Lelant to St Ives

Lelant to St Ives

A one-way walk to St Ives along the beaches from Lelant including the vast expanse of Porthkidney Sands, Carbis Bay and Porthminster Beach using the train or bus to make the route circular.

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The route follows The Saltings where Rosemunde Pilcher lived and then St Michael's Way from 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 and follows the coast path to Porthminster Beach and onwards to St Ives harbour. A train or bus journey back to Lelant is used to make the route circular.


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

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 4.3 miles/7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots in winter, trainers in summer

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
  • Birdlife in the Hayle SSSI including Ospreys
  • Panoramic views of St Ives Bay
  • Impressive variety and size of seashells on Carbis Bay
  • Golden sandy beaches at Carbis Bay and Porthminster
  • St Ives historic harbour and buildings
  • Myriad of art galleries in St Ives

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Golden Lion
  • The Hain Line


Note that the train now only stops at Lelant (village) and no longer at Lelant Saltings but it's an easy 800 metre walk back to the car park at the end. Note that not all trains from St Ives stop at Lelant so check carefully. Alternatively you can catch a bus from St Ives to Lelant.

  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.

    In October 1886, the German ship Albert Wilhelm was on its way to Fowey from the Isle of Man but as it passed around Godrevy Head it struck Stones Reef which made a hole in the hull. The leaking ship made it to Porthkidney Sands where it ran aground and the crew were rescued by Hayle's lifeboat. Most of the ship was broken up and removed but the bottom of the hull still remains, usually buried in sand but occasionally uncovered by winter storms.

  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 right onto the lane and follow it down to the car park.
  12. Bear right through the car park to reach a path leading from the far side. Follow this past the restaurant, "G7" sign and lodges to join a tarmac path leading uphill along the fence. Continue following the path uphill, which climbs a number of steps, until you reach a footbridge over the railway.

    The Carbis Bay Hotel was built in 1894, not long after the railway was built to St Ives. The name "Carbis Bay" was invented by the railway for the name of its station in the Carbis Valley and eventually came to be used for the beach. The hotel was designed by the famous Cornish Architect Silvanus Trevail, and is located on the site of an old mine. Its guests have included Virginia Woolf, who stayed at the hotel in the spring of 1914. It is also the basis of the fictional "The Sands Hotel" in the novels of Rosamunde Pilcher.

  13. Cross the railway and follow the path until you reach a junction of paths with a footpath signpost for St Michael's Way.
  14. Continue in the direction indicated for St Ives and follow the track which eventually becomes a lane. Continue past the Baulking House to the bottom of the hill where a small path departs from the lane beside a post with red and yellow waymarks.

    St Ives was the most important fishing port on the North Coast. The pilchard fishery in St Ives was the largest in Cornwall in its heyday during the mid 19th Century. The annual pilchard catch in St Ives frequently exceeded all of the rest of Cornwall combined. The largest recorded catch in St Ives was in 1847 when over 57 million pilchards were caught in a single day. At the end of the 19th Century, the pilchard shoals stopped coming inshore and the industry had died out by the early 1900s.

    During the early 19th Century, visitors to St Ives commented on being overpowered by the smell of rotting fish emanating from the town. A number of pilchard cellars surrounded the harbour but by the 1920s these had either been demolished or converted for other uses (the St Ives museum was originally a pilchard curing cellar).

  15. Follow the small path for St Ives, keeping ahead when you reach a waymark. Continue from this to pass over a railway bridge and reach a Town Centre signpost where the main path bends to the right and a small path leads ahead.

    Until Victorian times, St Ives was just a small fishing port. The town was transformed, and in fact mostly built, after the railway from St Erth was completed in 1877, connecting the white sandy beaches of St Ives to a wealthy population of Victorian holidaymakers. The tiny railway line, winding along the cliffs and bays, somehow managed to survive the closures by Beeching in the 1960s. It has now become a tourist attraction in its own right. During gales, the section along the dunes can become covered in sand and needs to be excavated before the service can resume. In 2019, Lelant Saltings station was closed following the creation of a new Park and Ride at St Erth (at what is described as the "multi-modal transport hub" by Cornwall Council, or by everyone else as a "station").

  16. Turn right, signposted Town Centre, to stay on the main path and follow this down the zig-zag to the café. Pass behind the café to reach a junction of tracks.

