If you have stumbled upon this review then let me start by saying that there are a previous 12 reviews before this! To reiterate, my family are trying to walk the whole path ( 300 + miles done, a similar amount still to do!) and so we venture off to the West Country anytime we can. All the family have walked with us at some time but it is my son, Scott and I who have actually done every single step on the South West Coast Path so far. Obviously the pandemic stopped us from making any trips in the early part of the year but Scott and I are now determined to do as much of this as we can to try and finish it before my old, failing body gives out!
So, in September, Scott and I set off yet again. We caught the train down to Truro then changed there for another train to Falmouth and arrived back in the town we had finished up in last July. Normally we take the car down to Cornwall with us but this time we had decided to walk carrying all our possessions on our backs and staying at different places each night. The last time we did this was a few years ago and I had forgotten that a backpack, even with the minimal of clothing and toiletries, can actually weigh quite a lot!!
We arrived in Falmouth quite late and so went straight to our hotel (The Seaview Inn in Falmouth). This lovely little pub had nice rooms and had adhered to the Covid guidelines really well. A little bag of toiletries was in each of our rooms and even the hairdryers had been put into a little bag so that you were aware they had been sterilised. The staff were very welcoming and we both had rooms that overlooked Falmouth Harbour which was quite impressive. We were too late for dinner but we had a couple of drinks before retiring to our rooms to finish off the slightly stale cheese and marmite sandwiches I had packed for the train!
Falmouth- Veryan (14 miles)
After a nice breakfast (all breakfast times were staggered so that we could socially distance) we headed off. We made our way to the Ferry Quay by way of, what must be, the steepest passage in Falmouth, Jacob’s Ladder and we had already bought tickets on line for the ferry over to St Mawes. (The South West Path actually tells you to take this ferry and then another one from St Mawes to Place). The ferry ride was very pleasant as the weather was nice and at St Mawes we had to wait a while for the ferry to Place. This ferry only takes 12 people so we had to wait around for it to depart and then return for us. St Mawes is a lovely little picturesque fishing village and it was no hardship to have an hour or so there. It is one of the County’s premier yachting centres and there is also St Mawes Castle nearby which I made a mental note to visit next time we had the opportunity. When we finally arrived at Place’s Totty Steps we headed off through the woods and our walk finally began in earnest. We soon passed St Anthony’s Lighthouse which was built in 1834. From 1882 to 1954 a bell, the largest in Cornwall hung from the exterior below the lantern and was rung in foggy conditions. As we climbed St Anthony’s Head and Zone Point we saw a lot of different birds. We looked down at Porthbeor Beach and lots of other little coves. We passed Towan Bay with it’s ‘Wreck Post 7’ (a relic of the days when the breeches buoy was employed by the coast guard. It is a sturdy pole with climbing steps which simulated the mast of a ship in training exercises). At Portscatho (a fishing village with a few shops) we had a pasty and a respite then continued up the hill to Treluggan Cliff and a top grazing field where some very cute Shetland ponies came to greet us. (See photo above of one who took a liking to Scott and followed him for quite a way!) After we passed Carne Beach the route became more hilly with continual up and down routes. The going down part of these I found very painful (a slightly arthritic knee being the cause) and carrying a rather heavy back pack didn’t help. The views were stunning but I began to feel we had been a bit over optimistic about the amount of miles we were doing. I can usually do 10 miles without too much effort but on this trip we had planned about 14 miles each day and I was definitely feeling the pressure! Just when I really felt I had had enough, we arrived at our B&B. This was Jago Cottage in Trewartha, Veryan. It is an annex attached to a large bungalow and we had our own bedrooms, bathrooms and lounge. It was a lovely place and the couple who run it were charming. It is however rather remote so we didn’t go out to eat (we had picked up some stuff enroute). In fact I was just very happy to get those walking boots off!!
Veryan – Mevagissey (14 miles)
I slept like a baby last night. We had a nice breakfast served to us in our own garden lounge, repacked out back packs (why does everything not go back in as easily as when it was originally packed?) and we were back on the Path again.
