Lelant Saltings to Carbis Bay circular walk

Lelant Saltings to Carbis Bay

A circular walk from Lelant following St Michael's Way along the vast stretch of beach from Porthkidney Sands to Carbis Bay, with views over St Ives Bay on the return route.

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The route follows St Michael's Way from Lelant past St Uny's church to the dunes. At low tide it's possible to walk across Porth Kidney Sands (or the dunes at high tide) to reach Carrack Gladden. The route continues along St Michael's Way to Carbis Bay. From Carbis Bay, the route crosses the railway and then follows footpaths parallel to the railway back to the West Cornwall Golf Course. Footpaths and small lanes complete the circular route.


  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 4.8 miles/7.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots. Waterproof boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Pretty churchyard at Lelant with wildflowers in Spring
  • Walk along a mile of golden sandy beach at low tide
  • Panoramic views of St Ives Bay
  • Impressive variety and size of seashells on Carbis Bay
  • Birdlife in the Hayle SSSI including Ospreys

Adjoining walks


  1. Make your way to the wooden shed near the car park entrance to locate a small path departing alongside between two lumps of granite. Follow the small path to emerge on a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it for about a mile until it ends at a triangular island.

    Just before it reaches the old station house, the route passes a gate on the left with a green "Anne's Wood" sign.

    The wood was given to the Woodland Trust in memory of Anne Rostron, hence the name, and stands on the site of a 19th Century clay works. The clay was used to make firebricks for lining the furnaces in South Wales. The woodland consists of mature Beech, Sycamore, Oak and Ash interspersed with Holly and young trees. Beneath the dense canopy are shade-loving flora including ferns and ivy.

    The route also passes the house where Rosamunde Pilcher lived - the second house on the left after the old station house - known as No 2 The Elms when she lived there.

    Rosemunde Pilcher was a British writer of romance novels who grew up in Lelant. She began writing at the age of 7, published her short story at the age of 15 and continued writing until she was 76. She died in 2019. Pilcher has become particularly well-known in Germany where over 100 of her stories have been produced for TV with many of the filming locations in Cornwall.

  2. Follow the right side of the fork ahead towards "Owls House" and turn right onto the lane. Follow it a short distance to the corner by the church.

    The mortuary chapel was built in the cemetery for the Nonconformist Christians - the dying wish of a local Methodist, who put up the money for it but this turned out to be insufficient and had to be topped up by another benefactor. It was completed in 1879 and was enlarged in 1909.

    In spring 1877 the Cornish Telegraph reported that one of the ancient Celtic crosses was vandalised: painted with the word "Popery" and the crucifixion figure smeared with paint. It was thought this was done by St Ives fishermen who came to Lelant to paint their boats on the beach near the railway station. The cross was moved into the churchyard for safety in 1878, just before the Methodist chapel was also built there.

  3. Head towards the church sign and follow the coast path signposted to Carbis Bay between the two walls and past the church until you reach a golf club sign at a junction of paths.

    The current church building in Lelant is thought to mostly date from the 15th century, incorporating a few earlier Norman features. The earliest records of the church are from the twelfth century, though it is likely that there was a church in Lelant dedicated to St Anta before this one which is dedicated to St Uny. Exactly where a previous building would have been located is uncertain, possibly on the current site which is the highest point in the area, though there are tales of a chapel buried by the encroaching sand dunes. As well as ecclesiastical duties, the church at Lelant was also used for the storage of contraband spirits.

  4. At the junction, continue ahead on the path indicated by the waymark to reach another waymark at a fork in the path.

    A Site of Special Scientific Interest extends from pools of the Hayle Estuary to Carrack Gladden, including the beach and dunes of Porth Kidney Sands. Hayle is Britain’s most southwesterly estuary and due to the mild maritime climate, it never freezes. Up to 18,000 birds have been seen here in the winter. During the spring and autumn, its far westerly location makes it a very important site for migratory birds to stop and rest. Ospreys have been seen here in a number of years.

  5. At the waymark, keep right to follow the path under the railway line and down some steps until the path splits.

    Within the sand dunes stretching from the golf course towards Porthkidney beach, there have been a number of finds of human remains. When remains of a building was also discovered in the dunes, this led to speculation that it might be a lost chapel of St Anta. The building is now once again lost in the sands so this cannot be investigated further. It is now thought more likely the building was a remnant of the mediaeval port town of Lelant. This was originally situated downriver from its current location but was abandoned due to encroaching sands. The human remains are thought to date from different periods, with some very likely being prehistoric.

  6. Here you have a choice. If the tide is in, take the left-hand path and follow the path alongside the railway to a waymark beside a railway bridge and follow the directions as normal.

