This walk I did as a day trip when I lived in Exeter. This also explains the terrible photos, as they were taken on a film camera and my scanner doesn’t work any more. So I’ve had to digitise the images by taking a photograph of the print. Not surprisingly, this has not worked well. Sorry about that.
I love this part of the Cornwall coast but getting to it from the day from Exeter was a problem, particularly west of Padstow. However a curiosity was that the bus timetable between Padstow and Newquay was more frequent on Summer Sundays and public holidays. However it was not possible to get a train early enough to get to Bodmin Parkway and onto Padstow in time to make a good day of it on a Sunday. On Bank holidays though, the normal weekday train timetable ran (with a few minor variations) and so only on Bank Holidays was a walk along this part of the coast viable.
So with this in mind I do this walk on the May Day bank holiday. As a bonus it is a warm and sunny day – unheard of for a Bank Holiday! My journey requires taking the train from Exeter to Bodmin Parkway, which takes a little under two hours, but this is a favourite journey of mine, as the railway runs along the estuaries of the Exe and Teign and right along the coast between Dawlish Warren and Teignmouth, around the south edge of Dartmoor and over the Plym after Plymouth. The train arrives at Bodmin Parkway and here I change onto the number 55 bus (now 555) which links Bodmin Parkway with Wadebridge and Padstow. Sadly the railway line to Padstow closed (part of it is now the Camel Trail), but I am reminded of it when the bus stops at Wadebridge Bus station, which is based at the old railway station – a shame the rail link has closed. After Wadebridge the bus continues on to Padstow but around a mile or so outside the town we hit a traffic jam. Well it was a bank holiday, I suppose (and another good reason why the rail line should have been kept).
We crawl through stop start traffic and I am getting frustrated, as my time to complete the walk is ticking away. I decided to save time by having my lunch on the bus rather than in Padstow (and pretend I don’t notice the “no eating or drinking” sign on the bus). We crawl into Padstow and arrive a little over 20 minutes late. Frustrating and I am now a little worried about my journey home, as I have less time to complete the walk. Padstow is so busy I can’t really appreciate it, as the streets are packed. I decided to make a quick exit onto the cliff path and hope it will be quieter. I later found out from Cornish friends of mine that on May Day there is the Obby Oss May Day festival in Padstow, which would explain the crowds. I take a photograph looking back to the harbour and the get cracking.
This is an easy start, as I follow the tarmac path past a few buildings on the north edge of the harbour and then up onto a green. There are plenty of people relaxing in the warm weather on the grass which gives a good view of the Camel estuary.
Many river estuaries are muddy, but this one looks very sandy. The tarmac path splits, with a lower one going down to the beach at St Saviour’s Point, which is the low tide crossing point of the Rock to Padstow ferry. I didn’t use the ferry on either this or a later walk, but did a few years later on a return visit to Padstow.
Once past St Saviour’s Point immediately below there is a good sandy beach and being on an estuary rather than a river and facing east it is very sheltered and despite the crowds in Padstow is virtually deserted. I can look over the estuary and see Rock, Polzeath and Daymer Bay.
Looking ahead I can already see the mouth of the Camel ahead, with a sandy beach all the way along. There is a gentle descent down to the cove of St George’s Cove, where there is a little stream and then a gentle climb back up to the grassy cliffs. The path soon turns west to go round Harbour Cove. Out in the estuary is the Doom Bar, a sand bank which has been the cause of many ship wrecks over the years. These days it is perhaps best known as the name of a real Ale, Doom Bar, which is brewed just across the estuary in Rock, and is also my current favourite ale.
I pass some ruined buildings on the bank of the estuary at Gun Point, so presumably the remains of some gun emplacement, although they are clearly older than World War II.
Heading west I pass the wonderful sandy beach at Harbour Cove, although there is not a harbour here now. Dunes form here and soon I cross the little stream which flows onto the beach here via a brief diversion inland and then back up onto the edge of fields heading for Hawker’s Cove. Here there are a few cottages and a coast guard station. Once past this the path becomes a little more rugged with gorse on the top of the low cliffs, and some rocks as I reach Stepper Point. Here I take a last look back over the Camel estuary. Padstow is already out of sight, but I can see Polzeath on the other side of the estuary.
I round the headland to now face west and there is a stone tower here, a day mark to serve as a navigational aid for boats.
