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St Anthony's Guns and Guiding Lights

A walk on the beautiful Roseland Peninsula, visiting an ancient church, a lighthouse, and an old gun battery.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Excellent coastal and creekside footpaths. May be muddy in places during wet weather, 12 stiles

Landscape Picturesque headland with open coast on one side and sheltered tidal creek and estuary on the other

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey

Start/finish SW 848313

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking National Trust St Anthony Head car park. Can be busy in summer. For main walk there is alternative parking on the route at Porth Farm (Point 3, SW 868329)

Public toilets St Anthony Head car park and Porth Farm car park

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 Leave the St Anthony Head car park at its far end and keep straight ahead along a surfaced lane past a row of holiday cottages on the left. Follow the coast path, running parallel with the old military road alongside Drake's Downs, to where it passes above Porthbeor Beach at a junction with the beach access path.

2 Follow the coast path round Porthmellin Head and Killigerran Head to reach Towan Beach. At the junction with the beach access path, turn left and inland. Bear off left before a gate and go through a roofed passageway, there are toilets on the left, to reach a road.

3 Go straight across the road and through a gapway, signed for 'Porth Farm', then go down a surfaced drive. Turn into the entrance to the National Trust car park, then bear off left along a grassy path signposted 'Place via Percuil River'. Soon cross a footbridge, then turn right. Follow the edge of Froe Creek to a stile into the woods, then follow a path alongside Porth Creek and through Drawler Plantation, ignoring side paths to 'Bohortha'.

4 Pass a small jetty where the St Mawes ferry picks up passengers. Continue to a kissing gate and onto the road end in front of Place House. Go left along the road and uphill.

5 Turn right and cross a stile by a red gate, signposted 'Church of St Anthony and St Anthony Head'. Follow the path past the gravestones to the church. Keep dogs under control here. Go up the steps opposite the church door and follow a shady path uphill. Bear right, then, at a T-junction with a track, turn right. Follow the track ahead then, at a bend, bear off to the left. Go over a stile by a gate, then follow the edge of the field uphill. Cross over a stile, (there's a seat to your left) and keep straight ahead and downhill until you get to the water's edge.

6 Turn left and follow the coast path around Carricknath Point. Just past Great Molunan Beach, cross a causewayed dam above a small quay, then, at a junction, keep right and follow the coast path signs. At a junction with a surfaced track coming down from the left, keep straight ahead to St Anthony Lighthouse.

7 Return to the junction and climb the steep, surfaced track to reach the car park. Halfway up, another track leads off right to the preserved Battery Observation Post and to the bird hide above Zone Point,

Headlands demand attention. They stick their necks out into seaways, guard the entrance to river estuaries, and can spell disaster to careless seagoers. St Anthony Head on the east side of the Falmouth Estuary deserves more attention than most. It lies at the tip of the most southerly promontory of the beautiful Roseland Peninsula and was always of strategic importance. There was a gun battery on St Anthony Head from the early 19th century until 1957, its purpose being to defend the key port of Falmouth. The lighthouse on the Head was built in 1834. One of its main purposes is to warn vessels of the highly dangerous reefs known as the Manacles that lie offshore from Porthoustock below St Keverne.

As early as 1805, guns were positioned on St Anthony Head to cover the approaches to Falmouth. By the end of the 19th century the headland had been transformed into a formidable gun battery that remained either active or in readiness until after the Second World War. By 1957 Coastal Artillery was discontinued and the St Anthony Battery was stripped of its ordnance. The site came into the care of the National Trust in 1959.

The route of this walk starts from above the lighthouse and makes a circuit of the narrow peninsula behind St. Anthony Head. The route encompasses the contrasting water worlds of the open sea and the enclosed Percuil River and tidal inlet of Porth Creek. The first part of the walk lies along the breezy east side of the peninsula. The path soon passes above the cliff-fringed Porthbeor Beach. Another ½ mile (800m) takes you to the splendid Towan Beach within its sheltering bay. From the settlement of Porth, above the beach, the route heads inland and follows the opposite side of the peninsula. Leafy paths wind along the wooded shores of Porth Creek and the Percuil River to pass the 19th-century Place House and St Anthony's Church. Beyond the church a more open coast is reached. On the opposite headland stands the village of St Mawes and across the wider estuary lies busy Falmouth. Here you regain the scent and sound of the sea. The path now takes you south along the sea's edge back to St Anthony Head, where you can visit the lighthouse at certain times and divert also to the old Observation Post on the high ground above.

What to look for

In the sheltered waters of Porth Creek and the Percuil River, look out for the heron and other wading birds such as curlews and oyster catchers. The latter is unmistakable because of its glossy black breast and back feathers, its snow-white underparts and its distinctive orange bill. Around St Anthony Head, the various viewpoints, such as the Battery Observation Post and the bird hide at Zone Point, offer opportunities for spotting seabirds such as the fulmar, cormorant, kittiwake, and gannet. The gannet's beak is made of bone and the bird's skull is exceptionally strong to help cushion the explosive impact it makes when diving at speed into the sea in pursuit of fish. However, gannets eventually develop poor eyesight because of repeated impact with the water and sadly many die from diving onto underground reefs that they mistake for shoals of fish.

While you're there

St Anthony Lighthouse is open to visitors at certain times, depending on lighthouse duties. Halfway up the path between lighthouse and car park, you can divert to the right along a path that takes you to a preserved Battery Observation Post and to a bird hide overlooking the cliffs at Zone Point.

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