Walk - Porthcurno and Penberth

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From the entrance to the main car park at Porthcurno, just after the Cable Station Inn, walk ahead to the back of the car park to pick up the footpath travelling to the left, to the Telegraph Museum. Passing the museum, walk a short distance up Old Cable Lane to take the footpath on the right before the top, walking uphill on a grassy path to the field on the left-hand side. Follow the path through three fields to the track coming out on the right-hand side of the farm buildings at Trendrennen.

At the end of the nineteenth century the secluded cove of Porthcurno was chosen at the ideal location for the British end of the first submarine cables laid between Britain and her Empire. The first cable was laid in 1870, linking India via Carcavelos in Portugal, and over the next 100 years Porthcurno was the hub of international cable communications, becoming the largest cable station in the world. It was run initially by the Eastern Telegraph Company, but later it merged with Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, founded by Guglielmo Marconi, four years before he sent the first radio signal across the Atlantic from the Lizard in 1901. During the Second World War, Cornish miners were employed to dig undersea tunnels to protect the cables and associated buildings from enemy attack. In 1995 subterranean fibre-optic cables were laid here, and today Porthcurno is still the landing point for international cable networks terminating at Skewjack, a couple of miles inland.

  1. Carry on ahead along the track, going over the stone stile on the right after the second gate. Cross the field diagonally to the stile in the left-hand corner and continue ahead towards Treen, walking through five more fields to enter the village on a track.
  2. At the end of the track, in Treen village, turn right to walk to the village car park, taking the footpath running to the left beyond the car park. Follow the path through fields to Penberth, carrying on down the valley to the cove.

Once a flourishing fishing village with a fleet of some 15 boats, today Penberth has just a handful of working boats still fishing from here for local markets. Nowadays the boats are drawn up the granite slipway by means of an electric winch, but the massive man-powered capstan that once performed the task was restored by the National Trust and still has pride of place above the water. The Trust has owned Penberth since 1957, when it acquired the cove through a transfer via the National Heritage Fund, in memory of those who died in the Second World War.

Penberth and Porthcurno have both featured as film locations for television adaptations of novels by Cornish author Rosamunde Pilcher. Lelant-born Pilcher, who received the OBE in 2002 for services to British literature, wrote more than 20 novels and numerous collections of short stories, many of them set in Cornwall and filmed around the South West Coast Path. In 1995 German company Frankfurter Films used Penberth as the stunning setting for scenes from the novels, 'Empty House', 'Another View', 'Voices in Summer' and 'Snow in April'. Porthcurno was used in several episodes of an 89-part TV series based on Pilcher's stories and filmed by the same company.

  1. Crossing the stream by means of the stone bridge, take the South West Coast Path steeply uphill to the top of the cliff and carry on to the headland at Treen Head.

In prehistoric time the craggy promontory of Treen Head was the site of 'Treryn Dinas' ('Treen Castle' in Cornish), an Iron Age cliff castle protected on the landward side by a series of ditches and ramparts, using the sheer cliffs as its coastal defences. Flint tools have been found here dating back to the Middle Stone Age, and eighteenth-century antiquarian William Borlase noted a stone circle in the headland dating from the Neolithic (Late Stone Age) period, although this has been dismantled since. Roman artefacts have also been found here.

Borlase's description of the famous Logan Rock, or Rocking Stone, as being impossible to dislodge proved too great a challenge for a group of drunken sailors in 1824. Led by Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith (Oliver Goldsmith's nephew) the gang was able to prove Borlase wrong by rolling the 80-ton rock off its base. There was a public outcry at the desecration of this popular tourist feature, and  the Admiralty was compelled to restore the rock to its original position. It took the combined efforts of 60 men using 13 capstans to do this, and the final cost was £130 8s 6d (more than £5000 in today's terms).

According to local legend, a smaller logan rock nearby, known as the Lady Logan Rock, is the petrified form of a giantess who once lived here and was turned to stone by her husband after she had murdered him. Logan (pronounced 'loggan') is thought to come from a Norse word meaning 'wagging the tail'.

  1. From Treen Head carry on along the Coast Path, taking either path at the fork, since they run almost parallel and rejoin ahead.
  2. When a path leaves on the right, heading back to the village at Treen, and a small path heads away to the left, carry on along the main path to stay on the Coast Path to Porthcurno.

Off to the left is a steep, challenging path to Pednvounder Beach, a good place for a picnic when the tide is right (the beach disappears when the tide comes in). Dogs are allowed on the beach throughout the year.

On the headland in front, Minack Point, is the Minack Theatre, an astounding feat of construction carried out by Rowena Cade, daughter of a Derbyshire cotton mill owner and great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Wright, known as the ‘painter of the industrial revolution’. After much back-breaking work, largely carried out by herself, Cade's dream to recreate an ancient Greek or Roman cliff theatre came was finally realised in 1932, when it opened with a performance of Shakespeare's 'The Tempest'. Actors who have since strutted and fretted their hour upon this stage include Michael York, Sheridan Morley, John Nettles and Su Pollard. In Cornish, 'minack' means 'rocky place', and the towering cliffs of Treryn Dinas provide a stunning backdrop to the open-air plays taking place here throughout the summer.

  1. Ignoring the bridleway to the right before you start to descend towards the cove at Porthcurno, carry on along the path ahead a moment later when the Coast Path takes the left-hand fork. This will take you to the lane running between the car park and the beach. Turn right to return to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

There is a seasonal cafe adjacent to the car park at Porthcurno and a pub very close by (grid ref: SW 385 225); along the route of the walk there are seasonal refreshments at Treen (grid ref: SW 395 230) and there is a pub in the village (grid ref: SW 395 232).
Near to the start/end of the walk in Porthcurno, the Cable Station Inn, and near the middle of the walk the Logan Rock Inn in Treen are recommended by users of www.doggiepubs.org.uk as serving good food and being dog-friendly.

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