Once again for this walk I was staying at the Blue Hills campsite near St Agnes. I drove down to Portreath and parked on the road near the sea front. I had a few minutes to go down to the beach again although once again it is sadly cloudy. I headed back to the road to wait for the bus as again I wanted to get the bus journey done so I could walk back in however long it took and not have to worry about missing the bus. The bus arrives on time and once again it is a double decker bus. I wasn’t sure when I left this morning whether to start from Hayle or Lelant, as I planned to walk from Zennor back to there tomorrow and didn’t want to leave too much distance to cover. I settle on Lelant.
The bus follows the B3301 for much of it’s length which follows the coast quite closely giving a good preview of the days walk, which does not look as demanding as some. The bus heads through Hayle and then round the Hayle estuary. The bus takes the A3074 through Lelant and I get off in the village centre. The coast path here is close to the coast, but even closer is the railway line which limits views of the coast a little. So I head down the road to arrive at the little railway station on the St Ives branch line to get a good view of the coast. Not many trains stop here, and those that do only on request, but I can think of worse places to wait, since there is a lovely view of the estuary. What was once the station house is now a private house and they get to enjoy this view everyday albeit with the noise of the trains. The train service in Cornwall is odd really in that some branch lines, this one included, actually get a more frequent service than the main line!
Turning right here the coast path now follows the road for a while, with the railway line to my left and the Hayle Estuary beyond it. The tide is low so there is a vast expanse of sand and mud with just a small amount of water in the middle. It looks like you could wade across but I suspect there would be mud, so I wasn’t going to try it.
The path keeps to the road but the road soon turns away from the coast along “The Saltings” and passed Lelant Saltings station. This is another station in Lelant, this one being primarily a park and ride service for St Ives. Passing the station (or rather the car park for it) the road passes a new housing estate and then reaches the B3301. I had hoped this might be a quiet road what with the A30 nearby, but it was not to be – in fact the first part is a dual carriageway.
It is a bit of a trudge here along the road with the noisy traffic. I soon pass the small Griggs Quay and then the road crosses the bridge where the Hayle River flows into it’s estuary.
Although low tide it is still quite wide and deep so I certainly don’t think wading it would have been a good idea. On the right here is an RSPB reserve where there are some lakes and there is a bird hide too although it is still rather noisy by the road. I have to keep by the road for nearly a mile until nearing the edge of Hayle. Here the coast path turns left off the road and runs behind the bottom of the gardens of some houses. There is another more coastal path marked on the map here around Carnsew Pool but I’m not sure if it is still passable so decide not to take it.
Beyond the houses I come to a warehouse (Jewson) and the path returns back to the busy B-road. There is a pavement at least and it passes the Jewson and then an area of waste ground where I presume more warehouses used to stand. Ahead the view is dominated by the large railway viaduct that carries the main Plymouth to Penzance railway. Unlike Devon the main railway line rarely reaches the coast in Cornwall, so this is I think the first time I have passed it in Cornwall. I follow the road in a loop under the railway line and then back under it a second time, a few metres later. Once under the railway for the second time Hayle suddenly becomes much nicer, with a pleasant green on the left and the harbour beyond it. The tide is low so there isn’t much water, but it’s still nice and to the right there are nice gardens and flowers.
At the end of the road the gardens end and I turn right with the road passing a car park.Soon I can turn left to cross another harbour (Copperhouse Pool) on a bridge which looks very much as if it’s an old railway bridge (which I suspect it is). I pass a swimming pool on the right once over the harbour turn left. This comes as a bit of a shock as I expected a nice beach and harbour area but what I’ve got is essentially more derelict land presumably once a working harbour that has now been demolished. It all seems rather out of place and I am keen to get out of Hayle as it has been something of a disappointment.
Thankfully things soon improve and the road heads up as a track into sand dunes. I now get a good view back to Lelant and it’s church tower just as a train passes along the railway line.
Rounding the corner I leave the urban area behind and head through dunes. This brings me round to beautiful St Ives Bay. I love this place ever since the first time I took the train to St Ives and found it rounding the corner over this massive and beautiful bay. The light and colour of the sea here is particularly attractive as is the fact the beach is totally unspoilt, with little in the way of development.
Looking left I can see St Ives too, my favourite town in Cornwall, and I’m pleased to know I will be walking there tomorrow. The path ahead is a little unusual in that it passes all sorts of little huts which I think are part of a holiday park although thought might be residential since they all seem to be slightly different.
Unfortunatly the coast path soon passes the most enormous caravan park just inland, so I decide to leave the official path and head back down onto the beach. This is wonderful with miles of unspoilt sand to walk on and with the tide being low there is plenty of hard sand to walk on. As I head further along the beach the weather improves too.
This is such a beautiful location with St Ives at one end of the bay and Godrevey Point and island at the other end, with it’s lighthouse to add to the beauty.
As I get nearer the north of the beach the waves get larger too, presumably as the sea is less sheltered by St Ives.
After around a mile and a half of lovely beach walking I come to Gwithian Towans, a small village which leads to another wider bay. There is a large dune system behind the beach and as I near the north end of the beach, there is a line of pebbles on the back of the beach.
What I hadn’t realised until I got closer is that there is a river flowing out to the beach here, Red River. This means I have to head a little inland where there is a footbridge over the river. Once over I turn left and then pick up the official route of the coast path heading up into the dunes.
