Walk - Porthluney Cove
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.
- From the Porthluney Beach car park walk up to the road and turn right into a field a moment later, to follow the South West Coast Path around behind the trees to your right. Carry on along the clifftop path as it sweeps around the coast and drops gently towards the sand at Hemmick Beach before pulling away leftwards to the road above.
Porthluney's Cornish name, 'Porth Leveny', means 'cove of the smooth river'. The River Luney had once been navigable right the way through to Polmassick, more than two miles inland. Designated a Eurobeach in celebration of its golden sand and safe swimming, in 1979 it was used for the filming of Daphne du Maurier's ' Rebecca' (see the Lankelly & Menabilly Walk).
On its western cliffs there is a Georgian watch house, one of several built along this part of the coast to keep a lookout over the English Channel during the Napoleonic Wars (see the Dodman Point Walk). It is thought that there was also a battery on this site. In 1973 a small cannon was found buried on the beach, thought to date from around 1750. The pill boxes on the beach, however, date from the Second World War!
The caves on the eastern end of the beach contain fossils in the rocks, dating them to 400 million years old, and in these cliffs there is also a small patch of limestone, not commonly found in Cornwall. The rock was probably once burnt in a nearby limekiln to make fertiliser, and seaweed was collected from the beach for the same purpose.
- Turn left on the road and take the footpath on the right a short distance beyond the cottage on the left, heading uphill through two fields before coming out on the road again.
- Turn right on the road and walk through the hamlet of Boswinger, turning right after the farm to come out at the T-junction by the church.
Archaeologists have found evidence of a sizeable Iron Age settlement at Boswinger, including several hut circles, as well as burial mounds from the Bronze Age before it. It is believed to have been populated throughout the Dark Ages, and there are records of a medieval settlement here in 1201. The church in the hamlet is a Wayside Bible chapel, a simple Gothic-style building considered to be a very attractive and unaltered example of its type.
- At the T-junction turn left towards Caerhays and take the footpath on the right a short distance further on. At the end of the hedge go through the gap into the field on the left, carrying on alongside the hedge again and onwards along the lane heading gently downhill to Treveor.
There is plenty of evidence that there has been some kind of settlement at Treveor, too, for the last four thousand years, and records exist of a 'plain an gwarry' here in 1604. This was a small round amphitheatre, unique to Cornwall, used for mummers' plays as well as prayer meetings.
- At Treveor turn left on the road and walk on past the farm buildings to take the footpath on your left at the right-hand bend. Walk down to the trees slightly to the right of the left-hand corner and go through into the field beyond, turning right to walk down the lane past the houses on Tregavarras Row.
Tregavarras is another hamlet with medieval roots and was first recorded in 1269.
- Bear left on the road to walk through Tregavarras, carrying on along the footpath on the first lane to the right when the road turns sharply left. Drop diagonally through the field to return to the car park at Porthluney Beach.
Caerhays Castle, overlooking the beach, was built in 1807 on the site of a manor once owned by the Arundell family. The nineteenth-century mansion was designed by John Nash, the creator of Buckingham Palace and Brighton Pavilion, who complemented it with formal gardens full of ornamental towers and follies. In 1880 Caerhays was inherited by John Charles Williams, a passionate gardener who joined the Royal Horticultural Society and set about extending the gardens and filling them with vast quantities of exotic plans gathered from all corners of the globe. Today Caerhays is renowned worldwide for his extensive woodland gardens, featuring lavish collections of rhododendrons and camellias. It is also the home of the National Magnolia Collection.
Another fascinating feature of the castle is its mineral collection, one of the finest of its times. It was assembled by John and Michael Williams, both founder members of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall in 1814. It is on public view during guided tours of the castle, which take place between March and June (although group visits can be arranged throughout the year). The gardens are open from February to June. For more information visit www.caerhays.co.uk
The first recorded settlement of Caerhays was in 1259 when it was spelt 'Karihaes'. The first syllable of this Cornish name suggests that it is the site of a round, or enclosed settlement, from the Iron Age or Early Roman period. In 1865, workmen clearing a drain on the Caerhays estate found a hoard of 2500 Roman coins. This was a rare find in Cornwall, which was usually too remote to be of much interest to the Romans beyond its valuable sources of copper and tin.
There is a seasonal beach hut at Porthluney.