Walk the hem of the land from Minehead to Poole Harbour: 630 miles of ocean and sea-plated habitats ranging from granite cliff tops, grass meadows, ancient farm fields, desolate mine spoils, airfields, ghost villages, millionaire harbours, seductive sandy beaches for days, wild sand dunes, deep forests, lush woodlands and stone wrought harbours. Let the British holiday of a lifetime bloom to its full potential on this wondrous trail at the edge of the land. You’ll come back to the South West, again and again, to walk a different section each time – there’s no other coastal trail like it. The level of natural beauty is set to astound, a new and amazing sight at each bend; some sections of the trail are remote, and success is hard-won, but your efforts are well-spent.
We have chosen some stretches of the South West Coast Path to venture out to. The walks range from easy-to-moderate-to-strenuous, but the views never dip below an OMG on the wow-factor!
Perranporth to Chapel Porth (6.5 miles)
This lesser fared stretch of the North Cornwall coast is very special. Beginning with a short climb at the southern end of the beach at Perranporth (near Newquay) this trail gives visitors lots to see and experience. The path follows the hem of the St Agnes Heritage Coast and is home to the remains of tin mines, their engine houses holding the quiet positions high above the Atlantic. Adits, shafts and clyd caps are common sights along the trail. It’s a strange but beautiful no man’s land of dead industry and nature. As you head to St Agnes you will also encounter Perranporth airstrip where fun jumpers hurl themselves out of planes – keep an eye. At Cligga Head you will encounter the foundations of a former WW2 army base before the path descends into the wonderous Trevallas Cove – which is home to even more mine ruins.
There’s another hill to climb before rewarding yourself with a cool drink at Driftwood Spars in St Agnes’ Trevaunance Cove. Watch the surfers in the harbour for a while and marvel at the colossal remains of the old harbour wall that was destroyed in 1916. The coast path rises once more and undulates its way around to St Agnes Head with views of the curious Cow and Calf Rocks offshore, a popular breeding ground for seabirds. The Head is below the iconic St Agnes Beacon. This is giant country and legends of Bolster and Ralph still prevail today. Bolster was so big he could put one foot on the Beacon and the other on Carn Brea (over 10 miles inland) and Ralph used to hurl rocks at passing boats to sink them and eat their sailors. Listen for creaking chains on the wind from the ships chained to his belts like trinkets.
The best landmark is left to last and that’s the Towanroath Shaft engine house of Wheal Coates, the restored brick ruin of one of Cornwall’s most photographed wheelhouses. At top of the cliff are even more foundations for Cornish history buffs to explore. When you reach Chapel Porth, you will find a cool takeaway for refreshments and public toilets. At low tide, the beach is a lovely wide stretch of sand the runs along the base of the towering red cliffs. You can catch a bus back from the centre of St Agnes (1.5 miles) back to Perranporth once you have recuperated.
Difficulty: moderate to strenuous – just when you think you have climbed the last gigantic hill, there’s another one and...
Botallack to Cape Cornwall (5.5 miles)
This section of the South West Coast Path was once at the edge of the known world. After a visit here, you will really feel that you have peered off the side of the country. Deep inside Poldark country, the ruins of Crown Mines engine houses literally cling to the edges of sheer cliffs and the sense of awe visitors to Botallack feel is palpable. It’s a wonderful site for photo opportunities and to marvel at the seemingly endless Atlantic. By marvelling at the hard work and engineering ingenuity of the men that designed and dug these mines, you will still be shocked to learn that the tunnels here and at Geevor and Levant to the south stretch 2 miles beneath the seabed.
Head south to one of two capes in the British Isles – Cape Cornwall (the other is Cape Wrath in Scotland). This is the point where the English Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean. Land’s End to the south is just metres further out to sea, rendering Cape Cornwall a virtually unknown and neglected prospect compared to the fanfare 4 miles down the road. At the Cape there is a hill with a chimney stack at its crest: the remains of a mine. The hill and mine site is own by the H J Heinz Co., the baked bean company who gifted it to the people of England. There are public toilets in the car park.
Difficulty: moderate - most of the stretch consists of a narrow stone path. There are no radical ascents although the path can only be traversed on foot.
Coverack to Porthoustock (4 miles)
Coverack is a painterly village on the south-west edge of the Lizard Peninsula. With its wide bay, you will be able to see the majority of this part of the Coast Path from its origin at the Paris Hotel. Following the promenade’s crescent shape past the harbour and the village cemetery before leaving the village pavements behind, you will be able to follow the path by keeping the sea on your right, as its course is essentially cow tracks across a series of pleasant farm fields. You can collect shells at the far edge of the land; this is where you will lose sight of the village before encountering secret wild surfing spots and basking seals in the waves.
The dormant Dean Quarry with its crumbling concrete wharf and sea wall is a stark contrast to the lush green land but nobody comes to this part of the Coast Path – you will love the strange beauty of this area and if you value solitude, this is the place. You will encounter a beach, which is as untamed and amazing as they come; this is a million miles from resort beaches like Bournemouth or Newquay in vibe.
Offshore you can see the treacherous rocks The Manacles, which have taken many a sea vessel down over the centuries. Cut through the tall reeds and follow the coast path inland where you will pass The Giant’s Coits, which are large rocks stacked atop of one another. They were moved from their natural/original position on the coast above Porthoustock to make way for the quarry! Before long you will descend into the hamlet of Porthoustock, where you will see even more curious edifices and a deep-water harbour. There are public toilets at Porthoustock but no other facilities. If you are hungry and fancy the best lunch in Cornwall, head 1.5 miles up the hill to Fat Apples, above Porthallow.
Difficulty: moderate – mostly level until a climb over a hill to drop down into Porthoustock. Outside of Coverack and Porthoustock, the track is narrow country lanes, beach and has a unlevelled stony path. At worst, it is non-existent for about 0.5 miles along Coverack Bay’s northern shoreline.
Caerhays Castle to Gorran Haven (5 miles)
The Roseland Peninsula is a gorgeous wooded subregion of south east Cornwall, and this section of the Coast Path is a real gem. Caerhays Castle and Gardens dominates the land side of the beach with its crenulated walls. However, this castle wasn’t built for the defence of the realm, it’s really a castellated manor house built in the early 1700s.
The path rises above the eastern end of the beach through deep woods and farm fields. Wooden steps lead to grassy meadows and then stretches of the path that requires firm footing and a tiny bit of clambering about as the path twists its way around and over the hilly clifftops. After a few miles you will drop down to sea level to take in the glorious beach at the hamlet of Hemmick. High above Hemmick is The Dodman, a remote peninsula managed by the National Trust and home to Shetland ponies. See if you can see them in amongst the fern banks or down at cliff edges enjoying the thermals on a hot day. The Dodman is home to just about the largest stone crucifix on the planet (but it isn’t – it just seems that way!) Staring out over the English Channel, it's about the only large structure for miles. A few miles down the hill is Gorran Haven (near Mevagissey) with its quaint harbour, beach and village shops.
Difficulty: moderate – there are a few sections of the path where its just a mud track and you have to jump down some natural rocky steps around the halfway point. Those of you who love pavements, avoid this trek.
If you are planning to walk the South West Coast Path, why not stay in a self-catering cottage and tackle the trail in chunks? We have a large and varied collection of holiday accommodation across Cornwall for you to choose from. Some wayfarers choose to walk the 630-mile Coast Path but if that’s too big a task, find a base near the coast and explore a section that appeals to you. Get in contact today and we’ll help you find your ultimate west country staycation.