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Exploring the great outdoors in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Cornwall is an outdoor lover’s paradise.

There’s hardly a better way to experience Cornwall’s wild spaces than on foot, by bike or on horseback. Alternatively, for a more comfortable seat from which to view the region’s stunning scenery, take a ride on one of Cornwall’s steam railways. Visitors to the Isles of Scilly can also experience the islands up close by taking to the water in a kayak. Here are some of the best outdoor activities that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have to offer.

Cycling the Camel Trail

Padstow is the start – or finish – of a 17-mile level track that follows the route of an old railway, from the South Quay at Padstow along the estuary to Wadebridge (five miles), and on to Dunmere Halt (six miles) through deep, leafy cuttings beside a very picturesque stretch of the Camel.

Camel trail Cornwall outdoor activities Cornwall by Matt Jessop Visit Cornwall
Pausing to admire the view along the Camel Trail © Matt Jessop, Visit Cornwall

There’s a family-friendly pub by the parking space at Dunmere, and from here you can take the mile-long route into Bodmin, or swing north, following the young river upstream to Wenfordbridge (six miles), just a short hop from the very pretty moorland village of Blisland.

Walking the South West Coast Path

Cornwall is famous for its long- and short-distance walks, and one of the most well-known is the Cornwall section of the South West Coast Path, which follows the entire coastline and is waymarked with an acorn motif.

Mullion Cove Cornwall by Ian Woolcock Shutterstock
The view from the South West Coast Path at Mullion Cove © Billy Stock, Shutterstock

Take a walk along any stretch of the path to experience inspirational heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery. Visit www.southwestcoastpath.com for further details.

Kayaking around the Isles of Scilly

Kayaking is a popular way to explore in and around the Isles of Scilly. Nothing beats the quiet enjoyment of moving silently through the water, and this is the way to get up close to nesting seabirds and sunbathing seals.

Kayaking Tresco Isles of Scilly outdoor activities Cornwall by James Darling
Kayaking around Tresco forms part of the 21st-century approach to travelling around the Isles of Scilly © James Darling

Very calm seas and some previous paddling experience are necessary before you can venture out to the uninhabited rocks and islands, but even novices can enjoy pottering in shallow waters off the inward-facing beaches of the archipelago on stable, sit-on-top kayaks.

Horseriding on Bodmin Moor

For many people, the Moor is best viewed from between the ears of a friendly horse and several moorland pubs have places where you can leave your mount safely tethered.

Mare Bodmin Moor Cornwall England by PJ photography Shutterstock
Many people enjoy exploring the moor on horseback © PJ photography, Shutterstock

Hallagenna St Breward and Lower Tokenbury Equestrian Centre offer escorted rides across moorland or through wooded valleys at a pace you feel comfortable.

Taking a ride on a steam railway

The Bodmin & Wenford line and much of its steam and diesel rolling stock were rescued from dereliction in 1986 by a group of local enthusiasts, who formed a trust to preserve this colourful remnant of Cornish train history.

Apart from the rides out west to Boscarne Junction (right next to the Camel Trail) and/or east to Bodmin Parkway, one-day courses are offered (over-18s only), giving fellow enthusiasts the opportunity to work alongside the regular crews and experience the filth, sweat and the glory of the footplate.

Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway Cornwall by Al Pidgen Shutterstock outdoor activities cornwall
The Bodmin & Wenford steam railway is a colourful remnant of Cornish train history © Al Pidgen, Shutterstock

Visitors to Cornwall can also experience steam train travel on the Launceston line. The two and a half miles of track runs on the old bed of the North Cornwall Railway, following one of the prettiest stretches of the River Kensey to Newmills, where most people get off for a picnic or go for a walk, before catching a later train back to Launceston for a peep at the railway museum and workshops.


More information

Eager to learn more about outdoor activities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly? Check out our comprehensive guide: