Praa Sands to Porthleven
Cornwall Coast Path

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide

Wheal Trewavas - Praa Sands to Porthleven - Walk - Cornwall Coast Path

Wheal Trewavas - Praa Sands to Porthleven - Walk - Cornwall Coast Path

Praa Sands to Porthleven 4.8 miles (7.7 km)

This section of the coast path takes you from the long, sandy beach at Praa Sands to the historic fishing port of Porthleven passing through a regionally important geological site with stunning reminders of Cornwall’s mining heritage including the engine houses of Wheal Prosper and Wheal Trewavas. These mines stand on a mass of granite known as the Tregonning outcrop which is believed to be part of a much larger granite mass which also breaks ground at Carn Brea near Redruth and extends northwards into Devon.

1. The walk begins at one of the car parks near Praa Green at Praa Sands.

Praa comes from the Cornish words, 'pol' meaning 'pool' and 'wragh' meaning 'hag' or 'witch'. Its name was first recorded in the 14th century.

The beach is very popular for surfing. During the period from 1st October until Easter Sunday it is dog friendly and a favourite place for walking.

Praa Sands is of interest to geologists as this mile of coast is one of the most complete Quaternary sequences in West Cornwall. It has been designated as a Cornwall Regionally Important Geological / Geomorphological Site (RIGS). Due to erosion and movement of sand, the exposures are constantly changing but include possible multiple raised beaches, a complex head sequence, Holocene peat and coastal dunes. At the western end of the beach the raised beach deposits contain at least two distinct stratigraphic beach units. One of these appears, on the basis of Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating, to be the oldest so far found in Cornwall. At SW 5854 2762, at the western end of Praa Sands are peat beds. The thin layer of peat is around 2000 years old. It sits on a shallow, stony loam. These deposits are likely to have formed in a lake. The peat would have become buried by blown sand which created dunes but now due to erosion the peat is visible again.

2. Follow the path beside the fence along the edge of Praa Green with a wonderful view of the beach.

Behind the dunes which back the beach is Praa Green. On the eastern side of the green is a memorial to the pilot and crew of a Sunderland aircraft which crashed on Praa Sands beach in 1943. Everyone survived thanks to Colin Walker, the pilot, who received a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the people of Praa Sands played their part by taking the airmen in and giving them medical care.

3. To follow the Cornwall coast path walk inland towards the back of Praa Green and turn right onto the coast path. (If you wish you can walk along the beach and pick up the coast path when the beach ends at Point)

You find yourself on a sandy path between some low bushes of blackthorn and bramble. There are many rabbits living here with easy digging in the sandy soil. A variety of songbirds live in the shrubs including blackbirds.

4. Continue along the path which gets closer to the beach after a short distance before turning left to go inland onto Hendra Lane.

Hendra is Cornish from the word 'Hendre' and means 'Old farmstead'.

5. After a short distance turn right to follow the coast path back towards the sea.

You can access the beach again here via Hendra Steps where there is a small stream which flows onto the beach. This end of the beach has a pill box which has fallen onto the beach since it was built during the Second World War. In 1948, it was still on the cliff above the beach which gives you an idea of how the coastline here is eroding. The cliff here is formed of Pleistocene Periglacial Head Deposits created by the repeated freezing and thawing of material over many years.

The beach here consists of rock platforms and large granite boulders. If the tide is low you can scramble through these sculpted boulders onto a tiny, secluded beach called Lesceave Por (Grid Ref: SW 5868 2737). Just offshore are Lesceave Rocks (Grid Ref: SW 5861 2744). As with this whole stretch of coastline, this south-eastern end of Praa Sands beach, is of great interest to geologists. The geological remains here illustrate how sea levels have changed over time. (Grid Ref: SW 5861 27440). Aplite and Pegmatites can be seen (Grid Ref: SW 5857 2749).

The headland ahead of you, with a house perched precariously on its point, is Rinsey Head.

6. After exploring the beach return to the gully where you entered the beach and walk back onto the coast path. Turn right.

The path climbs onto Lesceave Cliff. This area is owned by the National Trust. Hendra Hill here is common land. Just inland is a white Modernist building. It was built in 1932 as a hotel - the Seacroft Hotel. Later it became known as the Lesceave Cliff Hotel before becoming a private residence. It is believed that the property was built by the same architect who was responsible for Burgh Island in Devon. Local stories tell of the owner riding home on a donkey every night after visiting the local pub.

Lesceave Mine was active on the cliff here in the 1840s, producing 67 tons of copper in 1842-1843. Its sett extended northwards to Hendra farm, and eastwards along Rinsey West Cliff. The mine dumps still contained copper ores almost 120 years later.

Lesceave farmhouse is just inland.

7. Continue along the path. Below you is Porthevall (Grid Ref: SW 5875 2726) You are soon walking along Rinsey West Cliff.