    If the tide is out, you can walk along the beach to rejoin the walk at direction 10. To do so, continue down the steps to reach the beach then turn left and follow the shoreline towards the house at the end of the point at the far end of the beach. The remains of a flight of steps run down the left side of the rock outcrop, which you'll need to clamber up to reach the waymark at the top of the path.

    Porthkidney Sands stretch for approximately a mile from the mouth of the River Hayle in Lelant to Hawk's Point in Carbis Bay. At low tide, the beach can also stretch almost a mile out to sea. Due to the very flat beach, the tide comes in very fast indeed. If you are attempting to walk across the beach to the point and the tide starts to race in, then head straight to the dunes. Paths lead from the dunes to the coast path which runs alongside the railway line and you can continue this way to the point. Note that the dunes are sometimes used by naturists.

  7. At the bridge, continue ahead to keep the railway on your left, keeping left at any junctions (paths to right lead onto the beach). Follow the path for about a mile until you finally climb a steep tarmac path with a railing and reach a pedestrian crossing over the railway opposite the sign for "The Haven".

    During late April, St Mark's flies occur in quite large numbers. They are recognisable by their shiny black colour, slow flight and dangly legs and have a habit of landing of anything in their path, walkers included. The larvae live in the soil feeding on roots and rotting vegetation and hatch around St Mark's Day (25th April), sometimes later into May in a cold year. The adults only live for about a week but they do feed on nectar, making them important pollinators. Each of the males eyes are divided into two parts by a groove and each part has a separate connection to their brains. This allows them to use one half to fly whilst using the other half to look for females.

    Because bluebells spread very slowly, they're considered to be an indicator of ancient woodland sites. In areas where trees are not very old, the fact there are bluebells around can indicate that there has been a wood on a site for a very long time. Even if there are no trees there at all, bluebells tell us that there was woodland there some time in the past. The bluebells along the coast are a relic of the gnarled oak woodland that used to grow here before it was cleared for grazing. There is still a patch of the ancient oak woodland left along the coast at Dizzard.

    St Michael's Way is a 12.5 mile prehistoric route from Lelant crossing the peninsula to Marazion. This avoided the need to negotiate the submerged rocks and strong currents at Land’s End. Later, St Michael's Way was used as part of a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain. It is believed that this route was a key factor in Cornwall's rapid conversion into a Christian faith.

  8. At the crossing, don't cross but continue a short distance further along the path to a waymark where the path splits. Take the path on the right and follow this to another waymark where a path leads up from the beach.

    Along the path that leads from the beach up to the waymark is a platform on the rock outcrop opposite a mine adit. There are several other mine adits around Carbis Bay.

    An adit is a roughly horizontal tunnel going into a mine. In Cornwall these were important for drainage as many of the ore-bearing veins are close to vertical, through which water can easily seep. Drainage adits were sloped slightly upwards to meet the main shaft, so water trickling into the main shaft from above could be diverted out of the adit. Below the adit, engines powered by waterwheels or steam were needed to pump the water up to the level of the adit where it could then drain away.

  9. From the waymark, continue along the coast to reach a path leading up from Carbis Bay where the path passes between some wooden railings.

    The beach sometimes referred to as Barrepta Cove or Porth Reptor which are remnants of the original Cornish name for the beach, the exact meaning of which has been lost. This was documented as Parrupter around 1499 and Porthreptor in 1580. Porth rep tor can be translated as "beach beside the hill". However in Cornish, as well as "hill" or "high land", torr can also mean "gash" (which has similar roots to "torn" in English) which could apply to the long, thin Carbis Valley.

    The name "Carbis" is from Carbis Farm which was recorded as "Carbons" in 1391. In Cornish karr means "cart" and pons means "bridge" so this is thought to mean "causeway" but no trace of any structure remains to which this could be attributed. It's possible it was a bridge crossing the stream in the Carbis Valley as part of the road to St Ives. It is said that to avoid Bubonic Plague reaching St Ives, money was left at the bridge and goods were dropped without any face-to-face contact.

    When the St Ives railway was built, a station was created at the bottom of the Carbis Valley which the railway called "Carbis Bay" and this eventually became used as the name for the beach.

  10. From the junction with the Carbis Bay beach path, continue along the coast path towards St Ives until it emerges onto a lane.

    At low tide, a shipwreck can sometimes be seen on the eastern side of Carbis Bay. This is the remains of the SS Vulture a steam-powered British cargo ship that was driven ashore in the storm of 1893 that became known as the Cintra Gale. That night, three other ships were also wrecked in St Ives Bay including the Cintra - a collier which was driven ashore beside the SS Vulture. The 12 man crew of the SS Vulture were all rescued using rocket apparatus, but the 12 crew on the Cintra fared less well - only 7 survived. Even less fortunate was the Hampshire, which sank 10 miles north of Godrevy when a spare crankshaft broke loose and punctured the hull; only one of the 22 crew survived.

