What trickery is this, you may ask? Cornwall’s most famous cycle route is also an excellent walk? Well, yes it is. The Camel Trail Walk is flat, well-surfaced and not just for bi-cycles, you know. It’s for bi-peds too and that means we can all amble as slowly as we like as we take in one of the most beautiful corners of the county along this iconic 5.5-mile former railway track.
The Camel Trail runs between Bodmin and Padstow. The section we’re interested in for this walk is the stretch between Wadebridge and Padstow that follows the Camel River right out to its estuary and its meeting with the sea. Or, if you do it in reverse, from its estuary to its meeting inland with Wadebridge. This whole area is teeming with wildlife – especially birds of all shapes and sizes – and blessed with constantly stunning views of the river and estuary. Half a million people trek, run or cycle along this trail every year so expect to be in good company, especially in the summer.
You don’t need to be armed with many instructions on this walk. Basically get to the Lidl superstore in Wadebridge and find its car park. You’ll see the incredibly well-marked Camel Trail from there. And then follow it northwest all the way to Padstow. It really is that easy. On your travels, you’ll discover why so many nature lovers plough this route. With the tidal wetlands, sands, reedbanks, rivers and woodlands that all flank the trail throughout, it’s heaven for birdwatchers and picnickers, wherever they stop.
When you stroll along the Camel Trail, it’s great to know that you’re following a little bit of history as it runs along two former rail lines. You’re only concerned with one of those lines here, though. The stretch you are walking along between Wadebridge and Padstow was once a North Cornwall Railway line. Interesting factoid: the last passenger train travelled this route in 1967 but freight journeys continued up to 1983 when the line finally closed.
Although the sounds of steam engines have long disappeared, many remnants of the railway lines and their history are visible en route along the Camel Trail. Our favourite relic is the old iron railway bridge at Little Petherick. This structure offers an Insta-worthy foreground to dominate all the photos you’re going to take towards Padstow, Rock village and the mouth of the Camel River.
A couple of points to note about your journey, though: firstly, keep dogs on leads. Plenty of owners exercise their pooches on the trail but if you’re taking Fido with you, remember that it can get busy with cyclists, especially during the height of summer. Secondly, transport is not an issue. If you drive and park in Wadebridge, just walk back or hire a bike or get a cab or even get the 11A bus which runs throughout the day. It’s a really easy area to get around. Just make sure you plan ahead.
So, pack your picnic and bring the family, a bunch of friends or maybe just yourself for a perfect slow amble next to the riverside along the iconic Camel Trail. Don’t let them tell you it’s just for bicycles. It’s for feet too. Do let them tell you about the pasties and seafood you can reward yourself with in Padstow at the end, though. You deserve it.
Why we love this walk: This really is one that anyone, of any age or ability, can enjoy. Families love walking the Camel Trail and it’s pretty romantic for couples too. For parents with tiny tots, you can push your pram or junior can tag along on a balance bike. There’s a bunch of places to sit, veer off to the water’s edge, skim stones or have a picnic en route, all adding up to a great day out along a historic and iconic piece of track.