I am now approaching the rocky bay of Butter Hole. Although today is a calm day a line of foam can be seen around the base of the cliffs where the Atlantic waves have pounded into the cliffs.
Looking at the map there is sand here at low tide, but I can’t see any today. For the next mile or so the coast path is excellent, running along the low cliffs and along the edge of fields, with nothing but views out to sea. Looking back I have good views of Stepper Point.
Soon I come to Gunver Head where the coast becomes rocky. Heading south along the coast there are numerous little rocky islands I believe known as Merope Islands. Looking back I get quite dramatic views of how the sea has cut this deep channel and forming these islands. One island look to me like a hand with a finger pointing up. It is beautiful.
I pass several of these rocks and ahead I can see the buildings of Trevone Bay ahead. On the cliff top above the bay though there is something quite dramatic. A whole in the top of the cliffs, where you can see the sea at the bottom. This is almost perfectly round and must be where the sea has undercut the cliffs and then the ground above has collapsed. It is very dramatic and I’m pleased to see it’s not fenced off, so I can have a look inside. Trevone has a lovely sandy beach with rocky cliffs on either side. The path descends to the beach and and passes the beach car park. It then briefly joins the road around the south of the bay and then returns to the cliff tops.
Once out of Trevone the coast path follows the low rocky cliffs, past numerous caves – the rock here must be softer than on the rest of the North Cornwall coast for all of these caves to have formed. I pass the shingle beach at Newtrain Bay and round St Cadoc’s Point to reach the next glorious beach, Harlyn Bay.
I am really enjoying this walk, it is pretty easy and goes to so many wonderful sandy beaches. Harlyn has a wider beach than at Trevone, and it is less developed. It is a great beach and despite it being a fine Bank Holiday it is not too crowded. I join the beach and follow it west for a little way until I rejoin the coast path on the low cliffs.
I pass an isolated house, The Cellars, near Cataclews Point. The headland itself is another low rocky headland and once round it I can see the next beach ahead, Mother Ivey’s Bay. This is another sandy beach and at the far end I can see a lifeboat station. As this walk was some time ago the photographs show the old station – a new lifeboat station was opened here in 2006.
I pass an area with a rocky ledge to the right – perhaps the remains of a quarry? Soon I am at Mother Ivey’s Bay, another excellent beach although the view is rather dominated by an ugly caravan park. I head down onto the beach and paddle in the sea – the sand is a little coarser here than on the other beaches.
Soon I rejoin the coast path and continue along the back of the beach, passing the inland side of a couple of wonderfully positioned houses. On the top of the cliff I can see round to Booby’s Bay and Constantine Bay, my end point for the day. The coast path crosses the access road to the lifeboat station and runs along a track a little inland of it. Soon I am heading west again onto Trevose Head. This is a large headland and I’ll be seeing it again on a few more coast walks in future. At the end is a lighthouse, in the traditional style. I love lighthouses and remember well coming up to the coast near here at night a few years later and seeing the light sweep over the bay.
Beyond this I pass another hole in the cliffs, just like the one at Trevone, they must be a feature of the local geology. The path ahead is easy, just following the low cliffs to reach the sandy beach at Constatine Bay. Unusually for Cornwall this has quite a large dune system behind it.
I stop on the beach for a paddle and ice cream. This has been a really wonderful walk taking in some beautiful unspoilt sandy beaches. It also shows the huge variety of scenery on the coast path in Cornwall. While much of the county has high and rugged cliffs this is a gentler coast of low cliffs and frequent good sandy beaches.
As this walk is gentler than many I have made good time giving time for a relax at the end of the walk, despite my earlier worries. However I must not miss the bus. I head up the road and find the surf stores where the bus is due to depart from. It arrives on time and takes me back to Padstow where I change for Bodmin Parkway and the long journey home. Thankfully the crowds have largely gone and the traffic has returned to normal so I don’t have any delays on my return journey. If only this coast part of the coast was easier to get to by public transport, as I would love to come back more often!
Here are the details of the public transport needed for this walk.
Western Greyhound service 556 Padstow – Windmill (for Trevone Bay) – Harlyn Bay – St Merryn – Constantine Bay – Porthcothan – Trenance – St Eval – Mawgan Port – Newquay Airport – Watergate Bay – Port – Newquay. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and around 5 times a day on Sundays. Helpfully almost all buses connect with the 555 service from Bodmin Parkway Station providing a conveniant train connection, as I used for this walk.