There's nothing like a global pandemic to shake a nation into venturing outside our own front door instead of jumping on the cheapest plane to timbuctoo.
And low and behold, we were no exception. With our summer holiday plans in tatters we started searching for Covid friendly retreats that would give us that well needed injection of Serotonin.
With limited cash resources, we wanted somewhere close enough to reach by train but without the £100+ price tag. We settled on Falmouth, as my partner Matt has a brother and sister in law there. Wanting to make the most of the Cornish coastal experience, and being the nerdy hiking enthusiasts that we are, we decided to tie in a walking adventure on the world famous South West Coastal Path en route to theirs.
We had a weeks annual leave booked, so we decided to head to Land's End on the Sunday and end in Falmouth on Friday evening. That gave us precisely 5.5 days of hiking (minus .5 days for travelling to Falmouth on the Sunday) to get there, which seemed pretty doable as the length of that part of the trek was 86 miles, equaling an average of 17.2 miles per day.
Hiking 17.2 miles a day is a challenge in itself, without the added inconvenience of a hefty backpack. Before going into each section of the trek, I think it's important to give you a breakdown of what I packed, what was essential and what I could have done without.
Good backpack. I cannot stress how important it is to invest in a good bag. My bag from my trek in the Swiss alps last year was slightly too small with the added sleeping bag, so I made the treacherous mistake of ordering a bag last minute on Amazon. And honestly, it almost ruined the trip for me. My bag was in bits the entirety of the trip. I implore you to buy a good sturdy trekking pack, from Osprey or a cheaper option would be Vango or somewhere of equal quality. Do your backpack research basically.
Water bottle. Don't be fooled into thinking you will be able to buy drinks from anywhere along the path - we found ourselves in many situations in small villages where there wasn't so much as a corner shop so a large water bottle or hydration bladder is essential.
Minimal clothes. I packed two pairs of leggings, two pairs of loose shorts, two tops, one fleece, 3 pairs of good hiking socks, 5 pairs of pants and a waterproof coat. This was more than enough, and bare in mind you will be wearing most of the stuff anyway.
Travel towel. Super lightweight and will dry quickly if you attach it to your rucksack.
Travel pillow. We would usually rest our heads on our backpacks which we softened with a little travel pillow on top. They fold down to nothing and are super lightweight so definitely worth it for me.
Headtorch. You might find yourself hiking at night or having to set your tent up after it's gone dark, so I really recommend bringing one of these along.
Anker charging bank. There would rarely be a spot to charge our phones at campsites, so this was also an essential pack.
Lightweight 1-2 season sleeping bag. We did the trek in August, so please bare in mind if you go in a colder season you will need a 3-4 season sleeping bag and also warmer clothes!
Roll matt. I was really happy I brought mine, it weighs nothing and attached to the side of my backpack so you didn't really notice it.
Small, lightweight tent. I chose the smallest most lightweight tent I could find. Matt nicknamed it our pushed over wheely bin, he's quite a bit taller than me so struggled a big with the length but it was just perfect for me. If I was doing the full Coastal path I would definitely recommend bringing a larger tent as ours was really only good for sleeping, so when it rained there wasn't much we could do in the evenings.
Book. I don't go many places without a book! My wonderful mother sent me Raynor Winn's 'The Salt Path' which is about her and her husband trekking the whole 630 miles of the South West Coastal Path, there was something extra magical about reading as I went.
Lightweight hiking sandal. Not an essential, but it was nice to have a spare pair of shoes so I didn't have to faff around trying to get my hiking boots on to go for a wee in the night.
Hiking boots. Really important to invest in a good pair. Personally, I've not found better than Salomon Gortex for durability, grip, waterproofness, comfort. They aren't cheap but really worth the pennies. Make sure you wear them in on a few hikes before doing the trek - there's nothing worse than shredded feet mid trek.
First aid. Again, super important to pack a solid first aid kit. Mine included: Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Biofreeze roll on (we would roll this wherever we had muscle pain in the night and by morning it felt as good as new), Leukotape (stops blisters forming or blisters rubbing, miracle stuff), antihistamine.
Eyemask & earplugs. I bring these everywhere I go as I'm a sensitive sleeper, but you might not need them.
Guidebook. I opted to bring one in case we got stuck at any point, but I never used it to be honest. We just asked people or used our phones if we needed to. If you want to know more about each section of the path it might be an idea to bring one and read as you go. The path is literally on the coast the whole way and is very easy to navigate, so it's not a necessary bring.
Land's End to Porthcurno - 11.4 miles
We got the train from London to Plymouth, then from Plymouth to Penzance. The train only goes as far as Penzance, so from here we got a bus (which was open top so quite the novelty) all the way to Land's end. We got to Land's End for about 3pm in the evening, so started the trek and ended up at Porthcurno on our first night. We found our first campsite, Treen park, and pitched our tent. Most campsites we found en route saved a few spots for campers doing the South West Coastal path, so even though some said they were full online or on arrival, once they found out we were doing the path they were more than happy to let us pitch up. This pitch cost us £20 for a small two person tent. The campsite was very fancy, with a toilet block, shower block, onsite pizza and breakfast van, and small site shop. We ended up eating at The Logan Rock Inn, which was quite expensive but really delicious food. We also got a free performance of some cornish folk songs by the locals - so well worth the price in our opinion!
Porthcurno to Penzance - 11.5 miles
We ended up walking slightly further than planned on this day, as we wanted to stop in the village or Marazion instead of the much less picturesque Penzance. I would highly recommend doing this as well as Penzance isn't the most scenic of spots with a stunning view over St Micheal’s Mount.
We stayed at Trescowe campsite, which cost us £10. This campsite had no showers and only a porterloo toilet so it was a fair price for what it offered. We ended up going to the Godolphin for a drink in the evening, which had an amazing view of the island castle, then nipped across the road for some fish and chips which we ate on the beach.
Penzance to Porthlevan - 13.9 miles
In Porthlevan we stayed at Treza campsite, which was my favourite camping spot on the trek. It cost us £15 and had a decent toilet and hot shower block. The campsite was huge so we got an amazing spot with a beautiful view of the rolling hills in the distance and the sea. I would really recommend staying here!
Porthlevan to Lizard - 14.1 miles
This was one of the most dramatic stretches of the trek in terms of views. There was dramatic cliff edges and roaring waves around every bend. When we got to Lizard we planned to stay at Henry's campsite, but they had no room so we hiked a few extra miles inland to Little Trethvas Holidays. This campsite cost £15. On arrival, we realised there was no shop or pub close where we could buy food. We were just about ready to tuck into our apple and crisps for tea when the owner of the farm rocked up. He kindly offered to cook us tea from the vegetables freshly picked from his farm. We spent an unforgettable evening in the Cornish cottage with his family, I can't recommend the hospitality of this campsite enough. A truly magical experience.
Lizard to Porthhallow - 13 miles
The farmer and his wife recommended a lovely campsite at the end of our next days trek, the Fat Apples Cafe & Campsite. This campsite cost £20 and had good shower and toilet amenities although you did have to pay extra for hot water. We arrived a bit too late to eat in the café, so opted for a meal in the local pub. Not the best food I had on the trip - in fact myself and Matt had a touch of food poisoning after our visit so be careful what you order.
Porthhallow to Falmouth - 20 miles
This last stretch was by far the longest and most challenging - but the end was in sight so we trudged on food poisoning and all.
This trek was really special and one I will remember forever, however due to the poor quality of my backpack causing me tremendous back pain and the food poising from the previous night, I was ready to not see another Cornish coast for a long time!
You can watch a video of our trip highlights here: