Search Results : cornwall

Aug 032019

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Polruan’s streets and houses fall steeply away to the narrow mouth of the Fowey estuary, mirroring the avalanche-like tumble of the grey and white houses of Fowey directly opposite. It’s an iconic Cornish prospect, and as we climbed the stepways and lanes of the village towards the cliff path we stopped often to look back and savour the view.

A young blackbird as yet uncertain of his flying powers squatted under a sprig of willowherb in Battery Lane, keeping stock still, hoping not to be noticed. We sidled round him and went on to where the village lanes gave way to a skein of narrow paths running east along the cliffs.

A kestrel streaked upriver, displaying its russet back and long slim tail. On the cliffs the wild grasses grew ungrazed, each seed-head darkened and weighted by the morning’s rain. A new shower came drifting through from the southwest in a flurry of milky air, lining every blade of grass with a row of pearls.

No matter how many times you walk these Cornish cliffs, the long views never fail to stun. Looking back into the west the bays curved away to the red and white striped tower on Gribbin Head, to the long dark arm of Dodman Point, and in the far distance a hint of the Lizard Peninsula. To the east the cliffs advanced seaward, lowering long grey arms of rock into lacy cuffs of white foam.

Every few steps we came to a halt, entranced by the wild flowers – yellow petals and crimson fruits of sweet amber, pale flax with a tiny brilliant blue stamen spot, buttery bird’s-foot trefoil, the soft pink of musk mallow’s large clustered flowers, the dusky pink bonnets of tuberous pea and little clumps of pungent-smelling wild thyme. Wrens chattered in the bracken, and stonechats with black caps and apricot chests perched on the highest sprigs of gorse they could find to give out their abrupt little calls: whist-tchik-tchik!

Beyond Sandheap Point we crossed a stream bouncing down the combe from Lansallos, and followed it uphill in a leafy dell to the church of St Ildierna, ‘of whom little is known’. Whomever he or she was, St Ildierna’s Church is as large as a rural cathedral, splendid both inside and out, and furnished with finely carved bench ends – a good place to linger after this lovely walk as you wait for the bus to Polruan.

Start: Polruan Quay, PL23 1PA (SX 126510) or Polruan main car park, St Saviours Hill PL23 1PZ

Getting there: Ferry from Fowey.
Polruan Bus from Looe (01726-870719,
Road: Polruan is reached by minor road from A387 at Polperro, or B3359 at Pelynt or Lanreath.

Walk (5 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer 107): From jetty, past Lugger Inn and climb Garrett Steps. Right at top. In 400m, left up Battery Lane (‘Coast Path’). Follow CP signs past main car park, coastguard lookout and Polruan Academy, to reach open cliffs at Furze Park (CP is poorly waymarked here – keep to lower path). Follow CP for 3½ miles. Beyond Sandheap Point, descend to cross stone stile, then stream from Lansallos at West Combe. In 50m, through next gate (pink arrow on reverse); left here (166513) up path. In 150m CP crosses (‘Polruan’, ‘Polperro’); but keep ahead through 2 gates, up woodland path (occasional yellow arrow) to Lansallos Church and bus stop (173516). Return by bus (see above), or taxi (07870-280114).

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Hormond House, 55 Fore Street, Fowey PL23 1PH (01726-870853,

Info: Fowey TIC (01726-833616);;;

 Posted by at 02:27
Jan 202018

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A slip of tan sand, a jumble of sharp black rocks and a welter of surf at Northcott Mouth. We stood and watched the waves leaping up at the feet of the cliffs and falling back in a hissing collar of spray – a sombre, elemental scene to set the mood for this unforgiving stretch of the North Cornwall coast.

From the cliff path we looked down on dark scars that seamed across the beach under Menachurch Point, each narrow ridge an individual rock layer tilted on end by subterranean upheavals, then ground down level with the beach through the inexorable power of the sea. Sections of the clifftop had cracked and fallen away, leaving grassy bowers hanging over space where sheep grazed as nonchalantly as though in some cosy paddock.

Down into Sandy Mouth where a jet of water spouted out of the cliff; up, over and down again into the tumbled wasteland of Warren Gutter, the path so black and greasy it looked more like coal-mining country than the Cornish shore. A slippery haul up Warren Point and over to Duckpool’s tiny strand, a pause to look back along thirty miles of thundering grey surf, and we turned inland into the peaceful cleft of the Coombe Valley.

Two thatched houses guarded the ford at Coombe. Beyond lay deep woods of sweet chestnut, hazel and oak under a sky mottled in grey and airforce blue. Sedgy strips of meadowland formed the valley floor, where a stream twisted in snake bends as it sought out a way to the sea. This is the most perfect Swallows-and-Amazons setting for children staying in the cottages at Coombe, and we saw them paddling and yelling in the stream as we followed a parallel path back through Stowe Woods and up a lumpy bank to Stowe Barton.

