If you’re visiting the any area of Cornwall one thing I’d definitely recommend you do is walk a section of the south west coast path. Currently England’s longest continuous long-distance footpath, it runs from Minehead in Somerset along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall and through to Poole in Somerset taking in stunning beaches, clifftop scenery, historical sites and nature reserves along the way. Of course most of us don’t have the time, or inclination, to walk the entire 630 miles, so here’s a particularly interesting section you can do in a day from Penzance to Marazion, combined with a visit to two of the areas must-see sights – St Michael’s Mount and Tremenheere Gardens.
Starting point: Penzance
You can start the walk in either Penzance or Marazion but if you’re going car-free it is easier to start in Penzance, which is well connected by train. In fact, you can pick up the south west coast path from right outside the train station by simply leaving the station, walking through the car park and turning left to follow the railway line. Once you get to Marazion you can either turn around and follow the path back or catch a bus back to Penzance.
I chose to walk from Penzance towards Marazion and St Michael’s Mount in the morning and then walk back, detouring to Tremenheere Gardens on the way, but equally you could visit the gardens on your way to St Michael’s Mount, particularly if you’re getting public transport back.
While some of the south west coast path can be quite challenging and there are sections with lots of inclines and declines as you ascend and descend along the coastal cliffs, this particular stretch follows a beach for most of the way along so it’s relatively flat, paved and very easy to walk. Some sections were closed off for repairs when I was there but if that happens you can just walk along the beach instead (it just requires a bit more effort).
The walk is roughly an hour from Penzance to Marazion and then factor in an additional 15 minutes to cross the causeway to reach St Michael’s Mount.
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is a National Trust site with a historic castle and gardens on an island just off Marazion. It is linked to the town by a man-made causeway, which you can walk across on foot when the tide is out. When the tide is in there are regular boats that ferry passengers across the water in about 10 minutes. If you book a ticket online before your visit the website will advise you if you need to purchase a boat ticket to reach the island. You don’t need to pre-purchase a return boat ticket, which means you don’t have to rush while you’re on the island to leave before the tide comes in. You can buy a boat ticket at any kiosk, shop or restaurant and the boats are very regular so you shouldn’t have to queue for too long to get on one.
If you’re looking to visit both the castle and the garden these have separate tickets so you’ll need to purchase both. I’d definitely recommend not skipping the garden. It’s surprisingly interesting with many species of plant from south america and the tropics able to grow easily due to the microclimate of the area. Like the castle, the garden involves climbing some steep stairs as it’s been landscaped into the side of the mount.
Having visited its most famous draw it’s worth pausing for a look around Marazion. This small little Cornish town has plenty of local eateries and is the perfect place to stop for lunch if you’ve been to the mount in the morning. The only problem is that on a sunny day in the summer it’s pretty much overrun by tourists and you’ll probably struggle to get in anywhere – be prepared to queue! Alternatively head to the local pasty shop and enjoy your lunch on the beach with a view of the island.
Tremenaheere Sculpture Gardens
Between Penzance and Marazion there’s another local treasure that’s worth a visit while you’re on route. About halfway between the two towns take a detour from the south west coast path and head away from the beach towards the main road. Crossing that road head further inland, down a couple of windy country lanes and you’ll reach Tremenaheere Scupture Gardens.
These gardens are home to again a huge variety of exotic plants, due to Cornwall’s microclimate, and interspersed with modern art installations. Arguably the best thing about this place though is the views. Due to its elevated position you’ll be treated to panoramic views across the bay with St Michael’s Mount imposing in the background.
It’s easy to spend a couple of hours in the gardens, which are vast and have some extensive woodland to explore as well. Tickets do not need to be pre-booked (even in Covid times) so there’s no worrying about rushing to be there for a certain time, which is why I’d recommend doing this on your way back to Penzance if you choose to do St Michael’s Mount in the same day.
Have you walked the south west coast path? Let me know your favourite section and any other sites along the way that are must-see!
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