Rinsey Cliff lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geological interest.

The coast path begins to turn inland as you approach Rinsey Head to skirt the house and its grounds. The large house perched on the headland is a holiday accommodation. It was designed in the Arts and Craft style. It has been used as a filming location for one of Rosamunde Pilcher's . It was constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s, using stone from a local quarry, taking four years to build. The land was acquired by Mr G A Gibb, a London stockbroker, from Mr Bucket, a local farmer. Part of the headland had to be blasted to create an area for building the foundations.

8. The path soon crosses the lane leading to Rinsey Head. Follow the coast path into the car park and exit onto the path as it heads towards Wheal Prosper.

The hamlet of Rinsey is a short distance inland along the lane which you have just crossed. The name 'rinsey' is believed to come from the Cornish words 'rynn' meaning 'hillside or slope' and 'chy' meaning 'house'. The settlement is ancient, dating from the Dark Ages.

When the Domesday Book was published in 1086, Rinsey already had a manor, known as that time as 'Rentis'. It had "land for 12 ploughs, pasture half a league long and as wide" and had 9.5 households.

The maritime heath environment of Rinsey Head consists of gorse (Ulex europaeus), ling heather (Calluna vulgaris), bell heather (Erica cinerea) and tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Wildflowers abound with Wild Thyme, Sea and Musk Stork's-Bill, Yellow, bird’s-foot trefoil, Blue Forget-Me-Nots and Common Violet and rare species such as subterranean clover. Dodder, which parasitises other plants, can be seen on the gorse during late summer.

This habitat attracts many species of butterflies including the Silver-Studded Blue, the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, the Green Hairstreak, the Clouded Yellow and the Grayling. Crickets and grasshoppers also make it their home, including the Great Green Bush-Cricket.

Birdlife here includes Black Redstarts, Wheatears, Skylarks and Song Thrushes. Rinsey Head is also home to one of Cornwall's largest breeding colonies of Kittiwakes.

Although not a Dark Sky Reserve, Rinsey Cliff is a perfect location for stargazing. South facing and with no artificial lights, the National Trust car park, or the platform on which Wheal Prosper engine house stands are good sites.

9. You now have a choice to make a detour down to Porthcew (Rinsey Cove) or continue on the coast path. If you want to visit the beach make sure you know the state of the tide as there is no beach at high water. The path to the beach is on your right immediately after you exit the car park.

At low water you can view a cave on the beach but exercise caution if you choose to explore it as you can be cut off by the incoming tide.

Porthcew is geologically interesting. In 1990 the area was named the Porthcew SSSI. It is also a nationally important Geological Conservation Review site, forming part of the metamorphic aureole surrounding the Godolphin granite, which intruded over a period of around 30 million years between 270-300 million years ago into the sedimentary rocks that were being laid down on the ocean floor that covered present day Cornwall. The sedimentary rocks were altered (metamorphosed) by the intense heat and pressure caused by the intrusion of the molten granite.

Much of the Rinsey area formed the roof of the granite mass and as a result the Rinsey area is a real mixture of metamorphosed rocks and intrusions of igneous rocks from the molten granite · granite sills (thick, usually horizontal, intrusions of granite), aplites and pegmatites (these terms refer to their texture rather than their composition, aplites are fine grained meaning that they have cooled quickly, whereas pegmatites are a coarse crystalline igneous rock with crystals at least 1cm long.

Most pegmatites contain quartz, potassium feldspar and sodium rich plagioclase feldspar and formed during the fluid and vapour phases after most of the granite had crystallised. Some complex pegmatites contain up to 300 different minerals (including tin and tourmalines), as well as spotted slates with andalusite and cordierite in them. The Camel`s Head which will be seen later near Wheal Trewavas, is a remnant of this intrusion and subsequent geomorphological processes found in this area, leaving the rock mass shaped, in this case, as a camel.

In the late nineteenth century, a small fishing fleet operated from Rinsey Beach.

10. Return to the coast path. Leave by the same path and as you climb Rinsey East cliff, when you reach the second turn in the path, instead of following the path round to the left, continue ahead directly towards the engine house of Wheal Prosper.

Wheal Prosper (grid reference SW593270) was in operation between 1860 and 1866. It stands on the edge of the Tregonning granite. It was not as prosperous as its name suggests. It produced tin and a small amount of copper. It was also worked under the name of Wheal Rinsey. The filming of Poldark in the 1990s used the Wheal Prosper engine house as a location. The mine has three main shafts - Engine shaft at the engine house, Leeds shaft between the NT car park and the sea and Michell's shaft just north of the engine house.

Bats frequent the area and have a specially built bat castle to protect their roost and to prevent the public falling into the 420ft shaft. The killas (slate) from which the engine house is built was quarried from the cliffside just above where the building now stands. It housed a 30-inch cylinder engine to pump water from the workings.