The National Trust looks after this complex of granite buildings, a classic ridge-top farmstead of Cornwall, its roofs low and slated, its lane flanked by extravagantly wind-sculpted trees. Beyond Stowe Barton a good broad bridleway ran south across whaleback fields. This is not cream tea Cornwall – it is hard, stony land to farm and a dangerous coast to fish. Stone walls are built thick and strong, lanes burrow between windbreak hedgebanks and the land slopes westward to plunge off the scalloped cliff edge into the sea.

Start: Northcott Mouth, near Bude EX23 9EL (OS ref SS 203085)

Getting there: From Stratton on A39 (Bideford-Bude) follow ‘Poughill’; from Poughill, follow ‘Northcott Mouth’. Park neatly at end of road.

Walk (6 ¾ miles, strenuous on coastal section, OS Explorer 126): Coastal path north for 2 miles to Duckpool (202117). Road inland; at junction, left; in 100m, right through Coombe to cross ford (210117). Ahead (‘Coombe Valley’) on woodland track. In ⅔ mile fork right (221116, fingerpost) across stream. In 150m, fork right (220114); cross stream; left and follow path westward for ⅔ mile through Stowe Wood and on to cross road at Stowe Barton (212112). Follow lane opposite (‘Northcott Mouth 1.8 miles’, blue arrow/BA). In 350m, left (209110, BA); follow bridleway south. In 700m cross road (209103) and on, following BAs. In ⅔ mile go through gate (206094); bear right (unmarked), and keep to left-hand hedge. Ahead for ⅔ mile to Northcott Mouth.

Lunch: Preston Gate Inn, Poughill (01288-354017, – warm, friendly village pub

Accommodation: Landmark Trust cottages around ford at Coombe (01628-825925; – beautifully kept, classy self-catering

Info: Bude TIC (01288-354240);;

 Posted by at 01:20
Sep 162017

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A glorious day over north Cornwall, and where better to walk than the ‘Poldark Coast’ of rocky cliffs and great smooth sands between Holywell and Perranporth? We saw no bare-chested horsemen galloping through the surf of Holywell Bay (‘Warleggan Beach’ to Poldarkians), but wet-suited surfers were riding the creamy waves. We left them to it, and turned up the coast path that hurdles the neighbouring headlands of Penhale Point and Ligger Point.

From a knife-edge promontory over the sea came a wild, chittering scream. It was a peregrine falcon, slate of back and barred of tail, mantling over her kill, a broken-necked pigeon, while fulmars streaked challengingly close overhead on stiff pointed wings.

The path teetered between cliff and sea before descending to the long two miles of Perran Beach where a mass of round transparent jellyfish had stranded at the top of the tide. We walked among them, avoiding the occasional purple blob of a (mildly) poisonous moon jellyfish, before scrambling steeply up the crumbly face of Penhale Sands.

These enormous sandhills stand 300 feet tall, a billowing inland sea of green and gold dunes. Sandy paths led us inland to the humble stone oratory built some 1500 years ago by the Irish missionary Piran. He was a giant in stature, and a jolly one too, it seems, fond of a drop of the honey-based hooch called metheglin. Adrift in the dunes beyond St Piran’s cell we found an ancient three-holed granite cross and the foundations of a 12th-century church, reminders that this barren spot was once a staging post on the medieval pilgrim route to Compostela.

Under lark song we made our way south by tangled paths across the dunes to a country road. A bend in the lane brought us to the path back to Holywell, a green way over granite stiles. The stream that shadowed the path at the smuggling hamlet of Ellenglaze was formed from a witch’s tears, so legend says. If so, her sins must have been forgiven, for the brook runs as clean and sweet as any innocent water.

Start: NT car park, Holywell, Cornwall TR8 5DD (OS ref SW 767589)

Getting there: Holywell is signposted from A392 between Newquay and Goonhavern.

Walk (8 miles, moderate, OS Explorer 104): From car park follow SW Coast Path south via Penhale Point and Ligger Point to Perran Beach. ¾ mile along beach, pass metal beacon in dunes, then fence and white ‘danger’ notice (762565). In 150m, turn inland up dune path through obvious gap (761563). Aim for rock outcrop, then keep same line up to skyline. Pass post with white panels; ahead on path, through hollow and up left side of far slope. Through gate (766564); ahead (east) with fence close on left (ignoring tall stone cross 200m on right) for 200m to St Piran’s Oratory (769564).

