A good thing with taking leave over a weekend is I can have more days walking with less days annual leave. The downside is that means I need to plan a walk on a Sunday, which can often be tricky with much of the public transport either not running at all, or running at a much reduced frequency. In this trip, this is one of the walks which was possible on a Sunday, without resorting to an expensive taxi as happily the remote village of Lizard is served by bus 7 days a week, as is Porthleven – but not by the same bus.
I drove to Porthleven and parked in the car park there, which was free on a Sunday at the time (it isn’t anymore though I’m afraid). I headed to the road at the back of the harbour to await the first bus, which would take me to Helston.
I suspected the only other people waiting for the bus were also coast walkers and this was soon confirmed when they asked me where I was off to! We had a nice chat about our plans for the day, the coast path in general and that we are both walking back to Porthleven. I am starting from Lizard whilst they are taking a slightly shorter walk from Mullion Cove. We have a nice chat and is it happened I saw the same couple later in the week on another section of coast. The bus arrives on time and we soon reach Helston. I have a choice of changing buses in the centre of Helston or at the Tesco. I opt for the former, since the connection is a bit tight at the Tesco (being further on the route) and I thought it would be nice to see the centre of Helston rather than a likely bland Tesco. Rather unhelpfully, the bus timetable lists the stop as “Helston Woolworths”, a shop that has long since closed, but when we get to somewhere that looks sort of High Street ish I get off and am at the right stop. The other couple have decided to stay on the bus to Tesco.
I have about 10 minutes to wait for the bus to Lizard. The first bus was operated by First, the second was operated by Western Greyhound (but not any more) so I can’t buy a through ticket. After 10 minutes the bus doesn’t arrive. Another 5 minutes, still no bus, and I’m beginning to get twitchy. 10 minutes later and I am worried it is not coming at all. After 20 minutes I decided to call the bus company to see if I can find out more information. I call the number not really expecting anyone to answer, it is Sunday after all, but to my surprise someone does. He tells me that the bus should be running as they have a driver and bus allocated to it and he has not been advised of any delays. I wait another 10 minutes, but with the bus now 30 minutes late I am very doubtful if it will show up at all. I start to make alternative plans, but with it now getting dark fairly early and my car a few miles away in Porthleven it is going to be difficult to salavage something unless I call a taxi, but I can’t see any of those either. I decide it might be nice to walk from Helston along the Loe valley to Loe Bar and the coast and then make a walk up and back along the coast to Porthleven. By the time I have planned this, it is nearly 40 minutes after the bus was due, with the next one not due for 1 hour and 20 minutes, which will be too late to complete the walk before dark. I head away from the bus stop slowly, and keep turning back just in case the Lizard bus does show. The second time I do this, I’m in luck, as I spot it at the top of the road and then have to run back to the bus stop to get back to it in time.
Relieved to be back to Plan A I quickly pay my fare and sit down and am pleased to see the same couple I was talking too earlier (who decided to change at Tesco) have also made it and we exchange comments about how we thought it wasn’t coming. It turns out an accident had blocked the road near the Tesco and the couple could see the bus, stranded up the road whilst it was cleared. The driver is clearly keen to try to make up some of the time and we head with considerable speed across the Lizard peninsula. This is a challenging route to drive at the best of times, with narrow roads and some dead-ends on the route requiring the bus be turned around. I’m impressed that the driver takes time to shout out the window that “I’ll be back as soon as I can” to the passengers now waiting for the service in the other direction back to Helston.
After some spirited driving, we arrive at Lizard around 30 minutes late and I’m pleased that I can now continue with my walk as planned, rather than having to make alternate plans, without any major delay. Lizard is a small village around a green although it’s a shame that the green doubles as the village car park, since the cars have turned much of the village green to a muddy mess. I don’t hang about though, keen to get my walk under way after the delayed start and quickly pick up the road out to Lizard Point, about half a mile (Lizard village being the closest the bus goes).
I head along Lighthouse Road which takes me south to Lizard Point. There is not much traffic, thankfully. At Lizard Point there is a car park, gift shop and a lighthouse a little further east along the coast, but I decide to save that until next time and continue the walk.
Lizard Point is the most Southerly point of mainland England, so west Cornwall is good for compass points, as I passed the most South Westerly point at Lands End, a few miles earlier. It will be a while before I reach the next compass point though, which is in Kent.
