Walk - Treligga & Trecarne

Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From Trebarwith Strand's main car park take the beach road to pick up the South West Coast Path behind the pub on the left. Follow the path steeply uphill to the top of the cliffs above Dennis Point, descending equally abruptly on the far side, to the footbridge across the stream in the valley below, at Backways Cove.

'Dinas' in Cornish means 'fort', and Dennis Point is thought to have been named from a prehistoric cliff fort that stood here in the Iron Age. Across the water, Dennis Scale on Penhallic Point is so named for the same reason; but there is no longer any trace of ditches or ramparts on either. It is possible that both have fallen into the sea following erosion by the waves.

There are terrific views from this high vantage point. Just offshore, Gull Rock is volcanic, created during a period of explosive activity in undersea volcanoes during the lower Carboniferous period, some 300 million years ago. As a result it is a much harder rock than the slate around it and is much more resistant to the sea's erosion. Volcanic rocks can be seen in various places among the abandoned slate quarries in the Delabole area, 'bombs' of lava and ash that have been crumpled and compressed under intense pressure.

Gull Rock gave its name to the thriller by R R Gordon, who selected this remote stretch of coastline as the perfect hideaway for a man on the run.

The coastline from Dennis Point to Boscastle has been designated the Tintagel Cliffs Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the spectacular erosion of its rocks (see the Tintagel King Arthur Walk). Soils derived from basic volcanic rocks support a wide range of wildflowers, and these are included in the coastline's SSSI designation. Species thriving because of this include the very rare wild chive. Other wild herbs such as wild thyme, golden samphire and chamomile flourish here because the salt spray and Atlantic gales allow only very specialist plants to survive. Spring and autumn squill brighten up the maritime grasslands with their tiny starry flowers, and clumps of oxeye daisies add a dash of flamboyance to the exposed clifftops.

The North Cornish coastline has been responsible for many a shipwreck over the centuries. The Reverend Hawker, eccentric vicar of Morwenstow near Hartland, wrote: 'From Padstow Point to Lundy light is a watery grave by day or night', and between 1823 and 1846 alone, some 130 ships were lost here. Backways Cove is said to be haunted by the spirits of sailors whose bodies were washed up here after they drowned.

  1. From Backways Cove carry on along the Coast Path as it zigzags up the next hillside. From here there is a much gentler stroll above Treligga Cliff to Tregonnick Tail and then Tregardock Beach.

Just inland, the area between Tregardock and Backways Cove was used extensively during the Second World War as Treligga Aerodrome (HMS Vulture II). The airfield's observation/control tower is still standing, having been restored and converted into accommodation. There is also still a reinforced hut near Backways Cove, and accommodation and service huts near Treligga village.

HMS Vulture II was used as a glider site before the Second World War, but in 1939 the Admiralty requisitioned 260 acres of land to construct an aerial bombing and gunnery range. Unusually, HMS Vulture II was staffed entirely by the Women's Royal Naval Service.

On 16 September 1943, the pilot of an American B-17 Flying Fortress ignored a red flare warning him to keep clear and made an emergency landing at HMS Vulture II. His plane was seriously low on fuel and running on three engines after a raid on U-boat pens at Nantes, in France, and the pilot had left his formation to try and land safely on the little fuel he had left. Spotting the tiny airstrip at Treligga he skillfully landed with his wheels down just 50 yards away from the Wrens' quarters.

  1. Reaching the fork after Tregonnick Point, at the high headland above Tregardock Beach, known as The Mountain, turn left to walk up the lane to Tregonnick.

In 1580 there were silver and antimony mines on the lower slopes of Tregardock Cliff, and at the end of the seventeenth century it was producing large quantities of lead as well. Between 1853 and 1860 the mine recorded a total output of 60 tons of 50% lead ore, 690 ounces of silver and some copper (see the Tregardock Cliff Walk). There were also slate quarries in the cliff face, here and in many other places along these cliffs.

  1. Fork left to walk through fields, continuing along the lane to Treligga.
  2. Carry on through Treligga village to the T-junction and turn left along the 'no through road' by Treligga Farm Cottages.
  3. Bear left in front of the first buildings at Trecarne and then take the footpath to the right beyond them, crossing to the far right-hand corner of the first field and the far left-hand corner of the second to carry straight on ahead through the remaining fields to Trecarne Farm.
  4. Pass the first two barns to turn right onto the track, picking up the footpath beyond to walk through woodland to a footbridge. Cross the stream and then turn right, crossing the field beyond to the cottage in the left-hand corner and following the path over the steps and on to the road. Turn left on the road to walk to Trebarwith village.
  5. In Trebarwith fork left and then take the footpath on the left, following the track past the old mill, forking right and then right again to return to Trebarwith Strand.
  6. At Trebarwith Strand turn right to retrace your footsteps up the beach road to the car park.

Nearby refreshments

At Trebarwith Strand beach (seasonal), and the Port William Inn above the beach.

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