Walk - St Ives Bay Hotel - Lelant to St Ives Walk
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 St Ives Bay Hotel cross The Terrace and take the public footpath opposite down to St Ives Railway Station and take the train to Lelant Station.
- Coming out of Lelant Station, turn right and walk past the old station house, with its cream-and-brown Great Western paintwork, carrying on uphill and bearing right at the top to St Uny's Church.
The earliest written reference to St Uny's church was in 1170, when it was mentioned by Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. Built of granite, it replaced an earlier wooden structure and was extended during the fourteenth century, when the present nave and south aisle were added. There is a fine east window depicting Cornish sea birds as well as Cornish saints.
Look out for several medieval crosses in the churchyard. There are many of these throughout Cornwall, and they were widely used in the Middle Ages to mark the way to holy places, although sometimes they were simple waymarkers at the junctions of ancient paths or even simply boundary markers.
- Going through the churchyard, carry on along the path downhill through the golf course. Stay on the marked path and watch out for golf balls.
The area has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest to celebrate the diversity of its species. The Hayle Estuary is Britain's most south-westerly estuary adjacent to the important bird migration routes traversing the peninsula, and its mild climate provides feeding grounds for flocks of wildfowl and wading birds when other estuaries are frozen.
- Pass under the railway, and carry on along the Coast Path heading left as it winds through the dunes between Porth Kidney Sands and the railway.
The long stretch of golden sand at Porth Kidney is backed by a large area of dunes, dune grassland and dune scrub, exhibiting a wide range of unusual wildflowers, thanks to its sand being rich in lime from crushed seashells, with traveller's joy and wild privet ranging through the widespread marram grass. Other particularly important plants include mountain St John's wort and the Hebridean orchid with its lavishly speckled pink flowers.
The path on the inland side of the railway line is St Michael's Way, a 12½-mile coast-to-coast walking route, which starts in Lelant. This was a prehistoric route allowing sea travellers to avoid the treacherous currents around Land's End by crossing the peninsula overland instead. Later it was used by pilgrims on the network of routes leading across Europe to one of the world's most important Christian places of pilgrimage, the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain.
- Follow the Coast Path out around the headland at Carrack Gladden and take the steps uphill above Carbis Bay beach to come out on Beach Road.
The acidic soil on the metamorphosed slate around the headland at Carrack Gladden supports a range of vegetation, including grassland and scrub and the nationally scarce maritime heathland, a habitat of gorse and bracken surrounded by ling and bell heather, giving a brilliant vista of purples and yellows during the summer and autumn. A number of rare plants grow here.
- Turn right to walk down Beach Road towards the beach, carrying on behind the car park to pick up the South West Coast Path as it passes in front of the Carbis Bay Hotel towards St Ives.
Carbis Bay Hotel was built in 1894 by the Cornish architect, Silvanus Trevail, in response to the boom in seaside holidays following the arrival of the railway. Lelant-born author Rosamunde Pilcher set many of her novels here, with the hotel itself featuring in 'The Shell seekers' and 'Winter Solstice' as 'The Sands Hotel'. Several of her books have been filmed, using various locations around Cornwall, and a mini series was made of the novel 'Coming Home', partly filmed in Lelant.
On Carbis Bay beach, visible at low tide, are the wrecks of three ships. All three went down in the same storm on a night in November 1893 which came to be known as 'the Cintra Gale' after one of the vessels.
- Carry on along the Coast Path above the railway line, ignoring the footpath signed to St Michael's Way and Knill's Monument on the left and the next path on the left a little way beyond it. Keep on past the Baulking House and the entrance to Treloyhan Manor Hotel, and the footpath on the left beyond.
The Baulking House is thought to date from early in the nineteenth century. A 'huer' was a lookout, stationed at a key location above the water to keep a watch for shoals of pilchards arriving in the bay. When he spotted a shoal he would 'raise a hue and cry' and use hand signals to direct the fishing boats to the spot. At one time there were 600 fishing boats operating in St Ives Bay. They would work in 'seines' of three boats, trawling their seine nets in areas marked out by tall poles around the bay, usually on a rota system.
- At Porthminster Point the path becomes a minor road. Cross the railway bridge on the right to head for Porthminster Beach via the point or carry straight on to cross on the next railway bridge to make your way directly to St Ives Station.
Porthminster ('chapel cove') is named after a medieval chapel which stood here until the early fifteenth century, and there is a record of a French raid on the hamlet and its chapel during the reign of Henry VI. Around 1875, the construction work on the railway line unearthed a number of shallow graves in the sand at Porthminster, followed by the discovery of several stone-built cists, buried more deeply. Nearby was a primitive building, thought to be an oratory or chapel. There are a number of such sites around the Cornish coastline, dating from the fifth and sixth centuries, when a flood of Celtic missionaries or saints arrived here from Ireland, Wales and Brittany to help Cornish Christians counter the threat of Anglo-Saxon paganism after the Romans left the land.
There are also the remains of an ancient field system at Porthminster Point which may date from medieval times but are possibly much older. The whole of West Penwith has been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area for its prehistoric field systems, and flint tools have been found on the Point which date back to the Neolithic (or New Stone Age) period.