Cornwall never ceases to surprise and amaze me with it’s incredible hidden gems!
July has blessed us with the most fantastic weather to kick off the summer season, and this weekend I well and truly made the most of it, rushing from coast to coast to catch the best of the sunshine.
On Friday afternoon, Frankie and I decided to do some exploring and seek out a hidden cove I’ve been to once before a couple of years ago. I remember it being breathtakingly beautiful, and safe to say it didn’t disappoint this time round!
We couldn’t quite believe our eyes when we’d finished clambering through hedges getting bitten and stung, only to emerge to one of the most incredible views I think I’ve ever seen here in Cornwall.
The sea was crystal clear and beyond inviting, so we made the steep climb down the cliffs to get to the sand, using the ropes pinned to the side of the rock for balance. It was well worth the trek, though, as you can see from these photos!
Both Frankie and I agreed that while we’re happy to share the images of our adventure online, we are keeping the location of this particular cove a secret from our online platforms. I’ve spoken before about the hard balance we have to strike when sharing locations to our audiences, a conversation that was sparked last year after the controversy over Pedn Vounder in the media.
Obviously I want to promote Cornwall and the amazing places here as much as possible, but I also want to preserve the quieter areas and make sure the locals and regulars (especially in the case of nudist beaches, which this cove also happens to be!) are still able to enjoy their peace. I’m not trying to ‘hoard’ the secret spots to myself, I simply want to encourage you to go out and explore and find amazing places for yourself as well! After all, that’s all part of the fun…
Below are some of my tips for making your own adventures and finding hidden coves like this one for yourself!
Do a long coast path hike
The South West Coast Path is where it’s at when it comes to finding hidden gems around Cornwall. When you’re looking for out-of-the-way, secret spots, you can’t expect to find them around the seaside towns and tourist beaches. Most of the best, quietest coves are scattered along the coast path, and require a fair bit of walking before you find them!
Scour Google Maps
Have a bit of fun and zoom in along the Cornish coastline on Google Maps, and follow it along to see if there are any sandy spots or dips in the cliffs that look like they’d be fun to explore. Most of my adventures always begin with a trawl through Google Maps!
Read books about Cornwall
Of course there are some fantastic guide books out there (I’d highly recommend the Wild Guide: Devon, Cornwall and the South West book*!) but why not try some fiction as well? I was kindly gifted a copy of A Cornish Summer by Catherine Alliott*, an escapist novel based in Cornwall. These are the kind of books where you’ll hear about the places loved by locals.
Talk to the locals
Believe it or not, us locals LOVE talking about Cornwall (can you imagine??). Strike up conversations with people you meet along your walks, or in the pubs on the way. People are usually more than happy to help some keen explorers find the best spots!
Go and explore those ‘gaps’ in the hedges!
Secret beaches usually aren’t signposted along the coast path (they wouldn’t be very secret then, would they?) so they sometimes require you to keep your eyes open for little gaps and semi-developed paths in the bushes. Stay curious and explore all those little off-shoots, and you might just find an absolute gem!
Use the iWalk Cornwall app
If you’re planning to find secret coves along the Cornish coast path, this is an excellent app to help guide you along your way. There are tonnes of maps loaded onto here, each with their own guides and information on what to expect and the difficulty too.
Be prepared for a difficult hike
As people have been discovering with Pedn Vounder, sometimes the most beautiful beaches are actually pretty inaccessible. I mean, there’s got to be a BIT of a challenge when it comes to these secret spots, or else everyone would go there all the time! Most secret coves require some climbing, or at least a good level of fitness in general.
Be safe & tell people where you’re going
Often because these beaches are out of the way, the phone signal will be pretty poor, if available at all. It’s therefore incredibly important that you a) go with a friend, and b) tell people where you’re going and when you expect to be back so that if something does happen, you’re at least a little bit covered. Wear sensible footwear and don’t underestimate how slippy cliffs can get if it’s been raining, how crumbly they can be when it’s been very dry, and also how tides can cut you off extremely quickly!
Be respectful of nudist beaches
It’s actually quite common that these hidden spots will be officially nudist beaches, so please bear that in mind. I say this mainly so that you’re not surprised, but also so that you’re respectful when taking photos. It’s fine to take pictures of the beach, but never point a camera near people who are trying to enjoy their freedom in peace!
Give yourself time
If you’re in a rush, or have to be home at a very specific time, you may miss a hidden pathway or find yourself torn away from a beautiful spot before you’re ready. I generally like to do my exploring when I have a whole afternoon and evening free, so that I can take my time and be in the moment.
Go at low tide
Take a look at the tide times and make sure you aim to go around low tide. This means that sandy coves will be exposed (and not hidden under water) and give you more time to clamber down, take photos, get settled and go for a swim. Always remember to check if the tide is going in or out before you go, so that you’re not accidentally cut off when you’re wandering around the beach.
Check the forecast
This sounds obvious but I don’t just mean so that you know it’ll be a ‘nice day’. Sea mist & fog is very common and it can be really disappointing to spend time looking for a place only to find it’s shrouded in fog and you can’t see it clearly (this has happened to me so many times it’s ridiculous). You also want to check the surf forecast too, as if the waves are going to be huge and unruly, it may not be safe to access these types of places either.
I hope this encourages you to go on your own adventures in Cornwall and to explore the coast path to find beautiful spots for yourself!
Have you ever stumbled across a secret beach or hidden cove? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!
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