Adventures by train – a Cremyll ferry walk

Small blue ferry by slipway, historical buildings across the water behind. People boarding.

A two-ferry day is a good day. And that’s what I enjoyed when I set off to explore this walking route from Plymouth train station.

After trains, ferries are my favourite travel experience.

Travel to Europe by train and ferry.

Most visitors understand Plymouth is separated from its nearest neighbour Cornwall by a significant river confluence.

The rivers Tamar, Plym and Lynher join here to flow into Plymouth Sound.

If you’re travelling car free, there are a variety of ways to cross from Plymouth to Cornwall.

Because I love ferries so much and can’t resist a great round trip, I chose to use both the Cremyll and Cawsand ferries for this hiking route.

It was a great choice. Both ferries were excellent value and the views were fantastic.

The walk in between wasn’t bad either.

Cheaper train journeys with a Devon and Cornwall Railcard.

Cremyll to Cawsand walk

Cream coloured pub with sign saying 'Welcome to Cornwall' in large writing.
Cremyll Ferry Landing, Fi Darby

The Cremyll ferry only takes 10 minutes but the welcome sign on the other side is a reminder you’ve crossed that great divide between Devon and Cornwall. There’s no time difference between the two counties (some might say countries) so you won’t need to change your watch.

But you will need to swap round your jam and cream ideas!

Leaving Plymouth’s busy streets and landing in the rarified environment of Mount Edgecumbe Park is a wonderful experience.

Made even better when you leave the other visitors behind and head up onto the South West Coast Path.

A Cremyll to Cawsand walk by train

Wooden sign with 'coast path' in capital letters and Kingsand in one direction, Cremyll in the other.
Kingsand Coast Path, Fi Darby

This walk offers just one option for walking from Cremyll to Kingsand and Cawsand. It includes some steep hills and uneven ground but the views are worth the effort.

  • Start and finish train station: Plymouth (a GWR station)
  • Travel time from London: 3hrs 45 mins
  • Travel time from Bristol: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Walking route times: 4.5 hours
  • Ferry crossing times: Cremyll ferry 10 minutes, Cawsand ferry 30 minutes
  • Your walking route and gpx file: Cremyll to Cawsands from Plymouth train station
  • Toilets: Stonehouse, Cremyll, Kingsand, the Barbican (charges) and Plymouth station
  • Refreshments: You’d be mad to miss out on the seafood and other treats at the idyllically located Devonport Inn in Kingsand (just a short walk from the Cawsand ferry). If you’re waiting for the Cremyll ferry, coffee and cakes (and more) are available at Elvira’s cafe right next door. Once you land back in Plymouth, don’t leave the Barbican area without visiting Cap’n Jaspers food wagon, you won’t forget it in a hurry.

Cremyll to Cawsands walking route

Leafy trees with gap between revealing light blue sea and a city beyond.
Plymouth from Mount Edgecumbe, Fi Darby

This hiking route is really three walks but they are happily split up by two stunning ferry rides; you’ll end the day feeling more like you’ve been on holiday than on a route march.

Author’s adventure tip: Allow plenty of time for the walk sections; both Plymouth and the Mount Edgecumbe estate are fascinating places to explore.

Practicalities: The South West Coast Path is exposed to all kinds of weather but can get surprisingly hot on summer days. Take plenty of water and a windproof jacket. You might also like a flask of tea to enjoy as you admire the city and sea views.

Walk – Plymouth train station to Stonehouse (for the Cremyll ferry)

There are a few different routes between Plymouth train station and Stonehouse (for the Cremyll ferry).

The one below has plenty of greenspace.

From the train station, cross the footbridge over the main road then turn left up the hill. Turn right into North Road West and follow it until you see a set of steps on the right.

Impressive street art alert!

White side of house with giant black and white street art mural showing a young woman's face and bobbed wavy hair.
Pymouth Street Art, Fi Darby

Head down the steps and turn left into Victoria Park. Continue through the park, crossing a road to head past sports pitches. When you get to a residential car park, follow the footpath straight ahead to the roundabout.

Pass between two pubs.

Then follow Durnford street. Watch out for signs to the Cremyll ferry down a small road on the right.

If you venture further along Durnford street, you’ll spot quotes from Sherlock Holmes set into the pavement. This is because Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have once lived at Number 1.

Time for your ride on the Cremyll ferry.

If the tide is low, you’ll need to walk out along the landing to find the ferry. Don’t worry about getting your wallet out yet, you’ll pay the £2.50 (2024) fee once you’ve landed in Cornwall.

I told you these ferries were good value.

The impressive buildings you can see to your left as you leave the marina are the fabulous Royal William Yard, worth an exploration all of their own.

Take in the scenery, it will only be ten minutes before you land at Cremyll.