This is the end of the beach now so I take one last look back to St Ives. The tide has come in quite quickly too, and I don’t think you could get round the rocks between Gwithian and the main beach at Hayle now. Ahead the sand dunes soon give way to low clfifs and below is another sandy beach, which is joined to the main beach except at high tide. There is a lonely life guard flag on the beach but no people!
I can see I’m nearing Godrevey Island now and the coast path follows the low cliff edges next to a minor road that leads to the National Trust car park and toilets. The road soon ends and I follow the low cliff top path out to the tip of Godrevey Point. The island looks very inviting with it’s lighthouse but I don’t think it’s possible to land on the island, I imagine it’s owned by Trinity House.
Rounding the headland I can see the coast ahead becomes more rocky and rugged. There is a rock and sand beach below at Mutton Cove, but I don’t think it’s possible to get there except by boat.
The view ahead is now classic Cornwall, rugged granite rocks. The path gradually gains height as I head out to Navax Point. I can look over the fields back to Hayle although the weather has taken a turn for the worse with drizzle limiting the views a bit.
Looking back the coast is now very rugged and the cliffs are free of vegetation in places suggesting a cliff fall. I can see the top of the lighthouse peering over the cliffs now and it doesn’t look like it is on an island at all from here. There are rumoured to be seals below, but I can’t see any. At the tip of the headland the cliffs are covered with beautiful purple heather again and the cliffs also show a few mineral deposits, but not to the same extent as around St Agnes.
I soon come to a few little rocky island in the sea and there is meant to be a couple of sandy beaches here, Castle Giver Cove and Fishing Cove, but the tide has come in and there is no beach now, just water although a lighter patch of sea hints at the sand just below. The view back to Navax Point is lovely and this east facing coast shows it gets less of a battering from the weather, as it is mostly covered in bracken and heather.
The coast path here is now wide straight and flat and almost the footpath equiviliant of a motorway. This continues for a little while and I think this is because it’s close to the road and some effort to make parts of the path around here wheelchair accessible. An admirable aim, but I don’t think you’d ever be able to make the whole South West Coast path disabled accessible. Soon I come to the rocky inlet of Hells Mouth. I remember visiting this on a childhood holiday. I remember this is a spectacular location, with the sea crashing into the little cove, with caves all along the base of the cliffs. I’m not disappointed, as it’s exactly how I remember and it’s lovely to stop here and listen to the sea crashing into the cliffs.
The cliffs are also quite tall and near vertical and I’m surprised to see how green they are – such steep cliffs usually can’t support vegeataion, but these have managed to.
The proximity to the road and numerous car parks make this a busy part of the path. There are numerous little rocky coves along the coast here including the rather ominously named Deadman’s Cove (I suspect I know how that got it’s name).
Beyond is Derrick Cove and beyond that another Deadman’s Cove. Wern’t they able to come up with a different name?
As it is high tide most of the beaches are covered but there is some sand at Greenbank Cove and some impressive eroding cliffs. The coast path here is following the oddly named Reskajeage Downs. It is a cracking path though, with great views right along the coast.
There is a little rocky island, Crane Islands ahead and beyond that another good sandy beach, Basset’s Cove. Again I don’t think there is access except by boat. Perhaps a project for the future to try and visit all these beaches by boat?
There is a track inland at Mirrose Well which leads to the road and a car park. Ahead the coast becomes very spectacular with two large islands, Samphire Island and a rocky cove beyond, Porth Cadjack Cove. There are caves forming here at the base of the cliffs. Here there is a steep valley, so the coast path descends into it, the first significant descent and ascent on this walk.
I’m pleased to see there is a path to the beach here, so as I usually do, I take it down to the beach and stop for a paddle. The beach is a mixture of pebbles and grey sand and nicer than I realised from the top. I love these “undiscovered” little beaches, where becuase of the awkward access I can have the beach to myself.
After a nice time on the beach I take the steep path off the beach and back up onto the coast path to the top of the headland. There is a good view back to the beach and islands beside it. It is a very spectacular location. There is a brieft bit of cliff top walking now to reach the next beach, Ralph’s Cupboard. I don’t know who Ralph is, or why he kept his cupboard here. It’s a lovely beach but sadly with no access from the coast path.
Continuing on the coast I hadn’t checked the map for a while and I’m surprised to see I’ve reached Portreath, as the beach is just ahead. It looks nice with the heather clad cliffs and the steep valley.
The path descends down and I take the steps down to the beach. I walk along the beach for the last part, rather than the coast path which follows the road at the back of the beach. I spend a little bit of time in Portreath at the end of the walk on the beach but it’s not really beach weather and there is not much in the way of facilities in the town so I don’t stay long.
This has been another wonderful walk with some truly spectacular scenery. It is also a rare treat- a walk that combines spectacular scenery, some of the best on the coast with a relatively little amount of steep hills, as most of the path is fairly flat. This means it is a good walk to start with particularly if you want to cover shorter distances, because there is a road close by for much of the time, with many car parks.
Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk. At the time of writing there is now only one bus a day, during the summer only, from Portreath to Lelant. If you are not able to use this or it’s not running you will need to change buses.
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. Concession (pensioner) bus passes are NOT accepted on this bus.
If you miss this bus or it is not running you will need to use these two buses and change, I suggest at Redruth railway station. Both of these routes are operated by First Devon and Cornwall so you might find one of their day tickets to be the cheapest option if doing this. You could also travel by train between Lelant and Redruth, but you need to change at St Erth. Be aware too that trains only stop by request to the guard at Lelant and not many stop. It is probably better to use Lelant Saltings and walk if you want to use the train.
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.