Walk - Stepper Point from Padstow

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 Meadow take the Coast Path northwards, by following the tarmac path through the park to the war memorial, ignoring the steps up to the left. 

The path up to the memorial is an easy access route. Wheelchairs and pushchairs can navigate the short route to the memorial.

  1. At the memorial, continue along the Coast Path and follow it along as it runs above the beach to Gun Point. If you want to go down onto the sand there are numerous small paths leading to the beaches along the way to Harbour Cove, but for this walk, stay with the main path around the dunes.

St George's Well, supposedly off the path above the beach, is one of many holy wells in Cornwall. In early times, sources of water were highly prized, especially by travellers. The Celts and Roman ascribed healing properties to their springs and wells. Saints arriving by sea a few centuries later would have had cause to bless these as welcome drinking fountains.
There is said to be another well, dedicated to St John, near the daymark tower later in the walk. This one is believed to have been marked by a beacon chapel, although nothing now remains of either.
Rather more recent (from the start of the 19th century, in fact), are the ruins of a Napoleonic gun emplacement and fortifications at Gun Point, a little further on from St George's Well.
Looking out across the estuary at low tide, the sand on this side of the water extends almost to Doom Bar. According to a traditional ballad, the Mermaid of Padstow fell in love with local lad, Tom Yeo, who mistook her for a seal (or so he said), and shot her. In the awful rage of a woman scorned, she called up a mighty storm. This wrecked all the ships in the harbour and threw a huge sandbar across the river to imperil all future sailors venturing in the estuary. Look out for her on the rocks at Hawker's Cove.

  1. From Gun Point the path turns slightly inland around the edge of Harbour Cove until it reaches a small inlet, where a track joins it from your left.
  2. Turn right to follow the track towards the beach for a short distance, until you come to a small gap in the bushes ahead of you, with the Coast Path acorn waymarker in among the vegetation. Follow the narrow footpath through the bushes, emerging a short while later onto another path which again hugs the shoreline above the sandy beach. Follow the path northwards to Hawker's Cove. 

The first Padstow lifeboat, built by the Padstow Harbour Association, was stationed here, before the Padstow branch of the RNLI was formed in 1855. In 1931 a new boathouse was built, and a roller slipway. By 1967 silting up of the river became a problem and the lifeboat was moved to Trevose Head, a few miles to the west.

  1. Ignoring the road to your left, follow the Coast Path waymarkers between the houses until you are on the footpath on the far side of the settlement. Carry on along this towards the point.
  2. At the quarry, a path joins from your left. Ignore this and carry on along the Coast Path as it heads uphill to the point. Carry on along the path around the point to the daymark tower.

At the quarry, the other path to the left, heading uphill, leads to the lookout station and a World War II pillbox beside it. If you walk this way, the path continues over the headland and will return you to the main path at the daymark tower.
The daymark tower was built, probably in the early nineteenth century, as a maritime navigational aid, designed to guide sailors into the River Camel.
From flint tools found on the headland it appears that people lived in this part of Stepper Point as far back as 6000 years ago, and possibly even earlier.

The dramatic headland at Stepper Point marks the entrance to the Camel Estuary and features prominently in the opening episodes of Poldark.

  1. Carry on along the Coast Path as it heads south above the sea, dropping downhill, until you come to the place where it turns sharply left around a rocky cove.

As you walk along here you will hear the hollow boom that tells of caves in the rock below your feet. These are carved out by the sea, which exploits weaknesses in the rock The sea then enlarges them with the power of its waves as they wash around the cave. Sometimes these collapse, leaving a sinkhole. Pepper Hole, Butter Hole and Fox Hole along this part of the coast were formed in this way. Note the other dramatic rock formations caused by wave erosion here.

  1. Leave the Coast path here, forking left to the track ahead and turning right on this track. Follow it around to the left shortly afterwards to join the road at Lellissick.
  2. Turn right on the road and then pick up the track on your left a moment later. This will lead you quickly back to 4, at Harbour Cove.

On the far side of the inlet take the track to the right and follow it back to Padstow, dropping onto the road southwards at Tregirls Farm. Ignore the tracks leading away on both sides shortly afterwards. When you come to the houses, follow Tregirls Lane around to the left as it becomes Church Street and then turn right down Duke Street to reach the centre of Padstow again. Walk around the northern side of the harbour, take the Coast Path northwards, up the ramp, to the start of the walk.

Nearby refreshments

There are numerous restaurants, pubs, tea shops and takeaways in Padstow.

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