Portloe to Mevagissey

Walked by Sally and Richard, Friday 20th May 2011

About 12 miles, all on South West Coast Path
Another excellent night, and breakfast at The Ship Inn was a repeat of yesterday's delicious sausage, mushrooms and tomato. We realised that Mark does the breakfast by himself, so it was a bit slow this morning since we all (us, a Scottish walker also heading to Mevagissey today, with his girlfriend who didn't seem to be walking the path, and an elderly walker who we later saw heading in the opposite direction) wanted different things at the same time - but it didn't matter. It started to rain just before we set off, but it had just about stopped as we walked down to Portloe Harbour. We didn't bother with waterproofs and indeed we didn't bother all day - there were light showers occasionally, but drier weather (usually with sunshine) always followed. We climbed up from Portloe and for the next couple of miles there were repeated descents and ascents - but it was all very pretty and there were good views back as far as Gull Rock and across the bay to Dodman Point.
We climbed inland, past areas that had been treated in an attempt to eradicate Japanese knotweed, then found ourselves looking down on West and East Portholland. We descended to the two little settlements, each with its own cove. The guide tells you to notice how the cottages in East Portholland are shuttered against breaking waves - in fact we saw this several times today; a reminder of the extreme conditions that sometimes prevail.
The next landmark was Porthluney Cove, adjacent to Caerhays Castle (with gardens open to the public to the end of May). The seasonal cafe in the car park as also open, but we didn't stop, instead starting the journey south towards Dodman Point. We crossed National Trust land at Lambsowden Cove, complete with grazing Shetland ponies and then climbed to the spine of Greeb Point. The book then talks about 'rambling down (mostly)' to Hemmick Beach. However there was quite a lot of up as well as down, and some of the descents were quite severe. Hemmick Beach is a wonderfully isolated place and we stopped for a lunchtime snack of our own provisions.
We began the serious ascent to Dodman Point (usually known simply as 'The Dodman'), though we climbed in somewhat meandering fashion, with descents as well as ascents. Eventually we passed the western extremity of an Iron Age earthwork and we were just about there - Dodman Point is another granite headland, this time grazed by Dartmoor ponies. The end of the promentory is marked by a granite cross, but more memorable were the change of scenery from this point, with views for miles and miles ahead of us, and the fact that there was a mobile phone signal! I deleted junk email from my i-phone whilst Richard went to look at the 18th Century coastguard watch house.
After rounding the point, we headed north. It was fairly level until we'd passed the eastern end of the Iron Age earthwork, then we descended towards Vault Beach, getting nearly down to the beach itself before rounding Maenease Point. The guidebook (Le Messurier) is misleading at this point, saying "Gorran Haven is near at hand and a pleasant stroll round the rocky projection of Maenease Point soon brings the walker to this rapidly growing village". Actually the walking was quite strenuous and we overtook a group of three male walkers, one of whom was clearly struggling.
Gorran Haven resulted from the expansion of the former fishing village of Porth Just. We compensated for our lack of a proper lunch by sharing a Cornish cream tea at 'Cakebreads' - it was a slightly odd place (you order in the Post Office/shop and the food is served outside) - but the cream tea was lovely; a suitable celebration of the fact that we were getting towards the end of the Cornish leg of the South West Coast Path. We then walked through Gorran Haven and started on the final 3.5 mile leg today's leg, through Portmellon and Mevagissey. The signposting on the next stretch was not great, and the path was overgrown in places. The weather was quite threatening and we didn't see anyone else until we got to Chapel Point. All in all it felt a bit wild.
We rounded Turbot Point and the houses on Chapel Point (resolutely private) caught our attention; the houses were built between 1933 and 1938 and it is the sort of place where you expect Poirot to appear to solve a murder. The descent from here to Portmellon was straightforward and then we followed the road down into Mevagissey.
We couldn't fathom out the instructions to our B&B, but we found a street map and all became clear - the missing piece of information was that Cliff Road, (with Kervernel at number 35) is on the far side of the harbour. Kervernel is a super place, the home of Frances and Norman Thomas, who have lived here for 11 years and renovated the place completely.
We had an attractively decorated room with loads of character, and nothing had been forgotten - there was proper milk and a choice of bubble bath!
In the evening we explored Mevagissey (named after two saints, Mevan and Issey) and things got better and better. We had an excellent meal at 'Blue' (12 Church Street), a little bistro run by two sisters, and much cheaper than the harbourside restaurants. After eating we walked down to the 18th Century inner harbour and the more modern outer harbour. The sun was shining and and the light on the boats and the surrounding countryside was glorious.