Walk - Portloe & Tregenna

2.6 miles (4.2 km)

Portloe car park - TR2 5RD Portloe car park

Easy - Coastal path, inland footpaths that may be muddy, a certain amount of ascent and descent, some of it steep, with some stiles as well.


A short walk through an atmospheric wilderness above a ragged rocky coastline, starting in Portloe, where the Dawn French TV series 'Wild West' was filmed. Described by Sir John Betjeman as 'one of the least spoiled and most impressive of Cornish fishing villages', Portloe's whitewashed and slate-hung cottages huddle on the steep valley-sides above the tiny shingle beach, where fishing boats are drawn up above the turquoise water that washes around the harbour.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. Coming out of the Portloe car park, turn right to walk downhill towards the harbour, taking the lane to your left to the bottom of the valley, where the South West Coast Path climbs some steps, signed to West Portholland.

Originally named ‘Porth Logh’, which in Cornish means 'cove pool', Portloe's sheltered location once made it a successful fishing port. It was also a favoured place for local smugglers to land their own haul - usually French brandy. In 1824 the watchhouse was built on the eastern cliffs, together with a boathouse and a slipway below, in order to control the activities of the 'free traders'. The Lugger Hotel, built as an inn in the seventeenth century, was notorious as a smugglers' haunt. It closed down at the end of the nineteenth century, when the landlord was hanged for his role in the illicit trade. It was subsequently used as a boat builder's yard, but today it has been restored to its place as Portloe's hotel.

There was also once a lifeboat station at Portloe, but the steep hill down to the slipway from the original station made launching the boat a nightmare. During one practice exercise she even ran out of control and crashed through a shop. After this a new station was built on the shoreline, but in the seventeen years of her life the lifeboat was never once used.

The Coast Path passes the old coastguard lookout to travel high above the harbour. From here it hugs the coastline as it winds its way around a series of small rocky points and headlands for about a mile and a half. Approaching Caragloose Point it crosses a small stream before turning sharply right to round the point. At Tregenna it passes through National Trust land. There are a number of stiles as it descends to the last valley and crosses a footbridge, turning inland to climb steeply above the cove to a T-junction with a lane.

Caragloose in Cornish is 'carrag luz', meaning 'grey rocks'. The rocky outcrop is a granite dyke. This igneous rock was intruded into the Earth's crust from magma deep within its mantle below, sometime between 417 and 354 million years ago, in the Devonian period. It stands out from the rocks around it. These rocks were formed slightly later when shallow-water sediments were laid down at the bottom of deep seas. These were subsequently crushed into layers of slaty mudstone with fragments of other rocks embedded in it in places to form conglomerates (with rounded fragments) and breccias (with angular fragments). Around Portloe Cove itself there is also volcanic material, which like the granite, was forced through the Earth's crust by tremendous heat and pressure building up beneath it.

Over time, the softer slate around the coastline has been eroded by the pounding of the sea. Cracks and weaknesses in the rock have been carved into caves and coves, with harder rock remaining as points and headlands, like the fishtail headland of Hartriza Point.

Hartriza Point is a good place for watching seabirds, including fulmars, gannets and divers. The hunched black shapes of cormorants and shags can often be seen on the rocks as they watch for fish. Curlews and oystercatchers patrol the tideline. In summer a rare little egret is occasionally spotted, and kittiwakes join the gulls above the cliffs. Look out for a hen harrier hunting overhead or the high-speed dive of a peregrine.

  1. At the T-junction leave the Coast Path to head left on the lane, past a number of buildings to the road.
  2. On the road turn left, turning left about 300 yards further on to follow the drive to Tregenna Farm, carrying on along the drive when another leaves on the left.

The tranquil hamlet of Tregenna consists of a handful of traditional slate-roofed houses, sitting in a sheltered hollow between the road and the sea.

  1. Ignoring this drive as it returns to the drive, and also ignoring the track beyond it on the left and the one on the right heading to the buildings, carry on ahead to come out in a field. Going through into the field to your right, follow the footpath around the edge of it to the far right-hand corner, carrying straight on ahead along the farm track to Cruggan. Follow the track between the farm buildings and on to Trenisson, immediately ahead. From here take the footpath through the field, crossing to the far left-hand corner beyond to the come out on the road beside the house.
  2. On the road bear left to walk downhill into Portloe and back to the car park at the start of the walk.

Nearby refreshments

The Ship Inn in Portloe; shop and cream teas in Portloe Post Office

Public transport

The Western Greyhound 551 bus travels between Truro and Veryan, stopping at Portloe. For timetable information, zoom in on the interactive map and click on the bus stops, visit Traveline or phone 0871 200 22 33.

Parking

Portloe car park at the start of the walk

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