Hayle to Newquay / Porth to Portgaverne / Delabole to Mawganporth

Holiday cottage
This time we were staying in a cottage at Port Gaverne and drove down to Newquay to continue along the north coast, finishing in North Devon.

We also spent a few days on the south coast between Saltash and St Austell.

Porth Bay and Watergate Beach

Porth BayPorth BayPorth Bay

It was a beautiful morning and we drove to this glorious empty beach with waves crashing in the distance. On the other side of the road are several modern apartment and holiday complexes. After a stroll on the sand we followed the path to Trevelgue Head.

wooden footbridgeA violent storm dashed away the narrow strip of land connecting the promontory to the mainland and Trevelgue Head then became tidal Porth Island, now accessed by a wooden footbridge. Evidence of bronze-smelting and the presence of two large round-barrows proves that settlement began in the Bronze Age and there was an earlier Iron Age fortified settlement.

Watergate BayA spectacular feature is the blow hole at the end of the island. The pressure from the sea coming up through a tight space causes water to be sent into the air.

The view to the south are over Newquay and to the north is Watergate Beach, a 2 mile sweep of sand, which is popular with surfers. This can also be reached by walking round Porth Island at low tide.Whipsiderry

A steep descent down 134 rocky steps at Whipsiderry leads to a sandy cove fringed by tall, dark cliffs and completely covered at high tide. This unusual name was derived from old mining terms Whips and Derrick.

Mawgan Porth

Newquay AirportThe coast road twisted its way along the cliffs with towers of Newquay Airport in view.

Mawgan PorthWe arrived at the horseshoe-shaped bay of Mawgan Porth with Beryl’s Point to its south. There is a small group of beach shops on either side of a stream that flows down the deep Vale of Mawgan and runs into the sea here.

Beryl’s PointMawgan Porth

There is a large expanse of pale golden sand framed by cliffs with clear pools where the stream runs. Two miles upstream, St Mawgan village has a 13th century church with an early 15th century lantern cross in the churchyard as well as a Japanese garden and bonsai nursery.

Bedruthan Steps

Bedruthan Steps The massive slate wave-swept stacks on the beach, called Bedruthan Steps, make up one of the most dramatic features on the Cornish coast. The legend of a giant called Bedruthan using the beach stacks as stepping stones seems to be a late 19th century invention for gullible tourists. The first record of the name 'Bedruthan Steps' was in 1851 and is likely to refer to the actual steps down the cliff.

NT CarnewasWe stopped at the National Trust car park at Carnewas and walked along the cliff path around the top of the bay with an amazing array of wild spring flowers clinging to curzyway (chevron patterned) slate walls. Along 2 miles of this coastline are six Bronze Age barrows, two Iron Age castles and a 19th century iron mine. The best view of the beach is from the clifftop to the south.

Cliff staircaseBedruthan became a popular destination 100 years ago when Victorian visitors in their carriages found it an attraction. A local farmer provided stalls for the horses on payment of tolls: 1s for a one-horse, 2s for a two-horse, and 4s for a four-horse vehicle.

Over the years, the cliff steps have suffered from landslips and rockfalls and in the 1960s the beach was closed as no safe route was possible.

Gate closed in winterEventually civil engineers developed a netting secured by rock bolts and a new flight of steps was opened in 1975. It is closed in the winter, and any loose stone cleared away by the Trust's warden before the summer season.

Warning sign on stepsWe couldn’t resist the empty pristine beach so we made our way down at least 140 steep steps. It was low tide but there is a warning not to ever enter the water and safety equipment is found nearby.

Me on the beachSamaritan Island is a rock named after a brig that was wrecked in 1846 when her cargo of silks was 'rescued' by local people. Queen Bess Rock was a supposed likeness to Queen Elizabeth I before it was eroded.

cream teaWe needed breathing apparatus when we finally climbed to the top but settled for a nice cup of tea in the café garden.


Park HeadPark Head is a low plateau with defensive banks and a ditch that are believed to date from the 1st century BC. Porthcothan

On the other side of Park Head is Porth Mear, a secluded cove made up of rock and shingle and close to the sandy beach at Porthcothan. Backed by dunes, this is popular with families although it is dangerous to swim at low water due to the fast currents.


TreyarnonTreyarnon is a small hamlet, beyond which a broad and shallow sandy bay is enclosed by headlands. There is a Youth Hostel here and the sea is ideal for surfing although strong currents can make swimming hazardous.

It is also popular with families as parking is good. A large natural pool forms in a hollow in the rocks which has been dammed at one end. This is flushed out by the incoming tide and is revealed again at low tide.

