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Cliffs and Deep Woods at Portreath and Tehidy

A route along spectacular cliffs followed by a contrasting stroll through woods.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 459ft (140m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good coastal path, woodland path, farm tracks

Landscape Precipitous sea cliffs and deep woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes

Start/finish SW 656453

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Portreath Beach

Public toilets Portreath

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1 Turn right outside the Portreath Beach car park, cross a bridge and turn right up Battery Hill, signposted 'Coast Path'. Follow the lane uphill and on to where it ends at houses above the beach. Go left in front of garages, signposted 'North Coast Foot Path'.

2 Follow the path through a gate and keep straight uphill to the cliff top. Don't go too close to the cliff edge. Turn left to reach a wooden gate, then follow the path round the cliff edge above Ralph's Cupboard. Continue by steep paths into and out of Porth-cadjack Cove.

3 Reach a car parking area above Basset Cove. Follow the broad track inland, then at the public road, cross over and turn left for 40yds (37m); watch out for fast traffic. Reach a granite grid stile on the right. Cross the stile, then follow a narrow path into Tehidy Woods.

4 Keep straight ahead at a crossing. Soon pass a right-hand junction, and then a left-hand junction, signposted 'Pedestrians Only'. Keep straight ahead to reach a T-junction with a broad track. Turn left.

5 Reach a junction and four-way signpost beside two seats. (A café can be reached in ¼ mile (400m) down the right-hand signposted track.) On the main route, keep straight on, signposted 'East Lodge'. Reach a junction by a seat. Go right and go through a wooden kissing gate. Eyes left here before crossing to check for keen golfers about to tee-off. Go through a metal kissing gate and follow the track alongside the golf course.

6 About 40yds (37m) beyond the end of the golf course section, bear off left into woods by a staggered wooden barrier, signposted 'Pedestrians Only'. Stay on the main path, ignoring side paths, then bear round right to a small car park and to a public road. Cross diagonally right and then go left between wooden posts with red marks. Follow the often muddy track ahead.

7 Go right onto a wider track by a field gate. The next section can be extremely muddy during wet weather. Pass holiday chalets and reach a T-junction above farm buildings at Feadon Farm.

8 Turn left, then in a few paces turn right down a concrete track. At a farmyard go sharp left by a public footpath sign and follow a path down through woods to reach a surfaced road. Just past 'Glenfeadon Castle' turn left along Glenfeadon Terrace, pass beneath a bridge, then at a junction keep ahead along Tregea Terrace and back to Portreath Beach car park.

The sea cliffs near Portreath in Mid Cornwall, are made up of unstable shale and sandstone. Yet these are some of the most spectacular cliffs of all; their very friability lends itself to the formation of fantastic offshore islands and ridges of marginally harder rock. From the edge of the cliffs a flat platform of land, Carvannel Downs, once submerged beneath the sea, runs inland. It is a featureless landscape except where the dark curtain of Tehidy Woods breaks the profile. There can be no greater contrast than that between the bare, windswept cliffs and the enfolding trees, and this walk samples both environments.

The walk starts from Portreath's popular beach and harbour (PWhile You're There) and soon leads onto the awesome cliffs to the west of Portreath. You stroll along the edge of the flat, heath-covered Carvannel Downs aware always of the 260ft (80m) cliffs only a few steps away. Below lie vast rock islands dotting the inaccessible sands of Western Cove. The Horse is a breathtaking ridge of rock and grass that projects from the cliff face and makes up the east wall of Ralph's Cupboard, a vast dizzying gulf that belies the quaintness of its name and that is said to be the remains of a huge cavern whose roof collapsed. Do not be tempted to go too near the edge of the cliffs, however, especially in windy weather. Far ahead you can see Godrevy Lighthouse on its rocky island.

Beyond Ralph's Cupboard, a name that may derive from a one-time smuggler, or from an old Cornish word, the path leads steeply down into Porth-cadjack Cove. Here a thin stream of water pours over the lower cliff edge and 19th-century smugglers used to hoist their contraband from the beach using elaborate pulley-systems. Beyond, above Basset's Cove, the route turns inland and draws you into the enfolding trees of Tehidy Woods, once the estate of the Basset family who were famous mine owners. The Bassets planted extensive woodlands around their Georgian house and these now mature woods still offer shelter and security after the exhilarating exposure of the cliffs. Countless paths wriggle through the trees, but in such Hansel and Gretel territory, it is best to keep to the route back to Portreath.

While you're there

Portreath harbour and docks still give some idea of their industrial past. The original fishing cove was turned into a harbour in the 1760s. Copper ore from the mines at Camborne and Redruth was exported from here. By the 1830s a railway connected Portreath with Hayle and the mines. You can see the lower section of a steep incline plane, on the south side of the valley. The last part of the walk passes beneath this incline. Sectioned bays full of coal, limestone, ore and stone once occupied the land behind the harbour where modern houses now stand. The 'pepperpot' north of the harbour was a navigational guide.

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