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The Smuggler King of Prussia Cove

A pleasant stroll through the coastal domain of one of Cornwall's most famous smugglers.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 394ft (120m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Good field paths and coastal paths, 18 stiles

Landscape Quiet coast and countryside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 102 Land's End

Start/finish SW 554282

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Trenalls, Prussia Cove. Small, privately-owned car park. Or car park at Perranuthnoe, from where the walk can be started at Point 5

Public toilets Perranuthnoe


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

1 From the car park entrance walk back along the approach road, past the large house. Watch for traffic. After the second bend, by the camp site entrance, look for a stile on the left, just past a field gate.

2 Cross the stile and follow the field edge, bearing off to the right, where it bends left, to reach a stile in the hedge opposite. Walk down the edge of the next field, behind Acton Castle (private dwellings), then turn right along field edges to a stile into the adjacent rough lane. Turn right.

3 Turn left along a rough track at a junction in front of a bungalow entrance at Trevean Farm. At a left-hand bend go onto a stony track for just a few paces, then when you come to a public footpath sign, ascend to the right, up some narrow steps, then turn left along the edge of the field.

4 At Trebarvah, cross the farm lane, pass in front of some barns, (there's a view of St Michael's Mount ahead), then follow a field edge to a hedged-in path. Follow the path ahead through fields, then pass in front of some houses to reach the main road opposite the Victoria Inn. Go left and follow the road to the car park above Perranuthnoe Beach.

5 For the beach and Cabin Café, keep straight ahead. On the main route of the walk, go left, just beyond the car park, and along a lane. Bear right at a fork, then bear right again just past a house at a junction.

6 Go down a track towards the sea and follow it round left. Then, at a field entrance, go down right (signposted), turn sharp left through a gap and follow the coast path along the edge of Trebarvah and Stackhouse Cliffs.

7 At the National Trust property of Cudden Point, follow the path steeply uphill and then across the inner slope of the headland above Piskies Cove.

8 Go through a gate and pass some ancient fishing huts. Follow the path round the edge of the Bessy's Cove inlet of Prussia Cove, to reach a track by a thatched cottage. The cove can be reached down a path on the right just before this junction. Turn right and follow the track, keeping left at junctions, to return to the car park at the start of the walk.

Smuggling clings to the image of Cornwall like the Atlantic mist through which the old time 'freetraders' so often stole ashore with their cargoes of tea, spirits, tobacco, silk, china and even playing cards. Modern smuggling, chiefly of drugs, has no such romantic sheen, while nostalgia blurs the record of incidental brutality that often accompanied 18th-century smuggling. Yet we will not be robbed of our romance, and, in truth, the image of honest adventuring that we attach so eagerly to old time smuggling is often borne out by that same record.

Such 'honest adventuring' seems personified by the famous Carter family who lived at Prussia Cove on the eastern shores of Mount's Bay in West Cornwall. The cove is really more of a series of rocky inlets close to the magnificent St Michael's Mount, the castle-crowned island that so enhances the inner corner of Mount's Bay. John and Henry (Harry) Carter were the best known members of the family and ran their late 18th-century smuggling enterprise with great flair and efficiency. They even fortified the headland overlooking Prussia Cove in a move that echoed the defensive settlements of the Celtic Iron Age. John Carter was the more flamboyant, styling himself in early childhood games as 'the King of Prussia' an indication of contemporary awareness of the activities of Fredrick the Great of Prussia. The name stuck and the original Porth Leah Cove became known as the 'King of Prussia's Cove'. Fame indeed. John Carter had integrity. He once broke in to an excise store in Penzance to recover smuggled goods confiscated from Prussia Cove in his absence. The authorities knew it must have been Carter because they said he was 'an upright man' and took only his own goods. His brother Harry became a Methodist preacher and forbade swearing on all his vessels.

The nature of the coast and countryside around Prussia Cove says everything about the environment within which smuggling flourished. As you follow the route of the walk inland, you can sense the remoteness of hamlet and cottage still, the secretiveness of the lanes and paths that wriggle inland from a coast that is formidable, yet accessible to skilled seamen. At Perranuthnoe, the narrow, flat beach resounds with the sound of the sea where modern surfers and holidaymakers now enjoy themselves. From here the coastal footpath leads back along the coast across the rocky headland of Cudden Point to where a series of secluded coves make up the Carter's old kingdom of Prussia Cove.

While you're there

Take time midway in the walk to enjoy Perranuthnoe Beach, known as Perran Sands, a fine little beach that is south-facing and catches the sun all day. It's also worth exploring Prussia Cove itself, and its individual rocky inlets. This is a good place for a swim at low tide in the crystal clear water.

Where to eat and drink

The Victoria Inn at Perranuthnoe is conveniently located midway on the walk. The pub has a good selection of beers and other drinks and also does excellent bar meals. On the approach to Perranuthnoe Beach is the busy little Cabin Café, open all summer and at week-ends in winter.

What to look for

Along the sandy paths and fields east of Perranuthnoe, the feathery-leafed tamaraisk (Tamarix anglica), lends an exotic Mediterranean atmosphere to the Cornish scene. The tamarisk was introduced to Britain from the Mediterranean and is often used at coastal locations as a windbreak because of its resilience and its ability to survive the battering of salt-laden winds.


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