Trevose Head

Booby's and Constantine BaysWe paid the toll on the road leading to this headland which has 150 ft cliffs of grey granite rising sheer from the sea. The view is magnificent looking down on the fine sandy beaches of Booby’s Bay and Constantine Bay and south to Newquay and towards Pentire Point on the north east.

Path at Trevose HeadAt the tip of Trevose Head is the round white tower of a Victorian lighthouse, its lantern 204ft above the sea. From a picnic area on the headland, we walked behind the lighthouse and up to a memorial and coastguard station.

Trevose HeadThe area is constantly engulfed by sea mists that make the most powerful lights seem like candles but in 1809, when a lighthouse was first proposed there were only 2 lights to guide ships into the Bristol Channel. These were the Longships to the south and the old Lundy light to the north.

Trevose lighthouseEventually, in 1847, an oil light comprising wicks and reflectors was lit at Trevose Head. Originally there were 2 fixed lights, the high light in the tower and to the front of this a light some 70 feet lower. These were replaced by a flashing light in 1882 and a fog horn was added in 1913. It was automated in 1995.

Mother Ivey's BayPadstow's lifeboat is based on the eastern side of the headland in rocky Mother Ivey's Bay. The station was moved from Hawker's Cove in 1967 after Padstow had lost three lifeboats on the treacherous sandbars of the Camel estuary. Mother Ivey's Bay caravans

From the headland we could see rows and rows of caravans overlooking the bay.

Harlyn Bay

Harlyn BayWe arrived at Harlyn Bay at the end of a sunny day and the car park was filling up with people changing into wet suits to go surfing. There is a beautiful crescent of sand sheltered by Trevose Head and the beach is backed by dunes and fields. During the summer months lifeguards are on duty and there is a school for beach lifeguard training, surf instructor awards and ocean safety. It is a popular destination for holidaymakers both in and out-of-season, catering for swimmers, anglers and walkers.

Around 2000BC the Beaker folk settled around the coast of Cornwall, and remains of their ancient burial chambers can still be seen at Harlyn Bay. These were discovered below the sand and relics can be seen at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.


TrevoneTrevoneAnother beach of firm sand where rock pools form at low tide, bordered to the west by Newtrain Bay. One of these pools is about 6ft deep and is popular with swimmers as strong tides can make bathing in the sea hazardous.

coast path signThe early evening light made our walk on the clifftop very attractive. We went to get a close look at Round Hole as we could easily see it from the beach looking like an alien crater. This is one of the most spectacular blow holes on the North Coast.

Round HoleIt is a collapsed sea cave, around 100 feet deep and perfectly circular. At high tide the sea comes into the hole and during the spring tides, spray can be seen coming out of the top.

I was amazed it had no fence around it and you can actually clamber down to the bottom and at low tide walk through the tunnel to the sea on the other side.

Stepper Point

Stepper PointStepper Point landmarkThe coast path heads north past Gunver Head to the lofty promontory of Stepper Point. On the top there is a tower built as a landmark for sailors and at Gun Point there are Napoleonic fortifications.

Large stretches of sands are exposed at low tide on the western side of the Camel estuary and the infamous Doom Bar is at it’s most dangerous between low and high tides when it is submerged by just a few feet.

Hawker's CoveHawker's Cove is a popular place from which to watch boats negotiating their way past the Doom Bar.

There was a lifeboat station here from 1827 but it was relocated to Mother Ivey’s Bay.

May Day in Padstow

Padstow May Day We planned our visit to be May 1st as the May Day Hobby Horse Festival is believed to be one of the oldest festivals in Europe. It celebrates the Spring Festival of Beltane, dedicated to the return of the Celtic sun god Bel. It was a cloudless day and we were channelled into large park-and-ride fields above the town. At £2 a car including the bus ride this was a bargain.

Padstow May DayThe town was bedecked with bunting, flowers and leaves. We followed the crowd to a pretty maypole in the town square and watched the 'Obby 'Oss (a figure in a round black costume with a grotesque mask), parade through the town followed by a crowd of dancers and musicians.

There are actually two of thes -, the Old ‘Oss which is red and a younger blue ‘Oss.

The parades last all day and go wherever they feel like – passing several hostelries on the way. At the end of the day the 'Oss is ritually 'done to death'.

MusiciansOld 'Oss

This popular holiday resort is built in a narrow gulley on the west side of the Camel estuary, well sheltered from the winds and retaining the character of a working fishing port. The attractive medieval town has remained largely unspoiled and the harbour is now the embarkation point for fishing expeditions and pleasure cruises.

Padstow harbourPadstow’s history is long and it has had at least two previous names - Loderick and Aldestowe. In the 1st century BC, Venitii settlers arrived from Brittany, building forts on the headlands. St Petroc landed from Ireland and founded his monastery in the 6th century, but this was later destroyed by a Viking raid and the monks moved to Bodmin.

