10 Inspiring Scenic Cornish Runs

As the UK’s third lockdown deepens and the monotony of staring at the same four walls intensifies – not to mention juggling home learning and work, staying away from family and friends and suffering cold, dark days and long nights – the best medicine can be to get out into nature and get moving. Running is a fantastic mood-booster, countering stress hormones with happy endorphins, lifting your spirits as well as your heart rate. It’s also a great way to see your local area. Why not use this time to plan your next visit to one of our Cornish cottages and take advantage of all the stunning scenic running trails Cornwall has to offer? Running in unforgettable scenery really heightens motivation, so grab your trainers and see what’s out there. 

Here, we have compiled 10 beautiful runs that are guaranteed to inspire, invigorate and enliven your state of mind, from literally breathtaking hill climbs to flat trails and coastal paths. Just don’t forget to pack your trainers (and perhaps your cash card in case there’s a pub or cafe to refresh yourself with take-away coffee and cake at the end!). Please check in advance for lockdown opening times to avoid disappointment.

1. Penzance to Land’s End: best for rugged, coastal running

Mousehole, Lands End

This is a challenging, exciting run with plenty of gorgeous views and points of interest. The path is narrow and steep – an undulating trail punctuated by granite steps – but it can be run in sections to give you a breather and take in the scenery. Follow the coast road from Penzance and head west through Newlyn and Mousehole then join the rugged South West Coast Path until you reach Lamorna. If you’re running in spring, take a break in the surrounding bluebell woods. Ascend up to the cliff top, admiring Treen’s sandy beaches and the Minack Theatre en route. As you near Land’s End, grasslands make the final stretch a little easier. Return by bus to Penzance.

2. Perranporth Beach: best for nature lovers

Although it can be tempting to block out reality on your run by plugging into music or a podcast, sometimes it is equally as transporting to leave the earbuds at home and listen to the sounds of nature. Perranporth Beach is the perfect place to do just that. It’s a challenge to run on sand – it’s softer so harder work but low impact so better for your joints – but you are rewarded by listening to the waves peacefully lapping on the shore and breathing in pure, salt-tanged air. Run at low tide, when the beach is a three-mile stretch of sand, up to Penhale.

Perranporth and Penhale

3. Pentewan Trail, St Austell: best for a quick, easy run

This is a popular short, flat route, frequented by dog walkers and cyclists. Also known as Kings Wood, the Pentewan Trail hugs Pentewan Road, between St Austell and Mevagissey. Start from the Cornwall Hotel Spa & Estate, and take the small turning opposite the car park. Follow your nose for two miles with St Austell River on your right. The run starts off on Tarmac, then merges into running trails. Keep right to keep on to Pentewan. Once you’ve arrived at the village, you could turn around and make the return leg, head down to the beach or carry on to explore a maze of trails cut into the woods.

4. Gribbin Head: best for a great all-rounder

This four-mile beach run has got it all: great views, hidden coves and a woodland section carpeted with flowers in spring, if you don’t fancy running along the soft sand. Gribbin Head is the headland that makes up the eastern side of St Austell Bay, and Fowey is just a skip, hop and a jump up the coast. Standing tall on the headland, the red-and-white Gribbin Tower acts as a seafaring marker for boats navigating the coastline and can be seen from most directions as you approach it. 

5. Poldhu to the Lizard: best for a mid-run sea swim

This run takes in a fascinating historical monument and allows for a cooling dip at one of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches. From Poldhu, follow the signs to the Marconi Monument and take the South West Coast Path. You can’t miss the spot where Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi undertook his groundbreaking wireless experiments. Carry on down to Polurrian Cove, passing the Mullion Cove Hotel and harbour, peel off inland and climb back up the gentle coastal path. Continue past Parc Bean Cove and on to the stunning Kynance Cove. Pause here to take in the breathtaking scenery before heading down the cliff for a well-deserved dip. If it’s low tide, run along the beach or return to the cliff path past Pentreath Beach, round Old Lizard Head and then onwards to Lizard Point. Congratulations – you’ve reached England's most southerly point! Return by bus from Poldhu and Lizard town.

Kynance Cove, the Lizard

6. The Camel Trail: best for a long, flat mindful run

This highly enjoyable run is virtually flat the whole way – relaxing, meditative and an endurance-builder. The views across the Camel estuary are gorgeous. If you start at the car park by the Dunmere Arms in Bodmin, it’s about 12 miles to Padstow. You can break it up by stopping or instead beginning in Wadebridge. And if you make it to Padstow, reward yourself with some takeaway fish’n’chips.

Camel Trail

7. St Ives to Pendeen Lighthouse: best for experienced runners

This one is for serious runners who are used to long runs, packing their own provisions. It’s worth the preparation, though, for the stunning remote natural beauty, with moorland sweeping down to rugged cliffs and crashing surf. Start behind Porthmeor Beach to the west of St Ives and follow the South West Coast Path sign posts. There’s a good 3,000 ft of climbing interspersed with scrambling over rocky sections, so the pace is slow but you’ll be rewarded with fabulous views and solitude. Pack lots of water, energy snacks and a phone. Return to St Ives by bus from the end of the route.

8. Carlyon Bay to Charlestown: best for those short on time

This run is a quickie but a goody. A shorter run is great if you’re time poor and need a zippy exercise fix. At about a mile and a half one way, it follows a section of the South West Coast Path with fabulous views of Cornwall’s south coast and includes a mix of grassy areas and paths for a gentle but satisfying excursion.

9. Newquay to Watergate Bay: best for stunning sea views

Watergate Bay

The only drawback to coastal paths can be the frequent stops to clamber over stiles or open gates, which can interrupt your flow and pace. If you like uninterrupted running, with views over a wide expanse of sparkling sea or pounding surf, this undulating route is for you. This part of the South West Coast Path stretches from Newquay to Watergate Bay for about two miles with just one gate to stop for. It can be hard going in some areas but it’s worth it for the scenery. And if you time it well, you can return to Newquay while gazing out over a spectacular sunset.

10. Gyllyngvase Beach to Falmouth Marina: best for variety

This run is ideal for those who like to incorporate a little bit of variety into their outing. It encompasses a beach section, woodland trails and road running. Fantastic views of Pendennis Castle and Falmouth Marina are included in the mix. Begin at Gylly Beach cafe, hug the beach, run the outskirts of the castle grounds and end at Falmouth Marina.

Gyllyngvase, Falmouth