11. After spending time studying the engine house and admiring the view of Rinsey Beach, rejoin the coast path. There is a loop here enabling people to make a circular walk around Rinsey and Trewavas Head but to continue on the coast path take the lower path.

You are now walking along Rinsey East Cliff, also part of the SSSI due to the mineral outcrop to the east. Seals, dolphins and basking sharks can sometimes be seen along this coastline during the summer months. Above you is Carn Clodgy, from the Cornish word, ‘Karn’, a rock pile and ‘clodgy’ meaning muddy. Below you are the Salt Rocks (SW 5948 2657). You pass a spring.

12. After about half a mile (800m) you reach Trewavas Head.

Trewavas was first recorded as a settlement in 1289 when it was known as ‘Trewaevos’. The name is from the Cornish words ‘tre’ meaning settlement, ‘gwav’ meaning winter and ‘bos’ meaning dwelling thus translating as ‘settlement of winter dwelling’

A colony of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) live at Trewavas Head. Other breeding birds include European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) and European herring gull (Larus argentatus).

13. Follow the path around the headland to walk along Trewavas Cliff.

A prominent granite sea-stack known as The Bishop or Camel Rock stands just off the cliff. In 1865 it was recorded as Bishop Rock and described as "a colossal figure with its back to the sea, with clasped hands resting on a lectern, whilst the robe trails down to the sea". Helicopters from RNAS Culdrose used to use this stretch of coastline for practicing air sea rescues and it was not uncommon to see helicopter touching its rear wheel on the Bishop’s nose.

14. Leave the coast path for a brief detour following a path towards the cliff.

After a short distance you reach some concrete foundations and traces of walls. These are all that remain of a World War II radar station, Chain Home Low Radar Station M100 Trewavas Head. The station itself, situated on a prominent spot to the south west, survives as a concrete base, with traces of walls, openings, and wooden flooring.

From here you have amazing views of the Trewavas Mine engine houses, solitary mine chimneys and the remains of a capstan platform. A geocache is located nearby.

These spectacular buildings once housed pumping engines. Copper ore was extracted from the lodes which extended under the sea. Today the spoil heaps perch on the rocky slopes above the sea and adits dot the cliffs.

Wheal Trewavas opened in 1834 and in the twelve years it was operational, produced more than £100,000 of copper. It closed in 1846 and the undersea workings were flooded. The site is a Grade II listed Scheduled Monument. The first engine house is at Old Engine Shaft.

15. Return to the coast path. Follow it as it skirts the first engine house.

Please do not attempt to scramble down the cliff to the first engine house. There have been rock falls with large sections of the cliff slipping down onto the beach.

A detour which you may wish to make is to the solitary chimney standing between you and the lower of the two engine houses. Take a right turn off the coast path to reach the chimney which provides a good viewpoint over the engine houses. Return to the coast path. Just slightly inland from you is a small pond.

16. Continue along the coast path. As the path nears the next engine house you will see a path on your right going down to the building. Take this minor detour to enjoy more excellent views of the mine buildings.

This engine house is at New Engine Shaft (Roger’s Shaft)

17. Walk up the path past a solitary chimney. The path soon rejoins the coast path. Turn right and proceed along the path. After a short distance you seen a National Trust sign indicating that you have just left Trewavas Cliff. Immediately after this sign is a footpath to the right going towards the cliff. This leads to a rocky outcrop.

The cliffs here are popular with rock climbers and a climb was taking place when we walked this stretch of the coastline. There are over 100 climbs at Trewavas Cliff including John Silver and Pennywort.

18. The path passes above Trequean Zawn (Grid Ref: SW 6036 2656) and along Trequean Cliff (Grid Ref: SW 6056 2675) descending almost to sea level.

There is a cave near Trequean Zawn. Zawn is a Cornish term for a deep, narrow sea inlet The mineral Tristramite has been found in this area. Below Trequean Cliff is an an impressive wave cut platform.

19. The coast path climbs again.

After a short distance you are walking above Legereath Zawn (Grid Ref: SW 6078 2666), a narrow inlet in the cliffs. You are now reaching the end of the Tregonning outcrop in the area of Megiliggar Rocks. In the cliff face you will see huge white stripes. These are granite sills where molten magma has intruded into the original slate rock. Eighteen minerals have been found in the Megiliggar Rocks including Triplite (Grid Ref: SW 6093 2659), also known as the Tremearne Pegmatite. Pegmatite is a coarsely crystalline granite or other igneous rock with crystals several centimetres in length.

20. Continue onwards. The path is level for a while before before descending again. You soon reach the area known as Tremearne Cliff.

