I was staying at the Blue Hills campsite for this walk, near St Agnes. I decided to drive to Perranporth and then take the bus to Portreath, so I could walk back in as long as I want. Since the bus does not run very often I had to time it right. It doesn’t take long to drive to Perranporth and I parked in the main car park. I spent a few minutes down at the beach and then find the bus stop.
I am again pleased that the bus is a double decker bus, so I can enjoy views along the coast and in this case the road runs very close to the coast in places, so I get a good sneek preview of my walk. The weather was grey and overcast, although I am hoping it will brighten up later. The bus is a nice relaxing way to start the walk and soon we arrive in Portreath. I confess to being a little disappointed. I had hoped the town (village?) would be quite pretty, but it seems to consist of mostly 1960s and 1970s semis and is not terribly attractive. I walk through the harbour, which doesn’t look much used and is surrounded by the same housing. Soon though I am at the beach and things improve, as the town has another fine sandy beach. To the left are low cliffs and to the right is a long jetty. I head to the grass beside the jetty and hoped to walk out on it, but it is closed and fenced off, which is a shame. Going up here, I realise that in going to the beach I have to get over that little harbour again, which means I have to walk to the back of it to get round, since there isn’t a bridge or lock gates I can cross on.
So I round the harbour and head back the other side. Here there is an interesting sign about the history of this port, which was once busy and had a railway line linking with the mines inland. The path along it forms part of a Cornsih coast-to-coast path to Devoran and I remember seeing it on the TV as one of Julia Bradbury’s Railway walks (which should surely be Julia Brdbury’s Former Railway walks).
Anyway time to get started. The walk begins by heading out on the minor road on the east side of the harbour. This climbs quite steeply and as the road turns to the right the coast path goes out to the little headland overlooking Horse Rock. This should take me to the white Day Mark on the end of the cliff, but the sign says the coast path is closed because of cliff falls and I should follow the road. I decide to ignore this and climb over on the cliffs. I make it as far as the day mark but can indeed see that the coast path ahead has fallen away, so I have to head back to the road. It does however give me a view back to Portreath and of Gooden Heane Cove ahead.
The road passes a few houses but then the houses end although the road carries on. Oddly, the road is a dead end but continues some way ahead to the old Portreath Airfield, so presumably the road was built primarily to serve that. I think it’s all closed down and derelict now, and it occupies a huge site. I come to a little car park and continue past some odd concrete buildings on the left and realise I am heading away from the coast. I check the map and suspect I have missed the diverted path onto the coast. I have. This is the third dead-end I have come to today, so things are not going well! I walk back to the car park and take a path from the car park to the cliff top, although I don’t see the diversion sign so I either missed it, or there wasn’t one. Still back on the coast I have a good view of the sandy beach at Gooden Heane Cove. It looks nice, (although more shingle than sand) but I am not sure there is any access except by boat or, possibly, walking round the cliffs at low tide.
The coast path misses out Gooden Heane Point. I do not, as there is a path around it. Back on the coast path, the height I have gained gives good views of the coast ahead although it looks like rain is coming, as the headland in the distance is rather hazy. The cliff tops here are heathland and the heather is in flower, giving the cliff tops a lovely purple colour.
The coast path for the next mile or so is mostly flat, other than one descent and ascent around an old quarry. Inland is the old airport, although the edges look to be farmed. I soon reach a rocky beach, unamed on my map, with Gullyn Rock at the end. The mineral deposits here are clear to see, with the cliff streaked in all sorts of colours, with quite a bit of red colouring near the top. The next headland I can see ahead is the same.
Looking back I can see the lovely purple clad cliffs I have just walked. The next beach, again rocky is Sally’s Bottom and there is a rough path up the cliffs ahead. Once more the cliffs are multi-coloured with the various mineral deposits. There is a rough unofficial path down to the beach and I decide to follow. It turns out to be hard going, but I do make it down to this sand and rock beach.
Heading back up the way I came I follow the easy going coast path along the cliffs past the remains of more mines, something which was once a massive industry in Cornwall.
