The South West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath and National Trail and one of England’s national treasures. Stretching 1013km from Minehead in Somerset, the route curls around the entire peninsula of Devon and Cornwall and rounds the south-western tip of England at Land’s End and follows the southern shore through the dramatic scenery of Dorset. This northern section undulates along the coast from Padstow to Ives, visiting the surfer’s paradise of Newquay. These are of course popular epicentres for tourism in the summer months, but dotted along the coast are also tiny thatched roofed villages, old tin and silver mining towns and harbours.
- Classic Cornish Coastal walking
- Padstow’s old harbour and Rick Stein’s restaurant
- Newquay, Britain’s surf capital
- St.Ives – the famous artist’s town
- Stunning coves and beaches once the haunt of smugglers and wreckers, now the abode of seals and surfers
- Crystal clear water
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Day 1: Arrive Padstow
Make your own way to Padstow. The town is named after St. Petroc. The church of St Petroc is one of a group of three said to have been founded by the Saint. The old harbour usually has a nice ensemble of boats, including the old pilot vessels. Nice pub fayre and a Rick Stein restaurant.
- Accommodation: The Pickwick Inn (Padstow) or similar
Day 2: Padstow to Porthcothan | 21km
Leaving Padstow’s busy little tourist harbour, follow the shores of the picturesque Camel Estuary to Stepper Point, with views perhaps to Bodmin Moor inland and the ‘Doom Bar’ – an offshore sand bar which has wrecked hundreds of ships over the centuries, largely because the surrounding cliffs take the wind out of the boat’s sails as they try to enter the harbour. In fact, it became so notorious that many vessels would risk being wrecked on the coast rather than negotiate the entrance to Padstow in poor weather.
More coves pass by until you see the limestone and slate Porthmissen Bridge natural arch with colonies of Razorbills and Guillemots. From here, continue on to Trevone Bay, a beautiful sandy beach, popular with surfers and onwards to Harlyn, another surfer’s paradise but once famed for fishing pilchards. The coastal path reaches Trevose Head, where you can see both St.Ives and Newquay on clear days. There is a lighthouse, which could be open in the afternoon. The path then turns south and crosses more sandy beaches around Constantine, passing Trethias Island nature reserve, threading its way through coves to descend to Porthcothan Bay.
- Walking for the day: 21 km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations
Day 3: Porthcothan to Newquay | 17.5km
From the bay, the path climbs up to Park Head, which provides wonderful views of Bedruthan Steps, a set of rock stacks that have been a popular tourist feature since the railway reached Newquay in 1875. Passing the village of Mawgan Porth, the route follows the cliff top above Watergate Bay. Approaching Newquay, the path arrives at Trevelgue Head and the largest Iron Age fort remains in the county. Continuing over Barrowfields, with its three Bronze Age barrows, the path descends to Newquay. This is quite a shock after the day’s peaceful walk. Nevertheless, the town overlooks fine golden sands, which cushion the Atlantic rollers and make this Britain’s surfing capital. Before surfing fame, Newquay was another famous fishing port, seining out the millions of pilchards that arrived every July. It was also a silver and lead mining centre.
- Walking for the day: 17.5km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations
Day 4: Newquay to Perranporth | 18.5km
Leaving the harbour, the path climbs up Towan Head past the whitewashed Huer’s Hut, where lookouts would shout the arrival of the pilchard shoals to waiting fishermen and then follow the cliffs around Pentire Point to take the ferry across the Gannel River. The path winds around headlands and coves to Kelsey Head, the site of an Iron Age promontory fort, and then descends to the village of Holywell, named after an ancient well and equally aged inn called ‘Treguth’. Following golden sands along Perran Beach, pass the tiny ruin of St Piran’s Oratory, said to be the oldest church in Cornwall (8th century) but reburied to protect it from erosion. Depending upon tide levels, you reach the village of Perranporth either by the beach or the cliff.