    In February 1901, the French ship "Julien Marie" was bound for Bordeaux with a load of coal from Swansea. The captain tried to make harbour in St Ives to escape a storm but due to large breakers and encumbrance caused by sails hanging down broken from a broken mast, this was impossible. The crew attempted to anchor but this did not hold and the six crew and their dog were rescued by the St Ives lifeboat before the vessel was driven onto the shore on Porthminster beach and became a total wreck.

  17. Bear right onto the path running behind the Beach Shop (signposted "Takeaway" and "Beach Bar") and follow this along the top of the beach until you reach a ramp leading up from the beach beside the Beach Bar.

    In January 1908, the Falmouth schooner "Lizzie R Wilce" was on the way to St Malo in France with a cargo of coal from Swansea. She tried to enter St Ives harbour to a escape a storm but missed the stays and struck Pednolver Point before being driven ashore on Porthminster beach. The crew were rescued by St Ives lifeboat and the ship then became a total wreck. The crew were safely landed in the harbour at 10:30 pm but because sea was so rough that the lifeboat could not return to the lifeboat house and had to stay in the harbour until 2 am.

    Just three hours later, another schooner on its way from Swansea - the Mary Barrow loaded with anthracite - attempted to seek shelter in St Ives harbour but grounded on a sand bar and was driven onto Porthminster Beach. In the very heavy sea, the lifeboat managed to anchor and position itself next to the wreck and the crew were rescued.

  18. Turn left up the ramp and bear right at the top onto the lane. Follow the lane along the wall and along a row of small cottages to reach the St Ives Arts Club.

    During Victorian times, open air painting became popular and the scenery and mild climate of St Ives generated a reputation as the ideal place for marine painting (of the decorative rather than boat-keeping kind). Once the railway was completed in 1877, St Ives became more accessible. Around this time, the pilchard industry was in decline which resulted in many unoccupied net lofts, cellars and workshops. These became converted into artists studios, with the first recorded in 1885 which had been converted from a sail loft. In 1920, Bernard Leach arrived and went on to make St Ives internationally famous through his pottery. St Ives has continued to attract artists and is now considered to be one of the most important art centres in Britain. In 1993, the St Ives branch of the Tate Gallery opened (named after the sugar magnate Henry Tate of Tate and Lyle). Since 1978, there has been a St Ives September Festival which runs for 15 days during which many artists open their studios to the public.

  19. After the Arts Club, bear right onto the path along the sea wall and follow it until it eventually emerges onto a road beside the lifeboat station.

    St Ives has had a lifeboat since 1840, though the original was a rowing boat launched from the harbour. In 1867, the RNLI relocated it to Porthgwidden beach and built a boathouse for it. This was not well thought out as launching through the surf proved near impossible and so it was quickly replaced by a building in Fore Street. In 1911, a new boathouse was built on the quay which was better suited to launching the lifeboat which had become motorised by this point. This was finally replaced with the station you see today which was built in 1993 to accommodate a larger modern boat.

  20. This is a good point to explore St Ives and/or stock up with pasties. The return route is to turn up Lifeboat Hill and take the first left to reach the church door.

    The RNLI was founded in 1824 under the original name of the National Institution for Preservation of Life from Shipwreck. It was renamed to the RNLI in 1854. Until 1890 all the lifeboats were rowed with oars until some steam-powered boats were introduced. By 1905, petrol-powered boats were being trialled and fairly quickly replaced the bulky steam-powered predecessors. Today a fleet of over 340 lifeboats provide a 24/7 search and rescue service around the UK. The charity has saved over 140,000 lives since it was set up.

  21. Follow the lane from the church door past the Golden Lion to the junction at Barclays Bank.

    The current church building dates from the early 13th century and the south aisle was added roughly a century later. The font is also thought to date to the 14th century and some of the carved bench ends are from the 15th century. In the churchyard is a late mediaeval lantern cross which is over 10ft high. The elevated churchyard is thought to have arisen due to the lack of space for burials resulting in a "multi-storey" approach being taken.

  22. Turn left to stay on the lane at Barclays Bank and follow it until you reach the train and bus station, just after The Regent Hotel. You can get the train back to Lelant (village) station and then turn left onto The Saltings to retrace your steps back to the car park. Alternatively you can get the bus and from the bus stop by the village hall in Lelant, you can cut down Station Hill beside the Badger Inn to return along The Saltings from the train station.

    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.

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