling the cold waves, and the sheer unspoilt beauty of the coastline. It’s nothing like the busier and more developed parts of the south coast of England – instead it’s wonderfully natural. Cornwall has a great air of mystery and uniqueness about it, inspired by its remoteness sitting at the UK’s south-westernmost tip; by its exotic history of smugglers and pirates; by its fame as a summer haven for holiday homes; by its own micro-climate; by its verdant rural landscape and narrow country lanes; by its population of farmers and fishers known for their strong Cornish identity.
I’m lucky to have visited Cornwall many many times, thanks to summer holidays when I was a child, to its proximity to Exeter where I spent three years at university, and to various friends’ holiday homes that I’ve visited. This Easter I travelled down with my father, who is quite the expert at finding beautiful walks. We managed to do four stunning walks on four separate days and each one took my breath away, so make sure to fit these into your next visit to Cornwall!
Walking the Cornish Coast
It’s possible to walk the length of the Cormish coast along the South West Coast Path from A -> B and stay in accommodation along the way, however we chose to base ourselves in Newquay and drive to our chosen walks each day instead. Newquay also has plenty of restaurants to choose from, and I can recommend both the restaurant at Lewwinick Lodge and The Harbour Fish & Grill. Public transport isn’t that extensive in Cornwall, so you’ll need a car to reach all these walks, and take lunch or snacks with you. All of the car parks we started from are National Trust-owned and free if you’re a member (or a small parking fee if non-member). For maps, elevation and other info take a look at our routes on my Strava too. The links below are to the National Trust sites, and in some cases they have details of the exact walk too.
1. Pentire Head (near Polzeath)
Distance: 6.5km —— Time: 2 hours —— Our route on Strava
Overlooking the bays of Polzeath and North Polzeath is Pentire Head and you can leave your car in the National Trust car park near Pentireglaze Farm. Walk down to New Polzeath Bay and then follow the coast north-eastwards until you link back up with the car park. See the full walk here on the National Trust website.
2. St Agnes Head (near St Agnes)
Distance: 9km —— Time: 2 hours —— Our route on Strava
Start from the St Agnes Head car park on a windy heather and gorse-covered cliff and head west and then south along the coastal path. After passing the striking but abandoned Towanroath Shaft engine house which was used for tin mining over 200 years ago, you’ll then reach the beach of Chapel Porth, where you can head inland along fields and then up to St Agnes Beacon at a height of 192m, before heading north back to your starting point.
3. Bedruthan Steps (near Mawgan Porth)
Distance: 11km —— Time: 2.5 hours —— Our route on Strava
From the Carnewas car park, start by heading down the 130 steep steps to the beach which is exposed at low tide, which has an amazing number of truly huge jagged black rocks, which seem to emulate giants’ teeth. It’s a surreal bay to explore, cut off from the land above it. Head back up the staircase to begin the walk north until you reach the bay of Porthcothan 4km later, or turn back and retrace your steps whenever you fancy. See the full walk here on the National Trust website.
4. Port Quin (near Polzeath)
Distance: 5km —— Time: 1.5 hours —— Our route on Strava
Park in the tiny former fishing village of Port Quin and walk north-east towards Port Isaac. You’ll spot Doyden Castle to the west across the water, a small folly built purely for parties several centuries ago, which you can now actually rent as accommodation. This walk is exceptionally hilly up-and-down steps cut into the cliffs, and when you reach Port Isaac after 5.5km you’ll find a cute little town to reward your tired leg muscles with an ice-cream or a stiff drink. We didn’t make it all the way to Port Isaac due to timing, but there is then an easier inland path back to Port Quin.
Cornwall has so much more to explore and I’ve now added the south coast to my wishlist as well. There is St Michael’s Mount, a castle atop a small island connected to the mainland only at low tide via a causeway; and the open-air Minack Theatre set into the cliff’s edge, meaning the sea and sunset form the backdrop to the actors’ stage. There is of course the famous Land’s End, the westernmost tip of the UK. A family friend also suggested visiting the Scilly Isles archipelago some 45km west of Cornwall. There’s also that goal of mine to properly learn to surf, as Cornwall is renowned to be one of the best spots in the UK to catch a wave. All in all, more than enough reasons for me to return soon!