Discover Cornwalls best trails. With over 250 miles of continuous coast path, areas of outstanding natural beauty, prehistoric burial sites and abandoned mine trails, Cornwall is a great place to go trail running, hiking or walking. Get out there and enjoy the experience!
With the rise of ‘slow food’ and digital detoxes is it time you tried ‘slow running’? I am not talking about altering your running speed, but instead ditching the GPS and being fully immersed in your run. Feeling every step as the slow food protagonists would encourage you to taste every mouthful.
I stopped wearing my GPS watch a few years ago and immediately felt relief from the tyranny of checking my pace. The pursuit of PBs had made running a chore and resulted in a string of niggling injuries and aches. Once freed from ‘time’ running became something done purely for enjoyment. Fartlek (“speed play” in Swedish) really does become play when you stop using your timer and its irritating beep, instead skipping and running between trees and landmarks on a whim. When something becomes play we are more likely to enjoy it, and do it again.
There cant be many wilder more remote sections of the South West Coast Path than the section between Cape Cornwall and St Ives. Stunning scenery, pot marked with mine shafts and crisscrossed with fossilized field systems laid out in the Bronze Age.
Cameras and sound equipment next to ‘Ross Poldarks’ mine.
The airing of the new adaptation of Winston Graham’s Poldark reminded me that I still had photos to upload from my summer trail running around West Cornwall (OS Map 102 Land’s End). The South West Coast Path around West Cornwall is fantastic any time of year. But in summer with the wild flowers out last year it was exceptional. The icing on the cake was stumbling across the set of the BBC’s latest adaptation of Poldark.
Props for the Poldark set being stored ready for use in a field near Botallack.
When I arrived they were on a break from filming and the security guard sunbathing against a Cornish hedge was more than happy for me to have a look around as long as I didn’t disturb him.
Once you get past the Manor House and manicured lawns of the National Trust gardens at Trelissick (near Truro, Cornwall; OS Explorer Map 105 Falmouth and Mevagissey) you can find some great trails around the Fal River. This route is 8.45 miles and takes in the views around the King Harry Ferry, Roundwood Quay and Coombe.
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.
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
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.
According to the organisers the Eden Project Marathon is
“… a multi-terrain course around Eden, the race follows a challenging route through areas of spectacular mining heritage and beautiful countryside landscapes.”
From the time you enter the car park of the Eden Project you know this will be a well organised event. The marshals very efficiently directing the hundreds of cars into the many car parks. Once parked you are marshalled onto the bendy buses. The car parks being epic, it is a 5-10 minute bus ride before you reach the baggage area. The joining instructions clearly state that you should allow 45 minutes between arriving at the car park and the start of the race; this is good advice. Once in the baggage area it was off again quickly to catch another bus to the start area.
Not too much queuing required for the toilets at the Eden Marathon.
Once in the start area it was down to the usual marathon rituals. Luckily there were virtually no queues for the portaloos. The marathon and half marathon start 30 minutes apart. With only 230 runners in the marathon the starting area was not too crowded. With 700-800 half marathon runners starting half an hour later I am sure the queues for the portaloos grew much larger after we left.
Getting ready to start. On the starting line of the Eden Project Marathon.
As the start time drew nearer we started to line up for the inevitable safety briefing.
“When you get to the canal the environment agency says all runners must walk for 10 ft along the canal”we were dutifully informed.
Apparently part of the canal path had fallen into the water. The environment agency had rigged up scaffold steps into the adjacent field to divert the marathon route. Unfortunately the night before heavy rain had flooded the field, the route was now to be diverted back to the canal path. But for safety all runners must walk! You really couldn’t make this stuff up.
The beautiful scenery and wildlife around the College and Argal Reservoirs near Mabe and Penryn have always been attractive to local people in the know about this hidden gem. Now the area has benefited from a considerable facelift with improvements to the existing footpaths, improved drainage and new bridges complimenting the existing facilities such as a children’s play area, toilets and car park. In 2014 a new cafe (Caffe Torelli) added to the reasons to visit this South West Lakes Trust managed site.
View from the car park at Argal Reservoir, Penryn, Cornwall.
Following the ancient tracks of the St Michaels Way you find yourself imagining the journey taken by those original pilgrims many years ago.
The Magic of St Michaels Mount, Cornwall.
History, folklore and an atmospheric landscape combine in this cross country coast to coast way-marked route. It is believed the route was originally used by pilgrims travelling to the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain from Cornwall, Ireland and Wales. European funding and the combined efforts of Cornwall County Council saw the route ‘reopened’ in 2004 with new signage. All of the new signs on the route have the symbol of a stylised scallop shell making it easy to tell if you are on the right path. A decade later the route is still well marked. However I would not recommend attempting the full route without a map as there are a few places where the signs have fallen down or are missing. There are also plenty of other footpaths that traverse the route (which are all worth exploring on a trail run) however without a 1:25000 OS map you may find you significantly add to the distance of your run if you don’t know the area (OS Explorer Map 102 Land’s End available on Amazon Weatherproof version also available!).
As we get out of the car the air is fresh, with a very light breeze coming off the sea. The early morning sun covers the cliffs in a weak golden glow. The sea is calm, a deep sapphire blue with little wavelets sparkling like glitter in the morning sun. The early start at Kynance Cove car park saw us arriving before the car parking attendant. Lucky there are no gates on the car park. We apply sun cream and check the straps on our packs. Then we walk across the car park to join the coast path. We take about 50 steps at a light jog before being stopped by a herd of highland cattle with calves on the path (these cattle are used by the National Trust to manage the vegetation). Their dark brown hair matted and damp in the morning dew. We walk past keeping away from the young. The cattle chew on regardless giving us little attention and we are soon breaking into a light jog. The trail is muddy and rutted, but today baked dry by the summer sun. We make good progress and are soon into a nice rhythm.
Cornwall is home to some great trail and ultra running races due to its dramatic scenery, changeable weather and abundant trails.
With so many great running spots we couldn’t cover them all in a ‘top 5’. So if your favourite spot doesn’t get a mention, please leave a comment below and we can review it for a future blog post.
Here is our top 5 list of the best trails in Cornwall to run.
Runner up – The Bissoe Trail
Being an old mine tramway this trail is mostly flat and wide enough to cycle 4 abreast. It also barely passes the trail running test of “if you can push a pushchair along it, it’s not a trail”. That said you do get a 22 mile round trip, off road, from coast to coast. Ideal.