I recently visited friends Mark & Amee in Carbis Bay and excitedly packed my running gear on the back of their tales of the South West Coastal Path.
Even for such a short route, it has a bit of everything – golden sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, steep climbs, shipwrecks, and endless views across the Atlantic. A workout for the body and eyes in one, otherwise known as an “Awe Walk”.
The route can be achieved in either direction and is steep but accessible to all fitness levels.
St Ives to Carbis Bay route highlights
- The sandy beaches and shipwrecks at Carbis Bay
- The “huer” lookout hut for watching pilchard shoals
- Stray splashes from the waves in St Ives
- The design homes popping up along South West Coastal Path
- Panoramic views across the whole bay at high points
- Spotting a pod of dolphins playing the Atlantic
St Ives to Carbis Bay run or walk route in full
Starting in the beautiful artists’ colony of central St Ives, by the lighthouse.
This vantage point lets you see the whole bay, which is usually a hive of activity at any time of day. Expect old wooden rowing boats, seals, fishing hauls, and plenty of tourists.
Head through either the cobbled backstreets (below) or take Wharf Road, passing the harbour-front full of hipster coffee shops, pubs and the St Ives RNLI building.
At high tide this will involve a fun game of chicken as the waves splash the homes on the seafront (note: I didn’t make it unscathed).
Follow the street round onto the stunning Porthminster Beach, where the St Ives Food and Drink Festival is held May. This takes you onto St Ives train station and it’ll be the train tracks that you run alongside in most part to Carbis Bay.
You’ll confront a small woodland area and the first of the steep climbs. The path here is very uneven so mind your step.
Once at the top, take a moment to catch your breath and take in the equally breath-taking views of Porthminster Beach behind you.
The next landmark is a curious “huer” fisherman’s lookout hut for spotting pilchard shoals arriving in the bay.
When a “huer” would spot one, he would raise a hue-and-cry (hence the name) of “Hevva, hevva!”, and direct his fishing friends to the best place. The photo below showcasing the unbelievable views they had to work with.
The next stretch is a far more gradual descent with the ocean on your left. Framing your spectacular sea and coastal views is a collection of to-die-for design houses, reflecting the influx of money into St Ives at the moment. My personal favourite being Skyfall house on Hain Walk, on the edge of St Ives (pictured below).
You’ll now enter another, narrower woodland path.
The St Ives Bay Railway Line beneath you, hugging the coastline.
The railway bridge brings Carbis Bay into play and Newquay in the distance.
It’s here that I spotted a pod of dolphins playing in the Atlantic – not a sight I thought I’d see spending only 48 hours in Cornwall.
Pass through the Carbis Bay Estate (if you can resist the temptation to stop at the excellent Ugly Butterfly restaurant) and choose to either disembark onto Carbis Bay Beach, or take the grueling climb up the hill to continue on your way. This is where your hill running training really benefits your body.
The great expanse of Porthkidney Sands awaits either route, which stretches from the mouth of the River Hayle in Lelant to Hawk’s Point in Carbis Bay. The beach is around a mile long and at low tide the sea retreats just as far leaving a vast expanse of almost deserted sand. The ominous looking path below is where you pick the South West Coastal Path back up from Carbis Bay beach.
Repeat the feat on your return leg to complete the 8km route.