Padstow to St Ives
In the Steps of Saints and Sinners
Padstow to St Ives: 67 miles in 6 days at an average speed
This is an idyllic stretch of the South West Coast Path, a place of fishing-boat harbours, rolling Atlantic breakers and long sandy bucket-and-spade beaches. The pure bright light draws artists from all over the world, and warm air from the Gulf Stream encourages many exotic species: tropical plants flourish in the popular resorts, and dolphins and porpoises are sometimes seen offshore. The coastline is dotted with the chapels and wells of sixth century Celtic saints, but there are darker tales too of giants and sinners among the mines and dunes.
From the lively maritime town of Padstow the sandy estuary soon gives way to dramatic rock formations. The waves boom in deep sea caverns, and here and there these have fallen in to create spectacular craters and blowholes. The surfers' beach at Constantine Bay leads on into an astonishingly sea-carved coastline, chopped up by the power of the waves into islands and stacks and arches, where seabirds nest on ledges high on the cliffs and the rocky outcrops are thatched with grass and seapinks.
The streets crunch underfoot with sand and wetsuits are hung out to dry on balconies in the vibrant holiday town of Newquay; but the moment you cross the Gannel estuary you are walking around the edges of a peaceful pastoral landscape. There are more sandy beaches with cliffs sculpted by the sea; and now you are into an area rich with legends of Celtic saints and ancient sinners and lost cities buried beneath dunes which today are renowned for their wildlife.
On the far side of Perranporth the Coast Path travels through the first engine houses and chimneys of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The legends in St Agnes are of Giant Bolster, whose blood is said to have stained the cliffs red, and the gorse and heather above them are vivid too. This was once a thriving industrial area and you pass many fascinating remnants of it before you round Godrevy Head (look out for seals) and head past more beaches and dunes and into the colourful cosmopolitan bustle of St Ives.
Day 1: Padstow to Porthcothan – 13.6 miles (21.9 km)
Day 2: Porthcothan to Newquay – 10.3 miles (16.6 km)
Day 3: Newquay to Perranporth – 12.6 miles (20.3 km)
Day 4: Perranporth to Portreath – 12.4 miles (20 km)
Day 5: Portreath to Hayle – 11.8 miles (19 km)
Day 6: Hayle to St Ives – 6.1 miles (9.8 km)