39. Penzance to Porthcurno

September 2011

This was my first walk of a few days down in Cornwall, so I had to start with a 5 hour drive to Penzance. I had originally hoped to be in time to catch a bus to Porthcurno and walk back, but I got a little delayed and so missed the bus. This meant I had to make sure I finished the walk in time to catch the last bus from  Porthcurno back to Penzance.

I parked at the railway station in Penzance as this was right next to the bus station where I would catch the bus later. and also right next to the coast path The weather was overcast but dry at least and after the long drive I was keen to get started.

I start by crossing the bus station and walking through the huge council car park on the sea front. This soon brings me to the edge of the harbour, which is quite busy with what look like mostly pleasure boats.

Penzance Harbour

Penzance Harbour

I turn right and then reach the road where I turn left. The road here is a causeway which lifts, with a dry dock on the right which I presume is used for maintenance of some of the boats in the harbour. Passing the Dolphin Inn I then come to another quay area, this time I think the dock is used by the Scillonian III ferry to the Isles of Scilly, as the building here is branded by the shipping company that operates to Scilly. Sadly by this point the drizzle has begun, reducing the view, although I can still see St Michaels’ Mount at the far end of Mounts Bay. I’ve been to Penzance a view times before and though I knew the town quite well but rounding the corner at the harbour is now all new to me and I’m surprised to see there is a tidal swimming pool here, Jubilee Pool.

There is not a single person using it though, probably on account of the weather. Sadly I understand the pool was damaged during storms at the end of 2013 and early 2014 and has not opened this season. However the Government has pledged money to re-open the pool, so it should be open again next year (assuming the Government is true to it’s word, of course).

Jubilee Pool

Jubilee Pool

Beyond the pool is a pleasant promenade, which leads to Newlyn Harbour. At some point, if I haven’t already, I cross from Penzance to Newlyn, but it is impossible for me to determine where one town ends and the next starts. The flags on the promenade are billowing in the strong winds, though. Soon the sea wall gets a shingle beach next to it, and I can see all the houses of Newlyn on the cliff ahead.

The promenade at Newlyn

The promenade at Newlyn

Newlyn

Newlyn

The promenade passes along this beach for around half a mile and the map shows there is sand too, although that must be only at low tide. At the south end of the beach I have Newlyn Harbour ahead. Whilst the port at Penzance was most leisure and the ferry service to Scilly it is clear this one is dedicated to fishing. Whilst I’m sure there are far less boats here than there used to be, what with EU fishing quotas, it is still quite a busy harbour packed with brightly coloured fishing boats in varying states of repair.

Newlyn

Newlyn

The path goes around the back of the harbour and up the hill passing numerous fish warehouses, some one of which is adorned with the text “Save Our Fish” that looks like it might be meant to be Christmas lights, expect it is September and far too early. I am not sure who is meant to be saving the fish though (a dig at foriegn fisherman I presume?). As I climb the hill the view back is quite something though, with so many brightly coloured boats packed into the harbour.

Newlyn Harbour

Newlyn Harbour

Newlyn Harbour

Newlyn Harbour

The coast path now follows the road, Cliff Road, which climbs up a little way out of the town and soon passes the last part of the harbour wall, as I reach the edge of Newlyn. The road soon becomes Fore Street (every Westcountry town must have a Fore Street, it seems) and there is a lower surfaced path just below the road. It is nice to escape the traffic at long last, although near the very west of Cornwall, there isn’t much of it anyway, thankfully. Inland is a large quarry working according to my map, but it is not visible from the lower path.

Once past the quarry the lower path joins the road and it is a bit of a trudge along the road to the next village, Mousehole. The council is clearly having trouble controlling Japanese Knotweed, along the coast here, as it is growing well in many places, despite signs saying it has been treated. Sadly the drizzle has returned and the view back to Penzance is rather hazy.

The view ahead to Mousehole is lovely though with a mixture of white washed and grey granite houses built all along the cliffs.

View to Mousehole

View to Mousehole

I pass the old lifeboat station at Penlee Point which closed in 1983. Tragically the lifeboat based at this station and of it’s crew were lost when attempting to carry out a rescue in December 1981. After the loss of the boat and crew a new lifeboat station was opened nearer the harbour and this one remains as it was left on the night the boat was lost.