  11. Turn left onto the lane and follow it across the railway bridge to a public footpath sign on the left.

    The life-saving rockets were invented at the beginning of the 19th century, by Cornishman Henry Trengrouse, and were also carried aboard larger vessels. They consisted of a solid fuel rocket on a wooden pole with a line attached, and a grapple on the top of the rocket to snag and hold fast onto the target ship or shore. Despite the rockets occasionally exploding, it is recorded that the apparatus saved thousands of lives in the last 2 decades of the 19th century.

  12. Turn left onto the path and follow it until the path forks near a footbridge crossing the railway.

    During late winter or early spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    Three-cornered leeks are native to the Mediterranean and are first recorded as being introduced to the UK in 1759. By Victorian times, they had become well-established in the wild. They thrive in the moist, mild climate in Cornwall and are salt-tolerant so will grow almost anywhere, even on the coast.

  13. Keep right at the fork to keep the railway on your left. Follow the path until it ends at a junction of a track with a lane.

    Cow parsnip (also known as "hogweed" - not to be confused with "giant hogweed") is a member of the carrot family. It has more solid leaves than cow parsley or alexanders which it often grows alongside. It also flowers later. The leaves are noticeable from around mid-April. Flowering starts roughly at the start of June and continues through the summer.

    Giant hogweed is regarded by some as the most dangerous plant in the UK (although hemlock is also a good contender). If you encounter giant hogweed, avoid touching it and children and dogs should be kept away from it as the sap contains a chemical which is extremely phototoxic. When activated by sunlight, this binds to the DNA in skin cells and kills them. Skin reaction starts as an itchy rash and can develop into third degree burns and scarring. It also makes the affected areas susceptible to severe sunburn for several years.

    The plant gets its name as it can grow more than 10 feet tall, topped with white umbrella-shaped flowers. Due to the similar style of flowers, is also known as giant cow parsley although the giant hogweed leaves are much more solid with a toothed edge, more similar to cow parsnip (normal hogweed). It is typically found near water or on waste ground.

    The plant was introduced to Britain by Victorian botanists in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and has escaped from gardens into the wild. It has been spreading across the UK (as one plant produces 50,000 seeds) but is still very rare in Cornwall. A project to eradicate it along the Tamar River system is helping to stop further spread into Cornwall.

    If you find giant hogweed in Cornwall (and are sure it's not normal hogweed), take a photo and report it to invasives@cormacltd.co.uk

    Across the bay in the dunes towards the headland, nitroglycerine was once produced to make dynamite.

    The National Explosives Works was established in 1888, within the dunes of Upton Towans, to supply explosives such as dynamite to the local mines and the area became known as Dynamite Towans. By 1890 the plant was producing three tons of dynamite every day and employed 1800 people. The works was also used throughout the First World War to manufacture explosives such as cordite for ammunition. Production stopped in 1919 and the site was then used for storing explosives before finally closing in the 1960s.

    A number of small enclosures were made in the dunes to house individual buildings interconnected with single-track railways. The arrangement was so that if one plant accidentally detonated, the blast would be deflected upwards so it would not cause a chain reaction, setting off the neighbouring buildings.

  14. Turn right up the track and follow this to a junction of paths and tracks.
  15. At the junction bear left onto the private road marked with a public footpath sign next to the garage. Follow the private road past the garage and all the houses until it ends at a public footpath sign.
  16. Follow the footpath ahead, passing over a footbridge and through a kissing gate to reach a fork in the path.

    Gorse seeds each contain a small body of ant food. The seeds also release a chemical which attracts ants from some distance away. The ants carry the seeds to their nests, eat the ant food and then discard the seeds, helping them to disperse.

  17. Keep left at the fork and follow the path until it eventually passes through a kissing gate and descends to a waymark at the edge of the golf course.

    The lighthouse on the rock on the far side of the bay is Godrevy.

    The Stones Reef off Godrevy Point has always been a shipping hazard and a lighthouse had been considered for a long time, but nothing was done until in 1854, the SS Nile was wrecked with the loss of all on board. The lighthouse was finished in 1859 and is a 26m tall octagonal tower, located on the largest rock of the reef. The lighthouse inspired Virginia Woolfe's novel "To the Lighthouse", despite her setting the novel in The Hebrides. In 2012, the light was decommissioned and replaced with an LED light on a platform facing the sea. The tower is still maintained as a daytime navigation aid.

    More about Godrevy Lighthouse and Virginia Woolfe in Cornwall

  18. Bear right at the waymark and follow the path uphill. Cross over a path to continue uphill between the fences then keep following along the fence on the left to reach a gate onto a track.

    Golf developed in The Netherlands during the Middle Ages and was introduced into Scotland towards the end of this period where it evolved to its present form. The word golf is thought to be a Scots alteration of Dutch colf meaning "club". Golf is first documented in Scotland in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the games of gowf and futball as these were a distraction from archery practice.

