Get off the beaten track in Cornwall and explore some hidden gems.
Cornwall offers an escape like no other. We are famous for our seaside breaks, stunning countryside and our ancient woods, but we also have some hidden gems and curios up our sleeves. This winter is the perfect time to seek out something unusual on a bracing stomp through the countryside. We’ve chosen a few forts, follies and monuments for you to discover on your Cornish walking getaway.
The Lost Church - Perranporth
A lovely easy winter ramble, our first walk and curio takes you to the heart of Cornish history itself. Stride out across the Perranporth dunes to follow in the footsteps of our patron saint St Piran. The fifth century missionary St Piran is said to have washed up on our shores, clinging to a millstone having been banished from Ireland. This walk visits the site of his oratory as well as other holy spots associated with the saint.
As this is a dune walk, there are only a few inclines and the ground is mainly sandy as many people follow this pilgrim route each year. Starting from the road, and the bus stop at Perran Sands, the route takes you to the marked site of the now buried church (which was engulfed by sand) as well as past information boards, celtic crosses and an abundance of wildlife. This area is now regarded as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Along with stunning views of the coast, the walk concludes facing Chapel Rock, the place where St Piran built his church. It was last sighted in the 17th century but has long since been eroded by the sea.
Distance 3.7 mile
Stepper Point Lookout, Padstow
Stood proudly on the horizon is Stepper Point - a stone lookout offering far-reaching views to the sea, protecting ships in the mouth of the River Camel and the Doom Bar from the lures of rocks, wreckers and mermaids.
This exhilarating walk along the South West Coast Path is punctuated by the stone outlook - or ‘daymark’ as it is known. The point now serves as a navigation beacon for the seafarers during the day, of which there are many taking sightseeing tours from nearby Padstow.
The path along the cliffs starts in Padstow and follows a fairly easy route to Stepper Point where walkers on holiday can take in the true grandeur of the Cornish coast. Armed with your stout walking boots and maybe a cheeky flask of tea, this walk remains suitable for moderate walkers but does encounter some rougher parts.
Distance 6 miles
Doyden Castle, Port Quin
The next stop on our walking tour of curious places is Doyden Castle. Built as a gambling den in 1830 for Samuel Symons, an infamous bon-viveur, the tiny fortress is now owned by the National Trust. Perched on the edge of the cliffs and the South West Coast Path, the little castle found fame in the 70s as Dr Ennys’ house in the original Poldark series.
This is a strenuous walk due to its uneven ground, undulating paths and stone styles that pass close to unfenced coast, but the views are your reward.
The route takes you along the headland of Port Quin, Pine Haven and Lobber Point, with its dramatic jewel-coloured seas, swooping seabirds and sheltered inlets (ideal for fishing). Its winding and rambling path leads you down to Port Isaac, another one of Cornwall’s fantastic fishing villages with its own famous residents - the Fisherman’s Friends. The route back is gentler, through farmland and woodland making this a rewarding circular route.
Distance 4.8 miles
Luxulyan Valley, St Austell
A short drive from Sands Resort is the industrial town of St Austell. It’s a town marked and scarred by its China Clay past and home to both, the Eden Project and Charlestown Harbour. Deep within the centre of this area is the lush and stunningly beautiful Luxulyan Valley.
This next circular walk takes in some of the productive past including Cornwall’s first stone viaduct, built in 1839. Its construction was a marvel of the age at over 27 metres high, 200 metres long, with 10 giant stone arches. It’s easy to see why it was lauded as an engineering masterpiece. To add to its attraction, it also could double as an aqueduct!
Parking at Black Hill, this moderate walk requires good walking boots due to being rough under foot and occasional steep and unsteady inclines. The walk takes you up and across the magnificent Treffry Viaduct, then follows a route that horse-drawn carts would have trod in times gone by. It also takes in the wheel pit where a 30ft waterwheel once hauled wagons up the incline and lead before taking a path through Carmears Wood to join the Velvet Path. With the crisp winter breezes and beautiful scents of winter it’s a perfect time to visit.
Distance 3.4 Miles
Dennis Hill Obelisk, near Padstow
Stop many a local and ask them if they’ve visited the stately obelisk that is visible from the nearby A30, arterial heart of Cornwall and most will say no. It seems an elusive destination that most intend to visit, but never seem to get around to. The easy and feature-strewn walk starts in the bustling and busy port of Padstow.
It then follows a gentle 45-minute ramble along the harbour, passing the famous Lobster Hatchery touching onto the Camel Trail before heading along the Saints Way. Although this route is suitable for dogs and children (as with all walks in Cornwall) you have to be mindful of wildlife, and on this trail it’s the passing sheep who have right of way.
The views from the obelisk are exceptional, especially on a fine day or when the sun is setting - why not make it a picnic stop? So, why does Cornwall have this massive monument? Well, it was erected in 1889 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee of 1887 - so now when you spot it on the route into Cornwall you can raise a little salute.
Distance: Just over 1 mile.
For further ideas for day trips, see our 'things to do in Cornwall' pages.