Tremearne Cliff (Grid Ref: SW 6109 2669) is extremely important for its geology. Many granite sills (MicroGranite/Aplite/Pegmatite can be seen in the cliff. Aplite consists of very fine grains which have the mineral composition of granite. Pegmatite has very large crystals. It is believed these intrusions occurred over 270 million years ago. There is a small sandy area below the cliff. The whole foreshore is protected due to its scientific importance so it is forbidden to remove samples from shore.

Take care when exploring as the area is prone to land slides.

Just offshore is Tremearne Par, a small island (Grid Ref: SW 6111 2659).

21. Continue along the path. You are diverted into a field for a short distance to avoid the unstable cliffs.

You soon see the sandy area known as Breage Beach at Porth Sulinces. You can make a detour down a small path to enjoy the beach which has many rock pools to explore. At high water the beach is mostly sand. This coastline is excellent for snorkelling due to the large number of reefs extending from the shore but be careful of currents around the headland and avoid swimming at a half tide. At low tide a rock platform becomes visible.

22. Retrace your steps back to the coast path.

Just inland of Porth Sulinces is a small lake surrounded by small trees.

23. Follow the coast path following any diversions to ensure you keep away from the cliff edge. You soon reach Parc Trammel Cove.

Parc Trammel is a sandy beach backed by high cliffs. At low tide it can be accessed from Porth Sulinces but take care not to get cut off by the sea. Beacon Road from Porthleven to Rinsey is just inland.

24. The path now passes above Zawn Shaggy.

Zawn Shaggy (Grid Ref: SW 6199 2618) comes from the Cornish,’sawen’ meaning ‘chasm’. The second part of the name has not been determined.

25. Continue onto the area known as Bullion Cliff (Grid Ref: SW 6209 2599). The fields on Bullion Cliff are sometimes a feeding place for large numbers of birds. A flock of around 250 Whimbrel were spotted here.

Just inland is Methleigh. This ancient manor was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 as Metela. It was the property of the Bishop of Exeter. Breage Church would have been attached to this manor. An annual market was held here by the Earl of Cornwall. This had been established during the reign of Edward the Confessor at the time of Bishop Leofric.

In 1046, the first Bishopric of Cornwall was established here but the title of the See was later changed to Exeter.

Passing from the Bishop of Exeter to the Dean and Chapter of Exeter it then became the property of the Nansladon family, the Chamonds and by the 1200s, the Arundell family. In the 18th century it was bought by the Coode family before becoming the residence of the Treweeke family, who farmed here. On their death it was occupied by Mr Mitchell and then Mr John Richard.

It is believed that in the past a chapel was located on the estate, close to where Tremearne Farm now stands. The remains of a carved pillar from the chapel is said to now be used as a gatepost at the farm.

26. Continue along Bullion Cliff. You will soon reach Tregear Point.

As you walk around Tregear Point you pass a large whitewashed building known as Beacon Crag.

27. After a short distance the coast path reaches a cross.

This cross is a memorial to all the seamen who lost their lives when they were shipwrecked on this coast. It was erected in 1949 by a local councillor, Frank E. Strike. It bears three plaques, one of which names Councillor Strike.

'This cross has been erected in memory of the many mariners drowned on this part of the coast from time immemorial and buried on the cliffs hereabout. also to commemorate the passing of the 'Grylls Act' of 1808 since when bodies cast up by the sea have been laid to rest in the nearest consecrated ground. Erected March 1949

Also in sacred memory of 22 Porthleven fishermen who lost their lives in the following disasters - 1871 'Desire' - 7 lost; 1876 'Johanna' - 2 lost; 1886 'Miriam' - 4 lost; 1893 'Nile' - 3 lost; 1948 'Energetic' - 6 lost'.

Just below the Memorial are Pargodonnel Rocks (SW 6233 2577). Raised beach deposits can be seen here and a glacial erratic, the Giant’s Rock (Giant’s Quoit, Moonstone) rests on the wave cut platform in a 1m deep pool. It is a variety of garnetiferous gneiss which is only found here and nowhere else in the UK. It has been suggested that it arrived here during the last Ice Age, arriving from Northern Europe in a glacier which had split into smaller icebergs, one of which landed here, melted and deposited the rock. The Giant’s Rock weighs more than 50 tons.

28. The coast path soon turns towards Porthleven and you pass Zawn Core, a narrow inlet in the rocks and Dark Toll Rock.

Great Trigg Rocks (Grid Ref: SW 6255 2547) lie just off the shore and are believed to have been deposited here at the end of the last Ice Age.

29. The coast path leads you across a field and onto a track which takes you into the area of Porthleven known as Breageside.

A stream that ran through the town divided Porthleven into two parts - Breageside and Sithney-side - with each side belonging to its given parish.

30. The lane leads through West End and downhill into Porthleven.

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