Mevagissey to Porthpean Back to South Cornwall Coast Path index Fowey to Polperro

The Walk

There is a general consensus that the first half of today's section, between Duporth and Par, is the least interesting part of the coast path. Par and its huge china clay works is the main reason, though the developments on Carlyon Bay beach are also a factor, as are the long stretches where the coast path is hemmed in by dense vegetation and you are denied a view of the sea. Once you're beyond Par, however, you have excellent walking ahead. The little cove of Polkerris is a delight and the three miles from Gribbin Head to Fowey show you the coast path at its best. For those who wish to break up the walk into smaller chunks, Par has rail and bus services, and the St Austell - Par - Mevagissey bus route also runs via Charlestown and Carlyon Bay.

Walk Statistics:
Length: 11.3 miles / 18.1 km
Total ascent: 2784 ft / 848 m
Total descent: 2900 ft / 884 m
Estimated time: 4 hrs 39 mins

Map: OS 1:25000 Explorer 107 (St Austell & Liskeard)

Click on any thumbnail image in this gallery to display the corresponding full size image. The images are access protected through a cgi script to prevent hotlinking. If you encounter problems while trying to view the full size images, please read the access advice page.


The coast at Duporth from the approach to Porthpean

I chose this spot as the coast path's nearest point of access to St Austell. If you finished yesterday's walk here you will know where to pick it up. If not, you're headed for Carrickowel Point just east of Porthpean Beach. The hourly bus from St Austell to Par and Mevagissey calls nearby; get off at the hospital, walk down the road to the south and take the left turn signposted for Lower Porthpean. Where the road swings to the right again take the short footpath going straight on, to meet the coast path as it runs past the small headland of Carrickowel Point. The coast path cuts off the corner of the headland instead of running around it and you're met by a stand of trees instead of a view of the sea; this rather sets the scene for much of the next few miles. Turn left along the oast path for Duporth.


The coast path above Duporth beach

Duporth is part holiday village, part residential suburb. There is a long, narrow beach but it's quite some way down the slope. The coast path keeps to the cliff top, pretty well hemmed in between the backs of Duporth's gardens on one side and a screen of bushes and trees on the other.


There is more rise and fall than you might expect just from looking at the map, and you will pass a handful of access paths to the beach. The occasional glimpses of the sea promise some excitement to come as you look ahead to the wooded cliff of Polmear and its rocky little offshore island. Gribbin Head, seven walking mile ahead, dominates the view further east.

Coast path and beach at Duporth

Polmear clifftop woods and Polmear Island

As you reach the far end of Duporth the coast path swings up to the right to reach the Polmear headland. Polmear is quite densely wooded and once again you don't see anything of the sea itself.


Polmear cliffs

The old fort

On the west side of Polmear the path runs briefly inland past the walls of an old fort, but a gate allows entry and it's worth a quick look. The interior of the fort is now just another patch of woodland but there are a couple of secluded bench seats where you can enjoy your morning refreshment break in the shade, away from passing pedestrian traffic. There are glimpses of Charlestown, just below. The path beyond the fort runs through a tunnel of trees and then drops, narrowly and steeply, to the harbour at Charlestown.

Approaching Charlestown

Charlestown was originally a cove named West Polmear but was developed in the early nineteenth century by Charles Rasleigh, a mining enterpreneur. The harbour served the local china clay industry and a few associated activities were established alongside. Charlestown is now a residential village, the industry having migrated to Par - there's a harbourside inn and a shipwreck museum here. Cross the lock gates and take the ramp opposite by the toilet block.


Leaving Charlestown


The coast path, for some unknown reason, leaves the coast a couple of hundred metres beyond Charlestown. This short inland incursion misses out Appletree Point to become a fieldside path, hemmed in by a fence to the left and a high hedge to the right.

The coast path bypassing Appletree Point

The path runs through a small copse to deposit you, quite suddenly, on a roadside oppiste the Porthavallen Hotel. After just fifty yards on tarmac the path dodges off to the right again, to repeat its act at Duporth by running between houses on one side and a screen of trees on the other.

The Porthavallen Hotel

Carlyon Bay


The extensive village to your left is something of a mystery to the Ordnance Survey, who have declined to give it a name on their maps. Possibly it's Porthavallen, possibly it's Carlyon Bay, possibly it's neither. The village is fenced of to the left and I never saw anyone to ask. Just as at Duporth there's a beach down to your right, of which you see little; it's got its own rocky island, named Gull Island. After about half a mile you emerge onto an open sward of grass with the ostentatious Carlyon Bay Hotel situated at the far end.

