Best autumn walks in Cornwall
With summer behind us, it’s hard not to get excited about the onset of autumn – of crisp, golden days, quiet beaches and the smell of woodsmoke wafting from your favourite pub at the end of the long walk. What better way to celebrate the arrival of the new season than wrapping up and heading out for a good stomp. Here’s a round-up of walks where you can catch Cornwall’s landscapes in all their autumn glory.
Best for…little legs — Woodland walks at Trelissick Garden
This gentle 3-mile circular walk at Trelissick is a good option for little leaf kickers thanks to its well-marked, level paths. From the car park at Trelissick (£4 for non-members), follow the signs for ‘Woodland Walks’. The family-friendly trail winds through oak woodland, hugging the upper reaches of the River Fal and giving glimpses of the river as you go, and on to the King Harry Ferry. From here you can hop across to the Roseland Peninsula, St Mawes, or Falmouth. Alternatively, extend the walk and make a detour into the dog-friendly National Trust gardens (admissions charges apply).
Dog owners hail the beginning of autumn, when restrictions on many of the region’s most popular beaches come to an end. From 1st October, you can let your four-legged friend loose on beaches up and down the county, including Carbis Bay and St Ives, Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth, Polzeath, Porthtowan, Sennen and Trevone.
See our round-up of beaches in Cornwall that are dog-friendly all year round
Celebrate the season of mellow fruitfulness by foraging along quiet lanes, shorelines and on clifftops. September heralds the start of the harvest season so grab your trug and scour hedgerows for blackberries, sloes and sweet chestnuts, gather seaweed, mussels and sea kale from shorelines and pick your way over clifftops to pick the much-celebrated rock samphire. Some our of favourite beaches for gathering wild edibles are Crantock near Newquay and Godrevy (mussels are particularly good on the north coast). Remember to always forage responsibly and sustainably — only gather where there is a plentiful supply and don’t pick it if you can’t identify it.
Best for…wildlife spotting — Hell’s Mouth to Godrevy via Mutton Cove
When it comes to local wildlife, none scores higher for cuteness than seal pups. Mutton Cove in Godrevy is one of the best places to see grey seals — numbers begin to increase gradually throughout autumn before the pups arrive later in the season. This five-mile route starts at Hell’s Mouth and follows the cliffs past a series of coves to Mutton Cove, where it’s not uncommon to see 100 seals lolloping around on the sand below. Tear yourself away to continue the walk, which rounds Godrevy Head where you’re treated to amazing views of the lighthouse.
Best for…stormy seas, smugglers’ coves and shipwrecks — Seven Bays
Pick a blustery day and feel the full force of the Atlantic on this 8-mile cove-hopping trek along one of Cornwall’s most popular stretches of coast. Starting at Porthcothan beach (leave the car at Harlyn Bay and get the direct bus to Porthcothan), the route wriggles in and out of a string of small sandy inlets up to Constantine Bay, before continuing to Booby’s Bay — watch out for the shipwreck in the sand below, visible at low tide – before rounding the headland at Trevose Head and on to Harlyn.
Best for…foodies — Port Isaac and Port Gaverne
Kick the day off with breakfast (a full Cornish, naturally) at Chapel Cafe in Port Isaac. With a full belly, meander through the town and along the coastal path (shop, swim, sunbathe) to neighbouring Port Gaverne for lunch at the Pilchards Cafe, which serves delicious tapas and flatbreads on its pretty terrace just metres from the sandy beach. From here the route climbs up through the valley behind Port Gaverne — you can easily extend the route here to make a six-mile circular — before descending back into Port Isaac for dinner. You can’t beat the Michelin-starred Nathan Outlaw restaurants — choose from Fish Kitchen or New Road at the top of town — or the dog-friendly Angry Anchovy for something a little simpler.
Best for…fiery autumn colours — The Helford River
The Helford is one of the few places in England where woodland meets the sea, which means, come autumn, you’ll be treated to coastal views and golden hues as you crunch your way through the oak woodland that lines the river. The area is crisscrossed with footpaths, lanes, bridleways and coastal paths so you can pick a starting point and make up your own route, but one of our favourites is from Bosveal (parking in the National Trust car park) and heading west to the pretty creekside hamlet of Durgan and on to Helford Passage for a well earned drink at the Ferryboat Inn on the quayside. The route then heads inland skirting around Trebah Gardens, before looping back to Bosveal via wooded footpaths.
Best for…dramatic views — Lizard Point
This is the UK’s most southerly walk, an easy, one-mile amble that starts from the historic Lizard Lighthouse (now a fascinating visitor centre) and follows the path down to Lizard Point before heading west along the coast path towards Old Lizard Head, with great views up the coast towards Kynance Cove. Look out for seals and the Cornish chough, the iconic red-billed bird that inhabits these coastal slopes. The climb down to the burial site of Pistil Meadow is an interesting detour — hundreds of soldiers were buried here after a shipwreck in the early 18th century. From here, the route does a short loop round the field before rejoining the coastal path back towards Lizard Point.
Best for…a gentle jaunt — Degibna Wood
Just south of Porthleven is Loe Pool, separated from the sea by Loe an expanse of water which originally formed an estuary to the sea but a barrier of sediments caused by local tin processing had accumulated across the mouth of the estuary by the 13th century, trapping the estuary behind it and transforming the area into a wetland and Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake. It’s home to a huge range of wildfowl, including coots, teals, cormorants and herons — ospreys have even been recorded here. You can do an easy loop around the woods to take in the views, or extend the walk down to Loe Bar or, if you’ve got more time, to Porthleven further along the coast. Park in the National Trust car park opposite Degibna Chapel and walk either way around Loe Pool.