Today was a very long, strenuous day. We walked for about 9 hours and did another 14 miles at least! The first part of the walk was very rugged and rocky. Our B&B was just outside Portloe so we had to walk into Portloe before starting the next section. After leaving the village we came to a more pastoral landscape around Caerhays Castle (this was very picturesque with sheep grazing in the grounds). There were exceptionally beautiful beaches along this stretch : the secluded Hemmick Beach surrounded on 3 sides by rocky cliffs, Porthluney Cove (designated a Euro Beach for it’s cleanliness and it’s safety for swimming), Vault Beach (so beautiful we took some time to just sit above it and look down at it) and we passed Bodrugan’s Leap at Turbot Point (named after Sir Henry Bodrugan who made his escape from his pursuing enemy Sir Richard Edgcumbe of Cothele by leaping off a cliff to a boat that took him safely to France). We passed Chapel Cove which has some truly beautiful 1930’s houses which are very white against the blue sky. It was a walk with a lot of down and up bits! It seemed that no sooner had we ascended than we were heading down again (my knee was protesting violently about all the descents!). At Gorran Haven we saw 3 seals in the water which lifted our spirits. It is always so special to see the wild life of the area. I have to admit we are not the best at spotting these things, usually we see them because we see a few people peering out to sea with binoculars and we ask what they are looking at). The Airbnb place I had booked for tonight showed as being in Gorran Haven but once we had booked it, the full address was given to us and it was actually in the heart of Mevagissey. This was another 3 miles on from Gorran Haven and my son could hear me mumbling “we should be staying here tonight” as I limped my way through the last 3 miles! However Mevagissey is a stunning place. Beautiful houses, a double walled harbour and shops and restaurants aplenty. Our accommodation (The Captains Rest) is exactly what Airbnb is about. It was actually a small cottage (formerly a fish smelting works) and we had two rooms in the host, Anne’s, house. It was all beams and narrow corridors and each room was stuffed full of “things”. Anne also owns an antique shop and I think half her stock was in my bedroom! She was very welcoming and invited us to use her lounge and kitchen but we had a shower and headed out for our first real meal in 3 days! Of course, being a Saturday night and with Covid restrictions it was difficult to get in anywhere but we finally found a restaurant called The wheelhouse down at the Quay.
Mevagissey – Porthpean (or Charlestown) (7 miles)
This morning Anne offered us some breakfast before we left and we headed off for our final days walking. We had booked to travel back to London on an overnight bus from St Austell at 9.15 pm so we had no pressure to rush and that was good because this part of the walk was even more hilly than before! It was also very hot (which made me a bit annoyed that I was toting around a waterproof, a jacket and jumpers just in case the weather had been bad!). The views were stunning but we were walking what was like a roller coaster route. Up and down, up and down and then up and down again! We passed Pentewan which has a wonderful beach but loads of ranks of caravans all close to each other along it. Further on at Portgiskey we saw the remains of pilchard cellars amongst the undergrowth then we had to walk alongside the B3273 for a while before we headed up Pentewan Hide. On our up and down route we passed Hallane Mile Beach and Black Head (a distinctive promontory that you can see for miles around). We passed a memorial to the poet A L Rowse and we alternated between walking through fields and woodland. The ascent into Porthpean was very hard and so we stopped at this rather overcrowded beach to have an ice cream. Our plan had been to finish in Charlestown but once we left Porthpean, we were half way along the Path when a sign informed us there had been a rock fall and we needed to return as the Path was closed! We therefore headed back and then headed into St Austell, arriving 5 hours too early for our overnight coach! Luckily we found a nice hotel/pub called The White Hart and had an early dinner and then some drinks and used their wifi until we started our journey home!
The overnight bus was not as bad as I expected (due to Covid there was plenty of room and we had two seats each) but at the end of this trip I had to remind myself that I am a 71 years old woman and not a student backpacker! I found this stretch hard and think for the remainder of the walk on the Path I will suggest we take the car and DON’T carry our back packs!
Still, at the end of this trip – 372.5 miles done, only 258.5 miles to go! We are off again in October so look out for the next review!