Lace-up your walking shoes and hike one of the most spectacular sections of the UK’s long-distance South West Coast Path on this adventurous 9-day self-guided itinerary. Starting on Cornwall’s south coast, you’ll trek east between the historic maritime centers of Falmouth and Plymouth, through a landscape of picturesque fishing villages, beautiful estuaries, and sandy beaches. Pass gorse-covered granite headlands, cut through wooded valleys, and skirt rocky coves. In between, discover bustling harbors and sleepy hamlets such as St Mawes with its Tudor castle, charming, unspoiled Portloe, and the elegant Georgian port of Charlestown.

Highlights

  • Stay in traditional Cornish fishing villages huddled around picturesque harbors
  • Climb sweeping peninsulas with far-ranging sea views
  • Travel by ferry across southern Cornwall's many beautiful estuaries
  • Visit the magical Lost Gardens of Heligan
  • Explore secluded beaches, hidden coves & magnificent clifftops

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Falmouth Falmouth
Day 2 Hike Falmouth to Portloe Portloe
Day 3 Hike Portloe to Mevagissey Mevagissey
Day 4 Hike Mevagissey to Charlestown Charlestown
Day 5 Hike Charlestown to Fowey Fowey
Day 6 Hike Fowey to Looe Looe
Day 7 Hike Looe to Crafthole Crafthole
Day 8 Hike Crafthole to Plymouth Plymouth
Day 9 Depart Plymouth  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Falmouth

Falmouth's beautiful 16th-century Pendennis Castle.
Falmouth's beautiful 16th-century Pendennis Castle.

Begin in the historic harbor town of Falmouth, where you’ll arrive and get settled at one of the welcoming guest houses close to the seafront. Falmouth is known for its deep natural harbor on the Fal Estuary, and the wide, sandy beaches of Swanpool and Gyllyngvase. Visit the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, with its interactive galleries and flotilla of model boats, or head up Pendennis Point, to the well-preserved 16th-century fortress of Pendennis Castle. Built during the rule of Henry VIII, it offers breathtaking views over Falmouth, the estuary, and out to sea. To the southwest, take a stroll through the lush subtropical plants and flowers of Trebah Gardens.

Day 2: Hike Falmouth to Portloe

View from the coastal path at St Anthony Head, with St Mawes in the distance.
View from the coastal path at St Anthony Head, with St Mawes in the distance.

Your hiking holiday starts with two ferry journeys, first across to St Mawes and then on to Place. Enjoy magnificent views back to Falmouth and the River Fal from the windswept stretches around Carricknath Point and St Anthony Head, as well as opportunities for bird-spotting from Zone Point and Nare Head. The coastal trail offers easy walking until the approach to Nare Head and Portloe, where the trek becomes more strenuous with several steep climbs and descents. After crossing the golden sands of Porthcurnick Beach, the path twists and turns through wooded areas and high open fields until your final descent into the quaint village of Portloe, your base for the night.

Walking distance: 13.5 miles (22km)

Day 3: Hike Portloe to Mevagissey

Mevagissey's colorful double-walled harbor.
Mevagissey's colorful double-walled harbor.

A challenging hike out of Portloe settles into gentle pastoral landscapes, before becoming rugged again on the ascent to the secluded sands of Hemmick Beach. From here, the path climbs to Dodman Point, where the views are unforgettable. On a clear day, see as far as Lizard Point in the west and Berry Head in the east. Take a break at the lovely sheltered beach at Porthluney Cove, which is clean and safe for swimming. The panoramas change along the trail as you alternate between wild scrub and soft pastures, and the path opens out on the approach to Chapel Point, where walking is easy with rewarding views in all directions. Your day ends in the busy old fishing port of Mevagissey, whose narrow streets were once the haunt of many a Cornish smuggler.

Walking distance: 12.5 miles (20 km)

Day 4: Hike Mevagissey to Charlestown

Sunrise over Pentewan Beach.
Sunrise over Pentewan Beach.

