Being a well-known holiday destination in the UK, Cornwall is always chockablock full during summer. This can lead to busy hiking trails, which can take the enjoyment and calmness out of your hiking experience in Cornwall. The solution is simple, head to Cornwall for a hiking trip in winter. If you can catch a break with the weather, you can expect spectacular hiking trails without the crowds.
Of course, a downside to any hiking trip during winter in the UK is the shorter days. It means you’ll be hiking from sun-up to sun-down to squeeze in a long day hike or multiple trails. Despite only having one day in Cornwall, we were able to squeeze in the two best hikes in Cornwall into that one day; Zennor to St Ives in the morning and the Lizard Coastal Walk in the afternoon.
In this guide, we’ll detail how to fit these two awesome winter walks into one full day of hiking. We’ll discuss the logistics, provide GPS-guided trail maps and show you photos of these two incredible Cornwall hikes.
If you’re not convinced about hiking in Cornwall during winter, check out our YouTube production below. This video shows off the Zennor to St Ives and Lizard Coastal Walk trails, completed in one epic day during winter. We’ve also included aerial footage of St Michaels Mount, which can be visited in between these trails (time allowing).
For other hiking adventures in the UK, check out our NC500, Brecon Beacons and Flamborough Head to Bempton Cliffs hiking guides.
Cornwall Winter’s Day Hiking Guide
With so much outstanding coastline, Cornwall has many brilliant coastal walks to choose from. For instance, there are numerous sections of the South-West Coastal Path worthy of a day hike.
With only one short winter’s day to experience the best hiking in Cornwall, it can be difficult to choose which trail or trails to prioritise. Given that most of the coastal walks are one-way trails, that presents another logistical issue with trying to fit in more than one hike into your day. But, by hiking Zennor to St Ives and the Lizard Coastal Walk, you’ll be able to fit the best hikes in Cornwall into one awesome winter’s day. This is made possible by Go Cornwall Buses.
The Plan: You’ll park in Cornwall, and then catch the earliest 16A bus from St Ives to Zennor. In mid-December 2021, the earliest bus was around 8:30am, but click here for the latest timetable. The bus takes around half an hour, which means you’ll start the hike around 9am.
With a decent hiking speed, you should finish the Zennor to St Ives hike by around midday. You’ll then drive about an hour to get to Lizard to complete the Lizard Coastal Walk, finishing around sunset (somewhere between 4 and 5pm). Thankfully, the Lizard Coastal Walk is a loop, so it’s a great option as your second and final hike for the day.
By following this itinerary, you’ll experience golden hours for sunrise and sunset during both hikes, making the best winter walks in Cornwall even better.
1. Zennor to St Ives
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 11.3km
- Time: 3.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 372m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Zennor Bus Stop
Travel Made Me Do It have personally rated this trail
The Zennor to St Ives trail is perhaps the best winter walk in Cornwall.
From Zennor Bus Stop, you’ll walk through the small, quaint and sleepy town of Zennor. Soon enough, you’ll arrive at the South-West Coastal Path. There, you’ll find a National Trust signpost and your first sweeping views of the incredible coastline surrounding Zennor.
This is an epic place to take in the golden hour, which is made possible by the late sunrise in winter. After passing a cool rock-stack formation and more glorious coastal views, the trail takes a north-easterly direction away from Zennor and its surrounding coastline.
Afterwards, you’ll reach Wicca Pool. This part of the coast is mostly formed by granite boulders. There’s also an epic series of cascades, hurdling down into the ocean.
We didn’t get any close-up photos of the waterfall, but we did get some great video footage! Check out our YouTube video at 2:02 to see this awesome waterfall. The Wicca Pool area is definitely one of the major attractions of the Zennor to St Ives trail.
As you continue along the coastal path, expect mind-blowing views at every twist and turn. The trail can be moderately steep, rough and slippery in sections, so take care.
Nearing the end of this mesmerising coastal walk, you’ll see Porthmeor Beach along the coast and the outstanding St Ives headland. Before reaching St Ives, you’ll pass Man’s Head, which has a fascinating WWII pillbox to explore. You’ll then walk through the famous Cornish seaside town of St Ives to complete the walk.
It’s now time to jump in the car and head to Lizard for your second winter walk of the day.
2. Modified Lizard Coastal Walk
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 8.2km
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 250m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Lizard
We slightly modified the ending of the Lizard Coastal Walk. Please visit the National Trust website for the full 11.2km trail.
Starting in Lizard, you’ll soon swap road walking for a dirt trail, leading you by farmland. After roughly 2km, you’ll reach the stunning coastline and catch a first glimpse of the phenomenal Kynance Cove. Coined as Britain’s best beach, Kynance Cove is surrounded by amazing sea stacks and beautifully rugged coast.
By following the coast further north, it’s possible to access some epic narrow headlands jutting out from the coast. We also recommend making your way down onto the beach (tide permitting) and exploring the caves and sea stacks that make Kynance Cove truly extraordinary.
