Wild Walking UK

Walking the South West Coast Path with children

My family and I walked a 54-mile (87km) section of the South West Coast Path during February half term 2019, as part of my LEJOG challenge. We left Land’s End on Sunday afternoon, and arrived at Perranporth on Thursday morning.

We left the car at Perranporth and got a taxi to the start of our walk at Land’s End. This means we are walking back towards the car, something that helps to motivate little legs!

Three of our children walked with us, aged 16, 8 and 6. This blog will be concentrating on the experience for Rhiannon (8) and Isaac (6), as Zoe (16) hardly counts as a child any more! You can read the day-by-day account of the walk here.

Two children sitting on a rock on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Rhiannon and Isaac at Land’s End

This section of the coast path is quite rugged in places, and it’s definitely a route for doing once your children have got some experience on easier walks. You need to be confident in their ability and know how far they can walk (which is always further than you think!) The section between Sennen Cove and St Ives is quite remote, and you will need to be prepared and fairly self-sufficient.

We were camping wild through this stretch, which meant we didn’t need to leave the trail to find accommodation. Camping wild also means that, in theory, you can stop whenever the children have had enough. It does help if there’s a suitable camping spot nearby though – sometimes they have to walk on a bit further!

Children in a tent
Enjoying a snack in the tent

So here are the highlights for children along this stretch of coast path, and things that can make the trail more accessible for (relatively experienced) little ones.

Land’s End

The start of the trail is an easy one for appealing to children. The theme park has family attractions, shops, the iconic signpost and toilets (really important). There are picnic benches here and great views whichever way you look.

A handy picnic bench at Land’s End

Sennen Cove

If you’re looking for a really gentle introduction to walking for your children, then the stretch from Land’s End to Sennen Cove and back again would be ideal. It is possible to make a loop inland slightly on the return journey to avoid retracing your steps. This would be a loop of about two miles.

The mile heading into Sennen Cove is everything a cliff-top path should be. Extreme care needs to be taken to ensure that the children stay away from the edge of the cliff, but the path is set back a little for most of this stretch.

There’s an old coastal look-out building just before you reach Sennen Cove that gives a good view out to sea and further along the coast.

Isaac at the coastal look-out, just above Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove has a lifeboat station that’s open to the public, and the children really enjoyed looking at the lifeboat. Watching the waves crashing over the harbour wall while eating our chips was another highlight!

Sennen Cove to St Just

This stretch of the coastal path feels very remote, and we enjoyed looking for wildlife as we walked. The birds were starting to build nests when we were there, and we spotted lots carrying interesting bits of nest-building material!

There are also caves and old mine entrances along this stretch. I would never recommend going in them, but the children enjoyed going up to the entrance of those on the trail and seeing how far they could see in.

A cave? A mine entrance? A portal?? The BatCave???

Cape Cornwall to Pendeen

This stretch of the coast path is fantastic for children. The mine shafts were a source of fascination for Isaac, although it’s important to ensure that they stick to the path here to avoid a surprise encounter with one.

Learning about mine shafts

Cape Cornwall is a beautiful spot. Most usefully it also has very clean public toilets, a cafe (although not open when we passed through), a picnic bench and a rubbish bin. All helpful stuff!

The ruins on the clifftop above Cape Cornwall were brilliant fun to explore and imagine what they might have been used for.

A game in the ruins near Cape Cornwall.

There are mining museums at Pendeen (Geevor Tin Mine, which is slightly off the trail) and the National Trust’s Levant Mine (which is directly on the trail). Sadly the Levant Mine and Beam Engine was closed when we passed, as this looked like a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn more about the mining history of the area. We are planning a return visit to see both museums.

Levant Mine and Beam Engine – sadly closed when we passed by.

Porthmeor Cove

Porthmeor Cove is a gorgeous little bay and made a great lunch stop. The children were keen to play on the beach after they had eaten, so we spent some time here drying the tents and sleeping bags.

Playing in the sand at Porthmeor Cove

St Ives and Hayle

One of the ways that we have encouraged a love of walking in our children might be seen as bribery, but it works! When we’re on a long (multi-day) walk, we often stop in pubs and cafes for a meal or at least a drink and a play in the play area. This is something we don’t often do at other times, so the children see it as a real treat. With all the fresh air and exercise, they can polish off an adult portion with no trouble at all.

St Ives was the perfect place for a chocolate milkshake bigger than your head…

A chocolate milkshake for breakfast? You’ve earned it!

… and Hayle was the perfect place for a delicious Cornish ice cream, eaten in the February sunshine!

An ice cream for afternoon snack? Why the devil not!

The Towans beach

This was another perfect opportunity to stop and allow the children to play on the beach. We loved watching the seals bob in and out of the waves with the surfers, and scooting down the sand dunes further up the beach was great fun.

Playing in the sand dunes at Upton Towans

The Knavocks and the seals

One of the things we all particularly love about walking is when we come across something unexpected – and this bay full of seals at The Knavocks was certainly that. The children enjoyed watching how agile the seals were in the water, compared with their awkwardness on land – “they look like giant slugs, mummy!” A proper, wild nature safari – better than the zoo!

“Giant slugs” on the beach at The Knavocks

Making games 

The seals were a special kind of unexpected, but more mundane unexpected objects – like this bridge – can be made into games. All the adults wanted to do was sit down when we stopped for a break, but the children were always keen to run around and play.

Limbering up…
The race is on!
A more traditional play area at Porthtowan – handily next door to the pub!

In the wild outdoors