Falmouth to Helford: Cornwall Coast Path Run or Walk

If you want a coastal path route with lots of short ascents on muddy trails why not try running or walking the South West Coast Path between the river Fal and the Helford River.

Looking out to the mouth of the Helford River.

Looking out to the mouth of the Helford River.

Despite only reaching a maximum height of 51 metres (168 ft) the 17.5 mile route manages to clock up 734 metres (2408 ft) of ascent and descent.

Hill profile looking like a crocodiles teeth. Courtesy of mapometer.com

Hill profile looking like a crocodiles teeth. Courtesy of mapometer.com

The cliffs on this section of the south Cornish coast are gently sloping and regularly intersected by small river valleys and beaches. There are many highlights along the route such as the bustling port of Falmouth with it’s lively bars and streets. The beaches of Gyllyngvase, Swanpool and Maenporth, and the picturesque Helford River estuary. For this walk you will need OS Explorer Map 103 The Lizard.

Today my run started at the viewing area above Falmouth Docks. There is ample parking here or on the seafront (although it can get busy in the peak of summer).

The docks are always interesting with ships arriving from around the world.

Falmouth Docks at the start of the run.

Falmouth Docks at the start of the run.

Cresting the hill past the docks you can turn left onto a nice wooded trail to Pendennis Point. Here you get the occasional tantalising glimpse of the sea around Carrick Roads and Falmouth Bay.

First glimpse of Falmouth Bay running from Falmouth Docks to Pendennis Point.

First glimpse of Falmouth Bay running from Falmouth Docks to Pendennis Point.

The view of the bay opens up to almost 360 degrees at Pendennis Point. Always popular with sightseers; several ice cream vans jostle for trade on the point in the summer.

The Clouds clear to bath Pendinnis Point in sunlight. Pendenis Block House in the foreground. St Antony's Lighthouse in the background.

The clouds clear to bathe Pendennis Point in sunlight. Pendennis Block House in the foreground. St Antony’s Lighthouse in the background.

Once around the point you can look out over the coast path you will soon be running. On the water ships wait at anchor in Falmouth Bay to be refuelled before continuing their long voyages.

View out across Falmouth Bay past Pendennis Point.

View out across Falmouth Bay past Pendennis Point.

Once out of Falmouth the coast path becomes quieter except for the occasional dog walker. The path also gets a lot muddier and undulating.

Heading out to Meanporth on the Cornwall Coast Path.

Heading out to Maenporth on the Cornwall Coast Path.

In the winter you can have the beach to yourself. But in the summer the beach is full and the smell of barbecues lingers long into the evening.

Meanporth Beach.

Maenporth Beach.

Some sections of the path are steep, keeping the route varied and interesting.

Some 'technical' step stepped sections past Meanporth.

Some ‘technical’ steep stepped sections past Maenporth.

The path near Rosemullion Head turns green as recent rain following a dry month allows grass to regrow where feet have worn the grass away.

Coast path crosses a field heading towards Rosemullion Head.

Coast path crosses a field heading towards Rosemullion Head.

The dog walkers become less frequent as you reach Rosemullion Head the site of a small hill fort/settlement. Here the coast feels more wild. There always seems to be a breeze here whatever the weather. Falmouth is now a distant collection of white painted buildings far in the distance.

Rosemullion Head momentarily caught in a beam of sunlight.

Rosemullion Head momentarily caught in a beam of sunlight.

After Rosemullion Head the coast path runs through several fields. This is the flattest part of the route. The path remains flat for a whopping three and a half small fields before it is back to ‘undulating’.

Stepping stones line the route just before the 'enchanted forest'.

Stepping stones line the route just before the ‘enchanted forest’.

Near Mawnan the path goes through a collection of gnarled stunted trees. The twisted trees clinging to the hillside look like they have stood there for millennia. If fairies or pixies existed they would be found in these woods.

Looking back into the 'enchanted forest' along the Cornish coast path.

Looking back into the ‘enchanted forest’ along the Cornish coast path.

Once you leave the ‘enchanted forest’ you are at once treated to a view of the Helford River snaking its way inland towards Gweek.

After leaving the enchanted forest you get a great view of the Helford River winding its way inland.

After leaving the enchanted forest you get a great view of the Helford River winding its way inland.

Unlike the mouth of the River Fal the Helford River is undeveloped. Fields gently slope to dip their toes in the tranquil waters. While the sun casts golden light and shadows across the creek.

The sun crowns the evening in this run along the Helford River.

The sun crowns the evening in this run along the Helford River.

The tranquillity of the creek is juxtaposed with reminders of its role in World War II. Machine gun pillboxes are dotted at strategic points along the waterway. The whole creek was one of the staging posts for the invasion force which took part in the D-day landings. For many of those men this would be their last view of England.

Beautiful view of Helford River juxtaposed with old WWII machine gun pillbox.

Beautiful view of Helford River juxtaposed with old WWII machine gun pillbox.

Inside the WWII machine gun Pillbox.

Inside the WWII machine gun pillbox.

Outside of the pillbox the light and colour of the creek is intoxicating.

Small sailing boats play along the water of this sheltered creek.

Sailing boat on the Helford River. Cornwall.

Sailing boat on the Helford River. Cornwall.

The village of Durgan once had its own school. Now it is a collection of National Trust holiday cottages.

Durgan village through the trees.

Durgan village through the trees.

Helford passage and the Ferry Boat Inn signify the end of the outward leg of the run. The path ends here unless you take the passenger ferry across the creek to pick up the South West Coast Path again on the other side of the river bank.

Helford Passage and Ferry Boat Inn.

Helford Passage and Ferry Boat Inn.

Sun starts to set behind the cliffs.

Sun starts to set behind the cliffs.

Running back the sun starts to set below the cliffs.

First view of Falmouth in the distance after rounding Rosemullion Head.

First view of Falmouth in the distance after rounding Rosemullion Head.

Once you get back to Rosemullion Head it is possible to make out the white faced hotels on Falmouths seafront in the distance.

Falmouth getting closer as the run nears its end.

Falmouth getting closer as the run nears its end.

As the path rises and falls you get further glimpses of Falmouth getting larger as you return to the dog walkers and civilisation.

If you liked this route you might also like Spotlight on the Lizard: Running Kynance Cove to Cadgwith.

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