Keep ahead, bearing a little to right away from fence, to bear left (east) along wide track in a hollow. Pass waymark post (771564) to reach ancient stone cross on skyline (772564) and foundations of St Piran’s Church in hollow (600m east of Oratory). From here, keep ahead (east) with fence on left. In 200m, bear right (south) with fence and follow clear grassy path. In 300m (774563) bear half right across a wide open common. In 300m join a footpath marked with white stones; bear a little left with fence on left, following waymark arrow posts. At 2nd ‘acorn’ post, fork left (posts, white stones) to road at junction (775553).

Left along road for 1 mile. Descend to right bend (783566) where 2 adjacent lanes fork left. Take right-hand lane of these two; in 15m, fork right to go through gate (yellow arrow/YA). Path runs north-west along right edge of wide common with trees on right. In 600m, at far right corner of common (781572), path keeps ahead through undergrowth into hedge to pass black arrow on post. Right through kissing gate; boardwalk path through wetland patch, then across footbridge (782573). Uphill to go through gate at hamlet (782574). Left (‘Holywell’, YA); follow YAs across fields for ⅓ mile to Ellenglaze. Ahead along road (776577, YA), round left bend. In 200m, right (YA) on well marked green lane path, then holiday village road, for 1 mile to Holywell.

Conditions: Vertiginous path on Ligger Point; steep climb on loose sand from Perran Beach. Compass/GPS useful among dunes of Penhale Sands.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Holywell Bay B&B, Inshallah, Rhubarb Hill, Holywell TR8 5PT (01637-830938, – immaculate B&B.


 Posted by at 01:06
Feb 202016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Big waves, driven in by a strong west wind, were smashing on the rocks all along the North Cornwall coast. From Steeple Point high over Duckpool’s sandy scrap of beach we watched thirty jackdaws wheeling in a tight bunch on the buffeting wind, chakking excitedly to one another. White teeth of surf glinted far below in the mouth of the Duckpool valley.

The waves made wrinkled lines in the grey-brown Atlantic as far out as the eye could see. They moved ponderously inshore, topped with quiffs of spray, to crash among the black stumps of rocks and reefs with a dull thunder that made the air quiver. Under a mackerel sky the deep Duckpool valley ran back inland, its massed oaks murmurous with the half-gale. It was all we’d hoped for on a Cornish coast walk in midwinter – sound, fury, drama, and the elation of a stiff wind to beat our cheeks red and shove us along the cliff path.

Down on Wren Beach the sea surged across the shallows in delicate pulses, like a fine lace shawl swept rhythmically to and fro. The stark white dishes and domes of a GCHQ tracking station came peeking up over a rise of ground like an exhibition of Bauhaus architecture. Then they fell away behind as we dipped down into the cleft of Stanbury Mouth. A seat on a tuffet of sea pink leaves gave us a grandstand view of the waves running in, bursting on the rocks of Rane Point and flinging up lazy tails of spray with a hiss you could feel, rather than hear.

A boggy green lane led inland from Stanbury Mouth. If the flowers along here could be believed, spring was already nudging winter out of bed – primroses, campion, tender young nettles, alexanders and a brace of half-emerged dandelions.

Out across sedgy upland fields where starlings flocked fifty strong in a skeleton oak tree. By a lovely old wall of cob and slate at Eastaway Manor a bunch of sheep trotted away like affronted dowagers bundled into fur coats. We followed an old green lane down the slope of the fields and onto the homeward path through Hollygrove Wood. The sense of peace was profound down here – just the low roar of wind in the oak tops, and the throaty chuckle of the stream meandering down to Duckpool.

Start: Duckpool car park, Coombe, near Kilkhampton EX23 9JN approx. (OS ref SS 202117)

Getting there: A39 to Kilkhampton; minor road to Stibb; follow ‘Coombe’; at Coombe, follow ‘Duckpool’ to car park.

Walk (5¼ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 126): Follow South West Coast Path north for 1¾ miles. At Stanbury Mouth (200135) follow path, then green lane, inland (yellow arrows/YA). In 500m lane bends left (206135); ahead through kissing gate/KG (YA). Path across slopes (KG, YA); in 200m, right across footbridge (208136) and stile. Cross 2 fields (stiles, YAs) to cross road (212138). Green lane (YA) past Eastaway Manor; on across field to double stile (215136, YA).

Half left across field; over stile (YA); follow right-hand hedge. In 200m, right through hedge (218136, YA). Don’t go through metal gate ahead, but turn left along path to road in Woodford (219135). Right; in 100m, right down lane. Pass Shears Farm; in 100m, right at top of rise (218133, YA, green dot) down stony lane. In 500m go through gate across track (217129); bear left down grassy track (YA) into wood. In 200m, hairpin right (YA) to bottom of wood (216128); left across footbridge and following stile. Right along track for ¾ mile to road (210118). Ahead downhill across ford; in 200m left, then right (208117, ‘Duckpool’) to car park.

