Walk - Dynamite Towans & Copperhouse Pool

6.1 miles (9.8 km)

Upton Towans car park - TR27 5BS Upton Towans car park

Moderate - Sandy paths through dunes, surfaced walkways, quiet country roads.

A fairly long walk on mostly level ground, travelling through the dunes to the South West Coast Path and passing through two Sites of Special Scientific Interest. It heads inland along the shores of the Hayle Estuary, where as many as 18,000 birds can be seen in winter, and returns via Phillack Church. As well as being a major centre of trade and engineering during the heyday of Cornish mining, Hayle was also one of the earliest centres of Christianity.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

Penhayl Cottage

Very quiet 5 star house, full central heating. 2 Beds/2 Bathrooms, lounge overlooking Hayle Estuary RSPB reserve & SSSI. 10 minute walk to bus & Inn.

Beachpads

Three stunning holiday homes (2 x 4-Bed & 1 x 2 Bed) located on the Coast Path, at Lelant in St Ives Bay with absolute sea and beach front position, unrivalled vista.

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. Start from first the car park on the right-hand side of St Ives Lane (the left fork after Loggans). Take the footpath opposite the entrance to the car park, and follow it through the dunes to where it joins the South West Coast Path, still some distance from the beach. 
  2. On the Coast Path turn left and follow it through the dunes towards Hayle.

This is the second largest dune system in Cornwall, and it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its geology and wildlife (see the Upton Towans & Gwithian Walk). The dunes are exposed to fierce Atlantic storms, which blow the sand inland, continually reshaping the dunes and providing a habitat rich in shell sand which gives rise to an abundance of plants, including some rare ones. A fifth of all Cornish plant species can be seen here. This is turn leads to a rich variety of insects, including moths and butterflies, themselves food for a wide range of bird species. Listen out for skylarks overhead.

Upton Towans (from the Cornish word 'towans' meaning 'dunes') are known locally as 'Dynamite Towans'. This was formerly the site of the National Explosives Company, established in 1888 to produce dynamite for use in the mines and quarries. It covered 300 acres of the Towans, and remnants of the buildings can be seen throughout the dunes. By 1890 the company 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. At Black Cliff carry on along the Coast Path (unless you want a detour to the facilities). The path follows the beach around to the left, heading inland around the estuary through the dunes at Harvey's Towans.

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. Coming out onto the road, carry on ahead along North Quay to the swimming pool.

Copperhouse Pool is part of the Hayle Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated a SSSI for its wildlife. In rough weather the sheltered waters are a haven for wading birds, such as curlwes and grey plovers, and flocks of ducks can be seen, including wigeons and teals. Britain's most southerly estuary rarely freezes, and birds can feed here all year round, making it an important place for migrating and wintering birds. In very cold winters, as many as 18,000 birds can be seen here.

  1. Turn left at the swimming pool to pick up the King George V Memorial Walk alongside the water to Black Road.
  2. Leave the Memorial Walk here to turn left towards Phillack. Carry on past the lanes to right and left, climbing Phillack Hill to the T-junction in front of the 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.

Across the river, in the RSPB bird reserve, there is a stone erected by St Germoe Church in 1999 to celebrate 1500 years of Christianity, following the sixth-century arrival in Hayle of a number of Celtic saints (see the Porthkidney Sands Walk).

  1. Going through the churchyard, take the path at the far end heading out across the dunes. Follow the path to the Coast Path and retrace your steps to the car park at the start of the walk.
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