Walk - Swanpool to Pendennis Castle

3.9 miles (6.3 km)

Swanpool Beach Car Park - TR11 4EJ Swanpool Beach Car Park

Easy -

A visit to Pendennis Point, where there have been fortifications defending Falmouth's waterways for over two millennia. Also taking in the sandy beach at Gyllyngvase and the exotic plants along the seafront, the walk is mostly flat and on easy paths and pavements.


There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Falmouth Lodge

Falmouth Lodge is a simple home with two rooms available for short stays. You are welcome to prepare your own breakfast in our kitchen

Braganza B&B

Stunning views of the harbour and bay from our Regency home. The perfect base to explore locally. Ample parking, free wifi, style and elegance.

Budock Vean Hotel

On a quiet bend of the Helford River, you will find the award winning 4 star Budock Vean Hotel. 49 hotel rooms, contemporary holiday homes and self catering cottages.

Trevarn B&B

Comfortable B&B. Convenient to Coast Path and excellent village amenities. A warm welcome awaits.

Tresooth Cottages

16 Cornish stone cottages with pool, sauna & hot tubs

On the Helford River B&B

Comfortable, stylish accommodation close to the Path with beautiful views & garden, breakfast and nearby local pub.. Email [email protected]

Come-to-Good Farm

Luxury shepherd's hut, campsite and ensuite barn available to rent on our idyllic sheep farm in between Truro and Falmouth. Pub within walking distance.

You'll be spoilt for choice for where to eat and drink along the Path. With lots of local seasonal food on offer, fresh from the farm, field and waters. Try our local ales, ciders, wines and spirits, increasing in variety by the year, as you sit in a cosy pub, fine dining restaurant or chilled café on the beach. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Flapjackery Falmouth

Stop off and treat yourself or stock up for your trip along the Path with these delicious, award winning, gluten free flapjacks in a variety of flavours.

The Boathouse

Licenced cafe in the centre of Portscatho, serving locally sourced home cooked food.

What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Nestled by Falmouth’s deep-water harbour discover National Maritime Museum Cornwall. Across 15 galleries, explore the overwhelming influence of the sea on our history and culture.

Fal River Visitor Information Centre

Find all the information you need to enjoy the beautiful Fal river section of the SW Coast Path and buy boat tickets tickets t

Glendurgan Garden, National Trust

Stroll down through the peaceful, exotic and playful valley to a sheltered beach at the bottom. This distinctive garden was created by Alfred and Sarah Fox in the 1820s.

Koru Kayaking - Helford River and creeks

2 hour Stunning Guided Kayak and Paddleboard Adventures along the Helford River and Frenchman's Creek from the Budock Vean Hotel foreshore. All equipment provided.

Helford River Boats

Cross Helford Passage on this 1,000 year old ferry trip. Boat/Kayak hire also available..

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park at Swanpool Beach pick up the South West Coast Path towards Falmouth, behind the cafe, and follow it as it travels around Swanpool Point and drops down to Gyllyngvase Beach.

Swanpool is a Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest, following the discovery in the 1990s that it is home to Britain's only Trembling Sea Mat, a microscopic animal which lives in colonies underwater. Its unique environment was created in 1825 when a culvert was built to allow water to flow from the freshwater lake into the sea. This led to a unique mix of freshwater and saltwater, providing a wonderful habitat for many species (see the Swanpool Nature Reserve Walk).

Although there are now swans to be seen here, it is thought that the name actually derives from 'swamp-pool', after the rare wooded wetlands behind the lake. In the eighteenth century there was a lead-silver mine here, and an arsenic refinery.

Gyllyngvase Beach is Falmouth's largest beach, a fine crescent of sand at low tide fringed by fingers of rock which provide great opportunities for rock-pooling. Along the seawall exotic plants with large lush leaves and blossom are a riot of colour in the summer and the tall palms of the dracaena in the gardens give it a tropical air. Looking across the bay, you can see Pendennis Castle looking out over the tops of the woodland on the point.

  1. Follow the Coast Path along Cliff Road and then Castle Drive, which travels around the headland towards Pendennis Point.
  2. To visit Pendennis Castle, take the left-hand fork on the headland.

The name Pendennis comes from the Cornish words 'pen', meaning 'head', 'end' or 'promontory', and 'dinas' (or 'dynas'), meaning 'fortress'. This suggests that there was probably a promontory fort here in the Iron Age, when many such defensive settlements were built on headlands around the coasts of Cornwall and North Devon. There has been speculation that the Romans, and later the Vikings, also used the site for defensive purposes, and there are the remains of artillery stations all around the point from later in its history (see the Falmouth Docks Walk).

It is thought that the most likely place for the promontory fort would have been on the south-eastern tip of the headland, where the remains of the Tudor blockhouse of Little Dennis stand today. The blockhouse was built as a part of Pendennis Castle, constructed between 1540 and 1545, along with its partner castle across the water at St Mawes, when Henry VIII established a chain of artillery fortresses to defend the coastline from French and Spanish fleets.

In 1598, during the reign of Elizabeth I, a new rampart was built around the castle, and it was strengthened again the following century, prior to the English Civil War. In 1646 the future Charles II hid out here before sailing onwards to the Scilly Islands, and after this the castle was subjected to a further five months of siege before it became the penultimate Royalist garrison on the British mainland to surrender.

Pendennis Point became a focus of resistance to the threat of foreign invasion once again during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and it saw significant action during the Second World War. Today the guardroom has been restored to the way it was during the First World War.

The castle also houses the collected cartoons of George Butterworth, published daily throughout the Second World War and donated by Butterworth's widow, a near neighbour. It is said that Butterworth's cartoons of Hitler and Mussolini so infuriated the Nazi leader that he added the cartoonist's name to his hit-list.

The footpath into woodland on your left here is just a pleasant (but fairly steep) detour which drops you back on the pavement a little further on along the headland.

The Coastguard Station, just around the point, opened in 1981 and is the most southerly coastguard station in the UK. Its area extends from the Devon border on Cornwall's north coast to Dodman Point in the south, and includes the Lizard, Lands End and the Scilly Isles. With the area of sea covered reaching to 30 degrees west and 45 degrees north, this gives the station the biggest Search and Rescue region in western Europe, at around 660,000 square miles.

There is also an old lime kiln on the point, once used to make lime by burning limestone and coal, which would have been brought here by ship.

  1. Once you have explored the features around Pendennis Point (and the castle if you make the detour to visit it), return to the Coast Path, which now follows a bfootpath through woodland beside the road before coming out on the road above Falmouth Docks.
  2. Carry on along the road past the docks until you come to the T-junction.
  3. Turn right here, continuing across the roundabout and under the railway bridge. (There is no access to the seafront here, as the marina area is privately owned). Continue ahead on Bar Road as it curves inland and then sweeps to the right to continue in the original direction.
  4. Reaching the car park on your right, turn left onto Avenue Road, passing under the railway bridge to continue ahead to the main A39 road. Crossing over, carry on in the same direction, along Gyllyngvase Road, to return to Cliff Road and retrace your steps along the Coast Path back to the car park at Swanpool.

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