51. Portloe to Mevagissey

September 2012

The Roseland peninsula is a remote and beautiful place and this is my second walk around it. There is however a downside and that is public transport is very limited. At the time, there was a bus once every two hours to Portloe (now, it is even worse). I couldn’t work out a route from Portloe to Mevagissey or vice-versa that didn’t involve a long wait somewhere. So I decided to start from Truro, taking the bus to Portloe in the morning and returning by bus and train from Mevagissey. Actually, that’s not quite true. I was staying on the Lizard and hence was travelling on the A394 to Penryn. I decided, since it was a weekday and rush hour, rather than likely get stuck in traffic in Truro (as the A39 goes more or less through the centre), I’d park at the station in Penryn and take the train to Truro. When I lived in Exeter, the line between Truro and Falmouth had a sparse service, running less than hourly. Happily today things have turned around, and it now has a regular service every 30 minutes, more frequent in fact that on the mainline through Cornwall and has proved so popular the trains have had to be extended. Just goes to show that provide a reliable and frequent service and people will use it. I found the station at Penryn and was pleased to find there was a car park, it had spaces and it was free of charge (sadly, it is now a pay car park). I decided to buy a return to St Austell, as that is where I would be catching the train from later and my experience of trains is the price difference between a single and return is usually about 10p, so this would likely be cheaper.

I was a bit surprised on the platform to see the University of Exeter sign on the platform. It reminds me of when taking the train to Poole it says on the station sign “Welcome to Poole the home of Bournemouth University” but this is taking things even further. Actually it’s because the University has opened a campus here in partnership with a college in Falmouth, but it still seems a bit odd. The train arrived on time and it was a pleasant journey to Truro. I had time to stop and admire the beautiful cathedral, which is not in fact that old, opening in 1910, but is built in a very classical style so looks much older than it is I think. It’s not that easy to get a good view of it from the road though, as it’s rather closed in by other buildings.

Truro Cathedral

Truro itself is a pleasant small city with a cobbled main street and some attractive buildings. I stop to get lunch in a supermarket and then find the bus stop. The bus arrives on time and gets me to Portloe on time as well, so things are going well.

The tide is in when I arrived at the sheltered little harbour of Portloe and it is very quiet.

The harbour at Portloe

Portloe

The coast path itself is easy to find, just take the road on the east side of the harbour, heading past the cottages and then becoming a path with many steps. The path soon levels out and becomes a pleasant grassy path as I reach Portloe point and take a last look back at the village.

Departing Portloe

Ahead I can see along the coast to Dodman Point, beyond which is Mevagissey. It looks further away than I was expecting. The cliffs here are lower than some, with what looks a slatey type of rock at the bottom and grass and gorse covering the higher cliff tops.

View to Dodman Point

I continue on the path and looking back, Portloe has disappeared from sight, with just the rock of Gull Rock visible further back around the coast. The path soon drops down to the first little cove, Percolan, a rocky little beach.

Caragloose Point

Unusually, the path takes a low level route around the base of the cliffs of Caragloose Point, which offers a nice view back where I have come.

View back towards Portloe

This doesn’t last though, and it soon climbs back to the cliff tops. This part of Cornwall is a gentler coast, with the cliffs being covered with more vegetation, and even trees, something you don’t see much on the more exposed north coast. The height gained offers a great view and I can now just make out Lizard Point in the distance as I look back where I came.

View back to Nare Head

Ahead the path is lined by bushes and I can see the two villages of West and East Portholland ahead. First though, there is a descent down to sea level and back up the other side at Tregenna. Well, it wouldn’t be the South West Coast path if it didn’t do that! Back up the other side, the path then descends to the small village of West Portholland. Well I say village, it is a hamlet really and the place I can see ahead is actually East Portholland, with the western village not being visible until I am more or less at sea level.

East Portholland

West Portholland, when I reach it, is certainly small. It looks to have an old chapel and about 2 houses. The beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles, backed by a low wall that doesn’t look like it would offer much defence.

West Portholland

The coast path follows the minor road along the back that links the two villages. I decide this is not very satisfactory, and as the tide is out, I walk along the beach between the villages instead. There were a few rocks to climb over in places, but I still think it was better than the road. East Portholland is a little larger, but there are still only around 10 houses and a small chapel along the back of the beach, protected by a larger wall than at West Portholland.

East Portholland

I am very surprised to note that for such a tiny place, one of the cottages houses a post office and a village shop, and there is a telephone box outside. All communication needs covered! At the middle of the sea wall, a stream flows out over the beach.

