You can’t go walking in Cornwall without following part of the ‘Coastal Path’. If you don’t, you will miss out on experiencing one of the county’s unforgettable assets. Walking along the coastal path is elemental.
If you are lucky enough with the weather, you will see waves crashing against the rugged coast and you might even feel its romance. Huge rocks, inaccessible beaches, deep caverns, old lighthouses, and craggy coves; the Cornish Coastal Path feels like it has enough vibrance to power a small town.
On a week’s leave in Cornwall, Penny and I, with our family, decided to follow the Coastal Path from the lovely beach at Trevone to Padstow, returning cross country.
Starting from Trevone
Slightly ahead of us was a big group of ramblers. They took a more direct route on the footpath rather heading west (or left) to follow the coast. We prefer to distance ourselves from groups so we don’t get stuck behind them. We quickened our pace a little to try to get ahead.
Soon after setting off, you’ll see what’s described as a ‘Round Hole’ to your right. It is a deep hole, the result of a coastal cave collapsing. We had seen several holes like this one on previous local walks. The holes look as though a World War 1 mining team had dug a tunnel under enemy lines, packed it with explosives and detonated the bomb. They are deep and conical with the former cave leading out to sea at their base.
A little further along, you pass an intriguing man-made structure. It looks like a wall, but it is so thick it could have been either a building or a defensive wall. It has what looks like an entrance with a plinth over each end. Anyone who has an explanation on its origin, please do leave a comment below!
The L-Shaped Peninsula
A few hundred metres along the path from here, you come across a cove, into which waves were crashing when we arrived. The cliffs are vertical and, with the wind blowing onshore, it made for a dramatic scene. What we were about to see was more impressive.
On the northern side of this cove is a small, L-shaped peninsula. The walk gifts you view down to an archway and the sea crashing through it. There is a path along the top of the cliffs out to the tiny peninsula over the arch. Looking to the south, you can see the strata in the coastal cliffs.
Next, along the coast, there are cliffs with rocks at their base over which the waves crashed making and the wind whipped off spray. The land on the coast here is mainly arable with a few sheep.
The following scene you’ll see along the path is the sight of a deep gully between a large stack and the mainland. This is Gunver Head. At the far end of the gully, you can see a tall stack, which has a narrow, tall peak, almost like the spire of a church.
The footpath then drops into a reentrant at the bottom of which you step over a rocky stile. You might see a stone head staring at you here, to the left of the stile. One of our group put it there, although I have no idea where they found it.
You cross the stile and follow the path up to the left. It’s steep here as it leads up to Gunver Head. At the top of the path, we lay on the edge of the cliff and stared over the edge into the gully. With the wind and wildness of the sea, it’s a fun experience, but I would not advise taking young children this close to the edge.
The path opens out across pasture towards Butterhole Beach. In the distance, you can see the old lighthouse near Stepper Point. It’s fairly easy walking here along the top of the cliffs towards the lighthouse. There is a slight incline to the derelict lighthouse, and a great view into the estuary of the Camel River, north along the coast, and back from where you’ve come.
Above: Waves rolling into Butterhole Beach
The route now heads south, following the estuary and towards the Coast Guard Station near Hawker’s Cove. The men in the station seemed happy to see us as we waved on our way past. From here, the path drops down through bushes on either side of you with intriguing steps, in places, onto the edge of the estuary.
Soon, you enter Hawker’s Cove, a gorgeous hamlet where the RNLI used to be stationed (before river silt made it to difficult to navigate). The hamlet is picturesque and quaint. The locals have spent time tending their gardens and properties to make it look appealing.
The old lifeboat station is now a super holiday home with the old launch ramp still at its front (For a moment, I wondered if they had remembered to decommission the launching mechanism. If not, can you imagine pulling the wrong lever one morning and finding yourself and your bed halfway out into the river?).
Lunch on the beach
We were all now hungry so we needed a spot out of the wind to eat our lunch. Fortunately, about 500 metres beyond Hawker’s Cove there’s a lovely beach at Harbour Cove. There are dunes on its southern edge and rocks to the west. We sat against the rocks, out of the wind facing towards Rock and Padstow.
The beach is lovely at Harbour Cove. It’s wide and, on the that day, was not busy. This is probably because there are no nearby car parks. People have to drive to Hawker’s Cove and then lug all their gear to the beach. Or, they could walk from Padstow, which is probably why the beach is never busy!
After lunch, we pressed on towards Padstow. There are more walkers along here as people extend their walk from the town. You follow the path through a wooded area at St. George’s Cove and towards the War Memorial at St. Saviour’s Point.
You’ll notice how much busier it is as you approach the town. Just before the memorial, take the footpath inland, over the hill. The path goes through fields until you reach a road.
Here, you could turn left towards Prideaux Place and follow the road out to Trethillick and then back to Trevone.
We, however, turned right up the hill until we turned left to follow the public footpath heading to Crugmeer. The footpath went through recently harrowed fields, which were going to be muddy after a recent downpour. We took a farm track which crossed over the footpath a little later on.
It’s a straightforward walk through the fields to Crugmeer. From the village, you follow the minor road back to Trevone.
The walk from Trevone along the coast to Padstow is rewarding. The views of the coast are wonderful, and the walking is energetic enough to give you some good exercise. It’s only busy near Padstow, so it’s a peaceful, relaxed walk. If the weather is good, you’ll get some dramatic scenery and your imagination may let you wander over the region's romantic history of seafaring.
Navigation: As mentioned, Ordnance Survey mobile app.