Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Walking and cycling in north Cornwall… Where to even begin? This stretch of Cornwall is ripe for exploring, its rugged coastline and dramatic seascapes putting on grand displays in all weather, making it a dream come true for anybody hoping to really get stuck in to the great outdoors.
On two wheels, the obvious place to start is the Camel Trail, available year round and winding through some of the county’s most beautiful yet little-known pockets of countryside. Running 17.5 miles from Padstow, via Wadebridge and Bodmin, to Wenford Bridge, the trail navigates the wooded countryside of the upper Camel Valley, alongside the shimmering Camel Estuary, and therefore opens up trail-blazers to a world of local wildlife, from land-dwelling critters hiding in the woods, to a plethora of marine birds lining the shores of the estuary. You can choose to take on as much or as little of the trail as you like, and if you don’t fancy loading up all of your bikes for the journey down, fear not! Padstow and Wadebridge are both home to a number of bicycle hire shops, with a variety of options to suit all ages and abilities. What’s more, the towns are home to a fantastic array of independent restaurants and cafés too, so you needn’t worry about carrying a picnic. To find out more about the trail, visit cornwall.gov.uk/cameltrail. To hire your bikes, options include Padstow Cycle Hire and Trail Bike Hire in Padstow, as well as Bridge Bike Hire , Camel Trail Cycle Hire, Bike Smart Cycle Hire, and Go By Cycle in Wadebridge.
For those heading to Cornwall with their bikes loaded and ready to roll out, there are some other fantastic routes that come highly recommended. Bude to Week St Mary, for example, is a circular route of approximately 15 miles. Full of historical interest, with rolling wooded hills, Bude canal and the gorgeous local coastline, this will take around three hours – a wonderful way to introduce yourself to the area surrounding your base here at Elite West.
For avid cyclists who are unafraid of a challenge, even on holiday, then perhaps a trip across the border is in order? Striking out from Bude and taking between four and seven hours, dedicated cyclists will love peddling the 39.5 miles along the coast road via Widemouth Bay, before travelling four miles into Devon to the Saxon market town of Holsworthy. From here, tranquil country lanes direct you once more towards the sea as you make the return journey home to Bude.
If these are perhaps too much for your little ones, then the Great Flat Lode trail could well be for you. A 7.5 mile circular trail in the heart of mining country, the Great Flat Lode centres on the impressive – and locally iconic – hill of Carn Brea. The trail is named after the ore vein that was once at the centre of tin mining activity in the historic Camborne-Redruth mining district, and there are information boards at the mining sites close to the trail, providing eager learners plenty of information on the history and working of the local mines which were once famous for their tin and copper production. For more history, a trip to the local King Edward Mine Museum is a must. Here, you can experience Cornish mining heritage at the site’s former working mine, stepping back in time to discover the industrial history that, quite literally, helped to shape the local landscape. Feeling peckish? If so, you’ll find The Croust Hut on site, perfect for satisfying sharp appetites with freshly cooked Cornish ingredients, with regularly changing menus that locals can’t stop raving about!
Another family favourite are the Pentewan Leisure Trails, which run for 2.5 miles along the Woodland Trust Land near Pentewan, as well as those in Tehidy Country Park near Camborne, where you’ll find more than 200 acres and nine miles of enjoyment for the whole family, with lakes and magical woodlands to explore.
Other top trails include the Coast to Coast Trail, which links the harbour town of Portreath on the north coast, to that of Devoran on Restronguet Creek, to the south. Approximately 11 miles, this promises you a tour of one of Cornwall’s famous historic mining districts, once at the heart of Cornwall’s 19th century copper production. You’ll also find that a 4.5 mile pedal through the Tamar Valley does not disappoint, allowing cyclists to enjoy amazing views in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or why not take on the full Cornish experience with the St Piran’s Trail? From Truro, this passes ornate villages along country roads to Newquay, before heading towards the renowned fishing port of Padstow, with its famed celebrity owned restaurants and eclectic mix of independent shops and galleries.
There are also the Clay Trails (claytrails.co.uk), consisting of three separate routes and ideally situated for the Eden Project and The Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum. Together, the trails connect St Austell and Par, again taking in some incredible landscapes along the way. And finally, for those really looking to explore every inch of the county, then a trip to the reaches of the Penwith peninsula should certainly be in their itinerary! Here, The First and Last Trail starts in Land’s End, passing through the Cornish fishing villages of Sennen, Lamorna and Mousehole. Perfect for taking in a number of tourist attractions, including Newlyn Art Gallery and St Michael’s Mount at Marazion, The First and Last Trail rarely fails to live up to its description as ‘a jewel in the crown of the Cornish way’!
Of course, two wheels aren’t for everybody. For those who prefer instead to lace up their boots and walk, Cornwall once again promises to spoil for choice. Indeed, you need only visit the National Trust website to find a whole host of routes, from long walks that will take a day, to short family friendly routes that area ideal for adventurous kids.
A great example is the ‘Crackington cracker walk’ – a three-mile, dog-friendly route that leads you from Crackington Haven’s sandy beach, to the magnificent vistas of Cambeak Headland and the dramatic coastline beyond. A circular route, the return journey is taken via the sheltered woodlands of Ludon Valley. Along the way, kids and adults alike will revel in discovering intriguing rock formations and a varied mix of wildlife.
But the National Trust isn’t the only place you’re likely to find inspiration for walks by the sea. The South West Coast Path is Enlgland’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath, and a National Trail at that. Stretching for 630 miles, running from Minehead in Somerset, all the way around the coasts of Devon and Cornwall to Poole Harbour in Dorset, a leisurely walker would take seven to eight weeks to walk the entire route. However, most favour to take on the trail one bite at a time, and from your base in Bude, there are miles and miles of it in either direction for you to explore. So why not choose a fine sunny day, pack yourselves a picnic and head out?
Whether it’s coast or countryside you want to immerse yourself in, and be that one two wheels or two feet, the north Cornish coast – and, indeed, Cornwall as a whole – is replete with superb routes and trails. However you like to explore, be it picking your way long the well-beaten track, or blazing your own trail, discovering hidden gems and tranquil picnic spots along the way, you needn’t go far here in Cornwall to satisfy the whims of even the most avid adventurer.