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Constantine Bay to Porth

Wednesday 17th June 2009

12 miles of walking including 11.5 miles on South West Coast Path

The weather forecast for today was not good.
The morning dawned dry but windy (noticeable because of a wind-chime somewhere just outside our bedroom window) and it stayed dry for a few hours in the morning. It then turned distinctly wet before drying up just as we reached Porth and turning sunny in the evening.
The day started with a lovely breakfast at Chyloweth and a chat with Sally Vivian about the Vivian family name; apparently some of the landed Vivians (or Vyvians) used to live in a big house on the way to Bodmin Parkway Station. Sally has obviously lived here for some time but she doesn't sound like a local. She also has a 'business in Padstow' and doesn't need to do B&B any longer; she started doing it to help with school fees but her children are now grown up - I suspect she'll give up soon. Our room at Chyloweth was quite ordinary but the dining room, lounge and conservatory were beautiful and the B&B was well located approximately half-way (along the route of the South West Coast Path) from Padstow to Newquay.
We left Chyloweth at around 9.15am and stopped at the village shopt for provisions for lunch. The walk to Treyarnon Bay was very easy and both Constantine Bay and Treyarnon Bay were very attractive this morning mostly, I suspect, because there were so many fewer people about than yesterday. The RNLI lifeguards were just setting up for the day.
The South West Coast Path guide describes the walk to Porthcothan as 'unusually indented' and it is!; it is also extremely attractive walking. You start by passing Trethias Island which is separated from the mainland by a very narrow channel of water and it becomes obvious that the various features along this section of coast path are formed as a continuous process:
sea cave to blow hole to island like to Trethias Island to stack like those at Bedruthan Steps. Porthcothan is described in the National Trail Guide as having 'rather lopsided development' because the National Trust owns the land on the northern side and so it has not been built on. This is true but it does a diservice to the whole village which seemed a pretty little place. The path follows to the seaward side of the houses and rounds a headland before descending to another attractive inlet at Porth Mear.
It was as we were climbing up from Porth Mear to Park Head that it started to rain and by the time we got to the Bedruthan Steps area we were fairly wet, so we decided to stop at the Carnewas Tea Shop rather than eating the provisions we had with us.
We've visited Bedruthan Steps twice before - once in good weather and once in the mist but on both occasions it was low tide and so the stackes emerged from a sandy beach; today it was raining and high tide so we saw a rather different side to the place.
We continued along the path above some high cliffs before descending slowly to Mawgan Porth past a 'strange linear depression in which two garden sheds and a greenhouse nestle'; apparently this is part of a half-built canal intended to link Mawgan Porth, St Columb and Porth. The beach at Mawgan Porth is pleasant (three surfers were braving the rain) but some of the building is rather ugly.
The guidebooks don't seem to make a great deal of the section between Mawgan Porth and the north end of Watergate Beach, but it was wild and atmospheric (probably helped by the weather) with some climbs and descents. Two runners passed us going the other way. We then walked on cliffs high above Watergate Beach, with Newport Airport visible in the distance; sometimes the wind made it rather difficult to move forwards. We descended to the road at the hotel and car park (by Jamie Oliver's 'Fifteen Cornwall') and then climbed back up to the cliff top. We eventually emerged close to some rather ugly hotels at Whipsidery then walked around another section of cliff before cutting down (past a demolished hotel) to Trevelgue Head, Trevelgue Head is apparently the most heavily defended cliff castle in Cornwall, leading archaeologists to suspect that before Porth silted up it was an important landing place.
It is actually an island; we crossed the footbridge onto the island then, with the South West Coast Path, turned back towards Porth.
The Mermaid Pub (not the world's most attractive building!) and the Alex Guest House were both clearly visible as we approached Porth. Angela Dickerson showed us to a rather small room at the back of the Alex Guest House. We spread out wet clothes around the place to dry and had a shower (slightly oddly, the toilet is in a separate room but the shower leads straight off the bedroom). Then we went for a walk around Porth, including a lovely stroll on the beach - it was now almost low tide and the sun was shining. Later in the evening we had a really excellent meal at Rock Island Bistro, a small restaurant with delicious food, Rattler cider and an entertaining party of Germans. The wet day's walking and the rather inferior B&B were compensated for by Porth's attractive setting and one of the best evening meals we've had on the South West Coast Path.