Walk - Newquay
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From Newquay's railway station go out onto Cliff Road, turning left to cross the road and bear right to join the South West Coast Path on the Tram Track.
The Tram Track follows the line of an old horse-drawn tramway. It was built in 1849 to carry ore from East Wheal Rose to Newquay Harbour and to bring back coal and other supplies. It ran from the Trenance viaduct to Fore Street, continuing to the harbour by tunnel. After the arrival of the railway in 1884 local carriers were contracted to haul the trams or trucks, singly, by horse. By this time they were carrying the Royal Mail between Bank Street Post Office and the railway station. The tramway fell into disuse around 1926.
- Carry on along Bank Street and turn right onto Fore Street, continuing ahead on to North Quay Hill and the harbour.
The headland has always provided natural shelter for what is now the harbour area, and a small fishing village grew up here in the Dark Ages, although it got no mention in the 1086 Domesday Book. In the fifteenth century it was known as 'Towan Blystra' (''wind-blown sand dunes'). In 1439 a new quay was built, which gave the town its final name. Today's harbour was built in 1832-5.
Newquay was once a bustling port, shipping china clay and ore from the harbour as well as supporting many fishing boats. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the mines were closing and the pilchards no longer swam inshore in huge shoals. The fishermen turned their attention to herrings, but these in time these shoals dwindled too, and the townsfolk had to find a new way to earn a living. The coming of the railway in 1884 opened out South West England to visitors from all over the country, however, and Newquay began to enjoy the tourist boom that continues today.
- Take the steps on the north side of the quay to follow the Coast Path waymarkers to the Huer's Hut.
In the fourteenth century the Huer's Hut was a hermitage, where a monk kept a light burning to warn ships of the rocks below. Some centuries later its vantage point over Newquay Bay made it the perfect location for a huer's hut. Here a lookout was posted to watch for the arrival of the massive shoals of pilchards arriving in the bay in the late summer. When the huer spotted the fish in the bay he would 'raise a hue and cry' – the origin of the saying – shouting 'Hevva, hevva!' and directing the boats to the spot by means of hand signals.
The boats worked in groups of three, known as 'seines', using seine nets – nets weighted along their bottom edge so that they could hang vertically in the water. Once the fish were encircled by the net this was towed ashore and on the beach a smaller 'tuck' net placed inside it to retrieve the fish. From here they were sent to the processing 'palas' ('place'), where they were packed into barrels between layers of salt and compressed for the oil to run out.
The fishermen's wives would celebrate the arrival of the fish by baking Hevva Cake. This used a scone-like mixture, with dried fruit to represent the fish, baked in small rounds scored with a criss-cross pattern to resemble the nets.
- Take the footpath to the right of the road to carry on around Towan Head to Fistral Beach, detouring to the tip of the headland for stunning coastal views.
The lifeboat house was built in 1895 and the boathouse four years later
The imposing neo-Gothic Headland Hotel was built in 1897. It was designed by Silvanus Trevail, the Cornish architect responsible for several other iconic hotels around the county's coastline, and it was constructed to be the finest hotel in South West England. During the summer season London orchestras visited to play here and as many as 300 dancers graced the sprung ballroom floor. Royal visitors to the hotel have included Edward VII,George VI, Edward VIII, Queen Alexandra, and more recently HRH Prince Charles with HRH The Princess Royal.
- The path goes through the dunes behind Fistral Beach. At the far end of the beach continue along the path to the right.
Rising numbers of bathers in the early 1960s led to the growth of live-saving clubs on beaches around the south west coastline. Combined with the high clean breakers rolling in on the North Cornwall coast from the Atlantic swell, this made it a popular venue for the surf culture which was spreading from America and Australia at the time. Newquay soon became the capital of British surfing, a status it still claims today. Some of the best waves in Europe break on Fistral Beach, attracting world-class surfing competitions, and the new surfing complex at Fistral offers facilities to match.
- The path continues alongside Esplanade Road, pulling out around the cliffs below the houses to round Swimming Cove and then climbing steeply uphill to rejoin Esplanade Road just before it hits Riverside Crescent.
- Turn right here to detour along Pentire Point East; or turn left and left again to continue the walk along Pentire Avenue.
People have been living and working on Pentire Point East for many thousands of years, and archaeologists have found the flint tools of hunter gatherers from 7000-8000 years ago, in the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) times. There are also a number of Bronze Age barrows, from around 3000 years later, and the Iron Age hinged 'Pentire neckring' was found here, dating from the first century BC. In medieval times and later, rabbits were encouraged to live here, to keep them away from the crops inland, and in the twentieth cantury stone was quarried from the rocks for road-building. The headland is also an important site for rare mosses and liverworts, as well as coastal flowers such as thrift, sea campion, and wild carrot and thyme.
- Carry straight on ahead along Pentire Road and take the footpath along the edge of the golf course, just after the bus stop, coming out on Atlantic Road.
- Follow Atlantic Road around to the right and cross Tower Road, ahead, to carry on along Crantock Street.
- At the end of Crantock Street turn right on St George's Road and then left on Manor Road. Keep going ahead as it turns into East Street, which will bring you back to Cliff Road. Keep going forward to return to the station.
There are a wide variety of cafes and restaurants in Newquay.