The coast patg passing the Place With No Name;  approaching Carlyon Bay Hotel

The Carlyon Bay hotel is a luxury, four-star job that would cost you a couple of hundred quid a night if you chose to stay there. It's a major golfing centre and has also hosted a high level international conference in recent years. Be content to gaze on its lawns and gardens and ivy-covered walls as you pass.

The Carlyon Bay Hotel

There's another grassy area east of the hotel, after which you come to a rather forgettable stretch. Go down a dip to a car park. You cross the access road to Carlyon Bay beach here. The beach is a mess, one of the most unfortunate sights on the coast path. An entertainment complex has been built on the beach - it's dominated by a huge, industrial-looking building that is currently derelict and would appear to have been gutted by fire. As  I write, in the summer of 2005, some activity is going on in the smaller buildings to the west and a road is being laid out right along the rear of the beach. Presumably the complex is being redeveloped and one can only hope that whatever takes the place of the "fun factory" will look less intrusive. The coast path keeps to the clifftop well above the beach and its eyesores. The second picture below shows a glimpse of the gutted "fun factory". It's not something I particularly wanted to photograph.

The path above Carlyon Bay beach

The scenery improves now as, for most of the next mile, you walk beside the Carlyon Bay Hotel golf course. For roughly half this section you will still have glimpses of the beach down to your right but at Fishing Point the beach gives out to be replaced by rocks and low cliffs.

Carlyon Bay golf course

The coast path route by the golf course

There are intermittent screens of vegetation, both to your left (the golf course side) and the right (the seaward side). On a couple of occasions these screens appear simultaneously on both sides. Please remember not to put golfers off their strokes - courtesy requires that you should stand and wait if anyone is teeing off or trying to sink a put. The coast path runs close by several holes and tee-off points.

Carlyon Bay golf course

As you progress the views of Carlyon Bay fall away behind you, while Par china clay works start to loom ahead. The coast path falls very gradually to the end of the golf course at Spit Point, where it has to turn away from the coast.

Approaching Spit Point and Par china clay works


Par china clay works is a major industrial site. China clay, otherwise known as kaolin, is a form of white feldspar used in the ceramics industry, and is also used in the manufacture of pigments and paper. Cornwall is one of the world's principal sources of the mineral, the other being Malaysia. The harbour and its associated works process and export china clay all over the world and the coast path is obliged to divert inland to avoid the works area. A path runs alongside the fence initially, after which the route is carried across part of the site on a raised metal walkway.

The coast path route by Par china clay works

The far end of the walkway deposits you onto a series of paths running alongside the works boundary fence on one side and the Great Western Railway on the other. The route has changed here over the last few years and your map or guidebook might not be up to date - at one point you were meant to go under the railway to the main road, and for a while later the path was unmarked and you were left scratching your head and finding your own way. Now all dooubts have been removed - follow the obvious path alongside the fences and you will soon emerge onto the main road shortly before the main works entrance.

Path north of the china clay works

Go past the works entrance (watch the traffic!) and follow the road around a bend to the left, beneath a railway bridge (second picture below). At the road junction just beyond go to the right and underneath the railway line a second time. Welcome to Par (third image below).

Arriving in Par

One has to admit that, even without the presence of the china clay works, Par is the least appealing of all the towns and villages along the route of the coast path. Not only does it present a rather mundane appearance, it also has few facilities for the visitor save for the railway station. A couple of shops are clustered around the junction at the far end of the main street. You could stick to the road as far as Polmear but it's more pleasing to head for Par beach, where there's a useful shop and cafe. The lane to the beach lacks a coast path marker and is easy to miss - it goes off right by the main road junction and is marked as a cycle route.

Par high street;  the unmarked lane to the beach

The lane reaches a wide road, a service track for the cina clay works and the route of an old railway track. Cross this, looking out for heavy trucks, and make your way through the extensive caravan park beyond to come to Par beach.