PadstowThe 15th century Church of St Petroc stands amid the network of narrow streets and in medieval times Padstow was granted the Right of Sanctuary by King Athelstan. This enabled criminals to remain safe from arrest and continued until the Reformation.

Padstow harbourThe town grew as a port in the Middle ages as it had one of the few harbours on the North Cornwall coast. Sir Walter Raleigh spent much time here when Warden of Cornwall in the late 16th century. Sir John Hawkins and Sir Martin Frobisher sheltered here. The fishing port and a major shipbuilding centre developed until the silting up of the Doom Bar sandbank at the mouth of the harbour. The Shipwreck Museum displays items recovered from wrecks around the Cornish coast.

Padstow harbourThe National Lobster Hatchery is a conservation project to assist lobster stocks around our coastline and is open to visitors, along with Lobster tanks owned by Trevose Foods and their warehouse, which also stores crabs, conger eels and other marine life.

Prideaux PlaceDuring the Reformation the ownership of church land in the area was acquired by the Prideaux family. Prideaux Place is a 16th century mansion which can be visited during the summer, along with its dairy, formal gardens and woodland. It is frequently used in film and TV productions.

Seafood Restaurant These days, Padstow is probably best known for the number of Rick Stein enterprises including a hotel, patisserie, bistro, fish and chip shop and cooking school. We treated ourselves to a meal in his Seafood Restaurant although we had to book our table several weeks in advance.In the Seafood Restaurant

The long distance path called Saints Way goes south to Fowey; it was part of a Bronze Age trading route between Ireland and Brittany that avoided the dangerous passage by boat round Lands End.

"Black Tor" FerryThe "Black Tor" Ferry service to Rock on the opposite side of the estuary runs throughout the day. It leaves from North Quay Slip or Lower Beach depending on the tide and operates in winter on demand, by waving a flag from the opposite shore. On big spring tides, it may have to land at Daymer Bay instead of Rock.

The Camel Trail

This 17 mile trail goes from Padstow via Wadebridge to Pooley's Bridge and used to be part of the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway. It was opened in 1985 and the most picturesque stretch is along the estuary, with stunning scenery and with large populations of wading birds such as herons. There is a purpose built bird hide half way between Wadebridge and Padstow.

Bike hire is in plentiful supply in Wadebridge and the Betjamin Centre has been created on the old railway station site. The poet laureate's love of this area influenced many of his well-known works.


WadebridgeWadebridge is the lowest crossing point on the River Camel and a main market town. The "Bridge on Wool" was built in 1468 by Thomas Lovibond, a vicar of Egloshayle. It was originally 320ft long, 9ft wide and had 17 arches although only 14 remain. Legend has it that it was built on wool sacks but it seems more likely that this refers to the finance for the bridge coming from wool merchants and sheep farmers.

Wadebridge Old bridgeIn 1313 a market and two fairs were granted to Wade, when the town was in two parishes, Egloshayle and St Breock, either side of the river. There were also two chapelsand travellers gave thanks at both sides after a safe crossing.

WadebridgeThe days as a port were ended by the silting of the river but the town prospered with the opening of the railway in 1834. The line was later extended to Padstow, but was closed in 1967 and now forms the Camel Trail.

footbridgeThe railway transported lime sand inland for agriculture and brought granite from Bodmin Moor to be worked in Wadebridge, some of which went into the building of the Eddystone Lighthouse.

In 1993, a new bridge and bypass were opened and further upstream there is a modern footbridge that was built in record time by the BBC TV programme "Challenge Anneka".


Rock beach Occasionally referred to as 'Chelsea-on-Sea', Rock is reputed to be the home of more millionaires than anywhere else in Cornwall. The village is strongly nautical, with a sailing club and school, popular with city yuppies and others, including Prince William.

Rock ferryRock sailing club

Porthilly CoveThere is a Michelin starred restaurant and the village shop stocks fine wines and cheeses. As we walked along the beach, I wouldn’t have known it was a wealthy place apart from a group of Hoorays that passed us.

Porthilly Cove is packed with pleasure craft in summer but not the luxury craft I was led to expect. Perhaps it was too early in the ‘season’.


South of Polzeath at Trebetherick is the long sandy beach of Daymer Bay, with views across the Camel estuary to Stepper Point. The Church of St Enodoc is surrounded by a golf course and is the burial place of the poet Sir John Betjeman. In the 19th century the church was almost completely buried by sand, but it was restored in the 1860s and is now used for regular worship.

