Sustainable travel to Cornwall
Unless you want to walk or cycle, the most sustainable way to travel from London to Cornwall is to travel by train. According to Trainline, who use statistical information about car occupancy, your train journey will produce 70% less carbon dioxide than the same journey by car.
But will it take longer?
According to Google Maps, which clearly isn’t as good at planning walking routes as the OS Maps app but isn’t too bad at car and train travel, the following times apply on an October half-term Friday evening (if you have kids, you’ll know that’s today).
London Paddington to Penzance by train – 5 hours
London Paddington to Penzance by road – up to 6 hours 50
Outdoor fun in Penzance
When, after a comfortable journey with available toilets, you get to Penzance, you’ll discover plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventure. You’ll be able to trot over the tidal causeway to climb St Michael’s Mount, walk the South West Coast Path round to Mousehole (not pronounced Mouse Hole) and even take a chilly seawater dip at the Jubilee Pool. And if one day of outdoor activity isn’t enough, you could even stay the night at the fabulous YHA Penzance.
Outdoor fun on the Cornish Main Line
But there are plenty of opportunities to get outside before your train even gets to Penzance. Cornwall is brimming with outdoor excitement, with all those coastal winds, it’s mostly made up of fresh air. So instead of passing straight through, why not take your time on your train journey, and hop on and off for some less-known Cornish outdoor adventures.
Penzance was your first but we have four more great examples of the best stations for outdoor activities along the Cornish Main Line between Plymouth and Penzance.
Saltash train station is only just in Cornwall. The London to Penzance trains are so long, you can only disembark here from the front carriages. Take a look when you do, the back end of your train might still be across the Tamar in Devon.
Station: Saltash (STS)
Nearest town: Saltash
Adventure: Walk across the Tamar Bridge
Top tip: Explore the history below the two bridges before you cross
Bodmin Parkway Station
Bodmin Parkway Station isn’t in the town itself but it does have a lovely walking route along the river to the National Trust’s Lanhydrock House. Explore the grounds, wander the woods, then pop in for something delicious to eat or drink.
Station: Bodmin Parkway Station (BOD)
Nearest town: Bodmin
Adventure: Explore Lanhydrock House and grounds
Top tip: The Lanhydrock Parkland Walk is 5 km and would be great in the autumn because it takes you through the deciduous trees of Great Wood.
Truro’s pretty special. It’s still the only city in Cornwall (despite Marazion putting in a bid for city status as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations). It’s also Cornwall’s county town. You don’t always think of cities as places for outdoor activities but this is Cornwall, and the outdoors is never far away.
This is an adventure by bike. From Truro, take National Cycle Route 3 then join what has to be one of the shortest coast-to-coast routes in the country. The Cornish Coast-to-Coast is 11 miles (or 12 depending on who you’re talking to) but you’ll be joining it in the middle so pack an extra sandwich or two if you want to see both Portreath on the north coast and Devoran on the south.
Nearest town: Truro
Adventure: Cycle Cornwall’s Coast-to-Coast route
Top tip: If like me, you don’t enjoy cycling. Truro also has some impressive city walking tours.
Carn Brea is a hill in between Redruth and Camborne so you could make this adventure a station-to-station walk (6.5 km). This highpoint has been occupied across the centuries so there’s plenty to spot, including a rather impressive monument. While you’re up there, keep an eye out for Cornish giant footsteps. Legend has it that Bolster the giant could stand with one foot on Carn Brea and the other on St Agnes Beacon, nearly 10 km away.
Nearest town: Redruth
Adventure: Walk in the steps of giants on Carn Brea
Top tip: Read up about the history of Carn Brea before you visit to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the highlights (or get eaten by a giant).
Make your own adventures by train
One of the wonderful things about train travel is it can take you to places you might not otherwise have visited. All you really need to plan your own train adventure is a map and a train ticket.
For more hints, tips and ideas on ditching the car and adventuring by train, check out my adventures by train section in the menu above. As well as letting you into the secrets of my own outdoor activities from train stations, I let you know the best train lines for UK adventure, and even how to take your dog on a train.
Have fun! And let us know how you get on in the comments below.