The caravan park and Par sands

The beach is shallow, extensive and popular. Its one downside is that it's not provided with seats. If you're not visiting the cafe but want to have your lunch here nevertheless, you'll spend quite some time hunting for a sem- comfortable spot among the dunes. The china clay works dominate the view to the west, but to the east beyond the sands is the long spit of land running out to Gribbin Head, and nestling in the elbow of this spit is the cove holding the little fishing village of Polkerris, our next objective. It might look as though it's possible to walk out to Polkerris on the sands, but if you try this you'll come seriously unstuck in the last five hundred metres. Make your way to the car park at the far northwest corner of the dunes and find the footbridge across the stream (second picture below) that gives access to the coastal path to Polkerris.

Par sands;  footbridge

Steps and coast path east of Par sands

Immediately beyond the footbridge tackle a steep flight of steps to gain access to the clifftop path running to the east of Par sands. This path runs for just over a mile to Polkerris.


The path to Polkerris above Par sands

For just about the first time today we're back on standard coast path, with fields and pastures to the left. The terrain here is quite generously folded and there is a lot of up and down work and several surprisingly steep gradients to tackle. The path itself is quite narrow and, once again, tends to be hemmed in by hedges and fences. You pass the edge of the sands below and head round a long left-hand bend to see Polkerris nestling immediately below you.

The path to Polkerris

Arriving at Polkerris

Steep, narrow descent to the village

The coast path runs down into Polkerris on a prayer - the path is steep, contorted and improbably narrow. If you meet anyone coming up you've got a problem - seriously. Once down in Polkerris you will probably find yourself in a confined sea of activity, for Polkerris is both very small and very popular. Polkerris consists of an inn, an old pilchard shed and a huddle of cottages, and the pub car park opens out onto a compact beach. There's also a toilet block and a cafe here. You wouldn't be the first coast path walker who has succumbed to the temptation of ice cream at Polkerris.


Polkerris ends as suddenly and completely as it began. The continuation of the coast path is not well marked but you will find it leaving from the slipway on the south side of the little harbour. It zigzags alarmingly up through a wood, within which wild garlic grows in profusion.

Woods above Polkerris

Once you merge from the woods go to the right and head off along the path to Gribbin Head.


The coast path from Polkerris to Gribbin Head

The route from Polkerris to Gribbin Head runs for a good three and a half miles alongside an endless series of fields and pastures. Once again it's fairly well hemmed in between hedges and fences, and once again there is rather more up and down work than you would expect. The coastal scenery here is nothing special, mostly a scrubby slope descending to a rocky shoreline, and it's not until you reach the minor headland of Little Gribbin two and a half miles out of Polkerris that you see some interesting rock scenery. There are a number of gates and stiles to negotiate along this section.

The long section from Polkerris to Gribbin Head

At Little Gribbin the path turns left and starts to negotiate some more serious gradients. The red and white tower of the Gribbin Daymark begins to loom ahead. The view back to the west starts to improve and you can see beyond the china clay works once again. It's easy to make out the Carlyon Bay hotel and Charlestown, and just beyond is the wooded headland of Carrickowel Point where you began the day's walk, and beyond that is Black Head, and beyond that is Turbot Point at the far end of St Austell Bay, and beyond that still is the dark eminence of Dodman Point, now twenty miles behind you.

Little Gribbin

Gribbin Head

Eventually your efforts are rewarded and you arrive at the partially wooded headland of Gribbin. The daymark tower stands in an open space which is provided with a couple of seats. The daymark is the daytime equivalent of a lighthouse, and is a landmark by which mariners can readily identify Gribbin head - there was a tendency to mistake it for the similar St Anthony's Head just east of Falmouth. It's 84 ft hight and was constructed in 1832.


Gribbin to Polridmouth

As so often happens, the nature of the walk changes significantly once you round a major headland and find yourself on an east-facing coast. Here the terrain becomes open and benign. You're heading for the twin coves of Polridmouth a mile away. At first the route crosses a huge swathe of grass dotted with trees but as you rejoin the coast closer to Polridmouth it becomes enclosed by hedges. Once again there's quite a bit of up and down work and you'll quite likely be starting to tire by now. Having passed Gribbin Head there are extensive views eastwards to enjoy; nearby Fowey is hidden inside its inlet but the upper reaches of Polruan, which stands opposite, are well seen. Beyond Fowey are the lonely miles to Polperro and Looe, and beyond are the more populous parts around Seaton and Whitsand Bay to Rame Head, which will be seen on clearer days.

