This circular walk from St Ives to Zennor takes you along the coastal path and then back through all the fields.
The coastal section of the walk between St Ives and Zennor, is super rugged and rocky, just like any good bit of South West Coast path. The field section is flat and easy. Basically, when you are doing the tough bits, you just need to think about how it’s only temporary, and life will be easy again soon.
This is the second time I have done this walk. The first time was many many years ago. It’s actually the second proper hike I ever did in England (the first one being Weymouth to Lulworth Cove) between the two, they are what made me really see England for all it’s beauty, and started me on my walking around England adventures.
The reason I came to walk from St Ives to Zennor again, is because that first time was way way before I started this website, and I can’t remember the specific details. I just remember it being really really good. So I have been desperate to do it again, so I can properly write it up. It really deserves a place on here…..
What to expect on the coastal walk from St Ives to Zennor
The walk starts off pretty easy, and takes you past some sandy beaches and WWII pillboxes. Then somewhere along the way, the rocks start to make an appearance. Lots of rocks, you will need to scramble over.
It reminded me very much of the Mousehole to Lamorna walk.
There is a good mix of hills and level bits. The hills to give you the challenge, then the flats to catch a break. You will walk around a lot of coves and headlands. The majority of the St Ives to Zennor coastal walk route is very rugged and cliffy. Just the way I like it.
The walk back, from Zennor to St Ives, was also very similar to the Lamorna walk. Lots of fields. I definitely preferred the fields on this walk though. Much prettier, with stones steps between the fields, and nicer views.
I also walked through some of the smelliest fields I have ever encountered. They were a strange mix of luminous yellow, green and brown. This is what they looked like:
- Start/Finish: St Ives, Cornwall
- How to get there: St Ives is the very south of Cornwall. It is on a branch of the Great Western Railway Line, and the very end of that line. From the main line, change at St Erth.
- Distance: 12.5 miles circular
- Options to shorten the walk: Yes. You can stop the walk at Zennor, then catch a bus back to St Ives. This is what I did the first time I did this walk years ago – see tips.
- Time: 5h
- Difficulty: Medium (or challenging due to the length).
- Terrain: Dirt, rocks, rock steps, rock stiles, lots of rocks, grass, a small bit of road.
- Elevation: Highest point 121m. Total elevation gain 594m
- Amenities: Everything you might need in St Ives. A pub (Tinners Arms), ice cream shop (The Moomaid in Zennor), and parking at Zennor. Nothing else in between.
- Time of year: I walked from St Ives to Zennor in Spring.
Tips and other things to know for the St Ives to Zennor walk
- Hiking boots/shoes will be more comfortable. Due to all the rocks along the coastal path. Make them waterproof too. There were some wet bits, and a section that was trying to be a river.
- If you just want to walk the coastal path, you can finish at Zennor, then catch the Lands End Coaster bus back to St Ives. This would be a good place to finish the walk as well, due to the pub and ice cream shop. You will find the bus stop if you walk out of the village area, and onto the main road. You can check the bus timetable here.
- If you are here during peak season, or a sunny weekend, it will probably be a bit busy around St Ives, and for the first part of the walk. However, as you get deeper in, it becomes a lot more quiet.
- Take a windproof jacket. It can get quite windy along the coastal path.
- When I did this walk today, there was one field on the walk back to St Ives from Zennor which had an electric wire fence thing, closing off the entrance and exit. Ignore this. It’s a trick. Well, the electric part probably isn’t a trick, but this is the correct way. So you need to duck under it. I will show you when I describe the walk below.
- As St Ives is quite a popular place, I would recommend getting public transport here, especially as it’s so easy to do so. However, if you must come by car, there are car parking options in both St Ives and Zennor.
Map for the St Ives to Zennor circular walk
More coastal walk ideas near St Ives and Zennor will be at the end
Route description for The St Ives To Zennor Walk
It was a bit chaotic when I arrived in St Ives. So many people…and children. I wasn’t expecting it to be busy because it was a Thursday. But the children…it turned out school holidays were starting after tomorrow. They were early.
I wasn’t going to hang about because of this nonsense, so set off on my way immediately….after buying a coffee that is. I knew I would need my energy.
For starters, you need to head to the other side of the bay, then right at the end, go left up the side street.
One thing I want to add, is that when I arrived in St Ives, I was hit by my first deja vu. The air. It was hot and heavy. Waiting for my train over at St Erth, there was a bit of a chill, and I needed to put some layers on. Arriving in St Ives, a short distance away, it was warm and humid. I remembered this from when I first came to St Ives to walk the coastal path many years ago, that feeling like you were on holiday, in a totally different climate to the rest of England.
The second deja vu was walking up this street. An image of something floating came to my mind. I couldn’t remember what it was, but I recalled a feeling of bemusement…then I saw it.
The invisible man. I couldn’t believe it, this was it. Gosh, it was probably 5 years ago that I was last here…and he is still here.
There is a sign on him saying £1 for selfies. I guess that’s a way to get the tourists. Well, I wasn’t about to pay, so I took my photo and moved on quick. Technically I wasn’t taking a selfie.
