16th July 2019

Poldark and pints: 10 glorious Cornish pub walks

Keen walkers know just how quickly the crowds evaporate – even during the peak of the summer holidays – whenever we explore the countryside on a so-called “public” footpath. Often the sensation is of a uniquely private experience – and an enriching one, as apparently familiar landscapes, reveal their many different faces. And few places in the world can match Cornwall for the beauty and variety of its coastline, with hidden coves, dramatic sea cliffs, wheeling birds and picture-perfect fishing villages to be discovered around every headland.

The 10 circular walks described below centre upon some of the best pubs in west Cornwall and combine the highlights of a national treasure, the South West Coast Path, with some of the many prehistoric sites that make the Lizard and the West Penwith peninsula so valuable. The routes also include two of the locations where the BBC television series Poldark was shot (Church Cove, Gunwalloe, and Porthgwarra), underlining how little these elemental landscapes have changed since the 18th century, the period in which the books were set.

1. Helford River and Gillan Creek

6 miles

Community-owned New Inn with its thatched roof and idyllic back garden is a perfect base for exploring both Gillan Creek and the Helford River away from the crowds. From the pub, head up the hill out of the village and take the footpath across the fields and down into the wooded Helford valley. Once in Helford (often busy, but still beautiful), follow the coast path all the way to Dennis Head, with its superb views over Falmouth Bay, before following the lane through romantic Gillan Creek and back to the pub.

Start/finish: New Inn, Manaccan (01326 231301)

Explorer Map 103

OS grid reference SW764248

2. St Keverne and Porthallow

5 miles

Set back from the coast and a respectable distance from the surrounding hot spots around the Lizard, St Keverne is very much a local’s village, with a square that has been the focus of a tight-knit community for centuries. This walk takes in some delightful wooded valleys as it meanders down to the shingle coves on the coast. From the church on the opposite side of the square, take the footpath to Porthoustock and then the South West Coastal Path over the meadows to Porthallow via the detour to Porthkerris. The path back to St Keverne via Tregaminion heads south-west over the meadows.

Start/finish: The White Hart, St Keverne (thewhitehartstkeverne.co.uk)

Explorer map 103

OS grid reference SW790213

3. Cadgwith Cove

5 miles 

Cadgwith, the Lizard’s exquisite neighbour, is a fishing village straight out of central casting and the ideal base for a coastal walk. The South West Coast Path both north and south is a delight, but the southern route takes you on a swing past the Devil’s Frying Pan, where the roof of a sea cave has collapsed leaving a sea arch in its place. Continue south as far as Church Cove (directly east of the Lizard), looking out for the region’s trademark green Serpentine rock as you walk. The route back loops inland past the Cornish Chough brewery at Trethvas Farm and past St Ruan Holy Well.

Start/finish: Cadgwith Cove Inn, Cadgwith (cadgwithcoveinn.com)

Explorer map 103

OS Grid Reference SW722145

4. Church Cove, Gunwalloe, and Halzephron Cliffs

6 miles

The 15th-century church of St Winwaloe, set into the headland rock at Church Cove, is one of the most atmospheric churches in Cornwall, the cries of children playing on the adjacent beach clearly audible during Sunday service in summer. From the historic, friendly and equally atmospheric inn (built in 1468), take the path down to the coast and follow the South West Coast Path around Halzephron Cliffs to Church Cove. The most interesting way back is to take the path by the side of the golf course and along the road to Cury before wending your way back over a path through fields to the inn.

Start/finish: Halzephron Inn, Gunwalloe (halzephron-inn.co.uk)

Explorer map 103

OS grid reference SW657224

5. Perranuthnoe to Porthleven

9 miles

This is a cliff walk to rival the best. It begins with a St Michael’s Mount panoramic before continuing around Cudden Point to Prussia Cove. Around the headland at Praa Sands is one of the longest stretches of white sand on the south Cornish coast, while the tin mine engine house above Rinsey Cove is picture-perfect. This route is not circular, but there are frequent buses from Porthleven back to base. The 12th-century Victoria Inn has some of Cornwall’s best pub food.

