Monday, 22 June 2020

St. Ives to Zennor: one of the classic Cornish coastal path walks

Hiking the rugged North Cornwall coastal path is not too easy at the moment. The paths are very narrow, and social distancing means that meeting other walkers may lead to a rather rapid descent down the shear 200 foot cliffs.
So, as a diversion from the gloom of Coronavirus, I would like to share our experiences of what is regarded as one of the most rugged, beautiful and remote stretches of the whole of the South West Way, the 6 and a half mile hike between the often crowded holiday town of St. Ives, through an ancient bronze-age landscape to the small village of Zennor. This stretch is graded as severe, but if you are an experienced hiker, and have time for only one walk in West Cornwall, this might be the one.
Barbara and I have done this strenuous walk twice, in 2005 and then two years later with my sister, Pat, and her husband Bill. Although a relatively short walk, it is awkward underfoot, extremely undulating, and boggy at times, so I would recommend that you allow 4 hours, and use the bus service between St. Ives and Zennor rather than make what would be a very tiring return journey on foot.
About to leave St. Ives
St. Ives is one of the most popular tourist towns in Cornwall, and leaving Porthmeor beach the coastal path is initially a gentle stroll on bouncy turf, deceptive as soon those out for a gentle walk are left behind and we enter the rugged cliff-top scenery for which Cornwall is famous.
Leaving St. Ives with Porthmeor beach in the background
The very rugged cliff-top scenery
The unpredictable weather
Seals can often be seen on The Carracks reef
At the beautiful Zennor Head, there are views of the distinctive rocky spine of Gurnard's Head, the promontory whose profile looks remarkably like the fish after which it is named.
Taking a breather at Zennor Head
Distant Gurnard's Head from Zennor Head
From Zennor Head, the little village of Zennor is a short distance away, with its very welcoming Tinners Arms, the end of a memorable but demanding few hours.
Welcome refreshments in Zennor


  1. Great walking paths around Cornwall - coastal & interior. I look forward to visiting again one day! Until then, thanks for the pictures.

  2. I had a great aunt who lived in a cottage in Zennor. We stayed with her on our first family holiday to Cornwall in 1967. I remember because we still have the cine film! Then later in the summer of 1978 I was doing student vac work at Geevor tin mine. We used to stop off at the Tinners Arms for a quick one on our way to the bright lights of St Ives.

    1. Not a bad place to do your vacation work! May have seen you as I visited Geevor many times during the late 70s, particularly with students

  3. My old coastguard rescue patch. One of the most beautiful places on Earth (..well to a St.Ives boy anyway). I was a search and rescue officer on that stretch for 7 years and always felt blessed to be able to work in that amazing landscape. I would recommend that walk to anyone visiting cornwall and perhaps continuing West (if you have the energy) to the coast of the St.Just mining district - so much history!
    Luke Rogers, St. Ives, UK

  4. Yes I agree, Luke, west of Zennor should not be missed, particularly the submarine mines stretch between Pendeen and Cape Cornwall

  5. Great stretch of coast Barry - grew up in St. Just & Pendeen, very lucky to have it all on our doorstep. There is a route over the moors from Pendeen to St. Ives as well that's doable in a day!
    Chris Savery, Kamoto Copper Company, Democratic Republic of the Congo

  6. Best coastal walk around; pity the Tinners Arms is not open yet!!
    Tony Batchelor, GeoSience Ltd, Cornwall

    1. As soon as it is we will be doing Levant to Zennor- the only bit I haven't done

  7. An area much frequented while at CSM for the geology, trevalganite, granite intrusions and the historic climbing venue of Wicca Pillar and the magnificent routes at Zennor Zawn. Your walks bring back great memories, if only the digital camera had been around back in the ‘60’s!

    1. Pleased you enjoy the walks Stephen. Hope to have more in the next few weeks, mostly in true Blue Peter fashion- those we did earlier!


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