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Walking the Camel Trail

23/01/20
by Gosia Giernalczyk

The Camel Trail presents access to the Cornish countryside along a disused railway line once used by the London and South West Railway between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow.

The Camel Trail is an 18-mile path, which passes through diverse landscapes. All the contrasts in scenery, beautiful nature, breathtaking wildlife and tranquillity provide an amazing experience for walkers and cyclists looking to discover North Cornwall at their own pace.

Cornwall is one of the UK’s most popular destinations, especially in summer. Most tourists have heard about the South West Coast Path, but the Camel Trail is a great alternative for anyone who would like to explore Cornish woodlands and enjoy its peacefulness and lovely towns.

A signboard on the Camel Trail A wooden footpath signpost on the Camel Way
Views over boats in the Camel Estuary

What was your impression of the Camel Trail before you started the walk?

Walking the Camel Trail was a very exciting opportunity for me to see Cornwall for the first time. Before this walk, I had visited South Devon a few times, but I did not have a chance to visit Cornwall. It is amazing that these days it is possible to take a short domestic flight from Manchester Airport. The fight to the nearest airport in Newquay took less than an hour.

I knew that the walk follows the Camel Estuary and disused railway line, and I was most looking forward to visiting Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow and enjoying the route through beautiful woods, especially between Wenfordbridge and Bodmin. The Camel Estuary itself is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is interesting to know that the name of the trail is not connected with an animal, but comes from the Cornish word for elbow. It was decided in the past that the walk’s shape from Wadebridge to Padstow resembles the shape of an elbow.

The Cornish flag flies outside traditional buildings A fish statue spotted as we walked the Camel Way A long, level footpath between wooded embankments

What was your favourite section of the walk?

It is not an easy task to choose only one section, as all of them are unique. A very big asset of the Camel Trail is the landscape diversity, which lets everyone find something to admire. I must admit, I really liked the section of the walk from Wadebridge to Padstow.

Wadebridge is a very pleasant town, full of small shops and cafes. There is also an amazing bridge, built in 1468. The bridge has seventeen arches along its 320 foot length.

Towards the beginning of the walk, I walked along under a very high road bridge, which was a spectacular infrastructure object. Halfway between Wadebridge and Padstow I found a little café — a converted vintage train carriage. Located a few miles before Padstow, it provided a chance to buy refreshments along the trail. At the end of this section of the walk I entered the beautiful fishing port of Padstow. There were plenty places to dine and spend time. A little harbour in the town centre was unique and charming.

It was very interesting to see the Camel Estuary, where many different species of birds live. I discovered a few points where it was possible to watch them. Perhaps it could be a good idea to take binoculars, as it would make observation even more interesting.

An informative sign about The Old Bridge over the River Camel
The Camel estuary as viewed from the trail, water level low A pretty wooden bench set alongside a grassy section of the footpath The Camel Estuary gleams in the sun, a stunning view on this walking holiday
Converted train used as a cafe on the Camel Trail

What was the atmosphere like during your walk?

The first section of the walk from Wenfordbridge to Bodmin goes through woodlands. It was very quiet and peaceful and I did not meet too many cyclists or walkers in the beginning. The woods contain trees such as oak, ash and beech. It is also possible to see hazel, holly or spindle. Walking through the woodlands was super relaxing.

When I was entering Bodmin I started to meet more and more people. After an interesting visit to the famous Bodmin Jail, I headed on out of town. From Bodmin to Wenfordbridge I started to meet more tourists, especially more cyclists. It looks like the last section of the walk from Wenfordbridge to Padstow is the most popular and busy. I have met many cyclists along the way, as it’s possible to rent a bicycle in Wenfordbridge and Padstow. In Padstow there is a big cyclist park.

Additionally, I was very lucky with the weather, as most of the time the temperature was around 20 degrees with no rain at all — just ideal for walking!

The entry sign to the Shell Woods A blackbird sitting on a picnic table Helpful waymarkers on the Camel Trail

How were the towns and accommodations?

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All three nights I was staying in Bodmin in bed and breakfast accommodation. The house was built in 1805 and restored. In the past it was a home of a schoolmaster, who opened the first grammar school in Bodmin. The schoolmaster used to live there with his family. The house was full of nice old furniture and was a bit mysterious. Every day I enjoyed my breakfast in a beautiful dining room.

My accommodation was just a 5-minute walk from the town centre and very close to shops and restaurants, which was very convenient. The proprietor of my accommodation suggested options for an evening meal, so it was so much easier to decide from the many available options.