Conditions: Windy on cliffs (unguarded edges); muddy in lanes and fields

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Several Landmark Trust properties at Coombe (01628-825925; – unfussy, beautifully maintained cottages in a quiet dell

Info: Bude TIC (01288-354240);;

 Posted by at 01:24
May 022015

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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There’s no shortage of plumed helmets, dragon-roaring shields, coats of mail, crossbows and swords – some of these real enough to cleave a foe in twain – in English Heritage’s child-friendly shop at the gates of Tintagel Castle.

I crossed the footbridge slung over the chasm that separates the mainland from the castle on its massive, rock-like promontory, known as The Island. Here, protected by sheer cliffs on all sides, a prosperous community traded tin for Mediterranean pottery and glassware in post-Roman times. And here, if the ancient chroniclers and poets can be believed, Arthur the Once and Future King was conceived of an adulterous union (magically facilitated by the wizard Merlin) between the British King Uther Pendragon and the Duke of Cornwall’s wife, beautiful Igraine.

Was Arthur born at Tintagel? Or was he washed up there on a tempest-driven wave, to be raised by Merlin in the cave that still underpins The Island? And what of the ancient stone inscribed with Arthur’s name, unearthed at Tintagel in 1998? I pondered these signs and wonders as I explored the tiny Dark Ages dwellings and the stark castle ruins on the promontory. Then I set out north along the coast path with the sun on my back and the wind in my face.

It was a springtime day in a thousand, under a sky of unbroken blue. The path wound into and out of hidden valleys, swung up flights of steps and slithered down over slaty rocks. Primroses, white sea campion and pink tuffets of thrift trembled in the strong sea breeze. Herring gulls wheeled and wailed above a sea of milky turquoise two hundred feet below. Ahead, the cliffs crinkled around tiny rock coves, leading the eye forward to a great curve of coast where Cornwall ran north into Devon.

In the gorse banks above Smith’s Cliff, tiny Dartmoor ponies galloped skittishly to and fro. I walked out to the spectacular sheer-sided promontory of Willapark, one among dozens of sections of this precious piece of coastline bought by the National Trust with funds raised through their Neptune Coastline Campaign – 50 years old this very month. Beyond Benoath Cove’s perfect fingernail of dull gold sand lay Rocky Valley, where the Trevillet River jumps down towards the sea over a series of rock steps. I crossed a little grassy saddle near Firebeacon Hill, brilliant with violets and shiny yellow stars of celandine.

Under the white tower of a coastguard lookout, the coal-black cliffs of Western Blackapit stood twisted, contorted and streaked with splashes of quartzite as though a painter had flicked his brush across them. Beyond the promontory, the white houses of Boscastle lay hidden in their deep narrow cleft, appearing in sight only at the last moment as I turned the corner by the harbour wall – a magical revelation of which Merlin himself might have been proud

Start: Tintagel Castle, near Camelford, Cornwall, PL34 0HE (OS ref SX 052889)

Getting there: A30, A395, B3266; or A39, B3263 to Boscastle. Park in village car park (PL35 0HE) – about £5 in coins. Then take bus 595, or taxi (£10, Boscars, tel 07790-983911, to Tintagel. Walk down to castle entrance.

Walk (6 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer 111. NB: online maps, more walks at HYPERLINK “” Follow South West Coast Path to Boscastle.

Conditions: Many steps and short steep sections

Lunch/Tea: Harbour Lights Tea Garden, Boscastle (01840-250953)

Accommodation: Mill House, Trebarwith, near Tintagel, PL34 0HD (01840-770200,

Tintagel Castle (English Heritage): 01840-770328;

NT South West Coastal Festival 2015:

Info: Boscastle TIC (01840-250010);;

 Posted by at 02:13
Oct 262013

Smoky shreds of mist came drifting in from the sea across the blue Cornish sky.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Herring gulls were circling with steely cries over Port Gaverne’s narrow rocky inlet. The persistent sea has cut the north Cornwall coast into dozens of these havens, where tiny fishing villages lie sheltered on a slip of a beach. Port Gaverne is one of the tiniest, no more than a hamlet, centred round its cheery hotel and a couple of boats.

It was a steep climb out of the valley, a salutary early morning shock to the system. Fat white sheep cropped the wet fields around Trewartha, from where a stony lane lined with royal blue borage and the episcopal purple flowers of honesty dropped away to cross a stream in a boggy dell. I puzzled my way across and up to a viewpoint over Port Isaac’s huddle of houses caught in a downhill stampede between the slopes of the valley.

