West Pentire to Perranporth
Cornwall Coast Path

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide

West Pentire to Perranporth Approx.6.9 miles (11.1 kilometres)

This section of the coast path takes you from West Pentire on Crantock Bay past quiet, secluded coves and stunning beaches of golden sand backed by dunes to Perranporth, the landing place of the 6th century St Piran. The majority of this walk falls within two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) - Kelsey Head SSSI and Penhale Dunes SSSI.

Park at the car park below the Bowgie Inn or at the car park in the village.

From the car park at West Pentire follow the footpath down towards the sea. When you reach the coast path turn left.

You will pass some steps on your right leading down to the beach. They are called Pusey’s Steps, named after an Oxford academic, Dr Edward Pusey, who spent a lot of time in this area in the mid eighteenth century.

Follow the coast path as it weaves its way out towards the headland. Various smaller paths will lead off to the right to access tiny coves. Vugga Cove is one of these. If you choose to explore return to the main coast path afterwards to continue.

The path straightens for a while as you approach Pentire Point West. Pentire is a Cornish word meaning ‘headland’ - ‘pen’ = head and ‘tir’ = land. When you reach an obvious crossroads on the path, follow the coast path to the left. Don’t forget to stand awhile to enjoy the lovely views of Crantock Beach, East Pentire and The Goose, the rocky islet off East Pentire. If you’d like to explore the headland you’ll find a disused quarry with a number of old excavations now grown over with wild flowers and if you take the lower path on the headland it leads to a collapsed sea cave.

The National Trust manages the fields adjacent to Pentire Point West as a nature reserve. Using traditional conservation methods they have encouraged over 150 species of wildflower to grow here. In summer the headland is a mass of colour with poppies and corn marigolds. The wildflowers produce seeds, encouraging buntings, finches and partridge.

After enjoying the views from the headland continue along the coast path. On your left you pass the Outer and Inner Beacons. The path now follows the cliffs above Porth Joke taking you inland for a short distance. The coast path drops to the beach, crossing a foot bridge over the stream.

Porth Joke is a beautiful, unspoiled beach so you may wish to stay and enjoy it for a while. It’s dog friendly all year round so if you’re walking with your four-legged friend they can enjoy a run and a splash in the stream.

The coast path is signposted just after the foot bridge. Follow the path upwards. On your left is an area known as the Middle Kelseys, an enclosed area separated from the Inner and Outer Kelseys by ancient walls. The coast path skirts the cliffs above the beach rising to a level area before dipping again into a small marshy area with a spring. On your right is a cove on the side of Porth Joke beach. This cove is cut off from the main beach at mid to high tide.

The path rises steadily now as you approach Kelsey Head. On your left are the Outer Kelseys.

You can often observe seals from the cliffs here. We have walked onto the headland with a seal following us along this section of the coast path, ‘bottling’ constantly to see what we were doing. It appears seals enjoy watching people as much as we enjoy watching them.

Kelsey Head has a Cliff Castle settlement dating from the Iron Age and a number of tumuli from the Bronze Age, other remains from the Mesolithic period indicate that people lived here from around 10,000 years ago. The headland is very prominent and the Bronze Age burial mounds would have been visible from a long distance.

It has been suggested that Kelsey Head was used by the Romans as a signal station.

The Silverstudded Blue Butterfly has been seen at Kelsey Head, as has the very rare Stripe-winged Grasshopper.

Offshore is the islet known as The Chick. This is another good place to view Grey Seals. If you’re very lucky you may also see Dolphins.

Many seabirds nest on the rocks around Kelsey Head and on The Chick, including fulmar, guillemot, razorbill and shag.

Following the coast path around the headland you will now be able to see Holywell Bay with its lovely, sandy beach backed by extensive sand dunes. Below you tucked away in a cave beside Holywell Beach is one of Holywell’s two wells. When you reach the beach, if the tide is sufficiently low, it is well worth exploring this fascinating, natural structure which is likely to have given the area its name.

The new Poldark series with Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson, uses Holywell Bay as a filming location.

The Cornish crime writer W. J. Burley lived in Holywell. He is most well known for his books about the Cornish detective, Wycliffe. The books were televised in the mid 1990s and the series are still shown today.

The path descends into the dunes. There are many rare species of plants relying on this specialised environment. including Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum) and several species of Ammophila and Festuca (rare grasses).

The village of Holywell with its shop, pubs and holiday accommodation lies just inland and is easily accessible from the coast path.

If you want to spend some time exploring the beach and the Sacred Spring/Holy Well simply follow one of the many pathways leading onto the beach and rejoin the coast path when you are ready.

The path emerges from the dunes onto grassland. You cross a tiny footbridge and shortly afterwards a more substantial footbridge to cross the stream. Follow the path towards the west and the next headland. The coast path skirts the beach and starts to climb. After a short distance the coast path veers to the left, following. If you look down you can see the large rock, known as The Monk, just below you on the western side of the beach.

The next part of the path takes you past a number of disused mine shafts.

In the cliff below you there appears to be a former landing area where the ship belonging to the mine, Wheal Golden Consols, would moor to load and unload cargo to and from the lead mine.