Soon I reach the centre of the village, which is lovely, with a sandy harbour. The village is famous for it’s Christmas lights too and one day I must return at Christmas to see it all.

Mousehole

Mousehole

It’s a beautiful spot and reminds me of St Ives on a smaller scale (and without the sandy beaches, sadly).

At the end of the harbour the coast path heads inland and back along the road although you still get views out to sea. The weather had closed in by this point, with heavy rain. Mousehole spreads a surprising distance to the south and is bigger than I had realised. When the main road (such as it is here), turns left the coast path continues on the track ahead.

This soon narrows to a path and heads down to sea level at Slinke Dean although there is no beach here, just rocks.

Slinke Dean

Slinke Dean

I must admit to being a little confused by the Ordnance Survey map here. There are a number of tiny little field systems which at first glance I mistook for a village, but in fact there are a few trees and not a lot else. The coast path then heads round the headland at Carn Du, and impressive rocky outcrop with almost a sheer drop to my left. I meet another walker here from Scandanvia who has come over for a few weeks walking the South West Coast Path, her second trip and hoping to finish it next year. She tells me she is very much enjoying it (despite the weather!), so I wish her well and continue. The spectacular cliffs at Carn-du bring me into Lamorna Cove.

Lamorna Cove

Lamorna Cove

The coast path here is stunning, as it drops to a lower level near the base of the cliffs, which were quarried in the past, although it is barely noticeable now. There is a little harbour wall here but no boats in the harbour, which looks to have silted up with sand.

Lamorna Cove

Lamorna Cove

Looking back the way I have come the quarrying of the cliffs is far more obvious, with large boulders all over the cliff. It reminds me a bit of Betws-y-Coed in Snowdownia, but on a much smaller scale. Like so much of the Cornish coast, this is another valley which probably looked very different in the past, but has returned to nature.

Lamorna Cove

Lamorna Cove

Unusually for the South West COast Path I don’t have to climb out of the village, as the coast path continues at a low level again ahead, a welcome change. This last for around half a mile until I reach the rocky outcrop at Carn Barges, where the coast path climbs back to it’s more usual position at the top of the cliffs.

I get a last view back around Lamora Cove and notice a Celtic cross below me on the coast.

Soon I pass the little cove of Tol Toft as the rain once again returns. There are more of these old field systems adding confusion to the map. I can’t help feel someone was rather too enthusiastic in marking these, since in most cases the old stone walls have gone.

In the middle of these old fields I have a little Lighthouse on the left, down a steep track which looks treacharous in this wet weather. Sadly like most it is not open to the public, but it’s a beautiful building – I do love Lighthouses.

Lighthouse at Tater-Du

Lighthouse at Tater-Du

I try to get a view back, but it’s disappearing in the rain.

View east from Tater-Du

View east from Tater-Du

The coast path rounds a couple of small coves and a couple of houses to reach the headland of Boscawen Point. This is another spectacular headland, with heather and granite boulders mixed together. I sense there is a nice view ahead, but everytime I try and take a photo rain gets on the lens, so this is the best I could do.

View to Boscawen Point

View to Boscawen Point

The path now drops to a low level again and rounds the back of a pebble beach with large and round pebbles, St Loy’s Cove.

St Loy's Cove

St Loy’s Cove

At the beach the coast path then left the coast and turned left onto a track a little inland which soon climbs back to the cliff tops and the rocky cliffs. Looking ahead I can see brighter skies and the rain is easing again.

The downside is I think I have got some rain in my camera, since the lens mists up, something that often seems to happen when I’ve used it in the rain.

Trevedran Cliff

Trevedran Cliff

The scenery has changed into the classic scenery of West Cornwall, rocky granite outcrops mixed in with gorse, bracken and heather, it is wonderful.

The coast path soon returns to the cliff top, but the height is short lived as I’m soon heading steeply back down to Porthguarnon, where the coast path drops back to sea level.

Porthguarnon

Porthguarnon

Back up the other side on the steep zig zag path that climbs back to the cliff top I am passing more of those old field systems. Looking back I have a good view of the headland east of Porthguarnon.