Surfers were flocking to Polzeath to the spacious, flat sands of Hayle Bay as it is a very good place to learn surfing. There are lifeguards on the beach during the season and every shop sold or hired surfing equipment. In almost every other car people were changing in and out of wet suits.

PolzeathPolzeathParking on the beachconflicting signs

The car park on the beach is known to have been covered by water, but this only happens on a spring high tide with an extremely large tidal surge. Underneath the sign asking us to ‘Pay and Display’ is a flood warning notice.

Pentire HeadRumps PointSometimes it is possible to spot dolphins and the surrounding coastline is a good area for puffins. The coast path north of Polzeath leads to the cliffs of the Pentire peninsula and Rumps Point where there are traces of the banks and ditches of an Iron Age fort.

Bee FarmWe visited a bee farm and museum near here which was quite interesting and sold some very nice products.

Portquin Bay

Lundy BayYou can reach Lundy Bay on a path through a grassy valley from a National Trust car park. At the bottom, a short flight of steps leads to a rocky bay with large flat boulders and a collapsed sea cave known as Lundy Hole.

Doyden CastleOn the edge of the headland above Portquin and with spectacular coastal views, sits a squat 19th century castellated folly known as Doyden Castle. It was built about 1830 by Samuel Symons to entertain friends to nights of feasting, drinking and gambling. Now it has been refurbished as a holiday home.

PortquinThe road got narrower and steeper until it took a sharp turn beside the small shingle cove of Portquin. This tiny hamlet has been delightfully restored by the National Trust as holiday cottages. It was a location for the TV series Poldark, based on Winston Grahams novels.

PortquinThe village was abandoned twice in the past. The first time was when the pilchards failed and then one stormy night in the 19th century, the entire male population were drowned at sea whilst out fishing and the women left because life became intolerable.

fish cellarsIt is still sometimes referred to has the "Village that died" and the cottages fell into ruin, although you can still see the fish cellars.

About 2 miles south east is the village of Trelights, where Long Cross Victorian Gardens has a large maze and a secret gardent. A 6th century Christian burial stone stands outside.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac Port Isaac is pronounced ‘Porthusek’ in Cornish. The name is believed to have once been Port Izzard and in earlier times it was known as Portissyk. This is the coast edge of Bodmin Moor with high, rocky cliffs and the whole area is very hilly with deep valleys and steep narrow roads.

Squeeze-ee-belly AlleyThe village is set around a picturesque harbour and nestled in a narrow sheltered valley. Most of the centre of the village consists of 18th and 19th century cottages crowding the narrow streets and alleyways, on of which is called Squeeze-ee-belly Alley. The view overlooking the harbour is particularly pretty.

Port IsaacIn 2005 the village was used for the backdrop to the TV production of Rosumand Pilcher's The Shell Seekers and the village hall has been decorated by the team of Changing Rooms.

Unusually for the north Cornwall coast, Port Isaac has a long history of fishing and there are still fishermen working from the Platt, where they land their daily catch of fish, crab and lobster.

Port IsaacThe fish are sold in the cellars and restaurants beside a small slipway. The port dates from Saxon times, but by the 16th century, its trade was mainly in pilchards.

Port IsaacCargoes of coal, wood, stone, ores, limestone, salt, and pottery passed through and Delabole slate was also exported from here. The pier was constructed during the reign of Henry VIII, and is still visible. This trade disappeared in the 20th century when the ships became too large and rail and road transport took over. Now boat and fishing trips start from the harbour.


Portgaverne This was our holiday destination for the week and the tiny village overlooks a natural harbour protected by long arms of rocky headland with a steep narrow road both in and out. It is a peaceful spot with little commercialisation and at low tide there is small sandy beach with an abundance of rock pools which is probably the safest beach in North Cornwall for small children.

pilchard palacesIn the 19th century Portgaverne was a thriving fishing port and its fish cellars, called 'pilchard palaces’, processed up to 1000 tons of pilchards in a season. These buildings still stand behind the beach and most have now been converted into visitor accommodation.

It also developed as a slate, coal and limestone handling port and shipbuilding also took place. A hundred heavy sailing sea ketches a year used to pick up slate from here.

‘Slate Road’The slate was cut and hauled six miles, via the ‘Slate Road’, where it would be loaded onto ships which were wide enough to rest upright on the beach between tides. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses to load a sixty ton ship and as late as 1890, women still assisted with the stowing of slates.

PortgaverneNow tourism is the village's main business although there is little space to park and it is advisable to use the car park at nearby Port Isaac.

Our house was right on the cliff next to the coast path which passes a collapsed tunnel known as Barrett's Zawn, through which slate was once hauled.

Our view

A short distance on there is a secluded low-tide beach at Tregardock that can only be reached on foot. A notice warns of hazardous swimming and unstable cliffs.