As you begin to reach Penhale Point the cliffs become taller and steeper. Take care to keep away from the edge. It’s no surprise that this area is popular with climbers. There are 16 crags in the vicinity of Penhale Point.

The area around Penhale Point has a long and interesting history. Not only is there a prehistoric settlement including the remains of a round house within the well preserved, Iron Age Cliff Castle but there is an extensive mining history dating from at least the 1770s.

There would have been many engine houses here until they were demolished in World War II. Inside the ramparts of the cliff castle is an 18 metre circular area which would probably have been the site of Wheal Golden’s horse operated whim engine. It is believed there were reservoirs dug here too for water for processing the lead ore.

The Cliff castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

In more recent times and army camp was built here. The Penhale Army Camp was built in 1939 to be used for anti-aircraft training. You can still see the huts and aerials through the fence as you walk the coastal footpath. The camp was closed in April 2010.

Now 40 acres (384 hectares) of the former camp has been sold to developers and is currently the subject of a planning application for houses and business units. 950 acres of land near the site is still owned by the MoD and used for training.

The cliff scenery here is spectacular with tiny, rocky coves lying at the foot of towering cliffs. Most of these coves are not accessible but you can clearly see the evidence of mining activity in the cliffs and get some idea of what a hazardous activity it would have been working in such an environment.

Penhale Mine was in production as early as 1777 and lead was probably extracted from here much earlier than that date. The mine has been known by various names in its history including Penhale United Mine, Penhale and Lomax Mine, after amalgamating with Wheal Golden and East Wheal Golden it was included within Wheal Golden Consols in 1848.

Continue along the coast path with its magnificent views. Offshore are two large islets known as Gull or Carter’s Rocks. These mark the boundary of Holywell Bay.

You are now heading towards Ligger Point which marks the eastern end of Perran Beach.

The cove just before the next headland is Hoblyn’s Cove. There appear to be two caves within the cove but the access to them is very difficult and hazardous so it is best to admire the cove and its caves from the coast path.

The path winds its way along the boundaries of the former army camp and after a short distance you reach Ligger Point. On your left is Ligger House. The stone and granite building is the former count house for Penhale Mine, dating from early 19th century and now a listed building.

There is a well preserved lineal bowl barrow group on Ligger Point. Scheduled as an Ancient Monument they are likely to date from the Late Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age and could be 4,400 years old.

The rocky islet just off Ligger Point is known as the Beagle.

The extensive beach of Perran Sands with Perranporth at its western end now stretches out ahead of you, backed by the extensive dune system, Penhale Sands. The bay is called Ligger or Perran Bay.

When the coast path reaches a junction with two smaller paths, ignore the paths to the left and right and continue along the central path.

As the path begins to skirt the back of the beach it passes a disused quarry and starts to descend towards Perran Sands Beach. There are more areas of disused quarry above you. This area is known as Gravel Hill, named after Gravel Hill Mine.

As the path drops to the beach it passes an arch. The small pool is known by locals as ‘Dead Man’s Pool’. The caves in the cliff face are the result of iron extraction. An excavated area in a mine is known in Cornish dialect as a ’stope’. There are many remains of the former iron mine including old mine shafts and tips and an adit at beach level. Please do not try to enter the adit. Old mine workings not only have what can be very deep shafts in them but also ’sumps’ in the floor filled with deep water. When they were in use the miners would have known where it was safe to tread.

The coast path now crosses the sand, following the back of Perran Sands Beach. After a while you will see a path leading up towards a rocky outcrop in the dunes. Follow the path upwards.

Inland, hidden in Penhale Sands, is St Piran’s Oratory and the second church dedicated to St Piran. It’s well worth a detour to see the excavations of the Oratory and the remains of the second church. Return to the coast path.

Continue on the coast path keeping the holiday camp on your left. After a short distance the path returns to the edge of the dunes above the beach and you arrive at Carn Haut, where a little stream falls over the cliffs onto the beach below. Wheal Creeg, Wheal Vlow and Perran Consols were located in the area now covered by the holiday park. Another mine, Wheal Widden was located close between the holiday park and he coast path.

The path continues to hug the cliff edge passing Carn Clew. Below you in the cliff is a mineral vein which has been exploited by mining producing a tall, narrow cut in the cliff. Carn Clew marks the point where the long, narrow stretch of Perran Beach ends.

The path is once again passing through dunes. After a short distance the path reaches Cotty’s Point. Inland is a golf links. Reen Sands are to the left of the coast path.

Below Cotty’s Point are several caves, probably created by ore extraction. The beach begins to widen. The coast path descends onto Perranporth Beach and crosses the stream.

In the middle of the beach is Chapel Rock. It can only be accessed at mid to low tide. The rock contains a seawater swimming pool.

You have now arrived in Perranporth. The village has plenty of options for refreshments all year round.

Public Transport

Bus services 85 between Truro and Newquay and 87 between Truro and Newquay stop at Crantock so you have a short, level walk to West Pentire.
Services operated by First Kernow

Visit Cornwall Public Transport for latest timetable

OS Explorer Map for this walk - 104

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