Le Scathe Cove

Le Scathe Cove

Ahead I come to Penberth Cove, with all the fields marked on the map confusing me again, as I thought this was a bigger place than it actually is. Instead, it’s a village along a narrow valley with a stream flowing out to sea, which presumably carved the valley.

Penberth Cove

Penberth Cove

Despite it’s small size there are quite a number of boats crammed onto the back of the beach here, suggesting there is still some fishing from here. It’s a pretty spot and a scene which probably has not changed much for hundreds of years.

Penberth Cove

Penberth Cove

The path soon zig-zags up out of the village to the top of Cribba Point where I’ve got some more stunning scenery ahead, with the rocky outcrops so typical of this part of the world. The headland ahead is Logan Rock and the end of the headland is almost an island.

View from Cribba Point

View from Cribba Point

As I near the headland I get the most wonderful view west to Porthcurno and it’s glorious beach, just as the rain has eased. The tide is now out, but there are few people on the beach, probably put off by the weather.

View to Porthcurno

View to Porthcurno

The coast path goes right behind the beach here and once more I have one of the helicopters to Scilly passing overhead. Heading east I get a good view back to Logan Rock with the glorious sandy beach in front of it.

Porthcurno

Porthcurno

Here there are both a lower and higher path so I decide to take the lower (unofficial) path which gives me a wonderful view of this stunning beach

Porthcurno

Porthcurno

Despite the weather being bad, I can’t resist heading down onto the beach once I reach the main path down to the beach, since I have around 45 minutes to spare before the bus is due. I sit on the rocks for a while watching the sea splash and then walk along the beach. I come to a curious feature, where it looks like someone has built a house in the cliffs, which has now been boarded up.

House in the cliffs at Porthcurno

House in the cliffs at Porthcurno

I then climb the cliffs up at the southern end of the beach to get a good view back over the sands. It’s a beautiful  place and very peaceful now it has gone 5pm and most people have gone home! I then head back downhill to the bus stop. Portcurno has an interesting past, as this was the point that the first Transtlatnci telephone cable made land and there is now a telegraph museum in the village. I’d like to visit, but I don’t have time and it’s closed now anyway. Another time, hopefully.

I head to the bus stop and get chatting to a young women who has come over from Hong Kong on holiday. I am impressed she has made it as far as Cornwall since most overseas tourists tend to stick to London and the nearby towns (Windsor, Oxford etc). She is very much enyjoying it and tells me this is her second trip to this part of the country and how much she loves the rugged coast, which I imagine must be rather a contrast to Hong Kong.

By a strange quirk of the bus timetable, too buses were due about the same time, the Western Greyhound bus and the summer only First 300. The lady from Hong Kong has a ticket for the latter, but the first bus to arrive is the Western Greyhound. Not wanting to let the bus go in case the second bus does not show up, I get on this bus and bid her farewell and hope she enjoys the rest of her trip. (Sadly since I did this walk, Western Greyhound have largely pulled out of West Cornwall).

This is a variable walk. The first part is fairly urban around Penzance and Newlyn, which I hadn’t realised were quite as large as they were. But from Mousehole westwards it is glorious, with the classic rugged scenery of granite cliffs and outcrops mixed in with some pretty coves and a stunning end at the wonderful beach of Porthcurno. I’m glad in the end the bus timetable forced me to walk this way, since it is a much better end to the walk to finish in Porthcurno and this lovely beach than a walk around the urban streets of Penzance.This is the last walk I will make entirely within Penwith and I’m a bit sad to be leaving this rugged, remote and beautiful area behind.

Once I got back to Penzance I picked up my car and drove around the coast to the campsite, where I was spending a few nights.

Just as I have put up the tent, there is a torrential downpour, so I have to put off getting the rest of the stuff out the car and let the rain subside. Sadly this shows I have a leak in the tent, but thankfully only in one corner and only a bit of water comes in, but it means I will have to get a new tent for my next trip. I set up a towel near the leak and hope for less rain for the rest of my stay.

Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk.

First service 1/1A : PenzanceNewlyn – Lamorna Turn – St Buryan – Sennen Cove – Treen – Porthcurno – Lands End. The bus is a little less than hourly seven days a week in summer but not all the buses go to Porthcurno, so check the times carefully. In the winter it is less frequent.

Here is the complete set of photographs from this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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