A high-banked lane headed north towards the sea, then a field path led into another deep dip and on over cattle pastures to Port Quin, a fishing haven even smaller and quieter than Port Gaverne. Suddenly I knew exactly where I was, though I’d not been here for more than 50 years. Oh, the power of childhood holidays! The steep upward lane, high-perched Doyden Hotel where the family had stayed, the castellated folly of Doyden Castle on its tump of headland where we’d walked a dewy circuit every morning! It all came rushing back from wherever such sounds and pictures and smells are stored all the while.

I walked up to the tower and sat with my back to the wind, looking round the long semi-circle of Port Quin Bay to the rock spires of The Rump and the big rugged lump of The Mauls island out in the sea. Yellow gorse, green headlands, black rock, blue sky, turquoise sea – elemental colours in absolute perfection.

Mist began to steal in again, muting those sharp colours. I turned for home along the South West Coast Path, up and down innumerable steps, round rocky bays where the dark shapes of peregrines darted almost too quickly to be seen, and fulmars planed the air currents on stiff wings and glanced incuriously with their round black eyes as they passed me by.

Start: Port Gaverne, Port Isaac, Cornwall PL29 3SQ (OS ref SX 003808).

Getting there: Bus – Service 584 (, Camelford-Wadebridge
Road – Port Gaverne is signposted off B3267 in Port Isaac (B3314 from A39 at Wadebridge)

Walk (8½ miles, moderate/hard, OS Explorer 106): In Port Gaverne follow ‘Port Gaverne Hotel car park’ sign. Pass car park; on over stile by gate (‘Trewetha ½’). In 150m, fork right (005806, yellow arrow/YA) up steep path. At top, right over stile (YA); up to road at Trewetha (005802). Left round bend; right (‘Footpath, Port Isaac’) down green lane to cross stream in boggy dell (000800). Left for 50m, bending right to meet walled lane by stone stile among trees. Right here; in 20m, fork left up walled path; up and through gate; on up lane. In 350m, on 2nd left bend, right over stile (997800, YA); follow hedge, then fence (YAs) right of Homer Park to road (996802).

Left for 50m; right (‘To The Coastpath’) along lane. In ⅓ mile, through gate (992807); left along field edge with wall on left, down to cross stream (991805, ‘Port Quin’). Right up path; at top, right and follow field edge round to left. In 200m, right (988808, YA) along field edge track. In ¾ mile, cross wall stile by gate; track bends right uphill, but keep ahead, down across field, aiming for distant house. Follow track (YAs); in ¼ mile, cross stile by house, down to road in Port Quin (973805). Ahead across bridge; round left bend, then right bend, up road; in 150m, right over stile (970805); follow Coast Path to Doyden Castle (967806).

Return along Coast Path via Port Quin and Port Isaac for 4 miles (steep!) to Port Gaverne.

NB: Boggy and confusing in dell below Trewetha; many hundreds of steep steps on Coast Path between Port Quin and Port Isaac.

Lunch: Picnic. Tea: Cafés in Port Isaac

Accommodation: Port Gaverne Hotel, PL29 3SQ (01208-880244; – cheerful pub with rooms

Information: Wadebridge TIC (01208-813725;

 Posted by at 01:46
Jun 222013

The sleeping-bloodhound profile of Nare Head is veiled in sea fret, and it’s tempting to turn back into the comfortable warmth of the Nare Hotel and seek a nice deep armchair.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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But hang the weather! Rather unbelievably, it’s my 200th ‘A Good Walk’ for The Times. On with the boots, then, and out along those misty, seductive cliffs …

From the summit of Nare Head we look back round the great sweep of Gerrans Bay. Portscatho’s houses across the bay are a sloping tumble of white. The sea sighs at the feet of the cliffs where fulmars and kittiwakes are sitting hopefully on nests precariously wedged into the narrowest of crevices. Sea campion, gorse in coconut-scented flower, bluebells half bloomed; self heal, celandine, big bush alexanders and tiny pink cranesbills; the whole power of early summer seems concentrated in brilliant colour along these rugged quartz-veined cliffs.

We walk on slowly over the headlands and round the caves – Rosen Cliff and Kilberick Cove (there’s a grey seal there, bobbing sleekly like a well-oiled Channel swimmer), Parc Caragloose and Manare Point, until we stand looking down on Portloe’s sprinkle of white fishermen’s cottages under grey slate roofs. The neat little slide of houses bends round the tight curve of the valley and down to the slipway with its handful of crab boats. Incredible to think that Portloe in Victorian times was a bustling, noisy, stinking pilchard town, catching and salting, packing and shipping the fish to market – notably to Catholic Italy and its Friday fasters. ‘Here’s a health to the Pope!’ they sang:

‘… may he live to repent,
And add just six months to the term of his Lent,
And tell all his vassals from Rome to the Poles,
There’s nothing like pilchards for saving their souls!’