East Portholland

The coast path follows the road around the front of the houses, until it ceases to be a road and climbs back up the cliffs. The coast path here is a wide track which passes another beach, this one a mixture of sand and shingle, Perbean Beach. There doesn’t seem to be a path down to the beach though. The track comes to an abrupt end in a field, where the path turns to the right and heads back to the cliff tops, although this bit has been churned up by cows, and is very muddy.

The path heads along the south edge of the field until it reaches a thin strip of woodland. Here you turn left and the path then descends through the woodland to reach Porthlune Cove. This is an unexpected beauty, backed by a rather grand castle, which reminds a me a little of Windosr castle, but on a small scale. This is Caerhays Castle and it was designed by John Nash, more famous for the Brighton Pavillion. The castle the gardens are open to the public during the spring and early summer, but had closed for the year by September, when I did this walk.

Caerhays Castle

The beach itself is also lovely, an unspoilt sandy beach, backed by a wooden fence. I decide to stop for lunch here.

Porthlune Cove

After lunch the coast path heads to the road at the back of the beach and then heads off over a grassy field to the east of the beach, with fine views back down to the pretty cove. I have a bit of difficultly initially finding the path, but as I gain height I can see the gate ahead. This takes me around the edge of woodland and gives a good view back over the beach, before the path turns east.

Porthlune Cove

The path soon climbs and heads a little inland, following the south edge of a couple of fields and then heads back to the cliff top.

Lambsowden Cove

The path then descends back down to Lambsowden Cove which is mostly rocky, and then climbs back up the cliff top to reach Greeb Point. Ahead I can see another good beach, Hemmick Beach.

The path follows the cliff tops, undulating and crossing a stream, to reach the cliffs just before Hemmick Beach. Looking ahead this is a view more reminiscent of the north Cornwall coast, around Bude. It’s another glorious beach, and I can’t see a single person on it.

Hemmick Beach

The beach is split into two by a low rocky area, and the path follows along the back of the beaches to a small parking area where the road meets the back of the beach. As I get closer, whilst not quite deserted, the beach is very quiet.

Hemmick Beach

In the parking area, an RAC van is attending to a camper van which I presume has broken down – later I see the van pulling it up the hill, so presumably they couldn’t get it going. The coast path briefly joins the road but soon turns right off the road and back to the cliff tops. This soon gives fine views back to Hemmick Beach.

Hemmick Beach

Soon I round Gell Point and lose sight of the beach, but the geology of this headland is rather special, with the cliffs crumbling away at the point they meet the sea, leaving little rocks sticking up.

Gell Point

The coast path now heads a little back from the clfif edges along the western side of the large Dodman Point. There are good views back where I’ve been and at the southern most tip, I come to a stone cross, a memorial.

The views back where I have come are stunning, with the autumn sunshine lighting up the bracken on the cliffs.

View from Dodman Point

Rounding the tip of Dodman Point, there is a large beach ahead. This is Vault Beach, although I’m not sure how it got it’s unusual name. It’s a long beach, rocky at the western end, but sandy at the eastern end.

Vault Beach

The coast path goes along the top of the beach, and I wondered if there was a path down, but there was, at the far eastern end of the beach. I headed down onto the beach which had some slate type rocks and some sand at the shore line. I stop for a quick paddle and then head back up to the coast path.

Vault Beach

The path follows the tops of the low cliffs around Pen-a-Maen Point and ahead I can see Gorran Haven, the first settlement of any size I have been to all day.

Approaching Gorran Haven

It’s a gentle descent down to Gorran Haven, which has a small harbour at the south end of the beach and a good sandy beach. The town is a traditional Cornish fishing village at the coast, although more modern houses stretch quite some distance inland. The streets are typically narrow.

Gorran Haven

I wander across the beach at Gorran Haven and pick up the coast path at the other side. It follows the road uphill past the houses, and fork right. The road narrows, and I have to squeeze past a van which has been “parked” in the middle of the road, leaving no room for other vehicles to get park and barely enough for me to get past. At the end of the road, the path forks left off the road and onto a field edge. As the path climbs, much of Gorran Haven is hidden from view in the valley.

East of Gorran Haven

There is a little rocky and sand beach, Great Perhaver Beach ahead, although access doesn’t look easy, so I stick to the coast path this time. The path rounds the back of the beach and I can look back at both this beach and that of Gorran Haven.

It’s a fairly straightforward walk along the cliff tops and the edges of fields to reach Pabyer Point.

