About the Clay Trails
The Clay Trails are a network of short walking, cycling and horseriding trails through mid-Cornwall an area of great contrast and beauty.
The routes on this website – which take in the Clay Trails as well as nearby public footpaths, bridleways and some roads range between three and five miles in length. Each offers a largely traffic-free route through stunning sections of heathland, woodland, coastline, country lanes and Cornish mining villages.
What to look out for
The Clay Trails wind their way through the unique landscape of Cornwall’s china clay mining area, offering an insight into both the past and present of an industry which has shaped the area since the Industrial Revolution. China clay – or kaolin – is still extracted today for use in the paper and ceramics industries, and much more. You’ll see:
- Stunning turquoise dams, coloured by fine particles of mica suspended in the water
- Towering clay tips, made up of excavation waste, known collectively as the Cornish Alps
- Historical listed buildings such as drying chimneys Working china clay pits
The Clay Trails were first opened in 2005 as part of a restoration programme to provide new habitats for flora and fauna – as well as providing a resource for locals and visitors. Look out for spring flowers along sunken footpaths, wildfowl and plants in Par Nature Reserve, bright yellow gorse, and a variety of beautiful wildflowers. Keep your eyes open for birds of prey such as buzzards, kites and kestrels.
A series of sculptures along the trails celebrate the rich mining history and community involvement of the area.
The range of facilities along these wild and sometimes remote trails is limited. The trails are, however, easily accessible from the road; all the routes suggested on this website are well-served by car parking, and many start or end at, or at least pass through, a spot with toilets and refreshments. Along the trails themselves you will find:
- clear signposting
- cob shelters – ideal for sun and rain
Who can use the Clay Trails?
Offering a variety of relatively flat and smooth surfaces to steeper, uneven ground, the multi-use trails are suitable for all sorts of users.
All of the routes on this website are suitable for walkers. Bear in mind that the trails are also used by horseriders and cyclists, so walkers should keep an eye on children and dogs. Dog bins are provided at various points along the trails, please respect other trail users and clean up after your dog.
All of the routes on this website are suitable for hybrid or mountain-style bikes – with some featuring diversions especially for bikes. Each route features a national off-road cycling grade. The Clay Trails encompasses part of the National Cycle Network, and cyclists might consider extending their ride along other parts of the network. Cyclists will find a range of bike shops in nearby St Austell, as well as cycle hire facilities in Pentewan. Cyclists should bear in mind that these are multiuse trails and you’re likely to encounter horseriders and families as you round a bend!
Many of the routes on this website are suitable for horseriders; each one is labelled as such. Remember that the routes are multi-use trails, so you may encounter bicycles or mobility scooters. Some routes involve crossing or following minor roads for a short section. Special facilities for horseriders include a horse tie-up at Wheal Martyn, which also has a large enough car park to allow horse trailers.
- Mobility scooters, wheelchair and buggy users
Much of the Clay Trails is accessible by a sturdy four-wheel pavement scooter (as opposed to lightweight models designed for shops). Each route on this website features a terrain description, and scooter users will find the smoother Pentewan Trail and Wheal Martyn to St Austell easiest to ride. There are a few heavy gates on the trails, which you may need help opening. Watch out also for wet grass on slopes and driving through deep leaves!
- Prohibited users
Quad bikes, motorbikes, motor vehicles and pony and traps are not permitted on the trails.
I love these trails. You can park up, walk three to seven miles in fantastic scenery and end up back at your car. At most points you can stop for a coffee or a pint or even something to eat.Dave Taylor, local resident
I use the clay trails for mountain biking every weekend. They’re so easy to get to from St Austell town centre and offer some really great views over the bayChris Maynard, local resident