Lizard Point is just as I hoped it would be – wild, rugged, beautiful and unspoilt. The cliffs ahead are also all of a similar height, so I hope not with too much up and down. My optimism soon turns out to be misplaced, since almost immediately there is a drop down and back up a valley which has a shingle beach with almost black shingle, perhaps Jet, which Lizard is known to contain.
Soon I reach the western edge of Lizard Point and turn right, now heading north for a while. The walking is fairly easy after this one little valley and about half a mile from Lizard Point I reach the small sandy beach at Holseer Cove.
The coast ahead is very rugged, and I can soon see the rocks at Kynance Cove. I was looking forward to reaching this beach as I know from photographs it is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cornwall. Sadly I know I’m not going to see it at it’s best, since I left Porthleven in the sun, but by now it has clouded over.
The cove is owned by the National Trust and as such is very unspoilt with few buildings, other than the ubiquitous National Trust cafe and shop.
I descend to the beach and stop here for lunch although I’m a little disappointed that I had timed it badly, since it is high tide and there is not much in the way of sand. Thankfully there is also not much in the way of people here either, so there is plenty of room to sit on the beach for lunch. Sadly whilst I’m doing so it starts to drizzle.
Suitably refreshed, I climb out of the cove passing a couple of houses that look disused and derelict (one has a boarded up window too). Cottages such as these must be prime holiday cottages if not permanent homes, with a wonderful beach seconds from your front door, so it’s a mystery why the owner appears not to use them.
The next part of the walk is lovely, following the Lizard Downs, a large area of open access heathland and with the coast path also being fairly flat, I make good time. Rounding Rill Point there is another rocky little island and evidence of some cliff falls on the coast, as it is more or less scree.
Looking back I get my last glimpse of lovely Kynance Cove. I haven’t seen this area at it’s best in the grey and drizzle, but I hope to come back, as it’s a lovely and unspoilt coast.
The next half mile or so is a good walk along the rugged coast on a fairly level path. After this I come to another deep valley which brings me to the oddly named beach at Gew-Graze. It reminds me very much of Rocky Valley near Boscastle. Here the coast path drops down to the base of the valley with the inevitable climb back up the other side.
Once back up the coast soon levels out again. Ahead there is another rocky headland, Vellan Head. From the top I have a view back over the valley I just passed, but the rain is now getting heavier, restricting the view.
Rounding the headland I have another pleasant bay ahead, with a few rocks out in the bay. It is another unspoilt and remote cove.
Inland is Predannack Airfield, which is a military airfield operated by the Royal Navy although I think it is little used now. Despite the now heavy rain, the view back is quite spectacular, with rocky cliffs sloping gently down to the sea, where there are numerous rocky islands.
Reaching Predannack I am back on National Trust land, with their sign telling me I am 2 miles from Mullion Cove and 4.5 miles from Lizard Point. More interestingly, I am apparantly half a mile from Ogo Dour Cove and 1.5 miles from Soapy Cove. Great names!
The coast path climbs gently onto Predannack Head as unfortunatly the weather detoriates some more, as the rain is now heavy.
As I round the next headland, battling through the wind and rain I can see Mullion Island ahead. This is an uninhabited island now owned by the National Trust which is a haven for sea birds. Sadly it is not possible to visit, as far as I am aware.
Soon I get sight of the first settlement I have seen since Lizard, Mullion Cove itself. There is a small sandy beach just before the harbour, which has large walls to protect it. It’s empty though and I don’t think much used any more.
The path heads a little inland here to head steeply down the cliffs to sea level and the harbour. It’s a pretty little village with some boats lined up on the slipway at the back of the harbour and a line of cottages on either side of the harbour. Like many of these villages I sense it was once quite a busy place, but the decline of fishing has left it rather quiet.
Rounding the back of the harbour, I am soon climbing back up and enjoy a last view of a very wet Mullion Cove.
A brief section of coast path is ahead and soon I am joining a minor road heading into the neighbouring village of Mullion.
This village has a good sandy beach, called Polurrian Cove. The main village itself (almost a town) is about half a mile further inland. The coast path sticks to a high path behind the beach which on a nice day would be lovely, but is looking rather bleak (and deserted) in the wet and windy weather.
At the north end of the beach the path descends to cross a little stream via a footbridge and then turns left back to the coast. There is a dead-end path out to the tip of Polbream Cove, but I continue on the main path behind a house and then back on the lovely cliff tops. There is a climb onto Angrouse Cliff and after another half a mile or so I reach the next beach, Poldu Cove. This is another fantastic sandy beach and a little more remote than Mullion. Like Mullion, it is deserted today.
