National Walking Month: our favourite wild swimming walks
To celebrate National Walking Month this May, we thought we’d share some of our favourite walks which combine stunning scenery with some of Cornwall’s most beautiful spots for a wild swim. At this time of the year, Cornwall is at its very best — the hedgerows are a riot of colour, the sea temperature has lost its bite and school holidays aren’t yet here, so the coast path and beaches are quiet – so pack your swimmers and head out on one of these wonderful wild swimming walks.
A ramble along the Helford River
Start with a drink at the popular Ferry Boat Inn in Helford Passage — a tiny fishing village on the banks of Helford River. It’s a beautiful creekside walk along the South West Coast Path to Grebe — the route passes botanical gardens, ancient woodland and dips down into tiny fishing coves, like pretty Durgan. On a hot summer’s day, Grebe looks and feels just like the Med, with its crystal clear, turquoise water and gently sloping beach backed by Scots Pine trees and ancient oaks. The perfect swimming spot.
St Agnes to Perranporth
This coastal walk takes you from the village of St Agnes on the north coast to the popular beach town of Perranporth, about four miles north. The beautiful undulating route, which is lined with heather and gorse in spring and summer, is dotted with fascinating ruins from Cornwall’s industrial past, including iconic engine houses and mining relics. Perranporth is a large sandy beach; at its centre sits Chapel Rock which, when the tide’s out, is a great spot for a post-walk dip.
Bude to Northcott Mouth
Passing the magnificent castle from the centre of Bude town, this 3-miler heads along Summerleaze beach, Crooklets beach and on towards Northcott Mouth further north. The route is mostly flat and the return to Bude is fairly quick and easy, along bridleways and through the town and following the River Neet to complete the circular route. Cool off with a dip in Bude Sea Pool on Summerleaze beach, Cornwall’s largest natural sea pool and free to use all year round.
The maritime town of Falmouth has some of our favourite beaches in the area, all within easy walking distance of the town’s centre, so the choice of wild swimming walks is endless. Starting in the bustling streets of the centre, we suggest heading past the National Maritime Museum towards the quiet wooded paths of Pendennis Point, home to the impressive Tudor fortress. From here follow the path along seafront and stop for a dip at Castle Beach — a great place for a swim, especially at high tide when you can enter the water down some stones steps. Grab a post-swim snack at the brilliant Castle Beach Cafe. From here you can continue to Gylly Beach, a little further along, and then onto Swanpool just outside the town (both also great places for a swim) before looping back to Falmouth centre.
Sennen Cove to Nanjizal
This circular wild swimming walk follows the coast path from Sennen Cove to Land’s End via the Caribbean-like waters of Nanjizal — a beautiful, secluded spot full of stone sculptures, caves and freshwater waterfalls. It’s not easy to find — it’s one of Cornwall’s best-kept secrets, after all — but well worth the effort to hunt it down. After a dip, rejoin the route and follow footpaths across valleys, fields and country lanes to return to Sennen Cove.
Port Gaverne to Barrett’s Zawn circular
This heart-thumper of a walk from the fishing village of Port Isaac via Port Gaverne follows the coast to Cartway Cove. The route hugs the coast along Bounds Cliff to the deep ravine at Ranie Point and on to Barrett’s Zawn, with spectacular views across the beautiful valley that drops to the gorgeous, craggy cove below (access is by sea only). The return stretch follows the valley inland to the farm at Hendra and returns to Port Gaverne where you can have a dip in the beautiful sheltered bay.
Kynance Cove to Cadgwith
This seven-mile circular walk along a wind-swept stretch of coastline between Cadgwith Cove and Lizard on the wild Lizard Peninsula leads you to the Devil’s Frying Pan, so-named because the water within the cave resembles an egg in a frying pan during rough weather. Swimming here out to it is a proper adventure and involves swimming under a rock arch into a huge, circular inland pool, surrounded by cliffs — best at high tide. Back in your walking boots, the steep slope brings you to the mainland’s most southerly spot, Lizard Point, surrounded by shallow reefs, before the route turns inland and brings you back to Cadgwith.