57. Cremyll to Portwrinkle

March 2012

This one is something of a milestone, being my last coastal walk that is in Cornwall. It will be a shame to leave but then Devon has a wonderful coastline too.

I was staying at the Travelodge in Saltash and drove down to Portwrinkle first. Working out a plan for this walk proved a little tricky, but in the end I worked out I could park at Portwrinkle and take a bus from there to Torpoint. Then take another bus from Torpoint to Cremyll. The only problem was that if I took the bus right to the ferry at Torpoint I had less than 5 minutes to change, which was risky. I could get off earlier, but I wasn’t sure the buses followed the same route. The bus arrived on time at Portwrinkle and as we neared Torpoint I kept any eye out for the other bus coming the other way. I didn’t see it, so got off at the Torpoint ferry.

The Torpoint ferry is a large car-carrying chain ferry that crosses the Tamar between Devon and Cornwall and costs the same as the toll on the Tamar bridge. There are 3 ferries used at peak times, to provide a regular service, and it’s a busy link.

The Torpoint ferry

As I arrived at Torpoint the bus wasn’t there and soon I could see it on the ferry making it’s way over. Over the other side of the river were the tower blocks of Plymouth, which didn’t look especially appealing. Soon the bus came which would take me on to Cremyll. It was a single decker bus and ran an unusual route from Plymouth to Cremyll (then back again), ending up only a little over a mile from where it starts, but with a river in between. With a ferry between Plymouth and Cremyll making the crossing in less time than the bus, I suspect few people use it end to end.

The walk today is on a little spit of land between the coast and the St Germans and Tamar estuary and this bus is going to give me a tour around it. Normally I regard bus journeys as something to be endured at the start or end of a walk, but I really enjoyed this one. From Torpoint we soon climbed getting good views over the estuary. The bus then took a long route around the peninsula and I almost ended up back at Portwrinkle and realised I could have probably changed earlier than Torpoint. Oh well. Soon we are heading east, getting glorious views over Whitsand Bay and through the pretty villages of Kingsand and Cawsand. We are soon arriving at Cremyll. It was a lovely ride and I suspect is one of the most scenic bus journeys in the UK. The only downside was the bus was making a fairly alarming grinding noise throghout. I thought of telling the driver when I first heard it, since it seemed to be coming from the back of the bus and so he may not have heard it, but decided not to mention it until I got off in case he cancelled the rest of the journey. I mentioned it to him as I got off and he told me the bus had a “grinding axle” which doesn’t sound very helpful, that he had mentioned it to the company before and that they never do anything about. Another high quality First bus then!

On to the walk. Cremyll is an odd sort of place. It’s a hamlet really, overlooking the Tamar and is mostly occupied with the Mount Edgcumbe Country Park. This is a large country park in the grounds of a stately home and it is all owned by Plymouth Council who open the grounds to the public free of charge, although there is a charge to visit the formal garden and the house.

There is a regular foot passenger ferry service from here to Plymouth which runs as early as 6:45am on weekdays. To begin the walk I turned right with the sea on my left, passing a little beach, a mixture of sand, shingle and mud.

Plymouth Sound from Cremyll

Looking to the right I can see along the line of trees to the house – obviously a gap was deliberately left here to ensure the house had a view of the coast – or the house could be seen from the coast. The path goes through an arch to a lovely courtyard, where there is the Orangery Restaurant of the estate and a walled garden.

Mount Edgcumbe Country Park

It’s a bit early to stop though. Out to sea I can see the Stonehouse area of Plymouth ahead, with what looks like a castle. A little to the right is Drakes Island which is not accessible to the public sadly (so unusually, I’m not visiting this one), and contains some old World War II fortifications. I head through the walled garden and back onto the coast path along the top of the low sea wall, with Plymouth now getting increasingly distant. Here there is the old battery, which you can climb to the top of, for excellent views.

