Walk - Padstow and Stepper Point Walk
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2019. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
There are two ways to get to the start of this walk. On the Padstow side, you can park in the Harbour car park and walk up to the start of the walk keeping the sea to your right. Alternatively, you can drive to Rock and use the Rock Quarry car park. From here you can walk to the Padstow Rock Ferry terminal, which is situated across the road from the main entrance to the car park.
Please note that the ferry runs to Padstow harbour at high tide but stops further up the path towards Stepper Point at low tide, where you can join the walk at (2).
- From the harbour take the Coast Path northwards, up the ramp, and follow the path through the park to the memorial, ignoring the steps up to the left.
- At the memorial, continue along the Coast Path and follow it along as it runs above the beach to Gun Point. If you want to go down onto the sand there are numerous small paths leading to the beaches along the way to Harbour Cove, but for this walk, stay with the main path around the dunes.
St George's Well, supposedly off the path above the beach, is one of many holy wells in Cornwall. In early times, sources of water were highly prized, especially by travellers, and the Celts and Roman ascribed healing properties to their springs and wells, and saints arriving by sea a few centuries later would have had cause to bless these as welcome drinking fountains.
There is said to be another well, dedicated to St John, near the daymark tower later in the walk. This one is believed to have been marked by a beacon chapel, although nothing now remains of either.
Rather more recent (from the start of the nineteenth century, in fact), are the ruins of a Napoleonic gun emplacement and fortifications at Gun Point, a little further on from St George's Well.
Looking out across the estuary, at low tide the sand on this side of the water extends almost to Doom Bar. According to a traditional ballad, the Mermaid of Padstow fell in love with local lad, Tom Yeo, who mistook her for a seal (or so he said), and shot her. In the awful rage of a woman scorned, she called up a mighty storm, wrecking all the ships in the harbour and throwing a huge sandbar across the river to imperil all future sailors venturing in. Look out for her on the rocks at Hawker's Cove...
- From Gun Point the path turns slightly inland around the edge of Harbour Cove until it reaches a small inlet, where a track joins it from your left.
(For the short version of the walk, turn left onto this track and follow it back to Padstow, dropping onto the road southwards at Tregirls Farm and ignoring the tracks leading away on both sides shortly afterwards. When you come to the houses, follow Tregirls Lane around to the left as it becomes Church Street and then turn right down Duke Street to reach the centre of Padstow again).
- For the longer walk, turn right to follow the track towards the beach for a short distance, until you come to a small gap in the bushes ahead of you, with the Coast Path acorn waymarker in among the vegetation. Follow the narrow footpath through the bushes, emerging a short while later onto another path which again hugs the shoreline above the sandy beach. Follow the path northwards to Hawker's Cove.
At the back of the 200-year-old ‘Coastguard Houses’ at Hawkers Cove is the Rest a While tea garden.
The first Padstow lifeboat, built by the Padstow Harbour Association, was stationed here, before the Padstow branch of the RNLI was formed in 1855. In 1931 a new boathouse was built, and a roller slipway, but by 1967 silting up became a problem and the lifeboat was moved to Trevose Head, a few miles to the west.
- Ignore the road to your left and follow the Coast Path waymarkers between the houses until you are on the footpath on the far side of the settlement. Carry on along this towards the point.
- At the quarry, a path joins from your left. Ignore this and carry on along the Coast Path as it heads uphill to the point. Carry on along the path around the point to the daymark tower.
The other path to the left at the quarry, heading uphill, leads to the lookout station and a World War II pillbox beside it. If you walk this way, the path continues over the headland and will return you to the main path at the daymark tower.
The daymark tower was built, probably in the early nineteenth century, as a maritime navigational aid, designed to guide sailors into the River Camel.
From flint tools found on the headland it appears that people lived in this part of Stepper Point as far back as 6000 years ago, and possibly even earlier.
The dramatic headland at Stepper Point marks the entrance to the Camel Estuary and features prominently in the opening episodes of Poldark.
- Carry on along the Coast Path as it heads south above the sea, dropping downhill, until you come to the place where it turns sharply left around a rocky cove.
As you walk along here you will hear the hollow boom that tells of caves in the rock below your feet. These are carved out by the sea, which exploits weaknesses in the rock and then enlarges them with the power of its waves as they wash around the cave. Sometimes these collapse, leaving a sinkhole. Pepper Hole, Butter Hole and Fox Hole along this part of the coast were formed in this way; and at Roundhole Point, to the south of this walk, there is a tremendous example of this. Note the other dramatic rock formations caused by wave erosion here too.
- Leave the Coast path here, forking left to the track ahead and turning right on this track, following it around to the left shortly afterwards to join the road at Lellizzick.
- Turn right on the road and then pick up the track on your left a moment later, which will lead you quickly back to (4), at Harbour Cove.
From here, there is a choice of routes back to Padstow: either along the shoreline, the way you came; or take the track to the right on the far side of the inlet and follow it back to Church Street, past Tregirls Farm, as detailed in the shorter route after (3) (above).
There are numerous restaurants, pubs, tea shops and takeaways in Padstow.