Today, you have a choice: take a break from the coastal path by taking an inland route along woodland footpaths via the beautiful Lost Gardens of Heligan, or continue along a section of the coastal trail between Mevagissey and Pentewan. Both options allow you to visit the famous white sands of Pentewan Beach. This section of the coastal path is a bit of a roller coaster, following high cliffs and rocky coves, producing dramatic scenery but also tiring walking. Rise and descend past Phoebe's Point and Silvermine Point to extensive views from the wind-swept promontory of Black Head. Your hike goes through the Cornwall Wildlife Trust Reserve woodland of Ropehaven Cliffs before descending to the historic harbor of Charlestown.

Should you opt for the gentler inland route, make sure to take the time to explore the magical Lost Gardens of Heligan in depth. The 200 acres of formal gardens, subtropical plant life, and ancient woodlands were part of a forgotten, overgrown estate that has been lovingly brought back to life to create one of the UK’s most remarkable natural wonders.

Walking distance: 7-8.5 miles (11-14 km)

Day 5: Hike Charlestown to Fowey

Bright sunshine over the seaside town of Fowey.
Bright sunshine over the seaside town of Fowey.

The leisurely start to today's hike runs along the coastline to Par, with its vast expanse of beach, and then on to Gribbin Head. Afterward, you'll follow the path along high cliffs—passing coves such as Coombe Hawne and Readymoney—and walking out to headlands with sweeping views. Your day ends at Fowey, which sits on a beautiful estuary of tidal creeks, full of fascinating birdlife such as herons, curlews, redshanks, and little egrets. 

Walking distance: 10.5 miles (17 km)

Day 6: Hike Fowey to Looe

A section of the South West Coastal Path near Looe.
A section of the South West Coastal Path near Looe.

Day six begins with a ferry across the Fowey Estuary to Polruan, with sweeping views up and down the estuary. Most of the next stretch from Polruan to Polperro and Looe is owned and protected by the National Trust. The hiking path climbs and zigzags over rugged cliffs and dips down to rocky coves, providing stunning scenery but strenuous walking! Treat yourself to a hearty fish dinner in Looe, a scenic working fishing port known for its fresh catches and excellent seafood. 

Walking distance: 12 miles (19 km)

Day 7: Hike Looe to Crafthole

Remains of historic harbor walls near Portwrinkle.
Remains of historic harbor walls near Portwrinkle.

Pass through the holiday village of Millendreath today and onto Bodigga Cliffs, where the views open to Rame Head. The path twists and climbs to heights with spectacular sea vantages as you approach Battern Cliffs, one of the highest points on the south coast of Cornwall at 462 feet (141 m) above sea level. From here, there's fantastic cliff walking to the fishing village of Portwrinkle, enjoying views of the 4-mile long expanse of Whitsand Bay along the way. 

Walking distance: 8.5 miles (14 km) 

 

Day 8: Hike Crafthole to Plymouth

Plymouth's bustling harbor.
Plymouth's bustling harbor.

Your last stretch of the coastal path follows the cliffs of Freathy to the promontory of Rame Head. As you reach Penlee Point, the trail becomes quite wild in appearance, but this soon changes as you go through sheltered woodland to reach the villages of Cawsand and Kingsand. After Cawsand Bay, pass through Mount Edgcumbe Country Park with its lovely views of Plymouth Sound. A short ferry trip takes you into lively Plymouth, where you can put your feet up and celebrate your completed journey with a well-earned Cornish cream tea.

Walking distance: 13.5-15 miles (22-24 km)

Day 9: Depart Plymouth

Historic fishing cottages along Plymouth's harbor.
Historic fishing cottages along Plymouth's harbor.

Bid the beautiful south coast of England farewell as your hiking holiday in Cornwall comes to an end. After breakfast, explore historic Plymouth before catching your onward train.

Map

Map of Hike the South Cornwall Coast - 9 Days
Map of Hike the South Cornwall Coast - 9 Days