- Walking for the day: 18.5km
- Accommodation: St George’s Country House Hotel (Perranporth) or similar
Day 5: Perranporth to Portreath | 20km
A fairly easy stretch today on well used paths occasionally dipping into valleys. The coast path follows the cliffs around Cligga Head, past mineshafts, now home to horseshoe bats, and the remains of tin mines, with dramatic views of the mine buildings and chimneys dotting the landscape further on around St Agnes. En route, you drop into Trevellas Porth and then Trevaunance Cove, which has a waterside pub. It is then pleasant ascending to St Agnes Head past bird nesting cliffs, to the little village with the same name and terraces of miners’ cottages, including an interesting little museum in an old chapel. The path descends past the ruins of Wheal Coates Mine to the sandy inlet of Chapel Porth. Then back up to the cliff tops, the path goes past the Wheal Charlotte Mine, drops down to the beach at Porthtowan and then follows the cliff top path to the harbour at Portreath, from where minerals were exported from the mines at Redruth.
- Walking for the day: 20km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations
Day 6: Portreath to Hayle | 20km
Leaving Portreath, there is a strenuous climb up Tregea Hill and 10km of National Trust land, continuing high above the sea along Carvannel and Reskajeage Downs. You then reach a rather sensational breach in the cliffs called Hell’s Mouth. At Navax Point, you might be lucky enough to see grey seals. Walking on to Godrevy Point, you will see the lighthouse perched on Godrevy Island, probably the inspiration for Virginia Wolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’. The lighthouse marks the landward end of a treacherous line of reefs, called The Stones, which have claimed many wrecks and many of their victims are buried in the churchyard at Gwithian, a sleepy thatched cottage village with an interesting old pub, The Pendarves Arms. The path then meanders through the Towans sand dunes to the busy port of Hayle.
- Walking for the day: 20km
- Accommodation: White Hart Hotel or similar
Day 7: Hayle to St Ives | 9km
A short day should give you enough time to discover beautiful St. Ives, with its museums and galleries. Skirting the Hayle Estuary, which is noted for its seabirds and waders, the path passes along the dunes above Porth Kidney and then passes beautiful Carbis Bay to reach the town. St Ives dates back to AD460, when the missionary St. Ia, daughter of an Irish chieftain, landed here and gave her name to the settlement, similarly to how St. Beda gave her name to St. Bees in Cumbria. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted, and the fishing fleet largely disappeared. However, as early as 1811, Turner visited to paint the seascapes, and by the late 1880s, several artists were installed, and the town became famous for its vibrant artists’ colony. This perhaps reached its heyday during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery. A great place for fish & chips.
- Walking for the day: 9km
- Accommodation: Old Vicarage, Coombe Farmhouse (St Ives) or similar
Day 8: Departure
Departure after breakfast or extra nights upon request.
What to expect
Accommodations include a mix of charming bed and breakfasts, lodges, pubs and small hotels. They have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere, cuisine and/or unique services. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
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Hotels are subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. You can have dinner at the guesthouse you are staying at or at the village pubs and restaurants.
Difficulty and terrain
While not too demanding, the route follows the coast quite closely, and it includes plenty of elevation gains and losses and some steep sections (read more about difficulty grades). The route is well waymarked and easy to follow. A comprehensive guidebook and map are supplied. You can also call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from March until October. It is best enjoyed in the spring and autumn when fewer people are on the trails; however, it is lovely during the summer months, too.
The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Up-to-date travel advice on the United Kingdom is available here (for Canadian citizens) and here (for US citizens).
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Our recommended airports for this tour are Bristol (BRS), London Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW) or Luton (LTN).
By train or bus
- You can get to Padstow from London (and connecting places in between, including Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol) by train to Bodmin Parkway and then by connecting bus. Then it’s a short taxi to your guesthouse.
- Overnight trains are also possible. Visit National Rail for more details.
- You can get back from St Ives by train to London and other major cities (via St Erth). Coach or taxi to Newquay Airport is also possible.
- 7 nights in twin/double rooms with an en-suite or private bathroom (small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses)
- 7 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel – up to 20kg per person
- Detailed journey documentation and practical information: personalised trip notes and maps (digital copy only)
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches, dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request