South Cornwall Coast Path
Land's End to Plymouth, 149½ miles
Part 1 of the End to End Walk from Land's End to John O'Groats


The South Cornwall Coast path, at 154 miles in length, accounts for more than 10% of the total distance from Land's End to John O'Groats.

The reason for this is the complex nature of the coastline; its peninsulae, headlands, bays, promontories, estuaries, inlets and coves. With very few exceptions, involving the avoidance of quarry works, military bases and landslip sites, the path hugs the coastline throughout. It's a walk of contrasts; the scenery varies from the dramatic granite clifftops of the Atlantic coast to the bustling seafront promenades of towns such as Penzance. Much of the coastline is owned by the National Trust; the vast majority of it is undeveloped. There are cliffs and coves, downs and pastures, picturesque villages, beaches both popular and unfrequented, natural wonders and industrial relics, and the odd tourist trap such as Mevagissey, Polperro and Looe.


The walk can be done in a single journey over two weeks, or can be "collected" bits at a time. There are no rules; it's up to you. If you're planning to do it all at once the main choice comes down to backpacking (carrying a tent, sleeping bag and stove with you) or bed-and-breakfasting. If you prefer not to stay in organised campsites then be warned that opportunities for wild camping are limited, particularly beyond Falmouth. There are also rather fewer youth hostels than you might expect. However, there are plenty of places to stay on route, and in some places (particularly Falmouth and Plymouth) hotel rooms of high standard are very cheap.

A car is a liability rather than an aid to a linear walk such as this, primarily because you have to return to your car once the walk is over. All starting and finishing points that I have suggested are served by public transport although services can be rather skeletal here and there, and sometimes it's necessary to walk a mile or two off route to find a bus stop. If, like me, you enjoy the comforts of a guest house or cheap hotel room, then consider basing yourself in convenient towns and tackling three or four days walks from each by using public transport. Suitable transport hubs include Penzance, Helston, Falmouth, St Austell, Looe and Plymouth.

Route finding is straightforward almost everywhere. The path is very well waymarked and in any case the route is obvious most of the time - as Mark Wallingford says in his book, "500 Mile Walkies", you just keep the green bits to your left and the blue bits to your right. In wet weather, of course, you keep the brown bits to your left and the grey bits to your right - but do you honestly want to be out there in the rain? The only places where you're likely to go wrong are when trying to find the correct route out of towns and villages. Keep a guidebook with you and refer to it often.

Bear in mind that most of the route is on uneven ground and that some of it is in close proximity to cliff edges. For this reason it's unwise to venture out in wet weather. The climate can be fickle; apart from wind and rain, sea-fog is another potential hazard. Don't underestimate the effort involved; there is a lot of ascent and descent involved and some sections can be very tiring. Keep the daily mileage down until you are sure of your capabilities.

The number of villages and small towns on route ensure that you're usually not far from shops, cafes, toilets and other useful amenities. There are some sections, in fact, where it's not really necessary to carry food with you. But you should always carry plenty of fluid, particularly on warm days.

The various one-day walks that make up the South Cornwall Coast Path:

(Click the links for the individual walk indexes and photo galleries)
1 Land's End to Porthcurno 5.5 miles
2 Porthcurno to Penzance 11.45 miles
3 Penzance to Porthleven 13.3 miles
4 Porthleven to Lizard 13.54 miles
5 Lizard to Coverack 10.26 miles
6 Coverack to Helford 11.15 miles
7 Helford to Falmouth 9.8 miles
8 Place (via ferry) to Portloe 13.5 miles
9 Portloe to Mevagissey 11.92 miles
10 Mevagissey to Porthpean 6.68 miles
11 Porthpean to Fowey 11.3 miles
12 Fowey to Polperro 7.36 miles
13 Polperro to Looe 5.07 miles
14 Looe to Portwrinkle 7.8 miles
15 Portwrinkle to Plymouth 15.5 miles

The South Cornwall Coast Path is part of the much longer South West Peninsula Coastal Path. It runs from Minehead in Somerset, via Land's End, to Poole in Dorset, and at 594 miles in length is Britain's most demanding long-distance path.


* The South West Way Association
* Cornish Tourist Board
* Cornwall On-Line
* Cornwall Net
* Cornwall County Council
* Cornwall Calling
* Penzance Travel Tips
* Camping In Cornwall by Camping HQ - links to a host of outdoor resources

* Ian Lewis Photography, excellent photos of Cornwall
* Charles Winpenny's Cornwall Cam site - new images of Cornwall posted daily

Back to main index Devon Coast-to-Coast

Page updated 2 November 2011