Hiking Cornwall in August
April 20, 2005 9:13 AM   Subscribe

My summer trip to England will include a three-day, forty-mile hike through the westernmost part of Cornwall (Lands End and some on either side). Advice on the area and the hike would be appreciated.

I've already started walking a lot more to build up to being able to do up to fifteen miles a day, but I'm a bit clueless as to what sort of shoes/boots will suit me best and what I should eat while hiking to keep me going and what I need to carry along with me. Also, I know that it's a beautiful area with a fair amount of up and down, but I know little else beyond some general info from the walking tour site.
posted by anapestic to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
what's the deal? are you with a company that will carry luggage for you, for example? where are you sleeping?

the distance sounds ok for someone in reasonable health, even if you don't walk much, but it's worth remembering that several days of continued walking feels harder than the same number of days spread out over several saturdays.

when i used to walk (many years ago!), people were just starting to switch from leather walking boots to goretex. so i'd suggest a decent pair of lightweight gortex (ie suede/nylon with goretex waterproofing) walking boots. you want to get them soon so that you can break them in. if you already have decent moderately waterproof pair of boots they'll be fine. you could probably get away with a pair of mephisto shoes, say, or some "all terrain" trainers, but that's pushing your luck a bit.

the worst thing about the uk is the weather. where you're going should be ok in summer, but no-one can guarantee anything, and if it does rain it doesn't take long for farmyards and gateways to change to muddy goo (especially if cows go through there).

also, of course, that means a waterproof jacket - hopefully it will be in the rucsac. and some people use waterproof gaiters, but that's probably overkill for cornwall in summer! i wouldn't bother with waterproof trousers as long as you know you have dry clothes to change into at the destination. you might want shorts if you're lucky :o)

in general, because the weather varies so much, you want layers. that you can take off and carry when you get warm. so nothing too bulky.

does the tour not provide food? the best thing about walking in the uk is that you're always near a pub. so lunch in a pub is normally the highlight of the day. other than that, a bottle of water is a good idea.

(i tended to walk in yorkshire, wales and scotland, so i may be over-estimating the need to worry about the weather - someone with more local knowledge might know better)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:03 AM on April 20, 2005

oh rucsac = backpack for americans, i guess. and gaiters are waterproof things that go round your lower leg, kind of extending the boot upwards.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:05 AM on April 20, 2005

and if you want to snack while walking, kendal mint cake is the drug of choice.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:06 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: The package includes four nights in local inns (in four different towns) and luggage transfers from one spot to the next.
posted by anapestic at 10:07 AM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: And the tour provides breakfasts. I figure getting dinner can't be that much of a problem (except that I don't hear much good about English food). I was more wondering what people eat to get them from point A to point B. I have never heard of kendal mint cake. I will see whether I can procure some when I'm there.
posted by anapestic at 10:10 AM on April 20, 2005

hey, pub food can be pretty good these days! you don't really need to eat anything while walking if you have meals. kendal mint cake can be bought in touristy/walking shops in the uk. try it when you get there! if you need a packed lunch, some sandwiches are as good as anything.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:13 AM on April 20, 2005

an orange near the end of the day is a good way to finish the last few miles. no idea why, but they taste particularly good when you're tired and fed up :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:14 AM on April 20, 2005

Best answer: I live in the dryest part of England and I never go hiking without wearing waterproof Gore-Tex hiking boots, quick-dry trousers, and a waterproof Gore-Tex jacket, even when things look sunny. They can change fast, and 15 miles is a good part of the day.

Food: Hiking in England is a little different because it is so dense and you are never too far away from a pub or store where you can buy sandwiches. I usually pack a sandwich with me and some fruit.

As far as snacks, Powerbars and granola bars are good. The former are too expensive for my blood in this country, though. I'd say you should have at least 1.5 L of water with you for a hike like that.

I find it's a lot more fun when I know where I am and what's around, even if someone else is guiding. I recommend the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps.
posted by grouse at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2005

kendal mint cake
posted by andrew cooke at 10:28 AM on April 20, 2005

Despite Andrew's suggestion, kendal mint cake is basically a big lump of flavored (sorry, flavoured) sugar -- not necessarily the ideal snack. I personally prefer trail mix (and non-salt corn chips though they're possibly not available in rural Cornwall) for eating on the go.

Unless you're a vegetarian, a real Cornish pasty is a delicious small portable meal -- meat potatoes and veg, wrapped in pastry -- that can be eaten hot or cold.

The west of england is the rainy (or rainier) side, but it's very unpredictable which is why the weather is always such a topic of conversation there. I think in the west two days out of three have some rain, but it's more likely to be passing showers than continuous downpour.

Shorts are good for rainy days, except for skinny people (like me) who lose heat fast; long walks in wet long pants can be quite abrasive on the legs. I have some long pants that shed water fast (ExOfficio brand iirc and the lower legs unzip so they double as shorts -- a very comfortable garment), and wear a plastic poncho over teeshirt and sweater, plus a polartec jacket; layers come off and go in the backpack when the sun's out. Take a hat with a brim (good for sun and rain.)

I don't know that area, but just in case take some bugoff against midges (which can make life totally miserable in Scotland)
posted by anadem at 10:44 AM on April 20, 2005

If you're following the regular coastal paths then those aren't heavy going for the most part: I walked the St.Just - Land's End stretch many times when I was a kid without the benefit of special footwear. The whole coastline around Penwith is lovely, but I was always particularly enamoured of the stretch from St. Just to St. Ives (although I only ever walked a few miles of it). August offers about the best weather in those parts, although, as others have said, it may well rain. It's also peak season, so it's unlikely you'll have the paths to yourself.
posted by misteraitch at 12:28 PM on April 20, 2005

Ahhh, fond memories of what the locals so charmingly call "summer" in England. I went to St. Ives in July once, and after a couple of days of non-stop rain, the coastal path turned into an impassible mudslide. I came with the wrong shoes, and the first day after the rain stopped, I had to abandon a hike after less than 2 miles. Although it looks on the map like it should be flat, it goes up and down a lot more than you would think, and that gives you plenty of opportunities to slip and slide. Bring shoes with serious cleats on them, and be prepared for the possiblility of rain, temperatures below 60F, and high winds.

On the other hand, the people were great and the scenery was beautiful. Pray for sun.
posted by fuzz at 6:49 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. I've ordered some more appropriate footwear and the Ordnance Survey Explorer map. I'll get some better hiking clothing closer to the time of the trip, and probably upgrade my backpack as well. We've booked a car that we'll pick up in London, so even if the rain is bad, we can get from one place to another (the hike starts at St. Ives and winds along the coastline to end at Penzance), and so that we can stop at various places on the way from and back to London. My partner assures me that he'll be able to handle driving on the other side of the road. I'm sure we'll have a great time, even if it's wet.
posted by anapestic at 7:22 AM on April 21, 2005

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