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Great British Walks - Holywell and Kelsey Head


  Great British Walking Routes

A varied walk crossing sandy beaches, dunes and clifftops taking you past an Iron Age fort and heathland rich in maritime wildlife and flora and back into a lovely Cornish coastal village. It’s a route that children and dogs will love, with the chance to run free on the sands and explore rock pools

Follow this guide to plan your walk. We've included details on how long it should take you to complete, where to park, and some places to stop for food and drink along the way.

We've also included a recommendation of where to stay if you're looking to book a pitch nearby and spend more time in this area.

Route Description

The walk starts at the National Trust car park in Holywell. Do make sure you arrive early to get a space in the car park, because on hot summer days it fills quickly. Incidentally, parking is free for Trust members but charges apply if you’re not a member. From the car park, take the path onto the golden sands of Holywell Beach, which is also operated by the National Trust. The beach is instantly identifiable, thanks to the two distinctive islands in the bay, which jut out of the water like giant shark fins. They create an impressive backdrop to your walk across the sands – and if you look closely you might just spot a dolphin or two.

From the beach, head north and pick up the South West Coast Path heading towards Kelsey Head. As you walk along, take time to enjoy the views out to the sea, keeping an out for seals lounging on the rocks and swimming in the water.

At low tide Holywell Cave can be found tucked under the cliffs of Kelsey Head. From the beach it appears like little more than a slit in the rocks, but inside you’ll find some slippery steps taking you up to several pools that lead towards a hole in the cave roof.

The pools are tinted with red and blue and the edges are coated with a calcareous deposit, formed by the mineral-rich water that has dripped from the roof. It’s well worth bringing a torch so you can explore the cave in more detail during your walk.

Kelsey Head is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the National Trust carries out extensive conservation efforts to protect the environment and as a result lots of rare plants grow here. After crossing the dunes you’ll reach the clifftop where, as well as maritime wildlife and flora, you’ll also see the remains of an Iron Age fort.

Picture courtesy acceleratorhams/stock.adobe.com

Further along the path is Polly Joke, a lesser known (but still beautiful) cove. Compared to some of the better-known beaches along this coast, it’s relatively secret. The crowds don’t flock here and it remains largely deserted even in summer. In spring and summer Polly Joke is an explosion of colour thanks to the wildflowers and, like Holywell Beach, it’s dog-friendly.

From the beach head inland to Cubert Common, an area of sandy grassland popular with horse riders and one of the few enclosed commons in England. A Bronze Age burial mound stands on the southern side of the common.

When you have cleared the common, follow the boundary of the golf course then the path through the sand dunes will take you back to Holywell village where you can reward yourself with a pint and a bite to eat at the 13th century Treguth Inn.

Picture courtesy Edward Nurse/stock.adobe.com


Route Circular route starts and ends at Holywell car park

Distance 3.7 miles

Time 1.75 hours

Terrain Varied with some steep ascents through sand dunes

Difficulty Moderate

Parking Use the National Trust car park at Holywell Bay




Take a break from walking with a visit to the fascinating, grotto-like Holywell Cave which was formed over millions of years by the waves and calcium deposits.


The Treguth Inn, HolywellOK

St Piran’s Inn, Holywell

Bowgie Inn, near Polly Joke


Meadow Lakes is an award-winning, family run holiday park, set within the picturesque Cornish countryside, with beautiful woodlands and lakes to explore! Offering tenting and touring facilities, hardstanding pitches with hook-ups, caravans, cottages, lodges, camping pods and cosy cabins! (Pet friendly accommodation available.)

Four fishing lakes, heated outdoor pool, close to Eden Project

Hewas Water, St Austell PL26 7JG

Price for a standard pitch with electric starts from £14.00 (2 adults).

Cosy Café, on-site shop


• Four amenity buildings
• Heated outdoor pool
• A bookable hot tub
• Children’s indoor/outdoor play areas
• Zip wire
• Pets’ corner and free fishing
• Parking by pitches
• Showers
• Shop
• Dogs accepted
• WiFi available
• Fishing
• Motorcaravans, caravans and tents accepted

01726 882540
[email protected]

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  Great British Walking Routes

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