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Hidden Cornwall at Nare Head

A coastal and field walk through some of South Cornwall's more remote and endearing landscapes.

Distance 7 miles (11.3km)

Minimum time 5hrs

Ascent/gradient 1,312ft (400m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Good coastal footpath, field paths and quiet lanes. Field stiles are often overgrown, 30 stiles

Landscape Vegetated coast with some cliffs. Mainly flat fields on inland section

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey

Start/finish SW 906384

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Carne Beach Car Park. Large National Trust car park behind beach

Public toilets Carne Beach, Portloe, Veryan

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1 Turn left out of the car park and walk up the road, with care. Just past the steep bend, turn off right and go up steps and onto the coast path. Follow the coast path to Paradoe Cove and and continue past Nare Head.

2 Above Kiberick Cove go through a gap in a wall. For the main route keep ahead through a dip to reach a stile. Follow the coast path to Portloe. Go left up the road from the cove, past the Ship Inn.

3 Just after a sharp left-hand bend, and where the road narrows, go over a high step stile on the right. Cross a field to a stile, then follow the next field edge. Pass a gate, then, in a few paces, go right and over a stile. Cross the next field to a stile into a lane.

4 Go right along the road past Camels Farm for 200yds (183m), then go left over a stile and follow the field edge to another stile. Follow the next field edge, then just before the field corner, go right over a stile. Turn left through a gap, then go diagonally right across the next two fields to a stile. At a road junction, go along the road signposted 'Carne and Pendower'.

5 Just past Tregamenna Manor Farm, on a bend, go over a stile by a gate. Cut across the corner of the field, then go right over a stile. Cross the next field to a stile and then continue to a T-junction with a lane. (Turn right to visit Veryan.)

6 If you're not visiting Veryan village, turn left, then, just past Churchtown Farm, go left again over a stile. Follow the edge of the field to a stile into a lane. Go immediately left over two stiles, then follow a path, past Carne Beacon, to a lane.

7 At a corner junction keep ahead down the lane, signposted 'Carne Village Only'. Bear right down a driveway past Beacon Cottage. Go through the gate signposted 'Defined Footpaths Nos 44 & 45'. Follow the track round to the right between a garage and house, then follow a grassy track, keeping ahead at a junction signposted 'Carne Beach'. Go through a gate (put dogs on leads here please) and follow a path alongside a grassy bank and fence.

8 Abreast of an old wooden gate up on the right, bear away left and downhill through the scrub, (the path isn't evident at first), and soon pick up a path that leads through gorse to join the coast path back to Carne Beach and the car park.

There are parts of the Cornish coast that seem especially remote, where main roads have been kept at arms' length and where human development has not gone beyond farming and small scale sea-going. The lonely stretch of South Cornish coast between Gerrans Bay and Veryan Bay, with Nare Head at its centre, is one such place, a landscape where people seem to have lived always at a healthy distance from too much intrusion.

The walk begins at the seasonally popular Carne Beach. A steady hike along the coast path from here soon brings you to a steep descent into the narrow Paradoe, pronounced 'Perada', Cove. On a spur of land above the sea is the ruin of a small cottage. This was the home of a 19th-century fisherman called Mallet , who lived during the week in this lonely spot, fishing from 'Mallet's Cove' below, then returning at weekends to his wife at the village of Veryan, a few miles (kilometres) inland. Eventually Mallet emigrated to Australia - without his wife. Weekends had become non-negotiable, perhaps. The little ruined cottage above the restless sea still speaks of a life of extraordinary detachment.

From Paradoe it is a long, punishing climb to the flat top of Nare Head. Beyond the Head a pleasant ramble takes you along the coast past the steep Rosen Cliff and by lonely coves. Offshore lies the formidable Gull Rock The route leads to Portloe, a fishing village that seems to have survived without imposed 'quaintness' and without too much intrusion. Here, a steep-sided valley has left only enough room at its seaward end for fishing boats and a pleasant veneer of houses and cottages to either side. You head inland from this reassuring place into a lost world of little fields and meadows that straggle across country to Veryan.

From Veryan the route wanders back towards the sea, past the ancient landmark of Carne Beacon, a Bronze Age burial site that saw later service as a signal station, a triangulation point and as a Second World War observation post. Before these latter uses the bones beneath had been disturbed by curious Victorians. A few fields away lies 'Veryan Castle', known also as 'The Ringarounds', the site of a Late Iron Age farming settlement. These ancient sites prove that this absorbing landscape has given refuge to people for thousands of years. From the high ground the route leads down to the coast once more.

While you're there

Divert from the main route to visit Veryan, one of South Cornwall's most fascinating villages. It is famous for its five whitewashed round houses with thatched conical roofs, They date from the early 19th century and were the inspiration of the Revd Jeremiah Trist, a local landowner. Various fanciful myths attach to these houses but they seem to have simply reflected a contemporary fashion for ornamental architecture. Visit Veryan's Church of St Symphorian, essentially a Victorian restoration of a previous church.

Where to eat and drink

An ice cream and soft drinks van operates at Carne Beach during the summer. The Tregain Tea Room and licensed restaurant, just up from the harbour at Portloe is a delight. It offers morning coffee, lunches and special dishes on Sundays. Portloe's Ship Inn is a pleasant pub with a large beer garden and a good selection of pub food. At Veryan, the New Inn has a good selection of spicy and traditional food. Opposite is the friendly Tregarthen Coffee Shop, part of Elerkey Guest House, offering morning coffees, afternoon teas and delicious Cornish cream teas.

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