Walk - Newquay & Fistral from Crantock
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.
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 and the ferries are not running, you will need to walk an extra three miles to return inland via Trevemper.
- From the National Trust car park at Crantock Beach head down towards the beach. Take the path on your right through the dunes to walk to the ferry stance. If the tide is right out and it is safe to walk across, make your way to the ferry stance 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.
People have been living and working on Pentire Point East for many millennia, and archaeologists have found the flint tools of hunter gatherers from Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) times, 7000-8000 years ago. There are also a number of barrows from the Bronze Age, 3000 years later, and the chunky hinged 'Pentire neckring' was found here, dating from the first century BC, in 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.
Rising numbers of bathers in the early 1960s led to the growth of live-saving clubs on beaches around the south west coastline. Combined with the high clean breakers rolling in on the North Cornwall coast from the Atlantic swell, this made it 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 here offers 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. Otherwise wait for the ferry to cross to the same place. If there is no ferry running and the bridge is, or is about to be, underwater, turn upstream to walk along the riverbank path, coming out briefly on the other end of Trevean Way. From here carry on along the footpath to Tregunnel Hill, and on to the next tidal footbridge, at Trenance. Cross here if it is at least 1½ hours before high tide. On the far bank there may be a permissive footpath available to the right, which will take you to Penpol Creek; but if not, continue uphill on the lane to Trevemper. Take the footpath on the right at the top to reach Penpol Creek as below.
- If you are not sure it is safe to cross, carry on along Gannel Road and then Trevemper Road, bearing right at the roundabout and then turning right to walk into Trevemper. At the T-junction in the hamlet turn right and then fork left to pick up the footpath waymarked through the fields to Treringey and then Little Trevithivick, coming out at Penpol Creek.
There was once a flourishing shipbuilding industry at Tregunnel, and in the early nineteenth century ships of up to 250 tons were built here.
- At Penpol Creek cross the head of the creek and take the lane towards Crantock. Walk up Penpol Hill, taking the footpath on your right before the cottages. Follow the path above the estuary and back to the beach at Crantock, turning left through the dunes to return to the car park.
'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.