When it comes to walking, it’s hard to find a place more magical than St Ives. With miles of coastal paths and inland routes, stunning natural scenery and an almost ethereal quality of light that has attracted artists for centuries, it’s simply one of a kind.
So, where should you go for the best walks during your holiday in St Ives? Whether you are staying in the area for the first time or the fifteenth time, there are countless routes for you to choose from that cater for all interests and abilities – should you be up for a leisurely ramble with the family, a fast-paced hike or a peaceful stroll for solo reflection.
To get you started, we’ve picked out some of our favourite walks in and around St Ives.
St Ives to Zennor Walk
The walk from St Ives to Zennor is one of the most beautiful in the county – and we’re not exaggerating. At just over 6 miles long, it begins at Porthmeor Beach in St Ives and follows the sweeping curves of mighty headlands, the shoulders of secret coves and the fringes of cliffs that careen down to the sea, eventually finishing at Zennor. Ideal for those looking for a challenging route that can still be completed within a day, it requires a good level of fitness and features a number of steep ascents and descents.
Starting near Porthmeor’s famous Man’s Head Rock (so-called for its resemblance to, yes, a person’s head from a certain angle), you’ll soon be able to pick up the South West Coast Path and head around Clodgy Point. Particular highlights to look out for en route are the views of St Ives from Pen Enys Point, the Merry Harvesters Stone Circle near Carn Naun, and Seal Island, a small inshore island 3.5 miles west of St Ives. As well as seabirds, you might also be lucky enough to spot seals, dolphins and even basking sharks from the cliffs as you go. Upon arrival at Zennor, if you want to prolong your walk, you can actually continue with the St Ives to Gurnard's Head walk by soldiering on for another 2 miles from Zennor.
St Ives to Carbis Bay Walk
If you are looking for a gentle stroll that is suitable for all the family, then the walk from St Ives town to Carbis Bay will pique your interest. Between 1.5 and 2 miles long (depending on where you start in the town), this linear walk affords absolutely stunning views over what is arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in St Ives and even the UK: Carbis. While it’s not too challenging, a good chunk of this walk is along the South West Coast Path, so you’ll still need reasonable mobility and a decent pair of walking shoes – especially in the winter months when the paths become muddy and slippery.
Once you’ve made your way out past the town’s thriving centre and glorious beaches, simply follow the South West Coast Path and keep the sea on your left. Eventually, you’ll glimpse the silhouette of Godrevy Lighthouse in the distance and, before you know it, the white sands of Carbis Bay will spread out before you. On the beach, there are plenty of facilities, including eateries, toilets and equipment hire – so we definitely recommend staying a while. Not that we’ll have to twist your arm too much. When you’re ready to head back, you can venture back the way you came to relish a different perspective of the superb vistas.
St Ives to Lelant Walk
The walk from St Ives to Lelant is an extension of the St Ives to Carbis Bay route and is a popular option amongst four-legged ramblers. At 4.5 miles long, it lends itself perfectly for leisurely hours breezing along the coast and can be enjoyed whatever the season (although not when it’s too hot for pups). Best of all, as both the start and end points of this walk are at train stations, you can treat yourself to a scenic return via rail on the way back. While this route does have some moderately steep gradients, it’s not considered overly demanding.
Commencing your jaunt at the St Ives railway station, you can follow the South West Coast Path all the way to Carbis Bay, before continuing onwards and arriving at Porthkidney Sands. One of the best dog-friendly beaches in Cornwall, Porthkidney Sands welcomes waggy-tailed chums all year-round, with no restrictions to spoil the fun. Naturally, a pitstop here provides the perfect opportunity for a picnic and play in the sea – although there aren’t any facilities on this side of the estuary. From Porthkidney beach, you can cross a footbridge across the railway line and wander up past St Uny’s Church (this is set within a golf course, so watch out for rogue golf balls). From here, the train station is just a short stroll away.
St Ives to Hayle Walk
Should you have already completed the St Ives to Carbis Bay and Lelant walks and are looking for your next challenge, then you can head even further up the coast with the beautiful walk from St Ives to the seaside town of Hayle. Leading you past Carbis Bay, Lelant and around the Hayle Estuary (an RSPB Nature Reserve), you can roam for 6 miles past some of the most beautiful landscapes and wildlife-rich habitats in the county. For convenience, to round off the journey you can either hop on a bus to St Ives from Hayle or double-back on yourself for 2 miles and catch a train from Lelant.
Graded ‘moderate’ by the official South West Coast Path guide, this walk shouldn’t be too much trouble for those with good levels of fitness – although a little bit of leg pumping should be expected, as with all coast path walks. Catering for all interests, it provides the opportunity for sun-bathing on sandy beaches, wildlife-watching at the Hayle Estuary and even a bit of retail therapy and wining and dining upon arrival in Hayle itself. As this route leads you along the Hayle Estuary Nature Reserve, we particularly recommend that you take a good pair of binoculars with you and look out for the resident and visiting bird species who can be spotted in the area.