Once you’ve checked out this wonderful cove, you’ll briefly retrace your steps and then head further south along the coast. There is an easily distinguishable coastal trail that continuously provides stellar views of the glorious Lizard Peninsula. If you’re battling to complete this trail before sunset, this is a good time to speed hike!
What is speed hiking? Simply, it’s taking your hiking speed up a notch. This is useful to do during the UK winter when trying to squeeze multiple trails into a day. Speed hiking also has the benefit of keeping you warm when the UK winter weather bites.
After a spell of speed hiking, and negotiating the undulating trail, you’ll wind around Lizard Point, which is the most southerly point of mainland Britain!
Modified Lizard Coastal Walk Trail Option
Once you’ve passed Lizard Point, continue east along the peninsula. If you have enough time, make sure to continue all the way to the serene Church Bay. However, if you’re running short of daylight, we have a solution for you! It’s possible to shorten this walk by returning to Lizard via a dirt trail leading away from Housel Bay. In its own right, Housel Bay is a lovely spot to take in the golden hour of sunset. Plus, you’ll have a direct and easy route back to Lizard from there.
Besides, the highlights of this walk are Kynance Cove and Lizard Point. So, you shouldn’t have too much FOMO returning to Lizard from Housel Bay.
The Best Winter Walks in Cornwall Recap
Indeed, hiking Zennor to St Ives and the Lizard Coastal Walk is even better during winter. Without the summer crowds, you’ll have a much more enjoyable hiking experience. Better yet, if you’re short on time, it’s possible to fit these two awesome winter walks into one day. Hopefully, this guide has given you the know-how to tackle both of these trails on a stellar winter’s day.
For bonus tips, accommodation alternatives to Cornwall and our five hiking essentials, continue below.
Getting to England
Flights: If you’re planning on doing this hike from abroad, Newquay would be the closest airport to St Ives. You’re looking at an hour’s drive from Newquay to St Ives. Otherwise, it’s about a 5 or 6 hour’s drive from London and Manchester.
When booking flights, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Although, with the pandemic, we recommend booking directly with the airline, because it will be much easier to cancel or reschedule flights if need be.
Additionally, if you’re UK or US-based, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. For the Aussies, we recommend subscribing to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts.
Getting to and Around Cornwall
To complete this one-day Cornwall winter walk itinerary, you’ll need a car! Of course, catching the 16A bus from St Ives to Zennor is a necessary part of completing the two best hikes in Cornwall on a short winter’s day. But, you’ll need a car to get to St Ives initially and then once you’ve finished the hike from Zennor to St Ives, you’ll then need to drive to Lizard for your afternoon hike. To follow this hiking itinerary, public transport isn’t a viable option for getting from St Ives to Lizard.
There are many parking options in St Ives. We highly recommend Trenwith Car Park. It’s a huge car park with plenty of space during the off-season. It was also much cheaper than we had expected, costing only £2.20 for less than 4 hours between 8am–6pm. This parking rate only applies from 1 November to 31 March, which is another great reason to visit Cornwall for a hiking trip in winter. The prices for parking go up extortionately during peak season.
In terms of parking in Lizard, we recommend the main car park in town. There’s plenty of space during winter and best of all, it’s free with no time constraints.
If you don’t have your own set of wheels, consider renting with RentalCars.com – they have an unbeatable free cancellation policy.
Long story short, we didn’t stay in Cornwall during our winter visit. We stayed in Exeter for a wedding we attended the day after we visited Cornwall. Despite these circumstances, even in winter, staying in Cornwall can be very expensive. If you’re planning on completing this Cornwall winter walk itinerary, it’s possible to do it without necessarily staying in Cornwall.
In Exeter, we found a great-valued AirBnB private room stay for £31.65/night. We really enjoyed our stay there. You can read my honest review below and find out why I rated it 5/5.
In general, you should find cheaper accommodation options in Exeter compared with Cornwall.
Five Hiking Gear Essentials For Cornwall
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the best hikes in Cornwall. For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Hiking from Zennor to St Ives is quite straightforward as you follow the well signposted South-West Coastal Path. But, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, it doesn’t hurt to have some GPS directions as a backup.
Additionally, the Lizard Coastal Walk is another hike that’s easy to navigate. However, if you’re wanting to follow our specific modified version, feel free to use our Wikiloc GPS-guided map.
For those not so prepared, if you’re needing help with directions during your hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although, you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Consider hiking in Cornwall in spring or autumn: We genuinely think hiking in Cornwall is best during winter due to the much quieter trails. But, for improved weather, it may be worth hiking in spring and autmun before the summer crowds flock to the area.
- Be prepared for poor weather in winter: In theory, you only need one winter’s day to complete Cornwall’s two best hikes. However, you may want to give yourself more than one day in Cornwall in case the weather doesn’t allow for hiking.
- Check the most recent bus timetable: The bus timetables for Go Cornwall Buses change slightly every year, so check there website for the most up-to-date information. This will ensure you’re day of winter walking in Cornwall goes off without a hitch.
What’s your favourite hike in Cornwall? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
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