Walk - Hayle & the Towans Trail

6.5 miles (10.5 km)

Hayle Swimming Pool - TR27 5AA Hayle Swimming Pool

Moderate - Although full-distance this is a long walk, it is fairly level and there are numerous shortcuts from the dunes down onto the beach for a shorter stroll.

Starting in Hayle, a centre of engineering excellence during the Industrial Revolution, this walk follows the Coast Path all the way through the dunes to Gwithian, returning along the beach. The shifting sands of Cornwall's second largest dune system make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest for both the geology and its wildlife, and the route passes the site of one of Britain's largest explosives factories during the First World War.

If you are starting the walk by the children's playground on Lethlean Lane, take the path opposite the playground to where it comes out on Black Road. Turn right here and follow the route directions from 2, returning to this point by following the Memorial Walk from the swimming pool.

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.

Sandbanks Holidays

Nestled in the sand dunes of St Ives Bay, surrounded by National Trust conservation areas, with direct access to the coastal road and the A30, sandbank is an ideal location, whatever your personal holiday passion. 

Sandbank House B&B

Nestled in the sand dunes, surrounded by conservation areas, with direct access to the coast road and A30, we are in an ideal location whatever your personal holiday passion.

Creekside B&B

Creekside B&B in Hayle welcomes you warmly with ensuite rooms, free wifi & a tasty breakfast. Transport links, cafes, restaurants & shops are nearby.

Nanterrow Farm

Found in the heart of a 100 acre farm, this charming late Georgian farmhouse sits within a traditional country garden in a quiet, traffic free valley.

The Painters Cottage

Small friendly guest house set in historic former artist's residence with arts and crafts period features. Ideal for exploring West Cornwall and the South West Coast Path. One night stays, 4 full ensuite rooms. Evening meal available

Carlill Guesthouse

Stylish modern ensuite rooms. Few minutes to coast/amenities. Long parking available

The Western Hotel

In the heart of St Ives with good breakfasts, comfy rooms and live music at night. Just steps away from the harbour, local art galleries and Coast Path. Baggage transfers.

Cohort Hostel

Newly renovated hostel: Centre of St Ives & minutes from the coastal path. Dorms & private rooms, free WiFi, kitchen, TV room, lounge & bar.

Ayr Holiday Park

We offer luxury holiday caravans, s/c apartments, touring & camping pitches with amazing views and facilities. Less than half a mile from beaches, town centre & harbour. Town centre 10 minute walk from the park or a short bus/taxi ride.

Polmanter Touring Park

1.5 miles from St Ives, we offer the perfect base to explore West Cornwall offering award-winning camping facilities and 2 luxury apartments.

Tamarisk Guest House

Tamarisk is only 10 minutes' walk from Porthmeor Beach and Town Centre. Away from traffic and situated on a delightful lane leading onto the cliffs carrying the south West Coast path.

Trevalgan Touring Park

Located just 2 miles from St Ives town centre, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with a wondrful peaceful atmosphere. Ideally situated to explore the delights of the West Cornwall peninsula.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the car park by Hayle Swimming Pool pick up the King George V Memorial Walk and follow it back towards Hayle, alongside the river.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Hayle was a major industrial centre and an important shipping port. Harvey and Company's engineering works produced the largest steam pumping engines ever made, and Harvey’s engines were used in mines throughout the world.

Mr Harvey had as both sons-in-law and employees two outstanding Cornish inventors, Richard Trevithick and William West. Richard Trevithick designed the Cornish Boiler and what became known as the Cornish Engine, a high-pressure steam engine that greatly improved productivity in Cornish mines (see the Levant, Botallack and the Crowns Walk). Trevithick was a prolific inventor, and he also designed a screw propeller for ships and the first working steam road vehicle, the ‘Puffing Devil’, some 28 years before the creation of Stephenson’s famous 'Rocket'.

  1. At the end of the Memorial Walk turn left on Black Road and walk uphill to Phillack Church.

The tower of Phillack Church dates from the thirteenth century, but most of the building is a Victorian reconstruction. However, there is a chi-rho Christian symbol in the gable over the south porch from a much earlier period. This is one of only three chi-rho crosses ever found in Cornwall (see the Port Quin & Pine Haven Walk). The motif was extensively used in Gaulish and Mediterranean lands in the fourth and fifth centuries, and it is thought to designate a holy site which dates from that time. Historians believe that there was a wooden oratory here then, which was replaced with a stone chapel sometime early in the eighth century.

  1. Going through the churchyard, take the path on the far side, heading towards the sea.
  2. When you reach the South West Coast Path, turn right to follow it all the way through the dunes to the car park at Gwithian Towans.

To the right at about a mile into the walk are the Upton Towans (from the Cornish word 'towans' meaning 'dunes'). Known locally as 'Dynamite Towans', this was formerly the site of the National Explosives Company. The factory was established in 1888 to produce dynamite for use in the mines and quarries, and it covered 300 acres of the Towans. By 1890 it was producing three tons of explosives every day, and during the First World War it manufactured cordite, gelatine, nitro-glycerine and gelignite for the British army and navy. It had a workforce of around 1500, and by the end of hostilities it had turned out up to 2000 tons of explosives. Although the factory closed in 1919, the site was still used to store explosives until the 1960s.

  1. If the tide is high, make your way back across the dunes to Hayle, but otherwise go down onto the beach and turn left, to head back along the famous golden sands.

The Hayle Towans is Cornwall's second largest dune system, and it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The north-west-facing dunes are exposed to the full force of Atlantic gales, which are continually driving the sand inland. This exposes the rocks to the north, which the waves have eroded into cliffs, caves, stacks and arches, and the remains of former dunes are preserved on the top of the sea stacks. This makes it an important area for geologists to study the relationship between the dunes and the older surfaces beneath them.

The sand was formed from crushed seashells, which are rich in calcium, and the fertile soil it creates supports a wide range of plants and animals. The past industrial and agricultural use of the land has provided further habitats, and a fifth of all Cornwall's plants can be seen here. This is turn attracts many butterflies and moths, including some rare species.

  1. Turn left beyond the lifeguard hut, just before Rocky Cliff, rejoining the Coast Path as it heads back towards Hayle. Carry on above the beach, right to the mouth of the estuary.
  2. When the path heads inland and turns onto North Quay, continue alongside the estuary and above the harbour to return to the car park.

Public transport

Regular buses travel from Penzance to Truro, stopping in Hayle. For details click on the interactive map, phone 0871 200 22 33 or visit Traveline.

Parking

At Black Cliff

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