Just past the invisible man, is a path through the walls. Go down there, and go and walk around or across the next beach. You will see a green hill past this beach. You basically want to go over that, to reach the coast path on the other side.
It was over there that I got my third deja vu.…
Over on the other side, go down the steps and past all the black rocks. I remembered these black rocks. Although, I recall walking over them last time. Hmmm, I decided to stick to the path today.
This bit of public footpath is quite pretty. Green grass, pink flowers, and black rocks. Then further along, the perfectly sandy Porthmeor Beach.
I had skipped the last beach, and walked on the path around it. So I decided to walk onto this one. To get some sand under foot. I was going back home to London soon, and don’t know when I will see sand again.
About half way along the beach, there is a path to take you back to the road (which you need to get on to). Keep going, past the car park in the photo below, and onto the path next to the green.
The war pillboxes
Keep following the path along the coastline, and you will start to see some more rocks ahead, and the WWII Pillboxes.
When you are done, go back onto the path, which follows the coastline.
The simple path
So far, the coastal walk out of St Ives, towards Zennor, is on easygoing path. Things do start to get a bit more green around here, but the path stays easy. You will make your way around a little black rocky cove, and then you will reach the green, where everything starts to change.
The rugged part on the St Ives to Zennor coastal walk
Everything becomes more grassy now, with big boulders about. You will be able to make out a trail, but don’t worry too much if you cant. You simply keep walking, following the coastline.
Past some of the bigger rocks, you will get a view all down the coastline, and of all the headlands to come. I wasn’t sure how many of these headlands I would be doing. It’s probably best I didn’t know at this stage. I would just have to see what happens.
Somewhere around here, you should find a dirt path to continue along the coastline for the St Ives to Zennor walk.
It will lead you to some stepping stone rocks, which I found quite novel. These are the civilised rocks. Warning you up for what is to come later.
The fancy gates and more rocks
The trail becomes dirt again, and it will lead you through an interesting, and seemingly useless gate. Then just past here, you will have your first taste of proper rocks.
As you continue to make your way around, you will reach a big rugged cove. The sea was noticeably rougher around here. This is different from last time I was here. Last time the water was calm. It’s interesting seeing things in a different light.
This is also where the first steep uphill is. It will take you up to walk around the cove, and then through another one of those fancy gates.
Once up the steep bit, things will sort of level off, with some undulations as you make your way around the cove. You will reach a bit where there is a short but steep rocky bit with steps.
Something else to be aware of, along the walk route from St Ives to Zennor, there will sometimes be off shoot trails to to the left. You want to keep to this main one, to stick to the coastline.
Walk around all the headlands
For the rest of the coastal walk between St Ives and Zennor, it’s pretty similar (although slightly more rocky). There is a mix of level dirt trail with undulations. Some steeper bits, some grassy sections. More rocks, a random wooden walkway.
Sometimes you will be pretty close to the edge, sometimes the trail takes you away. You will start to get a view to some church ruins on the top of the hill ahead.
The clifftop and the steps
There is a section where the trail takes you more on top rather than the side of the cliffs. I found the landscape quite interesting, in a bland way.
There are some cute steps, where, if you take a right before them, you will find a nice little sheltered place to hang out on. I pinned it to my map to bring ollie back here sometime.
It was quite windy on my walk today. Fierce wind, hitting the coastline from the Atlantic Ocean. I found that when I entered a new cove, the wind would be quite intense, then as I made my way to the other side, I was more sheltered from it. I learnt what was to come, so would take a moment to enjoy the calm before going over to the next cove.
The big rocks
It’s nearer the end of the coastal path section of the St Ives to Zennor walk, that the rocks become more intense. What you will have experienced so far is the warm up to them.
You will find big rocky sections, mixed in with simple dirt path.
The trail then takes you right to the bottom, on the coastline. This is new. Usually you are on the cliffside or up top. It’s at the bottom where you will have the biggest section of rocks.
Past the big rocks, the trail will resume to the usual dirt, and continue to undulate with the occasional rocky bit thrown in.
Walk around the last headland on the St Ives to Zennor coastal path
Now, I accidentally took a wrong turn. There is a split coming up. One continues straight, the other goes right and down. I didn’t check my map and just assumed the right trail would take me to a dead end. So I continued straight. I started to realise something was wrong, when I noticed I was going in the opposite direction to the trail in the photo below.
At this point, I didn’t fancy turning back, so I continued on this one. The trail I was on basically skips out the last headland tip.
Usually I’m a real stickler for sticking to the coast path, and not missing anything. However, I was secretly happy on this occasion. I didn’t miss it on purpose, so it doesn’t count.
Whether you take the coastal path trail, or the one I took, they will both lead you to the Zennor Head stone.
Walk back to St Ives along the coastal path or via Zennor Village
You have a number of options now. You can walk back to St Ives the way you came, along the coastal path. Or walk to Zennor Village, and back to St Ives that way, via bus or walking. If you choose to walk back via Zennor Village, you aren’t necessarily stuck inland for the rest of the way back. There will be opportunities to walk back onto the coastal path to reach St Ives, if you get board of inland walking.