We climb the narrow street, out into the steep fields behind the village. Trewartha Hall farm is scented rich and sweet with silage. The woods above Veryan are pungent with wild garlic. A pint and a sandwich in the New Inn and we’re set for the homeward road – a pretty lane between high hedge banks, a sloping valley full of bluebells and birdsong, and a last trudge along the rocky sands of Pendower Beach.

Start: NT car park, Carne Beach, near Veryan, TR2 5PF (OS ref SW 905383).

Getting there: Car park is 100m from Nare Hotel (signed off A3078 between Tregony and Portscatho).

WALK (9½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 105. NB – online maps, more walks at: Follow South West Coast Path east for 3¼ miles to Portloe. Left up street, pass Ship Inn, cross stream (934394); in 100m, right (‘Veryan’). Pass houses; gate into field; cross field, then stone stile (932396, yellow arrow/YA); left to gate into lane. Follow YAs via Trewartha Hall farm and Trewartha to road (924397). Left; right across road, down ‘Roseland Nursery’ lane; on (YAs) along green lane, across field, through wood (920397). Half left down to stile (918396); forward past Veryan church to road. Left past New Inn; in 50m right (916395, ‘Portscatho’) along lane. In ¾ of a mile cross brook (906392), in 75m left up path, soon descending to Lower Mill (902389). Cross brook; along drive; at left bend, ahead through gate; path to Pendower Beach (898382); left on Coast Path to Carne Beach.

NB Coast path narrow, slippery, vertiginous in places

Lunch: Pub, cafés in Portloe and Veryan.

Accommodation: Nare Hotel, Carne Beach, Veryan-in-Roseland, Cornwall TR2 5PF (01872-501111; – solid, comfortable, friendly, family-run.

Guided walks:

Information: St Austell TIC (01726-879500);

 Posted by at 01:38
Aug 212010

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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A breezy, blustery day on the North Cornwall coast, and a Sunday morning hush over Padstow. A herring gull with a crab claw in its beak stood on the harbour wall, observing me with pale, unfriendly eyes. Up on the coast path to Stepper Point the westerly wind pushed and smacked, shoving roughly, tossing the yellow heads of alexanders vigorously enough to make a hiss that almost drowned the sulky roar of the incoming tide in the mouth of the Camel Estuary.

There was salt on my tongue, and a fish-belly glint of dull silver on the sea. It was fantastically exhilarating walking in such a wind, like fighting a boisterous but essentially friendly troll.

Up on Stepper Point the old daymark tower whistled quietly to itself. Here, stories said, the women of Padstow had paraded in their red cloaks to frighten off the French. What a sight they’d have made on a morning like this, billowing scarlet before the gale sailed them all away over the estuary. Picturing that, I leaned on the wind and plodded west down the black line of the coast, looking ahead along many miles of foam-battered cliff. The rabbit-nibbled turf was spattered with thousands of pale blue stars, the petals of late-flowering spring squill. Grassy knolls over the sea shook white bells of sea campion, and in a sheltered hollow, unbelievably, I found a bank of primroses still in bloom.

Skirting an enormous blowhole in the cliffs near Trevone, I pushed on to Harlyn, where the thought of breakfast suddenly occurred. Well, brunch, then – a cheeseburger with relish and mustard from the ‘Food for Thought’ kiosk overlooking Harlyn Bay. Completely delicious, but just what the doctor wouldn’t have ordered. ‘You say that,’ observed the lady of the van, ‘but we have a doctor who’s a regular customer – and he tells his patients to eat here too!’

I was tired of fighting the wind, and just as well; I had it at my back now. I sauntered like a man in no sort of hurry past sleepy Trevone, through a hamlet too small to have a name, and on among the clucking bantams and stolidly chewing lambs of Trethillick. The wind dropped to a sigh in the hedges, and the sun came striding through the clouds to bathe Padstow and the estuary in pure gold.


Start & finish: Padstow TIC, Red Brick Building, North Quay, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8AF (OS ref SW 920755)

Getting there: Train (; to Bodmin Parkway.

Bus ( 397 from Truro; 555 from Bodmin Parkway; 556 from Newquay; 557 from St Columb Major.

Road: A30, A39; B3274

Walk (9 miles, moderate, OS Explorer 106): Pass Shipwright’s Arms; up path (‘Coast Path, Hawker’s Cove’); follow Coast Path arrows/acorns for 6 3/4miles to Harlyn, and nearly back to Trevone. At kissing gate (887757 – marked ‘Playing Field’on Explorer map), right (footpath sign) up field edge. Dogleg left/right; left along upper field edge to road (893755); left to road in Trevone. Left for 50 yards; right at left bend (fingerpost) by Hursley house; through gateway, across 2 fields. In 3rd field, left across stream; on past buildings, over stile at bend of lane; on across fields to lane (905758); right to Trevillick. Right, then left; over stile; cross 2 fields to road (910757). Right to Padstow.

