Much of our journey is done on foot. The landscape and land-use of Cornwall means that that is a wide range of walks across some lovely open countryside. There is a special joy in finding old trackways and green lanes, and in coming across the many kinds of stile, ancient crosses or monuments.
We are spoiled for choice with a wide range of guidebooks suggesting circular walks (often with pubs) available. There is also an excellent website I Walk Cornwall which lists many more.
We enjoy getting out in the open air whenever we can, especially onto some of the long-distance paths. Here are some suggestions.
South West Coast Path: By far the longest route is the South West Coast Path which, it is rumoured, even extends into Devon and beyond, an unknown area to us. The SWCP Association has a really excellent site which tells you all you need to know. Many of our walks have been over stretches of this path, but so far only on the Cornish side of the border.
St Michael’s Way – 12.5 miles: There were three historic crossing places for pilgrims travelling between Ireland or Wales to Brittany where they could join the Camino to Compostella.
The most westerly of these has been recreated as the St Michael’s Way. This takes you from Lelant on the Hayle estuary to St Michael’s Mount. The starting point of St Uny at Lelant may be the site of one of the earliest Christian sites in the country to have been in continuous use.
The middle pilgrimage route – from Perranporth to the Fal at Tregony, St Just or St Mawes – has not so far been worked out on the ground although we have hopes that someone will one day cover it. The Bissoe Trail (see below) can stand in for it.
The Saints’ Way – 30 miles: The most easterly route is the Saints’ Way which runs from Padstow to Fowey. This was worked out by historians and walkers a few years ago.
The Old St Ives Road/Tinners’ Way – unknown length: This was actually one of the most fun to walk as it is not signposted. Good map-reading skills and a love of gorse, marsh and mud are therefore required. But don’t let that put you off. It goes through some of the most ancient and evocative landscape in Cornwall. The route can link to the St Michael’s Way as well as St Ives.
There is some confusion about the name. The Coffin Path goes in the same east-west direction along the coastal farming belt half a mile from the sea. Some faded signposts even call this The Tinners’ Way and Oliver’s Cornwall picks up on this. The Old St Ives Road actually goes along some high ground about a mile south of this.
The Coffin Path: This is much shorter than the other walks mentioned here although it would once have been longer. Like the Tinners’ Way, it may once have stretched from St Ives as far as St Just. The difference between the two being that one goes along the high ground while the Coffin Path lies on farmland and joins up a series of farms.
It is well signed – with some very obvious black and white poles – and is very easy going across soft grass and over some lovely stiles.
The Copper trail: this is a 60 mile circular trail around Bodmin Moor invented and named by Mark Camp.
Mixed trails: Three mixed cycling/walking trails are well signposted and popular:
- The Bissoe Trail – a well-signed cycle/walking trail which goes from Point/Devoran to Portreath. In the absence of an obvious historic pilgrimage route from the Perranporth to the Fal, this can stand in
- The Camel Trail – another well-signed cycle/walking trail from Padstow to Bodmin, following the river. This may well be part of the original Saints’ Way
- The Great Flat Lode – a well-signed cycle/walking trail around the mining area to the south of Camborne/Redruth
Watch this space for more suggestions.