Anyone who has stumbled on my reviews in the past will know that my son and I (occasionally with other family members) are attempting to walk the whole of the South West Coastal Path. This month we headed down for our 8th visit (since 2016) for our first walk of the year.
The participants of the walk this time were myself, my son, Scott, his partner Pauline and his sons Deion (29) and Andre (13). We had booked a holiday apartment in Porthtowan in Cornwall. We arrived about 5pm and were delighted with our accommodation. We were staying at number 11 Sea Spray Apartments in Porthtowan (owned by Gilly and Bob Weaver [email protected]) and I would highly recommend it. We had a small balcony that overlooked the beach, a lounge with a bed settee, a bathroom, a room with twin beds and the double bed was up in a gallery area over the lounge (with a curtain you could pull across for privacy!). It was decorated with numerous sea shore themed pictures with even a surf board lighting system! It was very pretty and is in a wonderful location. (The only down side is that there is a coin operated meter for the electricity and as we had cold, wet weather for the first two days we did get through a few £1 coins!)
We had hoped to wake up the next morning to a beautiful beach scene but it was grey and exceptionally windy (although it was still fun to watch the die hard surfers who don’t seem to care what the weather is like!). Not wanting to be blown off the cliffs we put our walk on hold and instead did touristy things. We drove into Newquay to look at the shops and to sample a REAL Cornish pasty (or a veggie one in my case!) Then we visited St Mawes Castle. We had to get the King Harry ferry across the Fal river which was fun. St Mawes is very small but quite interesting and on a better day it would have been nice to sit in the grounds and enjoy the stunning views. Later we visited Pendennis Castle where (once we had managed to shake off a very enthusiastic and persistent English Heritage salesman) was also very interesting. It is on a peninsula and you can see wonderful views all around it (but unfortunately we had a continual curtain of rain obscuring the view all the time we were there!). They had tunnels leading to the Battery and a couple of people dressed as medieval folk who showed us how long bows and spears were really used.
NEWQUAY TO PERRANPORTH (APPROX 12.5 MILES)
The next day we woke and our beautiful beach scene was a reality! It was like someone had turned a switch and brought the sun out. Very ready to start walking now, we drove the car to Perranporth and then took the bus to Newquay where we had finished our previous walk last June.
As we left Newquay we saw Kitiwakes nesting on the cliff sides and we soon passed The Huers Hut (a small white washed hut where someone used to watch out for pilchard shoals then notify the fishermen). We crossed beautiful Fistral Beach where there were lots of surfers and then we came to The Gannel Estuary. (It is important to check the high tide times here as if you time it wrongly you could end up walking an extra 3.5 miles around it). In consideration of our feet we HAD checked the tide times and we were able to cross it safely. There were horse riders and lots of herons and other sea birds also enjoying the low tide. We then walked along the Estuary for a while until we came to Crantock which has a glassy plateau called Rushey Green. Most of this part involves walking on the sand and through sand dunes. It is incredibly beautiful! We passed Pentire Point West and Port Joke then as we entered the larger cove of Holywell there was time for a drink and an ice cream outside a beach side pub. Leaving Holywell the path took us past the Ministry of Defence Property and you have to keep strictly to the path here as live firing manoeuvres take place here. Suddenly Perran Beach came into view and it is the most stunning beach. Very long with very light sand and edged by hilly sand dunes. It was lovely walking through the dunes although we lost the coastal path for a while and probably added an unnecessary mile to our journey.. We finally re connected with the path and made it into Perranporth where we had left our car.
PERRANPORTH – PORTHTOWAN (ABOUT 8.5 MILES)
The next morning we got 2 buses back to Perranporth and started back on the Path. The weather was beautiful and it wasn’t too long a stretch but for some reason we all found it quite hard going today. There were a few up and down bits which were quite tiring and maybe we did not have the previous days enthusiasm. It was, however, a very pretty walk. We walked past lots of evidence of the Cornish tin mining industry. One interesting fact is that some of the mine shafts are now occupied by bats and to keep them safe conical wire mesh tops have been fitted over these shafts, Big enough to let the bats come and go but too small for people to fall through! There is a place called Blue Hill Tin Streams where you can learn more about the Cornish mining industry. The geology around this part of the Path was interesting too, lots of copper and silvery coloured seams. The Millennium Sun Dial overlooking Perran Bay was interesting. It’s time is 20 minutes later than GMT. (I have heard about this before but don’t really understand it!) We also passed the track where every Easter they hold the London to Land’s End motor trials. We also passed Travaunance Cove and from there we climbed up the cliff top and then down again into Chapel Porth. Not far after that we came to Wheal Gates (an impressive old mine building that has been restored by the National Trust). We then arrived in Porthtowan where our holiday apartment was, so that was our stop for the night (and how nice it was to just walk off the Path and onto our balcony for a glass of well deserved wine!).
By the way the name Porthtowan comes from the words Porth meaning Bay or Port and Towan meaning sand dunes.
PORTHTOWAN – DEREKS COVE (APPROX 8 MILES)
Only my son and I walked today. We headed out of Porthtowan (stopping at the top of the cliff to wave down to our family standing on the balcony!). It was wonderful views today as most of the walk was across the cliff tops. Bright yellow gorse, lilac heather, yellow primroses and white wild garlic abounded making for a brilliant backdrop. We walked past Nancekuke which is a fenced off area which used to be both an RAF airfield and a chemical warfare base (a bit worrying that!) After 2 hours we arrived at Portreath which looks a lot more prosperous than many of the other coastal towns. Lots of modern houses (possibly holiday homes?) and even the older houses were renovated and well maintained. The rest of the family met us there for an ice cream before Scott and I headed off to finish our days walk. (Portreath Harbour used to be known as Bassets Cove because the Lords of The Manor, the Bassets of Tehidy used it for recreation. They also built the “Pepperpot” that stands above the harbour.)
We headed off up Battery Hill back onto the Path. It was very very windy (giving my hair a definite Einstein look!) but it was warm and refreshing. It was fairly flat walking today and 3 miles later we arrived at Dereks Cove where our family picked us up in the car.
DEREKS COVE – HAYLE (APPROX 7.5 MILES)
Our last day of walking and we all set off together. We drove into Hayle and got a cab to Derek’s Cove so we could continue from the previous day. Today’s walk was incredibly beautiful. More gorse, flowers and long stretches of beach awaited us. Most of the walk was over the cliff tops but towards the end we were up and down through the sand dunes. As we passed Navax Point we saw seals basking on the rocks below. We also saw Gavrevy Island with it’s octagonal lighthouse. Supposedly at certain times of year the island is festooned with flowers but that wasn’t the case in April! This lighthouse is supposedly the inspiration for Virginia Woolfe’s ” To The Lighthouse”. We then walked through the dunes by Gwithian Beach. This beach is spectacular and even though it was Good Friday and there were many surfers and families, it was so large it didn’t seem crowded at all. We then arrived in Hayle where our car was parked.
So we have now done about 222 miles (only 408 to go!) of the SW Coastal Path. If you fancy doing this particular stretch or just want a break in a quiet little cove I can’t recommend Seaspray Apartments in Porthtowan enough. The apartment is great, there is a nice bar/restaurant under the apartment building (The Blue Bar) and another good restaurant/pub in the hills above (The Victory Inn).
Definitely a great part of the world and we will be back!