6 wonderful walks in Cornwall that are even better in the winter

PUBLISHED: 09:28 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:41 28 October 2020

Godrevy Lighthouse. Photo credit: Matt Gibson, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Godrevy Lighthouse. Photo credit: Matt Gibson, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Matt Gibson

Walk off some of that festive food and drink with a bracing walk. We pick the best winter walks to explore in Cornwall

1. Minions

A short walk from Minions to Stowe Hill is rewarded with a rich slice of Cornwall's prehistoric past and recent industrial history. It could be accomplished in well under two hours, but is worth taking time over. Head north past the Hurlers, three Bronze Age stone circles. According to legend, these are men turned to stone as a punishment for hurling on the Sabbath.

Continue across the trackbed of the Liskeard and Caradon Railway (1844-1917) to the iconic 6m tall Cheesewring on Stowe Hill. So-called from its resemblance to a cheese press, the Cheesewring is a superb granite pile sculpted by nature. Nearby is Gumb's Cave, where self-taught astronomer Daniel Gumb (1703-73) lived with his wife and nine children - though room must have been tight! Although Cheesewring Quarry, which supplied stone for London's Westminster and Tower Bridges as well as many local buildings, took a massive chunk out of Stowe Hill the Neolithic enclosures (c4000-3,500 BC) on the summit survive and are worth exploring.

Follow the track south from Cheesewring Quarry for fine views to Phoenix United Mine, with the patchwork fields beyond stretching to the Tamar Valley, and Dartmoor on the horizon. Finally, call at Houseman's Engine House (the Minions Heritage Centre), with its fascinating historical and geological displays and finds.

2. Boscastle

Boscastle is a great starting point for a variety of walks. A stroll along the north side of the harbour and along to Penally Point is packed with interest and wonderful coastal views. The only safe haven on the long and dangerous stretch of coast from Port Isaac to Bude, Boscastle's tightly sheltered harbour once bustled with ketches and schooners. Navigation into the harbour's narrow winding channel was (and remains) tricky, as can readily be appreciated from Penally Point or Penally Hill above. Larger vessels were 'hobbled' in by eight oared boats.

Nonetheless, cargoes from local ports, Bristol, South Wales and even North America were offloaded on the Elizabethan quay in considerable quantities - 200 vessels were recorded here in one year alone. Trade declined after the railway reached North Cornwall in 1893. Today, small fishing boats and pleasure craft predominate and safety is much improved with Willapark Lookout Station. Originally built as a summer house in the early 19th century, the building later served as a Coastguard lookout and then a folly, before it was leased to the National Coastwatch in 2002.

Returning to the harbour, there is much of interest, including the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Not to be missed, the National Trust's Visitor Centre, has a fascinating video of the terrible 2004 Boscastle Flood. You may like to extend your walk by following the easy and scenic riverside path from the car park. Under normal conditions, the river Valency appears benign and keeps well within its banks. However… look up and see how the steep sided river valley could funnel huge quantities of water rapidly into Boscastle after heavy rain.

3. Upper Tamar Lake

This easy walk on the Devon border offers views of the beautiful Upper Tamar Lake and the pleasant rolling green fields beyond from all angles. It follows a broad, well surfaced and mainly level path, which is suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and bikes. Bring binoculars - it is a great place to watch a variety of waterfowl and woodland birds too. Allow at least 1 ¾ hours for the full circuit of the lake, 5.2km/3 ¼ miles.

The Tamar Lakes are signed from Kilkhampton on the A39. Start at the Upper Lake car park, with its helpful map and information plaques. Turn left and then right across the dam, signed 'Lakeside Walk'. Turn left again 'Lakeside Walk' at the far side of the dam.

Navigation from this point could not be easier: simply follow the path around the lake for nearly 5km (3 miles). Just before reaching the boathouse, the path divides. Keep right as signed and follow the path behind the boathouse to the start.

4. Lerryn

This lovely riverbank and woodland walk from the pretty village of Lerryn offers fine views of the rivers Lerryn and Fowey. If your children are energetic, the walk may be extended by following the yellow arrows and blue circles to St Winnow, with its riverside church and farm museum and thence back to Lerryn by field paths - a total of 8km/5 miles.

Lerryn's scenery helped inspire Kenneth Grahame write Wind in the Willows. His children's classic began as letters to his son when Grahame was staying in Fowey, close to his friend, Sir Arthur Quiller Couch (aka 'Q'), the model for the talkative Ratty in the book. Both Q and Ratty loved messing about in boats.

Begin at Lerryn's riverside car park. If the tide is out, cross the river Lerryn by stepping stones. Otherwise, use the medieval bridge. After crossing the river, turn left and follow the lane and later track parallel to the bank and into Ethy Woods - possibly the model for Grahame's Wild Wood. Stay on the path as it bends right. Bear left at a waymark. Cross the creek by a footbridge. Continue on the signed path and forest tracks, keeping close to the river at any junctions. At St Winnow Point the Lerryn joins the river Fowey and the path turns north-west towards St Winnow.

5. Godrevy: to the Lighthouse

Virginia Woolf spent much of her childhood in St Ives, from where the house her family rented offered a wonderful view to Godrevy lighthouse, the focal point of this easy and pleasant coastal walk. She visited Godrevy in 1892 and was later inspired her novel To the Lighthouse (1927) - though she set the story in the Hebrides. Start from one of the two National Trust car parks (free to members) signed for Godrevy, 1km north of Gwithian on the B3301. If you use the lower car park, there is a 1km (¾ mile) walk to Godrevy Point with fine views, whilst the upper car park brings you much closer to the Point and the 26m (86ft) tall lighthouse. This marks the Stones Reef, where many ships came to grief before the lighthouse was built in 1859. Trinity House maintain the lighthouse as a daymark for shipping, although Godrevy's light was discontinued in 2012 and replaced by an LED light mounted on the rocks nearby.

6. Padstow Harbour and Coast Path

Padstow's lively, colourful harbour is packed with fishing boats and leisure craft and surrounded by a medley of historic warehouses, pubs, restaurants, cafes and shops. The walk can easily be extended along the Coast Path, with lovely views across the Camel estuary to Rock, Brea Hill and Doom Bar's golden sands. Source of an estimated ten million tonnes of agricultural sand, the Bar has well earned its name, being the cause of 600 beachings, capsizes and shipwrecks over the past 200 years. Thus, there is ample justification for the RNLI's lifeboat stations at Rock and Trevose Head, which liaise closely with the Coastguard station at Hawker Cove and the Coastwatch station at Stepper Point. 

If you enjoyed this article, make sure you read...

8 Cornwall walks (with places for a Cornish cream tea along the way)

8 dog walks in Cornwall (with dog friendly pubs along the way)

8 Cornish pub walks you need to try

Latest from the Cornwall Life