St Ives to Porthallow: 6 days (Category C)
Distance: 84 miles
Av. daily distance: 14 miles
Difficulty: Difficult with rocky and hilly sections
Price: £575 for 6 days/ 7 nights*
(includes bed and breakfast, bag transfers, maps & info packs, arrival and departure transfers between accommodation and local train stations/car parks. B&B includes the night prior to starting the walk and the night after finishing the walk)
Consider: adding a rest day at Marazion to recover and allow time to visit St Michaels Mount
This walking holiday covers the two peninsulas of West Cornwall and the most varied and spectacular scenery in the county. From vaulted cliffs to pebble beaches, golden sand to open moorland and promenades to wilderness – it’s all here.
Out of St Ives it is a rugged and dramatic granite landscape with high cliffs, heath land and plenty of hills. Heading west the coast path encounters open bays and sandy beaches before running into the south coast fishing ports and villages. Then comes the wild Lizard Peninsula where fishing villages nestle between high cliffs on the west coast and waters lap lazily into tree lined creeks on the east coast.
Start: St Ives
Distance: 13.5 miles | Height gain: 3186 feet/971 metres
Time walking: 9 hours excluding breaks
Difficulty: Difficult. There are lots of steep hills and rocky/muddy sections.
Highlights: The Barbara Hepworth museum in St Ives, the view from Clodgy Point, Zennor Head, Bosigran cliffs, Pendeen Watch lighthouse.
Leaving behind the Tate gallery and surf-lined Porthmoer beach (St Ives), the path soon heads along the empty and dramatic cliffs of West Cornwall. Here, the path winds along a narrow section between the rugged moorland hills and deeply incised cliffs. It is a harsh landscape, softened by the rich blue seas and summer flowers that somehow hang on in the thin soil.
This is the beginning of the isolated Lands End Peninsula and it is important to remember that long sections of the coastline are inaccessible and offer no refreshments or relief once you are underway.
The sea views are fantastic and high headlands are separated by the narrowest of coves cut out by the often violent waves.
Start Point: Pendeen
Finish Point: Porthcurno
Distance: 15.5 miles | Height gain: 3776 feet/1151 metres
Time walking: 8 hours excluding breaks
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult and long. The path is hilly, narrow and for the first 6 miles it is littered with rocks, making for slow progress.
Highlights: The Crowns Mines at Botallack, the raised beach and 'dinosaur egg' rocks at the Cot Valley, surfing at Sennen Cove, the sea arches around Lands End, the view across to Treen headland and the Minack Theatre. To watch a performance on a summer’s night at the open air Minack Theatre is a magical experience.
Along this exceptional stretch of coast, the natural beauty competes with human history for your attention. Proud headlands are crowned with Iron Age hill forts, towering cliffs are home to Bronze Age burial chambers and at every turn are reminders are of Cornwall’s mining heritage.
Moving on to the West coast, the scenery remains grand and impressive. From the treacherous Brisons reef to the golden sands of Sennen beach, it is the seascape that dominates. With lovely sheltered valleys and a path that constantly rises and falls, one minute you are at sea level and the next way up above, looking down on the gulls as they circle below.
Start Point: Porthcurno
Finish Point: Marazion
Distance: 14.5 miles | Height gain: 1821 feet/555 metres
Time walking: 7 hours 15 minutes excluding breaks
Difficulty: Varied. A difficult start with some serious hills to climb. It remains relativley difficult until Lamorna, where boulders litter the path but from then on it is straight forward.
Highlights: Lamorna Cove, Mousehole harbour (and the restaurants), Newlyn Harbour and Chapel Street in Penzance, St Michael's Mount.
Aside from Porthcurno and Lamorna, tiny fishing hamlets are the only signs of habitation on this coast, until you reach Mousehole. Enjoy the sense of wilderness because just around the corner wait the calm waters and towns of Mounts Bay. This is West Cornwall’s economic centre and it has maintained a seaside charm that draws tens of thousands of visitors every year.
It is a picturesque working district that caters for visitors and locals alike. The busy harbour at Newlyn is still home to the country’s second largest fishing fleet, the shops and cafes of Penzance provide a centre for the surrounding towns and villages and St Michael's Mount draws visitors from across the world.
The towns share a history dating back to pre Roman times and the short distance to be covered allows ample chance to wander the streets, investigate the busy harbours and pay a visit to St Michael's Mount.
Start Point: Marazion
Finish Point: Porthleven
Distance: 10.5 miles | Height gain: 1749 feet/533 metres
Time walking: 5 hours
Difficulty: An easy start, with only one or two hills as the walk progresses.
Highlights: Praa Sands beach, Prussia Cove and the beautiful Loe Bar just outside Porthleven (this is Cornwall's largest fresh water lake and a lovely place to relax).
Leaving behind Marazion, the coast path soon returns to open countryside and empty coves. Initially it is a gentle and sheltered coastline with rocky coves and shingle beaches and the path is well maintained with no real climbs.
With the exception of Praa Sands, there is very little development from here on (Perrnauthnoe is nothing more than a sleepy village) and as the shelter of Mounts Bay decreases, the scenery becomes wilder, the path emptier and the cliffs higher.
Having worked its way around countless bays, mine workings and hidden beaches, the coast path finally brings you to charming Porthleven. This small port is an ideal stop over with a picturesque harbour, a couple of great restaurants and the nearby Loe Bar if you want to keep on walking.
Start Point: Porthleven
Finish Point: Lizard Head
Distance: 14 miles | Height gain: 2428 feet/740 metres
Time walking: 6 hours 15 minutes excluding breaks
Difficulty: Generally moderate with several difficult sections.
Highlights: Church Cove (Gunwalloe), the Marconi Centre at Poldhu, Mullion Cove and the magical Kynance Cove.
There are many parts of the Cornish coast where you can be alone, but this is perhaps the loneliest stretch of all. It is a superb section of isolated villages nestled into steep sided coves and separated by mile after mile of towering cliffs.
Leaving behind the charming harbour at Porthleven, the coast path passes by windswept beaches and dramatic cliffs out towards the Lizard Peninsula. Along sand dunes and headlands of exceptional beauty, the Lizard Head remains hidden until you are almost upon it. This is a surprising feat for such an imposing feature (considered to be mainland UK’s most southerly point).
As the hours pass by, the land becomes wilder and it is common to have no other company than the gulls screeching down below. The going can be tough at times but the views are worth every step and many walkers consider the view over Mullion worth the journey alone.
Start Point: Lizard
Finish Point: Porthallow
Distance: 15.5 miles | Height gain: 3136 feet/956 metres
Time walking: 6 hours excluding breaks
Difficulty: Generally moderate with several difficult sections (hills and slippery path).
Highlights: Lizard Head lighthouse, Cadgwith and The Devil's Frying Pan, Poltesco, Porthbeor beach.
Having now changed direction, a change is noticeable as the path heads along the east coast of the Lizard Peninsula. Over the following miles, the seas and winds generally become calmer, the landscape less rugged and the vegetation thicker.
With a pleasant backdrop of moors, pasture land and rocky bays, the path weaves its away along the cliff tops and dips down into valleys where time forgotten villages seek shelter from the elements. Cadgwith is a superb example with its thatched cottages, boat winch and small fishing fleet.
This last section of the Lizard Peninsula is packed full of variety. In rapid succession the path runs from heathland to quarries, to farmland, woodland and beaches. With creeks to cross, inland diversions, stiles to go over and fishing villages to catch your breath in, this is hiking heaven.
Single Walker Price: £815
*Price per person based on two people sharing a room. Prices may vary depending on availability and room requirements. A supplement may apply for those who require a room for one person only.