This soon brings me to the next beach, Porth Towan. I’m sure it would be very nice if I could see it, but sadly the rain has come and bringing with it a mist that cuts visibility to just a few hundred metres – a shame. Still the view reminds me a bit of Bedruthen Steps a bit further north. With the rocks and headlands jutting out onto the lovely sandy beach.
As I get nearer the beach the rain eases, giving a better view and despite the weather there are a few people on the beach and the coast guard. I often wonder if the coast guards find days like this boring with so few people to keep any eye on.
As usual the coast path descends to sea level to cross a small stream at the back of the beach. And as usual, I can’t resist walking out onto the beach although in the weather I draw a line at a paddle. The coast path then goes behind the car park and back up to the cliff top where I get a good view back. This is another fine beach like so many in Cornwall although I’m not seeing it at it’s best today.
The cliffs are back to the heather covered cliffs I had around Portreath and are beautiful. Below the cliffs there is sandy beach virtually all the way, but the cliffs ahead become rather barren and scarred. I suspect this is the remains of mining and that some of the spoil and chemicals poisoned the earth (I believe arsenic was mined in some of the mines near here, which is the likely culprit). The cliffs are not especially high on this walk and I’m soon descending down to the next beach, Chapel Porth. This is a small narrow sandy beach in the care of the National Trust who run the car park and there is also a cafe here (not sure if it is National Trust run). As usual, I head down onto the beach to enjoy the sea air if not the sea today.
Although the car park was quite busy there are not many people on the beach, so I presume most of the people must have been in the cafe. The coast path ahead is one of the many paths up the cliff top, which are wide and easy here. Unfortunatly wide enough and flat enough motorbikes can get on them them (though I suspect not legally), as a couple come roaring past me. Thankfully they are the only ones and they don’t come back.
Ahead I can soon see the evoctaive mine at Wheal Coates. I had been looking forward to seeing this ever since I saw a photograph of the area many years. It is so very Cornish, the old mine engine house and chimney above a beautiful sandy beach. I remember when seeing the photo I had to find out where it was and glad to have eventually visisted. Sadly I was hoping for better weather, so I can’t recreate the same photo, since it is very overcast and grey today, rather than the beautiful blue sea and skys in the photo. Oh well, it is still a wonderful spot.
There are grills over several of the old mine shafts here and I drop a stone down one to hear how long it takes to land. Unfortunatly I don’t time it and then have to remember how to calculate the distance, but can’t really, although I can at least remember that it would acceleate at 9.8 metres per second per second, so at least I can remember something from my Physics A-level.
I love this location and stop here for lunch, and hope the weather will improve, since it is drizzly and misty, but it doesn’t really. I continue on the obvious coast path ahead, which is easy to follow and is almost a road really, it is so wide. As I gain height I can see more old mining towers on the cliff tops and a view back along the sandy beach. Although there aren’t any more old engine houses, I do come across another capped mine ahead.
As I near St Agnes head the coast becomes more rugged again, with rocky granite outcrops. The views here are stunning, as I can see west to St Ives (I presume) The poor weather has whipped the sea up too and I watch the waves crashing into the cliffs for a while. The weather has improved now, with the rain stopped, although no sunshine. The improved weather opens up the views a bit and I can see the rocks around St Agnes head clearly ahead.
View from St Agnes head
The path is fairly easy going out to St Agnes head where there is a Coastwatch lookout. There is a small car park at the top here, so it has suddenly become busier again. Rounding the headland I lose site of Portreath and can see north now along the coast towards my destination. I’m now heading due east again and the heather is again lovely on the cliffs.
After around half a mile I am heading back into an area of old mines. Again there is scarring to the rocks, but I imagine it looks a lot prettier now than it did when the mines were working. There are a few places like this along the coast (parts of Durham are similar) where the coast was once marred by mining and it’s waste but is now largely back to nature.
Soon I reach the small village around Trevaunance Cove. I know this area fairly well having gone to the pub here the night before for a meal and it’s also a good beach. The paths descends along a road to reach the back of the beach, which is now quite popular, I think a lot of people are heading out now the rain has stopped.
To head out of the little village I head up the road past the pub and then take the path just opposite the car park. This climbs up the hill and offers a good view back down to the beach.