The path passes a large cliff top hotel and then descends back down to the back of the beach where there is another crossing of a little stream, this time crossed via the minor road at the back of the beach.
The coast path then initially follows a minor road leading to a car park, but then forks off to the left to take a slightly more coastal route, soon giving a view back over the beach and to the hotel on the cliff top that rather dominates the view.
The beaches are coming thick and fast now, as only a short distance later I am rounding the cliffs to be faced with another gorgeous beach, this one Church Cove. No prizes for guessing why it is called this – there is a church at it’s north end. This beach has a mixture of sand and shingle and the church itself is on a narrow peninsula that is almost an island.
I head down onto the beach and pick up the path at the other end, which passes the church on my left and brings me to another good sandy beach, oddly marked as rocky on the map. The coast path follows a minor road briefly here and then forks left on a wide track behind this beach.
The coast is reminding me a bit of the scenery around Bude and the geology looks similar, to my untrained eye, at least.
At the north end of the beach the coast path forks left, off the wide track and back to following the cliff tops. There are some impressive rock formations just past the beach at Pedngwinian (which I’m not even going to try and say) and beyond this I can make out the sandy beach at Loe Bar and Porthleven beyond it. Thankfully the heavy rain has now eased and I can even see blue sky ahead. I am soaked but hoping a bit of sunshine will dry me out.
I keep with the coast now heading north east along Halzephron Cliff and soon running alongside the minor road leading to Halzephron Cove. This is marked on my map as being sandy but is in fact rocky, leading me to wonder if storms change whether some of these beaches have rock or sand.
Ahead, just as the weather beings to brighten, I have reached the south end of the large Porthleven Sands, which stretch for more than 2 miles, to my destination, Porthleven.
There is a cafe at the south end of the beach and also a pub, at the small hamlet of Gunwalloe.
The coast path ahead is glorious, running along the low cliff tops, going through dunes and heather in places and with the lovely beach just below to my left. I am very happy now the sun has come out, which soon dries me out nicely, as I had got soaked in the rain earelier.
The cliffs soon get lower and after around a mile I reach Loe Bar. This is an interesting feature, as this was once the estuary of a river, the River Cover, which stretches inland to Helston. The estuary is now blocked by a shingle bank, Loe Bar and has formed what is now the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. This was my alternative plan after the mornings bus troubles, as there is a good network of footpaths all around the lakes, which looks like a lovely walk, but another I will have to save for another time.
It’s not always had a happy history though, because as I descend I pass a moving little monument to the memory of 100 officers who drowned when their ship HMS Anson ran aground on the bar back in 1807.
I believe that the Loe Bar can sometimes sitll be swamped by the sea, but this is not an issue today and I make my way over the sand bar. This turns out to be much harder than expected, as there is a good deal of soft sand and no hard sand near the shore, making it quite hard to cross the sand.
I’m pleased at the other end to pick up the coast path again and leave the hard going sand. The coast path now follows the top of the low cliffs with the sand and rocky beach below to my left. Soon it picks up the minor road which I then follow all the way into Porthleven. By now it’s a lovely sunny evening and I get a good view back along the bay.
Thankfully the walk turned out to be easier than I thought so I have made better time than expected. I soon pass the lovely town hall at the mouth of the harbour, which looks like a church. I think if I had to attend council meetings here I’d spend all the time looking out of the window! The path brings me to the road that follows alongside the southern edge of the harbour, which I follow along the cobbled road on the top of the harbour wall.
As I head further inland to the inner harbour it has changed a bit since the morning, with the harbour now largely empty of water and the boats resting on the sand and mud.
I stop for dinner in the pub on the east side of the harbour and sit outside on the terrace to enjoy the views over the harbour – not something I had expected to be doing given the weather earlier in the day.
A shame about the weather, but this was a very good walk with some lovely beaches and very unspoilt and beautiful coast. I’d certainly recommended it – but try to pick a nice sunny day to see it at it’s best.
Here is the public transport needed for this walk. I suggest changing buses in Helston.
First Service 2 : Falmouth – Penryn – Helston – Porthleven – Praa Sands – Perran Crossroads – Marazion – Long Rock – Penzance. This bus runs hourly Monday – Saturday and once every two hours on Sundays. Helpfully there is also an evening service (except Sunday) too.
First service 37 : Redruth Station – Helston – RNAS Culdrose – Poldhu Cove – Mullion – Mullion Holiday Park – Lizard. This runs once ever two hours, seven days a week, with some additional services Monday – Saturday.