Start/finish: Victoria Inn, Perranuthnoe 

Explorer map 102

OS grid reference SW539296

6. Mousehole and Lamorna Valley

6 miles

Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) is one of the most picturesque harbour towns in Cornwall. This gem of a walk heads up over the meadows behind the town before dropping down into the wooded glades of the Lamorna Valley to the south. First locate the hidden, steeply climbing path towards Halwyn Farm, which leads up over the hill to the prehistoric hut circles above Castallack. Then follow the lane through the river valley down to the coast. Lamorna Cove is famous for the Newlyn School of artists who lived here in the early 20th century. The coast path will take you back north to Mousehole.

Start/finish: The Old Coastguard, Mousehole

Explorer map 102

OS Grid Reference SW471265

7. Land’s End

6 miles

Just to the north of Land’s End, Sennen is the local’s preferred alternative to the daytripper-ish experience of Land’s End itself – and with a huge sandy beach to boot. Walking from Sennen, you will also pass Dr Syntax’s Head, the most westerly point on England’s mainland. Follow the South West Coast Path past Maen Castle (an Iron Age fort) to Land’s End and along the exhilarating stretch of coastline to the south. Turn inland at Carn Lês Boel (the start of the Michael and Mary ley line) – or continue to Porthgwarra, where many scenes from Poldark were shot, before heading back over the fields to Sennen.

Start/finish: Old Success Inn, Sennen (oldsuccess.co.uk

Explorer map 102

OS grid reference SW354263

8. Pendeen and Chûn Downs 

6 miles

As well as its coast, the West Penwith peninsula is renowned for its prehistoric remains. Villages, forts, fogues (underground chambers), standing stones and stone circles are scattered over these moorland uplands. Chûn Quoit (a Stone Age dolmen) and Chûn Castle (an Iron Age hill fort) are the stars of this walk, along with the fabulously named Woon Gumpus Common, while nearby Geevor Tin Mine (now a museum) is a superb memorial to Cornwall’s mining heritage. Follow the lane to the church and take the paths up to Carn Bean, taking in some epic views. Then head east to Chûn Downs before circling back to base, approaching Pendeen from the north.

Start/finish: The North Inn, Pendeen (thenorthinnpendeen.co.uk)

Explorer map 102

OS grid reference SW382344

9. Zennor and the Logan Stone 

7 miles

Zennor, on the north coast of the West Penwith peninsula, is infused with more myth and magic than almost anywhere else in Cornwall. The writer DH Lawrence once lived here and described the area as being “better than the Mediterranean”. As well as the plunging cliffs and Iron Age fort at Zennor Head, the inland moorland behind the ancient church will take you on a journey into prehistory. Head down the narrow road into Zennor and locate the access footpaths that lead up on to the moor to Zennor Quoit, a megalithic dolmen, or chambered tomb, built around 2500-1500 BC. Then loop back down to the village and around Zennor Head in a figure of eight. 

Start/finish: The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor

Explorer map 102

OS grid reference SW434376

10. Coastal St Ives

5 miles

The St Ives headland is packed with delights, from views over Gwithian Towans to the east (Godrevy Lighthouse was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse) with Porthmeor Beach, Tate St Ives and a dramatic cliff to explore while walking west. From the Queens Hotel in the centre of town, walk down to Porthminster Beach and around the headland, taking in views that were the inspiration of many of the famous St Ives School of artists. Follow the South West Coast Path to Hor Point before looping back into town along the delightful bridleway via Hellesveor Farm and the famous Leach Pottery. 

Start/finish: Queens Hotel, St Ives (queenshotelstives.com)

Explorer map 102

OS grid reference SW518405

Be perfectly placed to discover Cornwall with The Royal Duchy Hotel, Falmouth.

with special thanks to Richard Madden and The Telegraph