54. Polruan to Looe

March 2012

For this walk I was staying in the Travelodge in Saltash. I therefore decided that it made sense to drive to Looe, the end of my walk, and take the bus from there to Polruan. This meant I didn’t need to wait for the bus at the end of the walk (useful, because it is not very frequent) and Looe was also a shorter drive.

I set off and arrived in Looe earlier than I expected, as the journey was quicker than expected. I parked in the main car park and had a little explore of the town. I used to visit Looe from time to time when I lived in Exeter, as it had a railway station, and so I already knew that it is a lovely town. It was a rather grey morning though, so I was not seeing it as it’s best.

Looe

Looe and the Looe River

Looe and the Looe River

I got some lunch from the Co-Op in Looe and then headed for the bus stop. When I arrived the bus was there, but the driver was not. This bus was run by a local independant operator at the time and it looked a low-budget operation – it was a small LDV mini bus. Still there was room for everyone and it soon became apparent why the small bus was used. Although it is an A-road between Looe and Polperro, this soon becomes a number of small narrow single-track and hilly roads all the rest of the way to Polruan. I was glad I’d decided to drive to Looe, as I didn’t fancy neogitating all these small roads. It seems a surprise that a fairly sizeable village can only be reached on such small roads, with not even a B-road.

We were soon at Polruan and by the time the bus reached it’s terminus, I was the only passenger left on board. I thanked the driver and got off. I’d never been to Polruan, but I liked it. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was quite similar, although smaller, than Fowey across the water, but much quieter, although that said there was a small boat yard at the harbour where a man was working on a boat, but there were few people about other than those waiting for the bus back to Looe.

Polruan

From the harbour the coast path headed west up West Street (I like these no-nonsense names!) between the houses on the narrow road. At the junction with Battery Lane, I turn left with the road (as the path and road ahead are dead-ends). Already I have gained enough height for a view over the harbour to Fowey on the other bank.

Fowey from Polruan

I passed a coast path sign giving the mileage to Polperro as 6.5 miles and I think it is around 5 miles from Polperro to Looe. Rounding the corner with the road I’m now heading east and the coast path soon begins, leaving the road and running behind some houses into an open area of ground.

Fowey from Polruan

As I get further out I can see a red-painted lighthouse on the cliffs near Fowey, which somehow I managed to miss on my last walk and also the red and white striped day mark on Gribbin Head. The coast path briefly heads back to the road passing a school, which must have a wonderful view. Lucky children! Just past the school it leaves the road and leaves Fowey. I soon passed the walls of a ruined chapel, although there is not much left, not even enough to really tell it is a chapel!

It does give a good view back along the coast though.

View west to Polruan from the South West Coast Path

The path now climbs fairly steeply to head onto the cliffs above Blackbottle Rock. It’s a good path and once at the top of the cliffs, easier going. The cliff face here looks more stable, being largely covered with gorse and heather rather than exposed rock. The path winds it’s way through the gorse in places and you can see how it appears to have been cut into the cliffs in places.

View west from the South West Coast Path east of Polruan

Ahead I am soon treated to the view of another deserted sandy beach, this being Great Lantic Beach and it’s neighbour, Little Lantic Beach. The tide is fairly low and at this state of the tide it looks like the beaches are linked.

Great Lantic Beach

The path gradually descends towards these beaches and as I get nearer the sea is rougher making it look like some of the beaches on the north coast of Cornwall.

Great Lantic Beach

Rounding the back of the beach, there is not a single person on the beach and I am wondering if it is possible to get down there. The path climbs around the back of the beach and there is a path heading inland to a car park. If there is the need for a car park, there must be access to the beach? I’m right, as by this path there is a lower path heading right along the cliff top (whereas, oddly the official coast path is a field back from the coast here) and this leads down to the beach.

Great Lantic Beach
Great Lantic Beach

It is just as nice as it looked from above and I can indeed walk between the two beaches. There is lovely sand here, mixed in with rocks. I decided it was a bit too chilly for a paddle at this time of year though. Heading back up from the beach, I take a last look back at the beach as the weather begins to brighten up.

