In the auburn folds of autumn, we watch Cornwall undergo a wonderful change. From country to coast, the landscapes transform themselves into scenes of saffron and butterscotch, bidding goodbye to summer in an ornate final flourish.
Perfectly timed with the dispersal of summer crowds, we think this spectacular season is best enjoyed from the myriad footpaths weaving beneath golden canopies and above frothy seas. Letting you into some of our favourites, we have put together a list of the best autumn walks in Cornwall, so you don’t have to waste time before pulling on your boots and heading out to explore.
Updated September 2023
Said to be the stepping stones of a giant called Bedruthan, the mighty Bedruthan Steps are enormous sea-stacks that stand tall amidst the heaving swells of the Atlantic Ocean. Whether they be the work of a giant or the sea, we’re not so sure, but the incredible views from the clifftops overlooking Bedruthan Steps rarely fail to leave us speechless. One of our favourite autumnal walks, you can leave your car in the National Trust car park and wander over to look at the stacks, feeling the wind pepper your face with tiny salt droplets from the sea below. Although the walk from the car park to the viewing point itself is less than half a mile, you can continue along the coast path for as long as you like, taking in the amazing coastal panoramas before turning around again. It can be cold and windy during the autumn, so make sure you wrap up warm for a walk in this exposed spot.
Situated on the edge of the windswept face of Bodmin Moor, Cardinham Woods boasts 265 hectares of mixed conifer and native broadleaf trees that burst into colour in autumn. Choose between four beautiful walking trails (the Callywith Wood walk, the Deviock walk, the Lady Vale walk and the Wheal Glynn walk), and follow the hypnotic flow of streamside paths, discovering secret glades and enjoying the satisfying crunch of leaves underfoot. Of course, if you keep your eyes peeled, you may be able to spot some of the local wildlife who call the woods home too, including kingfishers, foxes and red deer.
Another spectacular location if you are looking to immerse yourself in rich autumnal colours, Draynes Woods is a firm favourite of ours. Home to the stunning Golitha Falls, this National Nature Reserve and SSSI features a series of gushing cascades as the River Fowey tumbles through the valley gorge. Flowing through mini falls, rapids and majestic pools, the river here doesn’t just provide humans with a pretty backdrop either, as otters can often be seen rollicking in the waters, playing and looking for fish. If you would like to explore the area and look out for the otters, you can easily park near the start of the trail, just past Draynes Bridge, following the river downstream to start your walk.
A real North Cornwall highlight, Padstow’s ‘Seven Bays for Seven Days’ make for year-round discovery. Especially inviting at this time of year, the bays afford some of the best autumn walks in Cornwall as crowds disperse, beaches empty and footpaths clear. Now, you could spend your time exploring each beach over several days, but if you would like to really pump your legs and fill your lungs with sea air, an 8-mile walk will reward you with all seven beaches in one go. Simply hop on a bus to Porthcothan and then retrace the coast path back north. As you go, you will pass Treyarnon Bay, Constantine Bay, Booby’s Bay (where a buried shipwreck is sometimes revealed by autumn storms), Mother Ivey’s Bay, Harlyn Bay and finally arrive at Trevone Bay, ready for a well-earned drink.
One of the most enchanting settings in Cornwall, St Nectan’s Glen near Tintagel is perhaps one of the county’s best-kept secrets. Magical, a little bit mysterious, and absolutely beautiful, the area is awash with myth and legend and is the perfect place for an autumn stroll somewhere truly tranquil. Pick up the public footpath that passes through the glen, and meander along the banks of the Trevillet River as it makes its lively way towards the sea. Wandering further into the orange-tinted belly of this ancient woodland, you will eventually come across St Nectan’s Kieve, a large watery basin fed by a 60-ft waterfall that thunders through a hole in the rocks above.
Running from Padstow to Wenford Bridge, the Camel Trail was originally built as a railway line to transport sand, Delabole slate, China clay and fresh fish. Actually, the first steam-powered railway in Cornwall, the line’s final push came in 1978, before it was sadly closed for good. Nowadays, the route has been repurposed as one of the best walking, cycling and riding trails in the country, covering over 17 miles of mostly traffic-free, wonderfully smooth tarmac. With plenty of places to start and finish along the way, it’s the ideal destination for an invigorating walk, lapping up glorious views of the coast and basking in warm autumn sunshine.
If drama is what you are looking for in an autumn walk in Cornwall, the Rumps will definitely grab your attention. A striking twin-headland overlooking Puffin Island (just offshore from Polzeath), the Rumps is linked to the mainland by a narrow strip of land. Although few clues remain today, the Rumps is actually the site of an Iron Age hill fort, dating between 200BC and 100AD. Holding the secrets of a long-forgotten age, you can retrace the footsteps of time on a 4-mile walk around the headland, beginning at the Lead Mines National Trust car park and looping around via Polzeath and Pentire Point. Remember to bring some layers, and a camera too!
All of these autumn walks are within easy reach of the Padstow area of North Cornwall, where all of our holiday homes are located. To book your stay in Cornwall this autumn, please browse through our amazing collection of holiday properties.
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