Walk – Cremyll ferry to Cawsand ferry

Car-free tip. If you don’t fancy walking this section, the bus ride between Cremyll slipway and Cawsand takes about 20 minutes.

But the walk is lovely.

At the top of the slip, take the driveway to the left, away from the pub. Follow the edge of the grass round to the left.

Look up the hill for a glimpse of stately Mount Edgecumbe House.

Keeping the estuary on your left and following signs for the coast path, admire the fountain and planting as you continue past the Orangery.

The Blockhouse you’ll see on your right is a small fort, built to control the important waters of Barn Pool opposite it.

Continue along the coast. After the pond, the route starts to climb through trees. Just past a gate, you’ll spot what looks like ruin on the hilltop.

It’s a folly and has always looked like that.

Stone building with half a tower. Looks like a ruin.
Folly Mount Edgecumbe, Fi Darby

The South West Coast Path ahead is closed because of a landslip so turn right and head up towards the folly. Continue up and past it until you meet another track. Turn right and walk briefly along this track, continuing left and uphill on the first path you come to.

This is a steep hill but the views over Plymouth from the bench at the top will be your reward.

Continue in the same direction to meet the boundary of Grotton plantation. Follow this boundary round to the left and continue until the end of the plantation.

Feel free to stop again at the magnificent seat just inside the fence. This time for sea views into Cornwall.

Gently curving path down grassy valley with a stunted tree and blue sea and a headland at the bottom.
Hooe Lake Valley, Fi Darby

From the plantation boundary corner, head downhill the find your way through steep but beautiful Hooe Lake Valley.

Arrive in May and the house at the bottom will have a stunning azalea display.

When you meet the lane, turn right then left to rejoin the South West Coast Path towards the twin (but rival) villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.

Watch out for smugglers as you go.

Continue along this path for about half an hour until you find yourself in Kingsand.

Which is not very separate from Cawsand.

Yellow and blue tall stools overlooking a beach with trays for drinks fastened to the railings.
The Devonport Inn, Fi Darby

The first beach you come to is Kingsand; the Cawsand ferry will leave from Cawsand beach. Just follow the lane around the coast.

The Cawsand ferry ride is longer than the Cremyll one and takes you right past Drake’s Island and through all the Naval and Maritime activity of Plymouth Sound.

Walk – the Barbican to Plymouth train station

Stone harbour steps with masts and modern buildings behind.
Mayflower Steps Plymouth, Fi Darby

From the Barbican landing, visit the Mayflower Steps then follow the South West Coast Path west towards stripy Smeaton’s Tower.

Paved and green city area, red busing driving past.
Plymouth city centre, Fi Darby

From here take the pedestrianised Armada Way inland straight through the city. You’ll soon pick up signs for the station. At the end of the pedestrian area, you’ll come to a subway; pass under this and you’ll see signs to Plymouth station on the other side.

Armada Way is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment (2024). You can still walk through all areas but you won’t get the feeling of space and greenery that is usually available.

Author’s adventure

Cawsand Ferry, Fi Darby

I love ferries. There’s something about crossing a body of water that gives me a feeling of exploration. I get a thrill at the idea of roads and pathways that end at the river or the sea.

We didn’t have those growing up in the Midlands.

For me however, the best thing about this hike was the variety of views. From the moment I boarded the Cremyll ferry, they were fabulous. The hard edges of the Royal William Yard, the contrast between Plymouth’s cityscape and Mount Edgecumbe’s soft edges, and the unexpected glimpses of blue sea everywhere I walked, all pleased me greatly.

As did the Cornish mackerel on sourdough.

Blue speckled plate with grilled fish on toast and lettuce with small red baked tomatoes to the side.
Cornish Mackerel Devonport Inn, Fi Darby

I really enjoyed joining my dad for lunch at the Devonport Inn. It had started raining when I arrived so we ate inside but even there we had sea views, and the tables overhanging the beach are already tempting me back.

If you’ve never watched a lady eat a whole crab under an umbrella, this might be your chance.

Woman with bright orange scarf, eating crab outside a pub holding umbrella under a cloudy sky.
Showery Weather Devonport Inn, Fi Darby

I was slightly frustrated not to be able to follow the South West Coast Path all the way round past Fort Picklecombe but the beautiful bench views and the wander down stunning Hooe Lake Valley possibly made for a better walk in the end.

This could be my favourite train walk so far.

Not just because of the ferries, which certainly added to the occasion, but because of the feeling that I’d found a Cornwall not everyone knows is there.

And I had forgotten about the bright, clear Cornish sea water.

Bright coloured closely packed houses overlooking yellow shingle beach with clear turquoise water.
Kingsand Beach, Fi Darby

I didn’t have time to swim at Kingsand or Cawsand, but I will catch the later ferry home next time I visit.

For another car-free Cornish adventure, how about visiting Falmouth by train?