If you choose to go back along the coastal path, away you go, and good luck. Otherwise….
Walk back to St Ives via Zennor
Follow the left arrow to take you to Zennor Village. It’s quite nice along here. Very small country road type path, tall green hedges, stone houses.
As you approach the village, there is a little sign pointing to a cafe. I opted to keep going, towards the church to reach the road.
If you followed this way, then at the road junction, if you turn right, you will find the pub, The Tinners Arms. I instead picked up the trail ahead, with a sign saying ‘field path’.
Walk through the fields
The majority of the walk back to St Ives from Zennor, is field after field in a rough straight line, with stone steps between the fields. Some field don’t have an obvious path through them. You just need to go roughly straight, looking out for a hedge gap with stones on the other side. Sometimes a bit to the left or to the right. There is also the occasional mini small road crossing.
One of the fields has a grass trail split (see photo below), where you need to take the left one.
At the time of writing, one of the fields (after one of the roads) has an electric fence blocking it. You would think that this means no entry, but it doesn’t. You can enter, you just need to carefully duck under it.
The is also a section where you go under the trees, next to a house briefly.
The road and option to walk back onto the coastal path
You will reach a road, which you need to continue along to reach a junction. At the junction, go left, and slightly further along, there will be a trail off the road to the right.
If you want to go back to the coast, stay on the road, and this will lead you to some trail options to walk back to the coastal path, or those ruins you would have seen much earlier in the walk. I took the right, to stay up here.
Following the same way as me, involves more fields, and an abandoned stone shed type thing.
Walk to the village
You will then start to see a little village ahead to the left. You are heading towards that. In the field in the photo below, from memory, I think this is where you start to walk a bit more to the left, towards the houses. Not too far left though. Just a little. Look out for those stone steps.
Then, I think it’s the field after where you go more left. If you look in the photo below, head towards the hole in the hedge.
This will take you into a field with tufts, and then some more stone steps, and into a field that might have some horses.
Head towards the buildings, and the public footpath is the stoney bit to the right of the metal fence.
Follow the signs to St Ives, and walk through more fields
When you enter the village, take the road to the left, and a short way along, there will be some footpath signs on the right, next to the house. This takes you between the houses, and over some more stone steps to reach the next field.
Keep going, heading towards the cute semi hidden house you will see ahead. Past the house, and over some more steps and through some overgrowth, you will reach the road.
Follow the road to the right, then a short way along, as the road curves right, you should see a trail signpost directly ahead. Go and follow that.
I can’t recall the exacts of what came next. It’s basically a mix of fields, flowers and stones steps to reach the next little village. I will show you what to expect in pictures.
When you reach the houses, look out for some more signs pointing towards St Ives. Follow these which will take you through some more fields to reach the next cluster of houses.
When there, look out for the coastal path signs again, which will direct you into (surprise surprise) more fields.
The smelly fields
I then entered a field that was the most unusual colour. A mix of luminous yellow and green with some brown. It is also the stinkiest field I have ever been in. I’m talking super pungent smelling manure. Like the cows had eaten something bad. I usually like the smell of manure. It reminds me that I’m in the countryside. With the countryside fresh air. This I did not like.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just one field. It was multiple fields in succession. I hurried through this bit. It was quite nauseating.
The final stretch of the St Ives to Zennor circular walk
Up until now, it’s been rocks in varying forms to get from one field to another. You will know you are near the end when you have a metal gate. There is a metal gate coming up, with some almost missable steps to the left of it. However, the next one is just a gate. I was getting quite used to the rock steps, and a little sad I had to use a gate this time.
After the metal gate (the trail is straight across from it), there is a bit of walking along a hedge lined path, and some more rocks steps, as a final goodbye.
You will also start to get a good view along the coastline towards Godrevy Lighthouse and then to St Ives, which is a good thing because I can’t recall the exacts of the rest of the walk back. As you will have St Ives in your sight, make your way towards it, and you can’t get lost
From what I can recall, the trail is easy to follow, and there are signs about.
When you reach the road, turn right, then at the next one, turn left. This will get you back into the centre somewhat.
I started out this walk at low tide, so it was nice to see the difference when I got back.
More coastal path walk ideas near St Ives and Zennor
Mousehole to Lamorna – Up here in St Ives, you are on the north coast of the foot of England. Mousehole and Lamorna are on the south coast of the foot. It’s not that far away though. I found the walk to Lamorna similar in areas to the St Ives Zennor walk. There are lots and lots of rocks. You also have the option to walk back along the coastal path, or back through fields.
Rinsey Mines walk – A little further along the south coast, you will find this walk which takes you past lots of old engine houses. It’s pretty cool seeing them perched along the cliffs.
Penzance to Mousehole – I’m not so fond of this one, however, if you like simple walks and promenades, then you might like it.
You can find out about more thing to do in the area on the St Ives website.