Walk - Bowgie Inn - Newquay & Fistral Beach
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.
Note: It is dangerous to wade or swim in the Gannel: please take care. This walk depends upon being able to cross the Gannel both ways. If the tide is too high to walk across to Penpol on your return you will need to walk to Fern Pit to catch the ferry!
The walk description does not fully describe alternative routes. Tide tables and ferry times are available from Reception. The BBC website (news.bbc.co.uk/weather/coast_and_sea/tide_tables/10/546) has a tide table for Newquay covering the next 7 days. Please check the relevant up to date information before you start this walk!
The ways you can cross the Gannel depend on the time of year and state of the tide. These are:
Penpol tidal footbridge: The route of the SW Coast Path uses a tidal footbridge near Penpol Creek, which is passable for 3 - 4 hours either side of low water.
Fern Pit Ferry Crossing: A shorter option is to cross by Fern Pit, which operates from the end of May to the end of September. At low tide, you can cross via a footbridge, whilst at high tide there is a ferry. You can find more details on the Fern Pit cafe and ferry website (www.fernpit.co.uk) or by phoning 01637 873181.
- From the Bowgie Inn walk down through the car park and join the South West Coast Path turning right. Follow the coast path along Crantock Beach.
- Going through the National Trust car park to Crantock Beach, take the path on your right through the dunes before you get to the beach and walk to the ferry landing point. If the tide is right out and it is safe to walk across, walk across to the ferry landing point at Fern Pit, visible across the riverbed. Otherwise take the ferry across, disembarking at the same place.
Until as late as the end of the nineteenth century the Gannel was used extensively by shipping. Iron ore from the Great Perran Iron Lode was brought here to be shipped to Wales, and Welsh coal was brought back for the Truro smelting works. Other cargoes were brought into Fern Pit and then transferred to shallow-draught barges to be carried on the flood tide up to Trevemper, an important commercial centre at that time.
- Take the steps uphill, past the cafe, turning left at the top on Riverside Crescent to walk to the car park on Pentire Point East. Walk through the car aprk and onto Pentire Point East. Follow the footpath to the Point. Return from the Point following the northern side of the peninsula.
People have been living and working on Pentire Point East for many millennia. Archaeologists have found the flint tools of hunter gatherers from the Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) times of 7000-8000 years ago. There are a number of barrows from the Bronze Age, 3000 years later. The chunky hinged 'Pentire neckring' was found here, dating from the Iron Age. More recently, rabbits were encouraged to live here, to keep them from the crops inland, and stone was quarried from the rocks for road-building. It 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.
- Pick up the South West Coast Path to walk above Lewinnick Cove, carrying on behind Fistral Beach and above the rocks at the far end of the beach to Towan Head. Detour along the headland for spectacular sea views.
In the early 1960s the high clean breakers rolling in on the North Cornwall coast from the Atlantic swell saw Fistral Beach start to become a popular venue for the surf culture which was spreading from America and Australia. Newquay 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 a new surfing complex offers world class facilities to match.
The imposing neo-Gothic building visible on Towan Head from Pentire Point East is the Headland Hotel, built in 1897 as the finest hotel in South West England. London orchestras played here during the summer season and as many as 300 dancers graced its sprung ballroom floor. Past royal visitors have included Edward VII, George VI, Edward VIII, Queen Alexandra, and more recently HRH Prince Charles with HRH The Princess Royal. It was designed by Silvanus Trevail, the Cornish architect responsible for several other iconic hotels around the county's coastline.
- Staying on the Coast Path, continue above Hedge Cove and then Beacon Cove, taking the path alongside the road to the Huer's Hut.
The Huer's Hut was originally a fourteenth-century hermitage, where a monk would have kept a light burning to warn ships of the rocks below. Sometime later its vantage point over Newquay Bay made it the obvious choice for a huer's hut. Here a lookout was posted to watch for the arrival of the shoals of pilchards in the bay. When he 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.
- Take the path to the left to drop to the harbour, climbing North Quay Hill to the mini roundabout.
- Take the second road to carry on in the same direction along Tower Road and then Higher Tower Road, to the Mount Wise roundabout.
- At the roundabout turn right along Pentire Road, taking the first left beyond to go down Trethellan Hill, carrying on straight ahead at the bottom to follow the pathway to Penmere Drive.
Cross the road to continue on the footpath ahead, coming out on Trevean Way.
Take the next footpath straight ahead to walk across the green to the Gannel, to where the footbridge crosses to Penpol Creek.
- If the tide is out and it is at least 3 hours before high tide, walk across to Penpol Creek. If the tide is in, you will need to cross at Fern Pit.
- From Penpol Creek cross the head of the creek and take the lane towards Crantock. Walk up Penpol Hill, and before the cottages, take the footpath on your right.
This is the South West Coast Path. Follow this alongside the Gannel, past Fern Pit Crossing back to the Bowgie Inn.
‘Penpol' in Cornish means 'head of the creek'. Penpol Creek was once known as the Port of Truro, and goods were landed here too, to be taken by cart or packhorse up the track to Trevemper. At low tide you can still see the quays, steps, mooring rings and chains along the western shoreline.
The Bowgie Inn