Approaching Polridmouth west cove

Polridmouth west cove

The coast path makes it way around Polridmouth's west cove, an interesting tangle of rocks and sand just the other side of the hedge and a rather nice bit of scenery. Following a short, steep rise into woodland the path then drops straight down again to Polridmouth east cove. Less rocky, this cove is backed by a low sea wall across which stands a tranquil freshwater lake, a miniature version of Loe Pool back at Porthleven on day four. The author Daphne du Maurier lived close by for some years.

Polridmouth east cove

The lake, and a retrospective view of Gribbin Head

It would be somewhat comforting to know that no further effort is involved along the remaining two and threequarter miles to Fowey, but unfortunately that is not the case - you have to gird your loins and find fresh reserves of stamina, for the coast path climbs steeply out of Polridmouth to gain the heights of Lankelly Cliff. The steeper part of the climb is under three cover, a blessing if the sun is baking down.

The woodland ascent out of Polridmouth


Lankelly Cliff;  Coombe Hawn;  approaching Fowey

This section is quite hard work. Lankelly Cliff merges into Southground Cliff, and the path hugs the clifftop around both with a considerable slope running further uphill to your left. On occasion the path rises and dips, and shortcut paths are beginning to appear directly across the pasture. The shortcut on Southground Cliff approaches the next cove of Coombe Hawn almost from the rear and you will need to make your way down through the gorse to regain the main path. Immediately afterwards the path climbs away yet again. This, fortunately, is the last time. With just a mile to go now and three quarters of that being with Fowey itself, there is no more uphill work ahead for today.

Readymoney Cove, Fowey

The path runs across another pasture similar to that at Southground Cliff, but quite suddenly you reach a headland and Fowey is laid out to your left. It looks very inviting. What you see is in fact a "suburb" of Fowey named Readymoney Cove and the bulk of the town is still out of sight round the corner. The frustrations are about to begin afresh, however, for a recent landslip here has closed a couple of local paths and the coast path markers vanish just when you need them most. If you walk out to St Catherine's Point to see the views in the pictures above you will be out on a limb; retrace your steps (it's uphill I'm afraid) and take an unmarked and not terribly likely-looking path down to your right (this is on the left of course as you approach from Coombe Hawn).

Woodland descent to Readymoney Cove

The path drops through a wood to reach Readymoney Cove at its far end. Now the way ahead is straightforward. Go along the access drive of the cove, which runs round a corner and becomes a normal (though very narrow) motor road passing a number of very desirable properties. The road swings uphill and round to the left to leave Readymoney Cove and approach Fowey proper.

Arriving in Fowey

Fowey is lovely. It quickly takes on a terraced appearance, with a row of properties lower down on your right and another row above and to the left, with suggestions of further rows of houses and cottages marching up the hillside beyond. The town lays on the west side of a splendid natural harbour, the deepwater estuary of the otherwise insignificant river Fowey river. Fowey is pronounced "Foy". The estuary is a haven for pleasure craft, though there is also still some commercial traffic operating here.

The Fowey estuary

As you enter the Fowey estuary proper and Polruan glides alongside opposite, the narrow road merges with a slightly wider one coming in from the left. Fowey operates a one way system and all the traffic will be coming towards you. You're now on the route of the bus to Par, St Austell and Mevagissey and in theory you could catch it at any safe place between here and the town centre half a mile ahead. The road forks again and you take the wider and lower road. A little way beyond the fork is the quay for the summer passenger ferry across to Polruan and the coast path officially ends here. At other times of the year, howevver, the Polruan ferry operates from the town centre quayside a few hundred metres further along. No doubt you will want to see Fowey and partake of its many facilities - there are shops and cafes and pubs and restaurants and hotels and guest houses, and a bank with a cash machine (something not seen on the coast itself since Mevagissey). Fowey becomes supremely cramped and is the third of four classic coastal towns that exhibit what I call "quart in a pint pot" architecture, with narrow lanes and tiny buildings shoehorned among each other at crazy angles and on impossible slopes. Fowey is pictured and described more fully on the next gallery, Fowey to Polperro.

Now available on CD - the high resolution (2560 x 1920 pixel) originals of the images on this gallery. 147 images, 203MB of data. (includes some images not selected for the website).

£5.00 inclusive of postage / packing.
Note: Payment by credit card is handled by Pay Pal. If you are not already a member, their validation of your account can take up to 4 weeks.

Mevagissey to Porthpean Back to South Cornwall Coast Path index Fowey to Polperro

This page last updated 13th November 2005