The South West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath and National Trail and one of England’s national treasures. Stretching 1,013km 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. Our St Ives to Penzance itinerary covers the South West Coast Path’s rugged and remote section in Cornwall, via Land’s End.
This is a great route in its own right, a truly diverse and engaging walk. The north and west coasts of Cornwall have a unique atmosphere – a mixture of St. Ives’ charm, famously beloved of artists and home to a branch of the Tate Gallery, to some of the wildest and most dramatic scenery along the entire English coastline. Add to this the wildlife, from Peregrine Falcons to dolphins, the fascinating mining heritage, the exhilaration of standing at Land’s End, the magnificent open-air Minack Theatre, and the pretty fishing villages Mousehole and Newlyn, and you have a magnificent walking holiday.
- The Lizard – the most southerly tip of Britain
- Unspoilt countryside with abundant wildlife
- Staying in picturesque fishing villages dotted around the coast
- Tasty, local seafood
- Secluded coves and golden sandy beaches
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Day 1: Arrive St Ives
This bustling seaside fishing town offers steep streets, great views, good surf and beautiful light that has attracted artists for centuries. The St Ives Tate Gallery, The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden are just some of the reasons why St Ives is called Cornwall’s cultural capital.
- Accommodation: We use highly rated guesthouses & B&Bs in this bustling town like Coombe Farmhouse (St Ives) or similar. If these are full, you may be booked into Carbis Bay 15min walk away
Day 2: St Ives to Zennor | 11km
Enjoy a hearty breakfast as there are some tough up and down and occasionally boggy walking for the next two days, but fortunately, the days are quite short in distance and the seascapes are beautiful! Around St. Ives Head, the walk passes St. Nicholas’s Chapel (patron saint to seafarers) and a hut that was used for spotting pilchards from the cliffs. As you leave St.Ives the number of walkers rapidly diminishes, as does your pace as the path roller-coasts through a series of steep dips. After River Cove, you descend to rocks where you can sometimes see seals basking off the rocks. There is then a final steep climb, from where you have to take a path going inland half a mile to the village of Zennor, which has a quaint church, a small museum on Cornish life, a great old pub called The Tinner’s Arms.
- Walking for the day: 11km
- Accommodation: The Tinners Arms is the only Inn in Zennor and was built in 1271 to accommodate the Masons who constructed St Senara’s church which is famous for its mermaid
Day 3: Zennor to Pendeen Watch | 11km
Returning to the coastal path, thread your way through beautiful coves to Gurnard’s Head. Being wary of tin mine shafts you can look around the prehistoric fort site at the head. Just before you reach Pendeen, there is the Geevor tin mine which is open March to October for guided tours and at Pendeen Watch an afternoon visit to the lighthouse is possible.
- Walking for the day: 11km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations
Day 4: Pendeen Watch to Sennan Cove | 14.5km
The first part of the walk is quite easy, following the cliff tops around the old lead and tin mines, through the detritus of hundreds of years of activity. You pass Levant Mine which closed down in 1919 after an accident there killed 31 miners. However, there is a restored beam engine which can be visited in the summer. Next is Crowns Mine at Botallack perched on the rocks. The path skirts inland beside Cape Cornwall, once thought to be England’s most westerly point, until they worked out that it was in fact Lands End. Continuing you pass Carn Gloose where a walled pit could be a Neolithic shrine. Then it is past the village of St.Just which has a square where ‘miracle plays’ were performed in Mediaeval times, then past the beach at Whitesand Bay to Sennan Cove, pretty fishing and tourist port.
- Walking for the day: 14.5km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations in Sennan Cove or Porthcurno
Day 5: Sennan Cove to Porthcurno | 9.5km
A shorter day, to enable you to visit the sights of Land’s End, the most westerly point in England. This is a highly developed commercial site, with various ‘attractions’ including a theme park! There can also be big crowds milling around the centre and car parks, however, there are some great seascapes with views as far as the Scilly Isles and towards Long Ships and Wolf Rock lighthouses. The walking greatly improves as you continue and you will pass the attractive hamlets of Porthgwarra and St. Levan reaching the open-air theatre at Minack Point, dramatically situated and built by Rowena Cade. Steep steps take you down from there to the beach and to the village of Porthcurno, which has a wonderful bay in a magnificent location.
- Walking for the day: 9.5km
- Accommodation: Various accommodations in Porthcurno
Day 6: Porthcurno to Mousehole | 11km
The South West Path follows the cliffs with an offshoot trail taking you to Logan Rock an 80-ton rock owned by the National Trust. Up until 1824, this could be rocked without much effort, but then one Lt. Goldsmith and 12 of his ship’s crew, levered it off with crowbars. This caused local outrage as it was a tourist attraction and the admiralty forced him to replace it which took 60 men, a series of block and tackle and the bill of £130 went to the Lieutenant. Although restored to its original place it will not rock so easily! There follows a more challenging walk towards Penberth Cove and Porthguaron which are lovely places to pause. You will pass through Lamorna, with a famous once illegal old pub the ‘Lamorna Wink.’ The walk continues the walk around Penzer Point and views over Mounts Bay, and towards the island of St. Michael’s Mount. Next, you will reach your destination of Mousehole
(pron’Mowzl’), a picture postcard village, with a history of pilchard fishing and now has a small artists’ community.
- Walking for the day: 11km
- Accommodation: We stay in the popular Inn right by the harbour, if this is full we may use guesthouses in Mousehole
Day 7: Mousehole to Penzance | 6.5km
The path from Mousehole to Newlyn is beside the road but you can go inland via the village of Paul to see the monument erected to Dolly Pentreath (died 1778) regarded as the last native Cornish speaker who spoke no English. Newlyn and Penzance are quite built up being ports as well as important vacation destinations. Although Newlyn has some nice galleries, you may wish to catch the bus into Penzance from here. The latter has more attractions including some Georgian and Regency housing, the exuberant Egyptian House, Maritime Museum and National Lighthouse Museum.
- Walking for the day: 6.5km
- Accommodation: The Longboat Inn (Penzance) or similar
Day 8: Departure
Departure after breakfast or extra nights upon request.
What to expect
Accommodations include a mix of charming small hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses. 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 case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
Breakfast is included on four of the 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 the beginning of April until end-October. It is best enjoyed in the spring and autumn when there are fewer people 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
- Trains run from London to St Erth (5h), where you need to change trains to St Ives (15min).
- There is a direct train from Penzance back to London Paddington (6h). Please check the Traveline website for timetables or use the Omio planner above.
- 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
- A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- 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