NB – Online map, more walks:

Lunch: ‘Food for Thought’ kiosk, Harlyn; or Harlyn Inn (01841-520207;

More info: Padstow TIC (01841-533449);;

Coast Along for WaterAid: Sponsored walks day, 11 September (info 01225-526149; one of the walks is around Trevone!

 Posted by at 00:00
Feb 132010

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Twenty-four hours of solid, stair-rod Cornish rain had given way to an afternoon of patchy, wind-streaked blue sky. At Gweek, where the winding Helston River pushes its blunt finger-ends against the land, the houses lay quiet along the quay. Houseboats both ramshackle and trim, ebb-fast yachts, ancient storm-decked trawlers and families of ducks shared the mud companionably with mournfully piping oystercatchers. On Naphene Downs above the village, wind seethed in over the oak woods and battered the hedges of the bridleway that Jane and I were following. Among the bushes a crude little shelter of sticks called to mind Eeyore’s house. We half expected to hear a squeaky and a growly voice chorusing, ‘And nobody knows, tiddly-pom, how cold my toes, tiddly-pom …’

Which way around Napheane Farm? ‘Do you like my little black Dexter cattle?’ said the woman of the house at her door. ‘The path? Oh yes, climb over the gate, you’re welcome – just don’t let the horses out!’

A tangled lane led down to a brook in a secret dell, then up to a wonderful ridge-top view across the patchwork landscape of the Lizard peninsula. Beautiful to walk through, this west Cornwall countryside of small fields and granite rocks, but tough to farm. Polanguy among its tumbledown sheds showed broken windows, holes in the roof and a jumble of tractors and bailers abandoned where they last stopped. A skinny cat, sole occupant of Polanguy, ran off down the flooded lane. We followed its paw-prints through the mud and came up to the old stone cottages at Merther-Uny, a hamlet whose name commemorates the martyrdom of St Euny, one of the first Irish missionaries to reach Cornwall back in the 5th century. Opposite the cottages we found a gateway to a walled enclosure choked with scrub, the site of a chapel dedicated to the Irish hermit. Old tales tell how a prosperous family who farmed Merther-Uny lost all their worldly goods after they were unwise enough to use the font from the ancient chapel as a pig trough.

Buzzards mewed over the wooded valley beyond Little Trussall. At Boskenwyn the primary school wall was studded with climbing aids – sky-blue footholds, red and green handholds. Lucky kids, to have a school with fun on the timetable and a high and mighty view each playtime.

Down through the fields we went, passing Boskenwyn Manor, down to the stream valley that led east to Gweek, where horses lifted their head to check us out with long, deliberate stares. Under dead trees bearded with lichens on a seek-and-ye-shall-find path, and a final step along the muddy margins of Gweek Quay where the oystercatchers had never left off piping.

Start & finish: Gweek Inn, Gweek TR12 6TU (OS ref SW 707268)

Getting there: Bus (0845-600-1420; service 35 (all week), 32 (Sunday)

Road: A30, A39 to Truro; A39 towards Falmouth; A394 towards Helston; Gweek signed to left.

Walk (7½ miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 103): From Gweek Inn, turn right up Redruth road. Right at Tolvan Cross by white corner house (706282; bridleway fingerpost). In 200 yards cross footbridge; in another 200 yards leave gravelled track and keep ahead along grassy track (blue arrow) over Naphene Downs for ½ mile to road at Carwythenack Chase (716279). Left (‘Falmouth, Truro’).

In ⅓ mile, pass entrance to Napheane Farm. In another 50 yards, left over stile (717285); diangonally left to cross farm drive. Bear right round field edge; cross stile opposite farmhouse, then next one (714284); right and right again over gate, to turn left along green lane past Napheane farmhouse and on (yellow arrows/YA). In 100 yards, at left bend in lane, go through gate on right; left along hedge, then over stone stile (YA). Bear right with hedge on right; over next stone stile, cross field, over another stone stile (712286); forward (YA on pole) down tangled green lane (YAs) to cross stream (711287). Steeply up to road (707288). Right; pass staggered crossroads; in 200 yards, left past ruined farm of Polanguy (706294).

