A beautiful part of the South West Coastal Path, this northern section undulates along the coast between the popular resorts of Padstow and St. Ives, visiting the surfer’s paradise of Newquay. These are of course popular epicenters for tourism in the summer months, but dotted along the coast are also tiny thatched roofed villages, old tin and silver mining towns and harbours, which used to throb with the business of shipping minerals and landing literally millions of fish. It is a landscape of beaches and tiny coves, which foster childhood recollections of summer. There are impressive cliffs and treacherous off shore reefs that have claimed many victims over the years. Now the economic landscape has totally changed, the area is more romantic and reflective, inspiring generations of artists and writers to describe in their various mediums the area the best that they can.
Moderate, days are not particularly long but with some tough ascents and descents and walking on sand in places.
Make your own way to Padstow. The town is named after St. Petroc who came here circa A.D 500. The church of St Petroc is one of a group of three said to have been founded by the Saint. It is quite large and mostly of 13th and 14th century date. The old harbour usually has a nice ensemble of boats including the old pilot vessels. Nice pub fayre and a Rick Stein restaurant.
Accommodation: Our accommodation dates back to the 14th century and is the oldest inn in town. It has an open fire and parquet flooring. All rooms are ensuite. Alternatively we stay in a 4 star guesthouse just outside of Padstow easily reached by local bus.
Leaving Padstow’s busy little tourist harbour, follow the shores of the picturesque Camel Estuary to Stepper Point, with views perhaps to Bodmin Moor inland and to the ‘Doom Bar’: an off shore sand bar which has wrecked hundreds of ships over the centuries, largely because the surrounding cliffs take the wind out of the boat’s sails as they try to enter the harbour. In fact it became so notorious that many vessels would risk being wrecked on the coast rather than negotiate the entrance to Padstow in poor weather. More coves pass by until you see the limestone and slate Porthmissen Bridge natural arch with colonies of Razorbills and Guillemots. From here continue on to Trevone Bay, a beautiful sandy beach, popular with surfers and onwards to Harlyn, another surfer’s paradise but once famed for fishing pilchards. The coastal path reaches Trevose Head where on clear days you can see both St.Ives and Newquay. There is a lighthouse, which maybe open in the afternoon. The path then turns south and crosses more sandy beaches around Constantine, passing Trethias Island nature reserve, threading its way through coves to descend to Porthcothan Bay.
Accommodation: Our bed & breakfast accommodation in this beautiful part of Cornwall is only a short walk from the stunning Porthcothan Bay and South West Coast Path.
From the bay the path climbs up to Park Head, which provides wonderful views of Bedruthan Steps, a set of rock stacks that have been a popular tourist feature since the railway reached Newquay in 1875. Passing the village of Mawgan Porth the route follows the cliff top above Watergate Bay. Approaching Newquay, the path arrives at Trevelgue Head and the largest Iron Age fort remains in the county. Continuing over Barrowfields, with its three Bronze Age barrows, the path descends to Newquay. This is quite a shock after the day’s peaceful walk. Nevertheless the town overlooks fine golden sands, which cushion the Atlantic rollers and make this Britain’s surfing capital. Before surfing fame, Newquay was another famous fishing port, seining out the millions of pilchards that arrived every July. It was also a silver and lead mining centre.
Accommodation: Overnight at a 3 star hotel is directly on the seafront with miles of stunning coastline and views across the harbour.
Leaving the harbour, the path climbs up Towan Head past the whitewashed Huer's Hut, where lookouts would shout the arrival of the pilchard shoals to waiting fishermen, and then follow the cliffs around Pentire Point to take the ferry across the Gannel River. The path winds around headlands and coves to Kelsey Head, the site of an Iron Age promontory fort, and then descends to the village of Holywell, named after an ancient well and equally aged inn called ‘Treguth’. Following golden sands along Perran Beach, pass the tiny ruin of St Piran's Oratory, said to be oldest church in Cornwall (8th century) but reburied to protect it from erosion. Depending upon tide levels, you reach the village of Perranporth either by the beach or the cliff.
Accommodation: The 4 star country house offers all rooms ensuite. The house is situated in its own grounds overlooking Perranporth and is only minutes from the coastal footpaths.
A fairly easy stretch today on well used paths occasionally dipping into valleys. The coast path follows the cliffs around Cligga Head, past mineshafts, now home to horseshoe bats, and the remains of tin mines, with dramatic views of the mine buildings and chimneys dotting the landscape further on around St Agnes. Enroute you drop into Trevellas Porth and then Trevaunance Cove which has a waterside pub. It is then pleasant ascending to St Agnes Head past bird nesting cliffs, to the little village with the same name and terraces of miners' cottages including an interesting little museum in an old chapel. The path descends past the ruins of Wheal Coates Mine to the sandy inlet of Chapel Porth. Then back up to the cliff tops, the path goes past the Wheal Charlotte Mine, drops down to the beach at Porthtowan and then follows the cliff top path to the harbour at Portreath, from where minerals were exported from the mines at Redruth.
Accommodation: You stay at a small and friendly bed & breakfast, 2 minutes walk from a sandy beach and situated on the coast path.
Leaving Portreath, there is a strenuous climb up Tregea Hill and 10 km/6 miles of National Trust land, continuing high above the sea along Carvannel and Reskajeage Downs. You then reach a rather sensational breach in the cliffs called Hell's Mouth. At Navax Point, you might be lucky enough to see grey seals. Walking on to Godrevy Point you will see the lighthouse perched on Godrevy Island, probably the inspiration for Virginia Wolf's ‘To the Lighthouse’. The lighthouse marks the landward end of a treacherous line of reefs, called The Stones, which have claimed many wrecks and many of their victims are buried in the churchyard at Gwithian, a sleepy thatched cottage village with an interesting old pub, The Pendarves Arms. The path then meanders through the Towans sand dunes to the busy port of Hayle.
Accommodation: Stay tonight at the elegant White Hart Hotel, constructed in 1838. It is the oldest hotel in the town but all rooms are tastefully furnished and ensuite.
A short day which should give you enough time to discover beautiful St. Ives, with its museums and galleries. Skirting the Hayle Estuary, which is noted for its seabirds and waders, the path passes along the dunes above Porth Kidney and then passes beautiful Carbis Bay to reach the town.
St Ives dates back to AD460, when the missionary St. Ia, daughter of an Irish chieftain, landed here and gave her name to the settlement in a similar way to how St. Beda gave her name to St. Bees in Cumbria. Protected from Atlantic storms, St Ives was once the most important fishing port in Cornwall, but like elsewhere on the surrounding coast, by the beginning of the 20th century, the fish stocks became depleted and the fishing fleet largely disappeared. However as early as 1811 Turner visited to paint the seascapes and by the late 1880s there were several artists installed and the town became famous for its vibrant artists' colony. This perhaps reached its heyday during the late 1940s and the 1950s. Today their work can be seen in the St Ives Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Bernard Leach Gallery.
Accommodation: there is a mixture of accommodation here but our 1st choice is a 4 star guesthouse set in the quieter part of St Ives.
Depart St. Ives after breakfast
Throughout the tour the accommodations were great. Enjoyed the high coastal cliffs, the brisk coastal weather and the well marked trail.
P. Oliver, Hawaii, USA, 25 Sep 2017
Per Person, Twin Share