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Trail Finder, Easy to Medium

Trail Finder, Easy to Medium

Spring is prime time for walking, and there are no limits to the terrain and challenges on which to put your best foot forward in Cornwall. To get you moving we’ve chosen a leisurely route that exposes dramatic coastal scenery scattered with natural wonders, waterside hamlets, watering holes and opportunities for an array of activities.

It’s up to you which direction you tackle this walk in. I like to start at Praa Sands because there’s plenty of parking, amenities, easy access to the beach and the Sand Bar café/restaurant. In a nutshell it’s a top spot to quench your thirst and grab any last minute supplies before you set off (and it’s an ideal location to leave any less energetic members of family or friends). Praa is a great beach for swimming, surfing and snorkelling, so pop a wetsuit in the car and take a dip if the conditions prevail.

The trail isn’t a difficult one, so trainers are fine for fair weather walkers, but if you like a toe-tickling wander in the sand, don’t don your footwear until you reach the steps at the eastern tip of the beach. Here you climb up on to the coast path and head towards a fairytale house perched on Rinsey Head. You will be tempted to daydream about the day you will own such a stunning mansion with a sea view, but snap out of it and concentrate on the staggering view from Rinsey Cliffs plummeting into the sea.

At the foot of the cliffs is Rinsey Cove; follow the path down to this rocky inlet and you will find another idyllic spot for a swim or snorkel. Next to Rinsey Cliffs, Trewavas Head is a popular climbers hangout, and there is a small car park near the coast path at this point. If you are a keen climber, you could opt to park here and spend a couple of hours scaling rock faces before following the walking route in the afternoon.

Continue to skirt the cliff tops, and soon you will encounter evidence of the mining industry of yesteryear. The shells of the engine houses at Wheal Prosper and Wheal Trewavas mines peer out to sea – tell tale signs of where copper was mined until the 1850s. With the windmills on the Lizard peninsula turning in the distance, here Cornwall’s industrial heritage is juxtaposed against the industry of the modern world.

And the engine houses aren’t the only eye-catching structures staring out over the turquoise seascape. Towers of dappled granite rock are perched on the rugged coastline – geological wonders that humble the yellows, greens and golds of the seasonal shrubs.

Such spectacular scenic contrasts continue as you follow the curve of coves and crags all the way to Tregear Point, where the line of the path has been diverted away from the dangerous cliff edges. Round the jutting headland and on approach to Porthleven you will pass a memorial cross commemorating shipwreck victims that have perished in these gnarly waters.

{sub-head} Pit stop: Porthleven
Porthleven is a fishing port, tourist haven and south coast surfing country par extraordinaire (when the swell dictates). For a walker the picturesque fishing harbour is a welcome sight, as is the range of watering holes and restaurants crammed into the maritime scene. For a cosy pint and a pub lunch try the Ship Inn – a 17th Century smugglers’ den nudged so close to the harbours edge that you feel like you are actually in a ship. For alfresco drinking and dining, an ice cream or a world-class pasty, you will be spoilt for choice.

Climb out of the village from the east end of the harbour, crunching along the stretch of beach or along Mounts Road, and re-join the coast path. Before you have had much time to gather a steady pace, you will come across the natural wonders of Looe Bar and Looe Pool – a shingle bank and freshwater lake. A twitchers’ paradise owned by the National Trust, you can enter the estate through a gate on the path. Or you can cross straight over the bar along the shingle and take the gentle slope up to the cliff tops on the far side.

Keep to the seaward fork as you bear towards the edge of the Lizard Peninsula, and here you will reach Gunwalloe Fishing Cove. Drop down to the beach if you can hack a calf-grinding walk through the heavy granules of sand, or stay on the path for an easier route. Desolate for all but a few boats and a cluster of residences, Gunwalloe is a stunning and peaceful spot to finish.

But it gets even better. Not only have you reached the gateway to the Lizard Peninsula, but also, up the single-track road you will find the award-winning Halzephron Inn. This is a spectacular place to rest your weary feet, sip a traditional ale or fine wine, and order a hearty feast sourced from local produce. If you left any stragglers at Praa Sands, this is the perfect meeting place and pick up point to catch the sunset and catch your breath.

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