Great Lantic Beach

The path back up regains the height lost and heads out to Pencarrow Head. This gives a good view back over Lantic Beach. and Blackbottle Rock. Fowey and Polruan are out of sight now, though.

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The rocks ahead are impressively jaggy and remind me a little of the area around the Valley of the Rocks in Lynton. This is something I find myself doing more and more on this walk – going to places and saying “It reminds me of….”. This is an impressive and enjoyable stretch of coast, with some wonderful views from these cliffs, which are higher than I had expected.

After about a mile I can see another sandy beach ahead, and the distant tower of a church on the cliffs behind it. I think this is Palace Cove with the village of Lansallos itself around ¼ of a mile inland from the coast and presumably the tower of the church in the village is the building I can see.

Lantivet Bay

There doesn’t seem to be access to the beach but a short distance ahead I come to another cove. This one is called Lansallos Cove and is a mixture of sand and slate, with a stream flowing down from the village onto the beach. I head down onto this beach and as with the previous beach, it is deserted although the footprints on the sands here mean I’m not the first person to visit today.

Near Lansallos

At high tide the beach is a mixture of slate and shingle, but nearer the shoreline there is good firm sand and rocks, with a lot of rock pools to explore too. This time I brave a paddle and although cold, it’s not as bad as I thought it might be, and does manage to refresh my feet. I also stopped for lunch here on the beach.

Heading back to the coast path there is a small waterfall just to the right of the path up from the beach where the stream tumbles over the low cliffs. Heading back up onto the coast path I get a good view back to Pencarrow Head.

Beach at Lansallos

Heading east from here the path climbs to Lansallos Cliff and goes along the base of the hill of the cliff, rather than the top. The area is being grazed by horses who seem to prefer walking on the path than steeply sloping cliffs too, although they move as I get closer, which I’m pleased about, as horse can be a bit unpredictable. At East Coomb the path descends a little to a valley and gives an impressive view back.

South West Coast Path near Lansallos

Normally the coast path would have come down from the top of those cliffs, but this time you can see that it has run at a lower level making for an easier walk than would otherwise have been the case. The path continues at a low-ish level to a landmark (a white post, looking a bit like a larger OS trig point) and then there are lots of steps heading up the high cliffs.

The coast path west of Polperro

Predictably, as I reach the top the cliffs then drop away to another steep valley, with lots of steps back down, and lots more back up! This leads to Penslake Cove, crossing the stream that presumably has managed to cut this valley on a small bridge. The view ahead is also quite spectacular.

Near Polperro

Reaching the top of the cliffs again, after this steep valley I can see the gorse now coming into flower on the cliffs. At Nealand Point, the path descends back from the cliff tops and heads lower down the cliffs once more. There is a rather spikey rock ahead, Nealand Point and I can see the coast path winding it’s way around the cliffs, a little strip of green on the otherwise brown landscape, because of the bracken that has died back for the winter.

Near Polperro

It’s a great bit of path east from here, winding it’s way right along the cliffs getting low enough to hear the sound of the sea and whilst being a bit undulating is not so demanding as the previous part.

To the left the cliffs are almost vertical above me at times. There is another smaller valley but this one is not so steep and the path then continues on the lower part of the cliff face. Soon I can see the first houses of Polperro ahead.

Near Polperro

You don’t see much of it though until you turn the corner and suddenly the whole village is laid out below.

Polperro

The path goes around what looks like an old lifeboat station but is called Chapel Cliff, so perhaps it was once a chapel? I’ve been to Polperro before and it’s a really lovely village. Like so many Cornish villages, the white painted houses are crammed onto the cliff tops and here the house walls even seem to form part of the harbour edge in places. This is also a good time to visit it, as it’s fairly quiet in the winter (it can get very crowded in summer). As the path descends I’m soon approaching the inner part of the harbour although I’ve timed it badly as it’s low tide and it would be prettier at high tide when the harbour is full of water, not mud.