Rosewall Hill Walk, St Ives
For a slightly different walk near St Ives, the 227-meter Rosewall Hill climb steals you from the town’s glistening waterfronts and leads you up to one of the area’s highest points. The reward? Jaw-dropping views of country and coast. To get there, you can simply drive or walk the 1.5 miles from St Ives to the small National Trust-run car park at the base of Rosewall Hill. Here, a large National Trust information board provides a scaled map, some details about the route and a brief bit of history about the area’s mining heritage – an industry which is still etched into the county’s landscapes today in the shape of crumbling chimneys and old mineshafts.
Once you’ve laced up your boots, head out of the car park and head through a stile. One of the best features of the route, you can almost immediately enjoy far-reaching views as you walk uphill. In fact, on a clear day, these views can extend as far as Trendrine Hill, St Ives Bay, Godrevy Lighthouse and Mount’s Bay. That said, the most magnificent panoramas are definitely from the top, so save your photographs for there. On your way, you’ll stroll past a disused tin mining chimney which dates back to the early 1800s and also be able to look down upon the picturesque Bussow Reservoir below.
St Ives Town Trail and Surrounds
This 3-mile circular hike initially heads in the same direction as the St Ives to Zennor walk, but eventually cuts back inland to create a satisfying loop. Not overly strenuous, it can be easily completed within a morning or afternoon and doesn’t include any major challenges. What’s more, while the beaches around St Ives may get busy in summer, the footpaths around the coast, and certainly in the countryside, are never too crowded and are especially quiet in the shoulder months. As you would expect, there are no facilities once you leave the town, so we recommended taking a picnic to enjoy along the way, with plenty of water and pocket treats.
To begin, follow the South West Coast Path out of St Ives (the last chance for supplies) towards Zennor, until you reach Hor Point and Hellesveor Cliffs. These are marked by a National Trust signpost and are easy enough to spot. At this point, take a minute to admire the views across the coast before taking the track inland again. After just 300 yards or so, you can turn left over a style, marked with a black and white post, and follow the path back to St Ives. Eventually you’ll pop back out onto Porthmeor Hill, just a stone’s throw from many of our cottages in St Ives.
The perfect way for you to escape the bustle of the town for a while is the St Ives to Knill's Monument and Steeple Woods walk. If you start near Leach Pottery in St Ives, then the walk up to Knill's Monument is around 1.5 miles long, but you should allow for plenty of time to wander around once you get there (and, of course, the 1.5-mile return route). While it’s not overly challenging, the nature of this route means there are plenty of steep sections and consequently walkers should be prepared for a bit of exertion on the way up, as well as some nice downhill sections on the way back.
Steppe Lane will take you directly towards the monument. At the top of the road, you will see an information board about the monument, which stands on Worvas Hill, and the surrounding reserve. At over 200 years old, the Grade II* listed Knill’s Monument is a 50-foot-high granite obelisk at the centre of many local traditions. It was commissioned by an eccentric loyal mayor, John Knill. In an ironic twist of fate, Knill wanted the monument to become his mausoleum, but upon his death he was actually buried in London. Once you’ve visited the monument, you should then explore the woods and heathland of the surrounding 40-acre Steeple Woodland Nature Reserve, a haven for local flora and fauna.
St Michael’s Way
As well as St Ives walks, there are lots of other tracks and trails in the surrounding area that will tempt all generations of walkers. One particularly popular route amongst seasoned hikers is the St Michael’s Way, a 12-mile stretch that runs from Lelant, along Carbis Bay and onto St Michael’s Mount. Part of an extensive network of routes weaving across Europe to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, this route is actually part of the famous Camino Trail and has been followed by pilgrims and missionaries for centuries.
Whether you want to begin at the official start point in Lelant or pick up the route at Carbis Bay, this is a great walk for those looking for more of a challenge. It’s marked by signposts decorated with scallop shell symbols, the Council of Europe’s sign for pilgrim routes, and is relatively straightforward to follow. Cutting across the peninsula, it takes you up towards Trencrom Hill (you can hike this for exceptional views), past large standing stones at Beersheba, into the Red River Valley and through stunning countryside. Of course, one of the real highlights of St Michael’s Way is the views of the glorious St Michael’s Mount as you reach your final destination.
For more inspiration and insider tips about the most incredible walks around the county, you can use our guide to the best walks in Cornwall. From the wind-scoured reaches of the most southerly point to the wave-pounded beaches of the north, there’s sure to be something for you. And, for the most luxurious base to start and end each day of exploring, you can look through our portfolio of holiday cottages in Cornwall that are ready and waiting for you.