YOU don't have to walk up clifftop paths above the rolling Atlantic to discover some of the most fascinating parts of Cornwall — its towns, too, have an attractive identity.

Starting with St Ives and ending with Helston — not that there is anything geographic in the choice of chapters! — Town Walks in Cornwall visits 15 towns, and plots routes ranging from one mile to just over three miles. At that length and with such diverse architecture en route, these are strolls that will exercise the mind.

The appealing Truro (which claims to be the capital of Cornwall, of which more later) features with a 1.6-mile walk that takes in the proud Coinage Hall with what must be one of Cornwall's quaintest tearooms above it, to the cathedral grounds and a pleasant walk by the river. The route also includes the Victoria Gardens with a useful tip by the authors that every Sunday afternoon during the summer, brass bands play at the elegant bandstand there.

Fowey, one of Cornwall's loveliest coastal towns, also features — the tip here is to watch out for cars which share many parts of the town with walkers. But as tourists throng its winding streets at the height of summer, there is a delightful, peaceful corner of Fowey that exists thanks to the old grammar school.

Known locally as 'The Quiet Garden', the garden was owned by the the grammar school's trust fund — the school closed in 1967 — and is let to the town council for a peppercorn rent. All the plants in the garden are donated by local people — 'Big Society' practice came to Fowey long before David Cameron had the idea.

Lostwithiel is for many a hurry-through on the Liskeard to St Austell road, but those who pass by without parking and exploring are missing a historic treat. It has a beautiful mainly medieval bridge, some lovely townhouses and a Georgian Guildhall.

Tavistock's cross-border near neighbour Launceston features with a walk of one mile in what is Cornwall's most attractive inland town, including Castle Street, described by the former poet laureate John Betjeman as having 'the most perfect collection of 18th century town houses in Cornwall.'

He did not add, but perhaps should have, that Launceston, as every town resident knows, is the true capital of Cornwall. Truro? It's a Johnny-come-lately.

One plea to the authors: if there is re-publication, how about adding another town, namely, Camelford? There may be prettier and more quaint places but it has a vibrant community, a lively history and one of the sweetest small parks in Cornwall, Enfield Park.

l 'Town Walks in Cornwall' by James Clancy and Simone Stanbrook-Byrne is published by Culm Valley Publishing, £6.99rrp.

Colin Brent