Cornwall has always been a place of intrigue for me, nestled at the end of the earth with its distinctive flag of Saint Piran and rich folk history, giving it its own unique sense of cultural identity. I’ve had a couple of fleeting visits to Polzeath and Bude, so it felt like the time was ripe to return with the bike and explore properly. On a hot day in July we jumped on a train from Paddington ready for a long weekend of cycling, seafood and Cornish ale.
Day 1: Padstow
After several hours on a train in the company of a stag party headed to Newquay, the train headed into Bodmin Parkway where we jumped off. From Bodmin, the Camel Trail runs all the way to Padstow, an old railway track that now acts as a gravel path for walkers and cyclists. It’s a flat 30 km to reach Padstow, which we took at a leisurely pace, arriving at the Dennis Cove campsite which is just off the trail before Padstow. After setting up the tent we wandered into town to sink a few beers and fish and chips for dinner.
Day 2: Godrevy
We awoke to a grey day, but it looked like it would brighten up later on. This was the biggest day of the trip with 70 km of rolling roads down the coast to Godrevy. The roads were pretty quiet heading down the coast through St Merryn, towards Porth. We took a bit of a detour through Newquay, accidently heading out to the Pentire Headland. If you don’t have any good reason to stop in Newquay, you can bypass completely without missing much.
Back on track and we joined the A3975 which is busy and not very pleasant to cycle on, so we diverted back to the coast as soon as possible and headed towards Crantock. We had been going for some time so we decided to stop, and stumbled across an amazing place for cream teas called the Cosy Nook, so we some lush fresh baked scones with jam and cream to refuel. The young lad serving us started chatting about the Tour de france and Geraint Thomas’ chances, a keen cyclist in the making, he’ll do well training on these roads!
After Crantock we continued south, winding through quiet country lanes, with the occasional steep hill thrown in. We stopped again at Porthtowan Beach, as it had been recommended by locals Coral & Krystian who we recently met at a wedding. We grabbed some lunch in the beach bar, then I said hi to Ryan who runs the Tris Surf Shop, however not enough time to stop for a surf though unfortunately. After lunch we continued on to reach the Godrevy nature reserve and looping inland to reach the Magor Farm campsite, a picturesque spot tucked away next to Tehidy Wood, on the Red River.
We set up camp and I had an unexpected nap in the afternoon sun, those hills had taken their tool! We took the bikes back out for dinner, heading to the Rockpool beach bar, on Gwithian beach. We had an awesome seafood dinner including mussels and crab linguine, washed down with an Italian wine which we finished on the beach. It was a cool ride back to the campsite as the sunset, with the roads now devoid of cars.
Day 3: Treen
I’d been looking forward to this day, I’d heard they are some of the most epic roads in Cornwall. The road winds around the coast, passing round Carbis Bay before reaching St Ives. At St Ives we stopped for coffee overlooking the Harbour, then headed round the corner to check out the Tate, which sits on Porthmeor Beach. After Tate we had a nasty shock as we hit Porthmeor Hill which averages 15% for a couple of hundred metres.
After St Ives the road is stunning all the way to St Just, amazing views of the coastline and pretty quiet for cycling. We had just missed the Lafrowda Festival in St Just (shame) and they were clearing up the aftermath with heavy heads when we arrived. We stopped for a Cornish pasty in the sun from a Warren’s bakery, then carried on down the coast towards Sennen where we peeled off to head to Land’s End for a quick photo. It’s a bit of an odd place, with an assortment of shops not too dissimilar to brighton Pier, plus a rather naff hotel that overlooks the cliffs. We took the obligatory photo then headed back to the coast road and our final stop of the day at Treen.
We stopped at Treen Farm Campsite and were lucky to get one of the final camping spots that they reserve for walkers and cyclists. It’s a beautiful campsite up on the cliffs and just over the headland is the majestic beach of Pedn Vounder. It’s a bit of a scramble down to get there, but the sand and water is pristine. That evening we headed down the road to the Logan Rock Inn where we had several Cornish ales and Maria demolished a whole crab. A very nice pub with excellent food, highly recommended.
Day 4: Lizard
I got up early to do a quick loop to Sennan and back, which took in quite a mean hill coming back up from the beach. We set off about 10am for Penzance to loop round the southern coast and eventually arrive at the Lizard Peninsula. A bit of last minute rerouting was required in order to avoid the A roads and we managed to avoid the busy sections as much as possible until we arrived at Helston.
At Helston we had a quick bite to eat than headed south on the A road to the Lizard. Fortunately the first section has a cycle path, then it quietens down a bit, but it’s still not the most pleasant route to the peninsula. However looking at the map it doesn’t appear that there are any other options – shame there isn’t a cycle path around the coast line!
Lizard is a cool place, a little bit stuck in a time warp with local pubs, ice cream parlours and traditional cafes serving traditional Cornish supper. We setup camp at Henry’s, a very hippy family-run site just nestled at the top of the village by the cliffs. In the evening we grabbed some fish and chips from the village then headed to the cliffs to eat dinner and watch the sunset, pretty spectacular.
Day 5: Falmouth
With the final day upon us it was time to head to Falmouth to take the train home. We headed back the A road for a short while, before skirting off North East towards the Helford River where we saw that we could cross with the ferry. At Helford we stopped for a nice coffee before jumping on board the ferry across, not cheap at £6 each for the short crossing, but a fun experience all the same.
We had heard great things about the Ferry Boat Inn the other side of the bank, but it was still pretty early for lunch so we pressed onto Falmouth. When we arrived in Falmouth we cycled around for a bit, both dethering as to where to stop. We carried on so far that we eventually arrived at the station, and when it started raining I suggested we jump on the train to Truro, as that’s where our connection from Paddington would go from.
In Truro we again rode around for ages and eventually returned to the first pub we passed on the way into town, which was nice enough, but we were certainly missing the remoteness of the small villages we had been staying in for the last few days.
A really stunning part of the UK for cycling, where you’ll find friendly people and great pubs. We went at a good time of year before school holidays, I would imagine the campsites get pretty packed in August. If I get a chance to return I would include a leg from Falmouth to St Austell, as there are some stunning roads along that part of the coast that pass by The Lost Gardens of Heligan, plus you could finish at the St Austell brewery!