Almost as soon as I am up than the path heads back down again to another valley. This is another scarred by mining, with the valley known as Blue Hills and tin mines were once all along this valley.
There is another sandy beach at the mouth here. The base of the valley is bare earth though, I assume again posoined from some of the chemicals from the mines. I have to head a little inland here to get over the stream that cut this valley and briefly join the road. This is a very steep road, as I found when I drove it the previous evening, but there is an even steeper one along the coast, which incredibly is still used for car racing once or twice a year. At the back there is still an operating Tin Mine, which can be visited.
Once around the valley there is a little car park at the head of the valley and a path down to the beach, which I take. It’s a nice beach now, but I wonder what it was like when the mines were at their busiest? Climbing up the other side of the valley I get a good view back to the beach and to Trevaunance Cove beyond it. There have obviously been rock falls recently along the coast here, with the bare cliff face and a large pile of boulders at the bottom.
Heading up the valley I get a good view inland at all the old mines. Heading around the coast I come to another steep sided bay with the most amazing geology, with the red and orange cliffs on either side, it is the most amazing view.
East of here the path briefly crosses tarmac and a check at the map shows I am passing another large, disused airfield, this one Perranporth. This is an interesting walk both in terms of scenery and industrial heritrage, since for much of the walk I have been passing what were once likely busy places, but today all the industry has gone.
Sadly the weather takes a turn for the worse as the drizzle begins again. However nearing the top it eases for long enough for me to get a good view back where I have come. The cliffs are amazing, with some red and some grey.
Turning to look ahead again I can see a section of cliffs that are bright red bit with grey cliffs either side. It must be a vein of minerals again but I’m not sure what. Iron, probably. Reaching the cliff top there are more capped mines where presumably much of this mineral was mined. All closed again though.
By now the sun was starting to come out, although I must have got some moisture in my camera in the rain earlier, as it causes the lens to mist up, meaning only the centre is in focus, which is frustrating. Despite this I still manage to get a few photos of the stunning cliffs. There are some rocky little islands at the base of the cliffs, too. Looking ahead I can now make out the sands of the beach at Perranporth.
As I am nearing the cliff at Shag Rock (was that named how I think it was???) I can hear an unusual sound and realise there is a blow hole in the cliff here with the sound being the water rushing up and out of this hole. I stopped and listened to it for a while and try to get some photographs, but you can’t really make it out. Still the break seems to have cleared the mist in my camera.
The path now follows a fairly easy path until I reach the first of the buildings in Perranporth. The coast path soon descends to the road and the beach. The weather has picked up now and there are a few people on the beach. I finish around 4pm and spend a bit of time on the beach, since the weather has picked up.
This is a very enjoyable walk with some stunning scenery. It is also fascinating to see how the coast has changed over the years and unusually here I am seeing a once heavily industrialised area going back to nature and this is not something you see all that often. There are some wonderful views on this walk and it is also not as demanding as some, as the coast path is flatter and more undulating than the roller coasters of some walks. It is a lovely walk which I’d strongly recommend and for me is a good walk to sum up the Cornwall coast – mining and glorious beaches.
Here are the details of the public transport needed for this walk. At the time I did this walk there was a bus around 3 times a day between Perranporth and Portreath. Now there is just one a day and English Concessionary (free) bus pases are not valid on it as it is a seasonal service. I advise using this, but if not there is another bus from Portreath, but you will have to make a couple of changes to get back to Perranporth.
Western Greyhound route 547 : Newquay – Perran Sands – Perranporth – St Agnes – Porthtowan – Portreath – Hayle – Lelant – Carbis Bay – St Ives with a peak summer extension to Zennor, Gurnard Head, St Just, Lands End and Sennen Cove. Summer only service with one bus each way daily until late September.
If you miss this bus or it’s winter you can use these services instead. Looking at the timetable currently changing in Threemilestone seems to work best for connections, but Truro has more facilities.
First Devon and Cornwall service 47 : Troon – Camborne – Pool – Portreath – Redruth (Rail Station) – St Day – Chacewater – Threemilestone – Truro Station – Truro. Hourly Monday – Saturday and once every two hours on Sunday.