When people think Cornwall they think pasties, pirates and beaches. And most people are right, Cornwall is absolutely full of those things, but the pirates are usually just old drunkards. As well as the clichés, the Duchy is also a great place to go wild camping. Miles and miles of stunning coastline, mixing sea cliffs and long sandy beaches and dunes, the county has hundreds of nooks and crannies that are perfect for a night or two under the stars.
Below you’ll find just a selection of perfect places to bivvy or camp. I am not a fountain of knowledge so I highly suggest that you get out a couple of OS maps and go off and find some new, exciting places to camp instead of just taking my word on these few.
First up is Durgan. A small stony beach near the mouth of the Helford river, Durgan is situated close enough to Falmouth that you can walk straight off the train and to your bed. If you’re driving, there’s a National Trust pay and display car park just up the hill at Bosveal. The beach is popular during summer days due to it’s proximity to Trebah Gardens, so best to set up camp after dusk. The beach is quite stony so be sure to bring a good sleeping pad. Driftwood for fires are easily salvageable across the beach, but do not cut live wood. A great night can be spent here, with clear views along the Helford and out to sea. Keep an eye out for some late night spearfishers who may depart from this beach, it’s very interesting to watch their headtorches swim off into the night. Find this spot on OS 105 at 775 272
Next we have Bosigran. A hugely famous crag within the climbing community, this location will almost definitely have visitors every weekend. Park at the free National Trust car park at the Carn Galver minehouse and take the path heading directly towards the sea. After two gates you’ll pop out near an old water mill. The flat area by here is perfect for camping, but be aware that your pegs won’t go in too deep. Bivvying spots can be found all around, with some very comfortable nooks and crannies to be had underneath the boulders further towards the cliffs. You’ll find this spot on OS 102 at 416 366
Tremayne Quay is quite a way out of the way, which should mean that you’ll have this lovely little spot all to yourself. Situated on the south side of the Helford, the quay was built in 1847 for Queen Victoria to visit. Though she never came, you can enjoy a camping spot fit for a queen. It’s about a half hour walk from the National Trust car park near by. Upon arrival you’ll find a fire pit, soft ground for bivvying or camping and a view over a very quiet stretch of river. You’ll be able to watch the sunset over to the left and opposite bank as well as enjoy a somewhat clear night sky once the sun does go down. Tremayne is on OS 103 at 734 260
A true Cornish surf spot, the Gwithian beach and dune system stretches from Hayle in the west to the lighthouse at Godrevy point in the north east. With views across the water to St Ives, the soft sandy beaches are popular with holiday-makers trying to escape the busier areas like Newquay and St Ives. The area is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, and so it is vitally important that any campers strictly adhere to Leave No Trace policies. A cracking sunset can be had looking out towards St Ives and if you pack your boards an early morning surf could be the perfect wake up call in the morning. Gwithian is quite a large area, but a good car park can be found at 579 411 on OS 102.
What with it being situated on the ass end of England, Cornwall is a county very far from anywhere else. This might sound like I’m not a fan, but it’s remoteness is very much in it’s favour. By being so far from any big cities, the sky is incredibly clear, the people are incredibly nice and the sea can be smelt across the county. Travel to Cornwall from other parts of the country isn’t too bad as long as you don’t mind how long it takes. Trains service some parts of the county, with hourly trains up to Bristol, London and onwards departing from the main line. Buses are useful to get to the more out of the way spots, but don’t expect them to necessarily run on time. But if you’re coming from further afield, why not make an adventure out of it and hire a bike from some of the different rental sites down here? These camping spots only just scratch the surface on some of the things to be done, so why not head to the Duchy, bring a map and find your own perfect private spot above the ocean?
Note: wild camping in Cornwall is illegal without the permission of the landowner. Do with that information what you will.