Walk - Padstow to Harlyn Bay
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.
Adjacent to the car park at the start of the walk is the visitor centre (wheelchair accessible) of the National Lobster Hatchery. Local fishermen bring “pregnant” female lobsters in to the hatchery, to give them a chance to release their delicate offspring in captivity, where there are no predators. The young lobsters are then raised to a size where they can be released back into the sea and look after themselves.
From here walk around to the harbour, home to fishing boats bringing in their catches to be served in the many local restaurants, including of course, Rick Stein’s. From here you can also catch the ferry across to Rock, or take pleasure boats on a trip along the coast. However, on this walk we are going to continue around the harbour.
- From the north side of the harbour at The Meadow, follow the Coast Path up the hill to St Saviour’s Point.
From St Saviour’s Point, you get great views up the estuary towards Bodmin, and out to sea, where the headland on the left of the estuary is Stepper Point, with its tower serving as a navigation beacon for seafarers. On the opposite shore are the dunes below Brea Hill, and in the distance Pentire Point, which is a long extinct volcano. The estuary itself with its sheltered waters is now a playground for sailing craft.
- Continue along the South West Coast Path following a track thought to have been built to serve the fortifications to be found at Gun Point.
At the bottom of the first hill, the path passes close to a spring known as St George's Well, reputed by some to have magical properties. However the spring itself is now hidden in vegetation, and drinking the stream water is not recommended. From here a number of paths lead onto the beach, and at low tide it is possible to walk along the sands to Harbour Cove or back to the ferry steps near St Saviour’s Point. This section of the beach has a seasonal dog ban between May 1st and September 30th.
A few hundred metres further on and you reach Gun Point, where there are remains of the fortifications that protected Padstow from invaders. Just off the path is a cast-iron water tank dated 1888, and a granite marker dated 1868, but it was already called Gun Point on maps produced in 1801, and the fortifications may date back to the time of the Spanish Armada.
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.
Harbour Cove used to offer safe mooring until about the 1920’s when the sand banks moved and it became too shallow. In 1962 increased silting led to the lifeboat station at Hawker’s Cove being closed, and a new station was built just along the coast at Trevose Head. Having a lifeboat close to the estuary is vital, as across the mouth of the estuary is the infamous ‘Doom Bar’ a treacherous sandbank that has been the cause of several hundred shipwecks. Legend has it that the Doom Bar is the result of a mermaid's curse. There was once a mermaid who watched over the vessels that went in and out of Padstow. One day, for reasons unknown, she was shot by a sailor on a visiting boat. Before she disappeared for good under the waves, she raised her hand and issued a curse that the harbour would become desolate from that time on. Shortly after a great storm came, wrecking many of the ships in harbour and throwing up the sandbank.
- 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.
Dogs are allowed on the beaches at Harbour Cove and Hawker's Cove all year round, and at low tide there are acres of sand for them to play on.
- Ignore the road to your left and 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.
- 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.
Stepper Point is a stunning headland, with much of the cliff land farmed as part of the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme - an environmental scheme where no sprays or fertilizer are used and field margins are left uncultivated. This creates a better habitat for rare species of plant and encourages endangered wildlife such as the corn bunting, barn owl, grey partridge and hare. Sheep graze these fields, and ground-nesting birds nest in the areas of rough grassland, so please keep your dog on a lead, particularly in the spring and early summer. The dramatic headland at Stepper Point marks the entrance to the Camel Estuary and features prominently in the opening episodes of Poldark.
- Carry on along the Coast Path as it heads south above the sea.
From Stepper Point, the high cliffs are battered by the full force of the Atlantic, and home to nesting sea birds, with peregrine falcons often being seen. On a windy day the next mile or so is a dramatic scene as the coast path hugs the high cliffs. Waves crash 10 feet below in Butter Hole whilst out at sea waves crash high over Gulland Rock, a large Island which the local seals use as a nursery.
- The path cuts inland at Gunver Head, descending steeply to a stream crossing and zigzagging up past waterfalls.
On a blustery, sunny day you may see rainbows in the waterfall’s spray. The walking is now gentle through pasture down to Trevone Bay. Look out for layers of shiny marble and limestone in the cliffs south of Gunver Head. Nearing Trevone, look out on the inland side of the path for ‘Round Hole’ a huge collapsed sea-cave, which is aptly named.
- As you approach Trevone Beach, walk down a few steps onto the road, cut across the head of the beach and follow the path onto Trevone Road. The coast path continues alongside the road before heading towards Harlyn Bay.
From Trevone it is a gentle walk along low cliffs to Harlyn Bay which is a very popular family and surfing beach and is suitable for novice surfers. In 1865 a labourer found two wafer-thin crescents of gold known as lunulae at Harlyn Bay. They are said to date from the early Bronze Age, and were probably deposited as grave goods, as there are several prehistoric burial mounds nearby.
From Harlyn Bay (Mother Ivey’s Corner) the Western Greyhound Bus 556 takes 10 minutes to get to School Hill in Padstow.
Around Padstow Harbour are numerous places to eat and drink, and there are pubs and shops in Trevone and Harlyn Bay. Near to the start of the walk in Padstow, the Old Custom House Inn, the Shipwrights, the London Inn and the Old Ship Hotel are recommended by users of www.doggiepubs.org.uk as serving good food and being dog-friendly.