Bodmin is the former county town of Cornwall with a wide range of attractions including a steam railway and town museum. There are many places to visit; the county prison is now a museum open to the public. Nearby Bodmin sits Lanhydrock, a late Victorian country house with gardens and a wooded estate.

In Wadebridge there are many places to sit down, have a coffee and a cake. I went to one café where the interior design was inspired by ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It was a truly magical and cosy little place.

Padstow is a charming, lively place, where it is possible to have a delicious meal with a view over the harbour. I had an amazing fish and chips in one of the local restaurants and it was a nice treat to finish the walk.

A colourful mural of a sunny day on a pub wall The Camel Trail's path through Padstow

How challenging did you find the walk?

The trail was signposted very well, and I spotted many fingerposts and information boards. Most of the time the trails follows the River Camel, so it is not difficult to proceed ahead along the trail.

I think the distances on the walk were ideal for me. I did not have to rush, which was very pleasant; I could just enjoy nature and all the views. I had enough time to take as many photos and videos as I wanted and to look around. These daily mileages are perfect for everyone who wants to take their time and explore, with plenty of time to sit down and take a break at one of many benches along the trail. They’re the perfect spots to have a picnic.

What was your most memorable moment?

I had two really memorable moments. The first was at the beginning of the walk, when I was entering woodlands from Wenfordbridge. It was very exciting and the forest looked amazing: peaceful and mysterious. It was a great feeling to get out into nature and listen to the singing birds.

The second memorable moment came when I was entering Padstow and finishing the walk. More and more buildings were visible from a distance and finally I passed the Padstow welcoming board. I felt very happy about finishing the walk. I was proud of myself.

A woodland path on the Camel Trail Views across the harbour from the Camel Trail

Were there any surprises or things you weren’t expecting?

I was surprised by how big Bodmin Jail is. The prison was built in the 18th century and it is a large building with many attractions inside. These days it is under renovation and only the restaurant is open for now. According to the website, the entire building will be re-opened in May 2020 to give many more tourists the opportunity to visit.

When I was taking photos in Bodmin’s centre, a gentleman from the local council started to tell me many interesting stories about the city. In the local Tourist Information Centre I was able to take many different leaflets with information about local attractions and everyone was very friendly.

Another surprising moment was for me to see many cyclists on the section of the walk from Wadebridge to Padstow. Entire families were cycling together, enjoying the scenery and a beautiful day.

A plant pot in the shape of a human head The Camel Trail through a town centre A bicycle hire shop in Padstow

Would you recommend the Camel Trail to others?

The walk was very diverse, interesting and easy to follow. I think the walk would appeal to everyone. It shows Cornwall from a different perspective, because it provides a chance to explore Cornish woodlands and follow the River Camel to its estuary. Bodmin, Wenfordbridge and Padstow are unique and interesting historical places to visit.

The Camel Trail passes through diverse natural environments with spectacular views on the way. The trail is a great mix of quiet woodlands, historical sites, impressive riversides. It is a walk for an entire family with great potential for enjoyment and discovery.

An expanse of sea with a distant headland A stone bridge over a shade-dappled stretch of the Camel Trail

What advice would you give to those interested in walking the Camel Trail?

Before going it could be a good idea to read about the local attractions and decide what to visit. There are many options along the way to take a break, including a wealth of attractions in Bodmin and Padstow and the Camel Valley Vineyard.

If you’re a bit of a bird watcher, it could be a good idea to take binoculars on the walk.  Between Wadebridge and Padstow you can see many different birds species, including: peregrines, swans, several types of duck, waders, divers, grebes, egrets, herons, cormorants, oystercatchers and many gulls.

As always, it is important to check the weather forecast before starting the walk each day. Don’t forget to bring your walking essentials and a positive attitude with you.





Top posts

Walk the Camel Trail

  • Explore the wonderful villages of Wenfordbridge and Wadebridge along the route, as well as the fascinating old town of Bodmin.

  • Following the disused Bodmin and Wadebridge railway line through fabulous, colourful scenery, and uncovering the area’s past along the way.

  • Arriving at the lively harbour town of Padstow and making the most of its range of attractions and wonderful, sandy beaches.

Book your Camel Trail walking holiday.

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Interactive
© Contours Walking Holidays Camel Trail - Stile-Free map
Wenfordbridge/Padstow
18 miles (28 km)
2nd January to 24th December

Available tours

CodeTourDurationDifficultyPrice per person
CT1 From Wenfordbridge(T) to Padstow 3 nights, 2 days walking Stile-Free - Moderate£305
CT2 From Wenfordbridge(T) to Padstow 4 nights, 3 days walking Stile-Free - Easy£405

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