On along boggy track (half path, half stream!) among trees; cross brook by stone slab bridge (704294); bear left up path, through gate at top, past houses of Merther-Uny (702293) and on along lane to road (697293). Right for ⅓ mile. Left by Little Trussall house (692294; bridleway fingerpost), past cottages and on along path through wood for ½ mile. Path turns uphill to leave wood and reach Woodside Farm (691284). Left through gate, right past farm to road (691283). Left for 350 yards to Boskenwyn primary school (691280). Right along road for 250 yards; left (fingerpost) to Boskenwyn Manor Farm (686279).

Pass manor house on your right; bear left in front of barn conversion; left again into open area; sharp right round right edge of field, with hedge on right. At far end of field, cross stile; cross next field to go through gate to right of barn. Pass Pollard Farm house (685275). Bear right through farmyard; follow track past houses for ½ mile to road; turn right. In 200 yards (684268), two signed bridleways diverge to left. Take left-hand one, between granite gateposts, and follow bridleway signs. At Millbrook (686267) follow left fork (concrete track); then through fields, keeping just up slope with valley bottom on your right. Pass Pollard Mill (688266); continue for nearly a mile to reach green lane by cottages (701265); follow this to road (704264); left to Gweek.

NB – This walk is not dog-friendly (farm dogs!). Online map, more walks:

Lunch: Gweek Inn (01326-221502) – handy village inn.

More info: Falmouth TIC (01326-312300);


 Posted by at 00:00
Aug 012009

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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God, what a miserable summer! Rain, rain and  … yes, more rain, drenching the Cornish beaches, making rivers of the Cornish lanes. Today, for a miracle, it wasn’t forecast to rain till, ooh, ten a.m. at least. So I was up with the lark (there were no larks to be heard; they were probably cowering in the nest), quit the underfloor heating and woodburning stove of the Cow Barn holiday cottage with a sigh, and was down on Polkerris beach by six o’clock.

‘Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, neither wet, neither dry,’ we said as kids, and here was a sky as blue and silver as a mackerel’s belly, together with a soft mist rolling in with the south-west wind. I climbed the old cliff road to Tregaminion Farm with ferns and wet grasses pearling my rain trousers. Three calves stood in the farmyard with their muzzles in a manger; none looked up as I went by. All else was still and silent at Tregaminion, and at Trenant and Lankelly beyond. Never a dog barked as I crossed the fat neck of the Gribbin Head peninsula, a ghost slipping through a rain-soaked landscape now glinting brilliantly in early sunshine.

In the hamlet of Lankelly the herringbone walls were smothered in foxgloves and wall pennywort. I found the flowery, high-banked hollow of Love Lane, and followed it down through Covington Woods to the shattered old stub of St Catherine’s Castle high on a cliff knoll on the south flank of Fowey. The little town slumbered opposite its counterpart village of Polruan, the sister settlements held apart by the jaws of the River Fowey through which a yacht was sneaking out towards the open sea.

It was a beautiful hike back along the cliffs, across the lake outfall at impossibly picturesque Polridmouth, up on the nape of Gribbin Head under the soaring, candy-striped lookout tower. As always in such places, I longed for a six-year-old companion to play at Rapunzel. Rain began to freckle in from the sea as I skirted the sea buckthorn thickets beyond Gribbin Tower, but I beat the serious stuff into Polkerris by a short head. Now for a bacon sandwich and a good solid cup of bo’sun’s tea. Proper job, that’d be.

Start & finish: Polkerris car park, PL23 1ET (OS ref SX 094523)

Getting there: Polkerris is signposted off A3082, 1½ miles west of Fowey

Walk (6 miles, moderate grade, OS Explorer 107): From Polkerris car park (pay), walk down lane, past Rashleigh Inn, down ramp to beach. Left up ramp past Polkadot Café/Polkerris Beach Watersport shop. At ‘Toilets’ sign, right up path (‘South West Coast Path/CP’). In 20 yards, CP goes right up steps, but you keep ahead up sunken lane to road (096522). Right for 250 yards; left (‘Saints Way/SW’). Skirt right round Tregaminion Farm (yellow arrows/y.a.), and on along field paths for 1/3 of a mile to Trenant Cottage. Cross driveway; on along hedged path, then through fields, across stream valley, up to Lankelly Farm. Right along Coombe Lane; in 300 yards, left (SW); in another 300 yards, right (115515; SW) along Love Lane, descending towards sea for 1/3 of a mile. Just before houses, leave SW (117511) and follow CP past NT Covington woods sign (acorn waymark, y.a.). Follow CP for 3¾ miles, via Coombe Haven, Polridmouth and Gribbin Tower, back to Polkerris.

NB – Online map, more walks:

Lunch: Rashleigh Inn (01726-813991; or Sam’s on the Beach (01726-812255;

Accommodation: The Mill or The Cow Barn near Lostwithiel ( – very stylish conversion; lots more available locally

More info: Fowey TIC (01726-833616;;


 Posted by at 00:00