Cremyll

The path soon enters woodland with glimpses out to sea, where some canoeists are going in front of Drakes Island. Perhaps this is the trick to visiting it! Emerging from the trees, there is a pond on the right. The main path heads inland here, but the coast path continues along the coast soon heading back into trees. Here the path climbs steeply, with a zig-zag in places. Looking over the Tamar I can now see Plymouth and the Hoe area very clearly. The wheel I can see is a new addition since I was last in Plymouth and the red and white striped lighthouse of Smeatons Tower is also visible. The path coast becomes more rocky as I reach Ravenness Point. The path is boardwalked in places and at one point I have to disturb some ducks that are asleep on the board. There is access down to the rocky beach here with a little white lighthouse mounted on some rocks to warn shipping of the rocks here.

Plymouth from Mount Edgcumbe Country Park

The path head goes back through woodland on a wide track with views through the trees over the coast. It is lovely in the dappled shade, as the trees are just coming into leaf and have that lovely light green colour they have when the leaves are still thin. The path climbs quite steeply but I’m soon rewarded with a lovely view of Plymouth sound, the outer wall of the harbour visible and an island beyond, which I think is the Great Mew Stone at Wembury.

View from Picklecombe Point

Onwards I continue on the lovely wooded path soon with the fort of Fort Picklecombe below. This is a private fort and I get briefly a bit lost taking the wrong track and heading down to the fort, so I have to retrace my steps. The fort is now residential, having been converted to apartments, some of which are let as as holiday accommodation.

A few minutes of walking later and I emerge from the woodland on the minor road heading to the fort and have views of Kingsand and Cawsand ahead.

Approaching Kingsand

I turn left off the road back onto the path which winds it’s way through the gorse, gently descending as it does so. There is another little lighthouse on the cliff top here presumably marking more rocks. Plymouth is of course a busy port both for the Navy and commercial shipping and there are also ferries to both France and Spain so this goes some way to explain the amount of lights around.

View west near Kingsand

I’m not sure what that tractor is doing though, other than creating lots of smoke. The shoreline here is rocky and this continues all the way to Kingsand, which I can now see nicely framed by the trees.

Approaching Kingsand

After a couple of miles of lovely walking the path emerges onto a green heading down to the village of Kingsand. This is a pretty little village, which retains it’s small village feel, despite it’s proximity to Plymouth. The neighbouring village of Cawsand has a ferry to Plymouth, so the city is in easy reach too – it must be a nice place to live.

Kingsand

I make my way through the narrow streets to the shoreline and the village has a shingle and sand beach, which the houses back right on to. This looks rather exposed and so it was to turn out, when the storm of February 2014 caused many of the houses along here to lose their front windows to the power of the sea, which smashed into the lower floors. The clock tower too was nearly destroyed but only just escaped collapse and was repaired a few months later.

Kingsand

Kingsand

Rounding the corner at some point I move from Kingsand to Cawsand, though it is difficult to tell where one ends and the next starts.

Kingsand

The beach at Cawsand has some sand and is backed by more brightly painted cottages.

Kingsand

These are lovely little villages which really have a nice community feel to them. There is then a fairly steep climb along the road to a neighbouring little beach, Cawsand and I can see the end of the village.

Cawsand

I can look back over Plymouth sound again, with the city now largely out of sight and a good view of the stone fort at Fort Picklecombe. There is a shelter for the ferry here, which runs in the summer months to Plymouth. The coast path ahead is fairly easy as it follows a wide track, The Earls Drive, out of the village. This heads into the edge of woodland and soon begins to climb, emerging from the woodland to the top of the hill at Penlee Point. Here I’ve got a stunning view back over Plymouth with the hills of Dartmoor visible behind, lit up by a brief moment of sunshine.

View over Plymouth sound near Cawsand

Out to see I’m also pleased to spot the Eddystone Rock lighthouse. The lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe, Smeatons Tower, is the former lighthouse from here and the rocks are 9 miles out to sea. It must have been a remote place to be a lighthouse keeper.