Polperro

I was a bit surprised to see a little beach here though, which I hadn’t remembered, although there are far better on the coast nearby. Passing the harbour wall I’m now in the inner harbour and as you can see, the houses form the walls of the harbour – not sure I’d like that much in a storm!

Polperro

Polperro

The path follows the road around the harbour and I passed the Blue Peter Inn (here’s one I made earlier!). I stopped for a quick look around the pretty little village which was nice and peaceful.

Polperro

Rounding the harbour I came to an unusual house, decorated with shells in intricate patterns – a real labour of love for someone.

Shell house in Polperro

The coast path initially follows the narrow road along the eastern side of the harbour, passing the last few houses of the village after which it becomes a path rather than a road. Time for a last look at Polperro before I round the corner.

Heading east on the coast path out of Polperro

I soon reach Downend Point and looking back Polperro is already out of sight as the majority of the buildings are around the harbour.

View west from Downend Point

Rounding Downend Point the path drops to a lower level and I’m soon approaching the next village. This is Porthallow. When I lived in Exeter I walked the coast between Looe and Polperro, so the rest of the walk is a repeat for me, although I don’t remember it that well. What I do remember though is being charmed by Porthallow so I am looking forward to returning.

Talland Bay

Yes it was just as nice as I remembered. I remember visiting in the summer, when Looe and Polperro were both very crowded. Porthallow though is pretty (albeit much smaller) and off the beaten track so that few people made it here making it nice and peaceful.

Porthallow

What I had forgotten is it also has quite a nice beach. There are hints of the red rocks here too that I always associate with South Devon although it is a more purple colour here than in Devon. The part of the village on the coast is more a hamlet really and the coast path briefly joins the minor road to the next village, just a few hundred metres away, at Talland Bay.

There is another beach here, a mixture of sand and shingle with some rocks in the mix too.

Talland Bay

The bay is known as Talland Bay, so presumably Talland is the more important of the two settlements. Crossing another little stream, the road heads steeply uphill to the village centre but I can rejoin the coast path, turning right and away from the road. It’s a bit of a climb out of the village, but the cliffs are lower than they were further west, so it’s not such a long climb. The height gained soon gives me a good view back over the bay and these two little villages. Yes, I like it here very much.

Talland Bay

The coast path ahead is wide and flat and almost like a walkers motorway! I can see the path climbs a bit to the headland ahead though. Heading out to near the headland there is a wire fence on the right and a couple of girls around it. As I get closer I see there is a sheep there, and it has got it’s head stuck in the fence. The girls are trying to get it out, but not having any luck. I have a go to, but don’t seem to be able to manage to shift it either and I can’t bend the wire any further apart. Thankfully it’s not a barbed wire fence. We can’t really leave it here, so I agree to head inland to see if I can find the farmer. There is a permissive path inland to Hendersick Farm. I walked at brisk pace, but the path was quite steep. Relived to eventually see the farm, I started to head up the drive to the house when a man in van drove past. I waved to him to stop and he wound down the window and was very friendly. I explained the situation and he said he’d send someone along shortly to get it out. Relived, I headed back to the coast. When I got back, there was no sheep and no girls. I hoped that was good news. Later on the walk I caught up with the girls and they were happy to explain that the sheep managed to free itself – but I hope the farmer didn’t have a wasted journey out to the cliff. Oh well, I was trying to help!

Rather tired now after my hurried walk back inland I was hoping the rest of the coast would not be too steep.

IMG_5670

You can see the fence on the right here, and some of the other sheep ahead – was it one of these that was stuck earlier? Just around the corner, there are some pointy rocks on the cliff top ahead and beyond that I can see St George’s (Looe) Island out to sea. This island is now in the care of the Cornwall WIldlife Life trust after the sisters that previously owned it died.

Bridge ROcks

This is an indication I am nearing Looe, but looking ahead, I can’t really see it. I think it’s hiding, like Polperro. Actually, you can just make out a few houses, marking the western edge of Looe on the photo below.