The path then drops down back to sea level at the quiet beach of Colona Beach. The beach is deserted, and a mixture of sand and shingle, and there are a few buildings, some looking rather run-down on the low cliffs at the north end of the beach. Rounding the back of the beach, I cross the drive leading to these houses and continue on the low cliff tops. This soon turns slightly inland to re-join the track from the houses and then follows this road to Portmellon. I have timed the walk well, as it is just starting to drizzle, but I am nearly finished.

Portmellon

Soon the houses of Portmellon begin, and the last mile or so of the walk is urban, around the edge of Mevagissey. Soon I am descending on the sweeping road down to the beach at Portmellon. This is a nice small beach, but with the rain starting, it’s not really weather to stop.

Portmellon

The coast path now keeps to the coast road out of the beach, which heads quite steeply uphill above Polkirt Beach. This is another rocky beach. At a road junction ahead I fork right, at the Mevagissey sign this takes me round the headland and offers a lovely view over the harbour.

Approaching Mevagissey

The path then leaves the road and I descend down through gardens to reach the south side of the harbour. The brightly painted houses tumble down the cliffs (well, not literally), to the large harbour. There are quite a few boats in the harbour, but I’m sure in years gone by, it would be much more crowded with boats than it is now.

Mevagissey

I wander down on the road at the back of the harbour. It is a pretty town and the streets are packed with visitors. The town boast a large number of gift shops, suggesting it is always busy with tourists, although it is very easy to see why – it’s lovely.

Mevagissey

Mevagissey

The rain has stopped again now, so I spend a bit of time exploring this town – last time I was here, it was a bit of a rush. The only downside, is the cars trying to squeeze along the narrow streets, which lack pavements – but then these places were built long before people had cars and were never designed for the amount of traffic there is now.

This was a wonderfully remote walk, with some lovely beaches and good cliff top walking. It reminded me a little of the very western tip of Cornwall, around Lands End, which was similarly remote. It was not as demanding as some walks either as although not flat there wern’t too many steep cliffs to climb. Both Portloe and Mevagissey are lovely villages and very picturesque, but it’s worth planning for the fact there is very little between Portloe and Gorran Haven, so make sure you have lunch and plenty to drink.

My journey back was rather cconvoluted as I first had to take the bus from Mevagissey to St Austell. It used to stop at the railway station, where there is a combined bus interchange. As I understand, Western Greyhound decided to stop serving this, as they are charged a fee for doing so, so the bus now stops on the street nearby – so much for integrated transport! I take the short walk to the station, but have around half an hour to wait, as the train is slightly delayed. It takes me to Truro, where I change again Penryn, where I started. It is a rather time consuming journey, but I made it in the end.

Here is details of the transport needed for this walk, which is not easy, as the only bus to Portloe now only runs on weekdays and only 2 – 3 times a day.

Travel Cornwall route 450 : Veryan – Portloe – Treviskey – Besseybeaneath – Tregony – Probus. This runs twice per day on Mondays, Wednesday and Thursdays and three times per day on Tuesdays and Fridays. There is no service on Saturday or Sunday. Sadly this is the only service now to Portloe.

First Devon and Cornwall route 24 : Fowey – Par – St Blazey – Charlestown – St Austell – London Apprentice – Mevagissey. Hourly Monday – Saturday only, with no service on Sunday. There are two buses per hour on the part of the route between Fowey and St Austell.

Western Greyhound 551 : Royal Cornwall Hospital – Truro Railway Station – Truro centre – Tresillian – Porbus – Tregony – Bessiebeneath – Veryan. This runs 5 times a day Monday – Saturday only.

First Service 27 : Bodmin – Roche – St Austell – ProbusTruro. Hourly Monday – Saturday, no service on Sundays.

Due to the infrequency of the buses to do this walk it is suggested to drive to Portloe and aim to arrive at Mevagissey no later than 16:21. From here take First Bus no 24 at 16:21 to St South Street arriving at 16:40. Then take First service 27 from St Austell Trinity Street at 16:50. To reach Trinity Street head back down (south) along South Street to the roundabout, then turn right into Trinity Street. Or you could change at the bus station, arriving at 16:43 and departing at 16:45, so a tight 2 minute connection. In any case, change onto First service 27 to Truro and get off at Probus at 17:10. Then depart from Probus on the 450 bus to Portloe, departing at 17:15 and arriving at 17:34. You might prefer to leave Mevagissey and hour to allow some contigency with connections. Times correct at the time of writing and please don’t blame me if you miss any of the buses or the times have changed!

Here are the photos from this walk : Main Link | Details | Slideshow

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