Looking west I can see the large headland of Rame Head which I will have to walk around. At the top of the cliff here is a grotto which I have a look around and use to frame a photo over Plymouth Sound.

Grotto on Rame Head

There is also a sign about the wreck of a ship, The Coronoation, which was wrecked in 1691. The route ahead is now rural with the cliffs lined with gorse and bracken (which has died back for the winter) and the little chapel on top of Rame Head visible.

View west near Rame Head

The next mile or so is excellent, with the path sticking to the top of the high cliffs and fine views to Penlee Point ahead. It’s a great stretch of path which is fairly gentle. Soon I have reached Rame Head and now can look west with views over Whitsand Bay and towards Looe. The coast path misses out the end of Rame Head, but I decide it’s worth making the climb up.

This rewards me with a stunning view back to Plymouth and what I think is Start Point beyond.

View from Rame Head

At the top here is a little chapel which dates from 1397 and is dedicated to St Michael. It’s a peaceful spot and the chapel is a lovely little building, which has obviously been lovingly cared for over the years to have survived so well.

Rame Head Chapel

Heading back down from the chapel on the steps I resume my walk along the coast path. The path ahead has little ponies grazing on it which are rather cute. They haven’t churned up the path either which is good. Looking back you can see just how steep Rame Head is, and how prominent the chapel on top.

View back to Rame Head

As I’m nearing Whitsand Bay, the sun breaks through lighting up the beach which is more the sort of beach I expect in Cornwall, a beautiful rocky and sand beach.

Whitsand Bay from Rame Head

I had been looking forward to this section and am clearly not going to be disappointed. I remember many years ago a friend took me on a drive along the coast road here, and I remembered what a good beach it was.The path descends to Polhawn Fort and I can look ahead the long sweep of Whitsand Bay.

Whitsand Bay from Rame Head

The path follows at a lower level, part way up the cliff face for the next half mile along the delightfully named Wiggle Cliff.

Whitsand Bay

After nearly reaching the road it turns left. Here the cliffs are lined with all sorts of wooden huts and buildings, of various shapes and sizes, which I think are rather like glamorous beach huts. It adds a lot of character to the area and gives it a slightly bohemian feel and I imagine these are very popular in the summer. Some are little more than sheds, others are almost houses, with tiled roofs. All have unspoilt views over the glorious beach. I imagine many are owned by residents of Plymouth who come here of a weekend to escape city life. There is a wooden sign for the beach. Although it’s a long way down, I can’t resist taking the path, as the weather has now improved.

I’m a bit surprised when I get to the beach to find the remains of an engine, presumably from a ship washed up and half buried in the sands. I presume from the state of it, it has been here for years and is too heavy to move. The beach itself is glorious, with soft sand. Despite the time of year, I stop for a paddle which refreshes my feet.

The beach at Whitsand Bay

The beach at Whitsand Bay

Looking back up the cliffs, you can see all the little huts and houses at various heights up the cliffs. I wonder if there is a hirearchy and if the ones nearer the top are more desirable (better view) or those near the bottom (nearer the beach)? It’s a long climb back up though, but I’m glad I took the time to come down here.

The path heads back along the cliff top, briefly reaching the road and then turning left, back off the road and descending part way down the cliffs again. Although quite distant, I can still make out the chapel on Rame Head. Sadly a short distance ahead, the path climbs back to the road by the village of Tregonhawke, part of which is built in the old Whitesand Bay Battery. The village seems to consists almost entirely of caravans and more of these huts and I’m not sure if anyone lives there all year round.

Whitsand Bay near Freathy

The road lacks any pavement and is busier than I’d have liked, but it does make me glad I opted to do this walk in early Spring, rather than summer, as there is much less traffic at this time of year. For the next half a mile or so the path sticks to the road for the most part, with an occasional bit of path next to it, or a wide verge to walk on instead. I have to dodge the traffic now and again, but soon reach the village of Freathy. Like Tregonhawke, it seems to consists mostly of wooden bungalows and huts although I get the feeling this is more of a peremeantly inhabited village. There is another path down to the beach but I don’t take this one.