Portnadler Bay

This is Portnadler Bay and just to the right is Looe Island, around half a mile off the coast. The path descends down to a little valley from the village of Portlooe and although there is a bit of a climb up the other side, I can see the coast beyond is now gentler.

Portnadler Bay and Looe Island

I’ve lost sight of Looe again as it is hiding round the corner, but the island is now very prominent. The path now passes the shingle and rock beach at Samphire Beach and then rounds the corner to Hannafore. This village is essentially merged with Looe and I find it odd the streets both abruptly stop as if it was planned to continue the village along the cliffs, but it was never done. There is now a grassy promenade along the cliff tops, with the road behind and benches to the right. This continues to near the mouth of Looe Harbour, where the path has to join the road for the rest of the way into Looe. It lacks a pavement, but someone has tried to rectify this by painting a line beside the road to act as one – which doesn’t really work! There is a lovely view of Looe in the hazy early evening sunshine as I round the corner, with a lone fishing boat heading out to sea.

Entering Looe

Below the road are rocks and on one there is a metal seal, who is Nelson, a friendly local seal that lived for over 25 years and was well known (and clearly much loved) by the local fisherman and people of the town. He eventually lived on Looe Island, but came to the harbour in the town to eat. I now follow the road through to West Looe. Looe is essentially two towns, West Looe and East Looe. Near the church there is a ferry between them, but a little further up a stone bridge crosses the river. I keep on the west side after the bridge to reach the main car park where I parked in the morning. I stopped for dinner in Looe and then drove back to my hotel.

This was a really enjoyable walk. Harder than I expected in places but the scenery was more spectacular than I had expected and there were also some good sandy beaches, which were an unexpected treat. The villages on the way were lovely, especially Polperro and it was nice to see it “out of season”, when it is not crowded. It would be easy to split this walk at Polperro too, so could be done as two gentler walks. I loved Talland Bay and the area around there in particular, it was so peaceful and sheltered. All in a very enjoyable walk.

Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk. First there is a direct bus (weekdays only). Otherwise if doing this walk at the weekend you will need to use the Polruan Ferry and a combination of bus and train to do this walk by public transport. It is suggested at weekends to start from Fowey, take the ferry over to Polruan and then return from Looe by taking a train from Looe to Liskeard, another train from Liskeard to Par and a bus from Par to Fowey. On Winter Sundays it is more of a challenge, because the trains to Looe don’t run then, so you will need to use the Go Cornwall 572/573 bus instead between Liskeard and Looe.

Travel Cornwall route 481 : East Looe – West Looe – Polperro – Lansallos – Polruan. 4 buses per day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 2 buses per day on Wednesdays. No service at weekends.

Polruan Ferry : Fowey to Polruan. A year round service, 7 days a week. The ferry runs from early morning (generally 07:15 to 09:00am), throughout the day and finishes at between around 5pm and 11pm, depending on season and day of the week. Call 01726 870232.

First Great Western Trains Looe to Liskead (The Looe Valley Line) : Looe to Liskeard. Monday – Saturday only during the winter, Monday – Sunday during the summer.

First Great Western Trains : Plymouth to Penzance (mainline) services. These run between Liskeard and Par (for the bus to Fowey).

Western Greyhound route 524/525  : Mevagissey – Pentewan – St Austell – St Austell Station – Par – Fowey. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday. 6 buses per day on Sunday.

First service 24 : Mevagissey – Pentewan Turn – London Apprentice – St Austell – Charlestown – St Blazey – Par – Par Station – Fowey. Twice per hour Monday – Saturday between St Austell, Par and Fowey and hourly between Mevagissey and St Austell. No service on Sundays.

Plymouth Citybus (Go Cornwall) route 572/573 : Polperro – West Looe – Hannafore Point – East Looe and on to Liskeard (573) or Plymouth (572). Both routes run broadly hourly Monday – Saturday.  On Sundays there are 2 buses on the 572 and 5 on the 573.

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

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