Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Thursday, 10 January 2019

South West Coast Path - Hayle to St Ives

View to Godrevy Point

An easy and delightful 6 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Hayle and St Ives

This is one of the easier sections of the South West Coast Path that keeps within easy reach of civilisation and follows the St Ives branch line along this idyllic coastline. A few climbs but nothing too strenuous. Excellent views across the sandy beaches up to Godrevy Point. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

South West Coast Path - Hayle to St Ives - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Hayle View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
St Ives View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
6 miles
Walk difficulty
Some road walking but predominantly dunes and cliff paths
The section around Hayle estuary follows the main road. There is a pavement but the busy road needs to be crossed at the junction into the Lelant village


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)


Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, PorthlevenView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, Mill lane, Porthleven, Cornwall TR13 9LQ


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

Bus Service
Service Details
At the time of walking this route the local 17 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Penzance and St Ives. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators
Bus Service
Service Details
At the time of walking this route the local 2 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Penzance, Helston, Falmouth and Truro. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators
First Group - Bus Service
Service Details
18 - At the time of walking this route the local 18 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Penzance and Hayle. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators.

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
10:30 to 15:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm summers day. Blue skies and warm sunshine

Walk Notes

There are few places that can reached on a Sunday by public transport, but this little wander along the South West Coast Path is an exception with regular buses between St Ives, Hayle and Penzance. The footpath along this section is also conducive to a casual Sunday afternoon stroll. There are some climbs but nothing too strenuous and the scenery is what can only be described as delightful. The path leads around the Hayle estuary then through the dunes to Carbis Bay before it enters St Ives at the harbour. There are amazing views across the wide open sandy beaches up to Godrevy Point.

A bus service links Penzance to Hayle, and there is a return from St Ives to Penzance. Alternatively there is the St Ives branch line which links in to the main line at St Erth. A track and footpath from this station leads down to Lelant on the Hayle estuary and the main line connects into Hayle station close to the Hayle viaduct, where this walk begins.

Train Spotting

The St Ives branch line gives the added bonus of some train spotting and is always welcomed by old and young railway enthusiasts alike. There is nothing like hearing the sound of metal wheels on track and scampering over to the lineside to watch a train trundle by. Admittedly all this line currently carries are the modern diesel multiple units which are never as exciting as the steam or diesel engines of old. Back in the 1970's, these types of train were colloquially refereed to in spotter parlance as 'muck-carts' or 'bog-vans'. I am uncertain where the term 'bog-van' came from but certainly the term 'muck-cart' referred to British Rails use of these units throughout the network on branch lines and commuter services, thus making their encounter as 'common-as-muck'. These days the modern network appears to be full of 'muck-carts' with engine hauled locomotion now a distinct rarity.

This particular line is served by modern two-unit class 150 DMUs which date from the late 1980's and single carriage class 153s, dating from the early 1990's. Their sound is not the same as the chug and splutter of the old steam and diesels heading up the gradients which gave them their character and embodied them as living beasts. These modern units glide by without much effort as if they are merely ghosts of what a train used to be.

We can only reminisce for the days of old when this was the British Rail Western Region full of the distinctive Hymek, Western and Warship class diesels and before that as the Great Western Railway, home of the iconic Castle and King class steam engines. At least the St Ives Branch Line survived the savage Beeching cuts to the railway network and is continuing to make a living in the modern day. There may also be a glimmer of hope in bringing back the old days to the line with an attempt by the Sterling Rail Group to reintroduce steam to the branch line. I am certain this would be a huge draw to the area enticing many more to this quintessential English corner of the world.

Porthminster Beach
Porthminster Beach


The South West Coast Path is well defined by the distinctive acorn logo waymarkers.

The bus stop at Hayle is directly opposite to the Hayle viaduct with the station located just up the road from this dominating feature. The path follows The Causeway along the edge of Hayle estuary, which is alongside the road all the way through to the turn off to Lelant. From here the path follows the backroads of the village eventually leading away past St Uny church, over the railway and onto the dunes above Porth Kidney Sands. The path keeps close to the railway and is well defined through the dunes. Beyond the dunes there is some ascent around Carbis Bay but this is not too strenuous. The path leads through to St Ives harbour.

St Ives Harbour
St Ives Harbour


The Old Quay House, Hayle View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Griggs Quay, Hayle

Located at the head of the Hayle tidal estuary, this historic Inn offers some amazing views up the estuary. The interior has beamed ceilings, slate floors and in furnished with a variety of sofas and deep seats. Accommodation is available in external lodges and a restaurant provides a menu specialising in home-made dishes made from local produce. The Old Quay House is a traditional waterside Cornish inn with an outstanding setting at the head of the Hayle tidal estuary. With stunning views over the water, the Old Quay House makes a perfect spot for lunch, a delicious home- made evening meal or drinks with friends or family. Ales on offer include Sharps Doom Bar and Otter ales.


Busy food oriented pub. A selection of Sharps Doombar and Otter Bitter which was refreshing on such a warm afternoon.

View across Hayle estuary to Lelant's church dedicated to St Uny
View across Hayle estuary to Lelant's church dedicated to St Uny


St Uny Chruch, LelantView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Dedicated to St Uny, also the patron Saint of Redruth, this granite medieval church can be traced back to the year 1170AD whenb Thomas Becket, the then Archbisop of Catebury referred to it at Saint Enui.

Henry Jenner (1848–1934), the first Grand Bard of the Gorseth Kernow, a non-political Cornish organisation which exists to maintain the national Celtic spirit of Cornwall, is buried at this site


St Ives Branch LineView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The St Ives branch line links St Erth on the main London to Penzance line to the picturesque town of St Ives and is considered to be one of the most picturesque railway lines in Britain. Work began on the line in May 1874 and it was completed for opening in June 1977. The work included a viaduct across the Carbis Valley, a seawall at St Ives and four new stations.

The line was to be the last of the broad gauge lines ever built in Britain with a third rail added in 1888 to allow standard gauge trains to reach Lelant wharf. The whole line was eventually converted to standard gauge with the last broad gauge train to run on the line on Friday 20 May 1892.

Goods trade along the line thrived in its early days with the mainstay being fish carried from the villages along the route. The goods trade declined in the 20th century and was eventually withdrawn altogether in 1963.

The Beeching Report proposed the closure of the line but it was successfully reprieved. From 1966 the route was serviced by diesel multiple units which continue to this day. In 1978 an additional station was opened at Lelant Sidings that included a large car park that could be used as a park-and-ride to St Ives.


Hayle ViaductView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Hayle viaduct was originally built to carry the extended railway from Angarrack to Penzance. At the time the station at Hayle was to the south of the viaduct at road level and this was moved to its present site off of Foundry Square to accommodate the viaduct. The viaduct was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and constructed in 1852 from wood and masonry. The Great western Railway replaced the viaduct in 1885 with a granite structure 841 feet long, 34 feet high with 37 spans, which still stands today. The site of the original railway station is now a public garden named after Isis, Hayle's first lifeboat.

View across Carbis Bay
View across Carbis Bay


Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-10

2014-03-27 : Initial publication
2017-02-05 : General website updates
2019-01-10 : General website updates


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