Looking back along the cliffs, you can see all the wooden bungalows and huts of these two villages.

Whitsand Bay near Freathy

Beyond this there is now an undeveloped coast ahead for a few miles to Portwrinkle and even though the sun has gone in again, it looks lovely. The path now follows a lower route just below the road, so at least I have a break from the road walking.

Whitsand Bay near Freathy

Soon I come to a Danger Area, where there is a military firing range. Thankfully it is the weekend so it is not in use. The official route of the coast path diverts inland behind this, but when the range is not in use, there is a permissive path through the complex that follows a more coastal route. There is also another path down to the beach. I turn left and take the path down to the beach which descends past some numbered targets on the right.

Whitsand Bay at Tregantle Fort

I head down to the beach which is glorious, with sand backed by the gorse covered cliffs. There is probably not much in the way of sand at high tide, but with the tide now quite low, there is a wide expanse of beach.

Whitsand Bay at Tregantle Fort

I considered walking all the way along the beach but I’m not sure what permitted access back up there is further up, so I decide to head back up and stick to the coast path. This soon takes me right in front of Tregantle Fort which is obviously quite historic but looks very imposing. A speed limit sign of 10mph applies with the warning of “Troops Marching”.

Tregantle Fort

The path follows the tarmac road in front of the fort. I’m not clear if it is a barracks and the soldiers are all in there or if it is unoccupied at weekends. There are more targets on the left as the path is a bit higher now and not right alongside the coast.

After about half a mile I go through the gate to leave the Danger Area again and resume on the coast path, the two routes having joined once more.

IMG_5854

The cliffs have got higher in the time I have been in the firing range and the coast is now very rugged. There is no beach at the base of the cliffs now, so it’s a good job I decided against trying to walk along the beach.

View back to Rame Head near Tregantle Fort

The path soon skirts a golf course and I’m not sure if I stick quite to the correct route, but unusually there are no golfers around to tell me off if I have strayed off the correct route. Soon I can see the village of Portwrinkle below me with the large hotel building standing guard over the village.

Portwrinkle

There is now an easy descent on the track down to the road in front of the hotel and then back to the car park, where my car is waiting.

This is a fabulous walk with the highlight being the walk around Whitsand Bay and it’s glorious beach. Mount Edgecumbe was also interesting and the scenery very varied. The only slight problem is the brief stretch of road walking and the firing range, so it would be a good idea to time it for a time when the range is not in use, as I did, so you can follow the better and more coastal route.

It is a pleasant surprise too to find such a remote and unspoilt coast so close to a major city. I think West to East is the best way to do this walk, as I did. As you start with the Country Park and woodland then the climb up to Rame Head and finish with what for me was the highlight, Whitsand Bay. It is also possible to split this walk at Cawsand and take the ferry to Plymouth.

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

Plymouth Citybus (Go Cornwall) route 32A (scroll down) : Plymouth – Torpoint – Antony – Crafhole – Portwrinkle – Downderry – Seaton – Hessenford – Widegates – Liskeard (centre) – Liskeard (rail station). This runs 6 times a day Monday – Saturday only (no Sunday service).

Plymouth Citybus (Go Cornwall) route 32 (top) : Plymouth – Torpoint (Ferry)Antony – Tregantle Fort – Whitsand Bay Holiday Par – Cawsand – Kingsand – Millbrook – Cremyll. Hourley Monday – Saturday. No service on Sunday.

It is suggested to park in Portwrinkle, take the bus 32A from there at 08:13 or 10:53 to Antony, arriving at 08:25 or 11:05 (Monday – Saturday). Then depart Antony on bus 32 at 09:06, arrive 09:53 or 11:06 arrive at 11:53.

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

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