  19. Go through the metal pedestrian gate on the right and turn left onto the track. Follow this until it ends in a T-junction onto a lane. Roughly half-way there is an area of the golf course on the right which isn't as obvious as the main area on the left so beware of golf balls coming from the right.

    In mediaeval times, golf balls were made from wood. In the 17th Century, the "featherie" was created, made from leather and stuffed with feathers. In the mid-1800s balls moulded from sap were the first to be mass-produced. They could also be heated and re-cast if they went out of shape from being hit. However people noticed that battle-scarred balls that had been used a long time seemed to fly more consistently. Golf ball manufacturers began etching different protrusions on the surfaces in attempts to improve the aerodynamics. The potential of a ball of elastic bands was discovered by a bored golfer waiting for a friend to finish work and by the 1890s, these were being coated in sap to make golf balls. In the early 1900s, it was found that indentations (rather than protrusions) on the surface resulted in better aerodynamics.

  20. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a public footpath sign on your right, opposite the first of the golf club buildings.

    The remains of a wayside cross is set into the wall as you join the lane.

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    A number of mediaeval crosses have been found built into walls, used as animal rubbing posts, gateposts and stream crossings. Many were rescued and moved into churchyards during Victorian times. A number were also moved from their roadside locations into churchyards.

  21. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the left hedge to a stone stile in the far hedge.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  22. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of this field and two more, crossing similar stone stiles, until you reach a final stile which emerges onto the pavement of a residential road.

    Birds of the crow family are considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals, displaying a high learning ability and are able to use logic for solving problems. Researchers have found some crow species capable of not only tool use but also tool construction. Crows have also demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans apart by recognising facial features. If a crow encounters a cruel human, it can also teach other crows how to identify that individual.

  23. Cross the stile and turn right onto the pavement and follow the road to where it ends in a T-junction.
  24. At the junction, turn right and walk a few paces to the junction with the main road and continue a couple of paces more to the 40mph signs. Carefully cross the road to the entrance to Trevenwyth Farm.
  25. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left to enter the yard. Then keep left and follow the leftmost track, along the line of the hedge, until it ends in a gate with a large iron post on the right.

    Red campion is also known by a few local names including Johnny Woods (from its habitat) and Ragged Jack (from its flower shape). Some are colour references such as Scalded Apples, and particularly in the southwest, Red Riding Hood. Cuckoo-flower is a reference to the time of year that it flowers. Another name - "Batchelors' buttons" - suggests it was once worn as a buttonhole by young men.

  26. At the post, bear right onto the path between the hedge and fence. Follow this over a stile and continue until it eventually emerges onto a road.

    In order to attract pollinating insects, the plant heats the flower spike up to 15°C above that of the surroundings. The plant exudes a smell of decaying flesh which attracts flies and the flower is designed to trap these. Within the flower, the female organs mature first and insects carrying pollen from other plants (together with any unlucky enough not to be) are imprisoned behind a row a spines within the flower. Once the plant is pollinated, the male organs quickly mature and the plant's own pollen is dusted over the trapped flies. The spines then wither away enough for the flies to escape.

    All members of the lily family, including wild arum, are poisonous to dogs.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  27. Turn right to pass "Brush End" and then cross the road at the crossing. Turn right to continue downhill on the pavement until you reach a path with steps on the left between a telegraph pole and a palm tree, opposite the "Abbey Hill" sign.

    The hill is named after the house called The Abbey which was built in the 16th century. Its name arose because it was used as a rest and retreat house by the Benedictine monks of St Michael’s Mount. The small room upstairs was known as "the confessional" as it was thought to be designed as a priest's hiding chamber. There is said to be a secret passage from the beach, running under the village to the house. Passages such as these were used for smuggling, which in the St Ives area was not always entirely incompatible with religion.

  28. Climb the steps on the left and follow the path until it emerges onto a residential lane.

    Lelant was a sea port in the Middle Ages, but the trade was lost to St Ives when the estuary silted up. The first recorded spelling of Lelant was Lananta in a document dating from around 1170. The Cornish word Lan within a place name usually refers to a church, in this case of St Anta to whom Carbis Bay church is dedicated but nothing is known. Curiously, Lelant's parish church is instead dedicated to St Uny.

  29. Follow the lane ahead and round a bend to the right until it ends in a T-junction.
  30. Turn right and follow the lane over the bridge to the bend where the path on the left leads into the car park.

    During winter, from November to March, winter heliotrope is visible along the edges of roads and paths as carpets of rounded heart-shaped leaves.

    The name of the plant is Greek for "sun direction" because the flowers turn to follow the winter sun.

  31. Turn left onto the path and follow it back into the car park to complete the circular walk.

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