Walk - Bedruthan Steps Circular
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2018. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the car park in Porthcothan, cross the B3276 road and join the South West Coast Path up on to the cliff tops.
- After about a mile you reach Porth Mear, owned by the National Trust.
Close to the path between here and Park Head are six Bronze Age burial mounds that probably date from 1200 BC and 2500 BC. Across the neck of Park Head is a cliff castle, with its two defensive banks separated by a ditch.
Note the traditional 'curzyway', or 'Jack and Jane', stone walls along the way, where the slates have been stacked in a herringbone pattern before being populated by delicate lichens and stoneworts. Clumps of the pink-headed thrift grow from their tops like thatch, and in places the hedge consists of tamarisk, a feathery-leaved Mediterranean plant which loves dry sandy soil.
Most perennial, slow-growing maritime species occur on sea cliffs. This is not because they need any specific characteristic in this habitat, such as salt, but because further inland they are easily smothered by more vigorous, faster-growing species. The high salt content of the air this close to the sea discourages or kills the terrestrial plants, giving the competitively inferior maritime species a better chance of flourishing.
Unusual plant species occurring along this section of the coast path include the tree mallow, with its massive pink flowers, and the golden samphire, an edible plant looking a little like a handful of dwarf beans dotted with tiny yellow flowers. Rock sea lavender also thrives here, resembling heather with its lilac flowers, as does betony, whose purple heads are often humming with insects.
- As you head south from Park Head you get your first view of the rock stacks known as Bedruthan Steps.
These take their name from a giant called Bedruthan who used the stacks as stepping stones forming a short-cut across the bay. However it is claimed by some, that this is just a story made up in the late 19th century when it first became a tourist attraction, and 'the steps' actually take their name from the cliff staircase used to access the beach (swimming here is also hazardous).
- Just before Carnewas Island take the path inland to the National Trust car park. Stop for refreshments or walk along the lane leading to the main road ( the B3276)
- At the end of the lane is the bus stop (by the Bedruthan House Hotel). From here catch the Western Greyhound 556 Padstow bus back to Porthcothan. Get off the bus at Porthcothan Bay Stores.