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50 Walks in Cornwall

Along the coast from Polruan

Try this sample walk from the latest edition of 50 Walks in Cornwall.

About 50 Walks in Cornwall

Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to Cornwall features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.

The book features all the practical detail you need, including:

  • fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
  • clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
  • every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
  • annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
  • summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.

Buy 50 Walks in Cornwall from the AA Amazon Shop.

50 Walks in Cornwall 

Sample walk: Along the coast from Polruan

  • Distance: 4.5 miles (7.2km)
  • Minimum Time: 2hrs 30min
  • Ascent: 754 feet (230m)
  • Gradient: 2
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Paths: Good throughout. Can be very muddy in woodland areas during wet weather
  • Landscape: Deep woodland alongside tidal creek. Open coastal cliffs
  • Suggested Map: AA Leisure Map 11 Newquay, Bodmin & Tintagel
  • Start Grid Reference: SX126511
  • Dog Friendliness: Dogs on lead through grazed areas and as notices indicate
  • Parking: Polruan. An alternative start to the walk can be made from the National Trust Lantic Bay car park (Point 4 SX 149513). You can also park at Fowey's Central car park, then catch the ferry to Polruan
  • Public Toilet: Polruan Quay
Background reading

There are parts of Cornwall so encompassed by the sea that they seem genuinely out of this modern world. The sea, rather than the dual carriageway, is still their major highway. The village of Polruan on the estuary of the River Fowey is one such place. The green headland on which it stands has the sea on its southern shore and is bounded to the north by the wonderfully calm and tree-lined tidal creek of Pont Pill. The village can be reached by land only along fairly minor roads that detour at some length from Cornwall's main spinal highways. Yet Polruan lies only a few hundred yards (metres) across the estuary from the bustling town of Fowey and a regular passenger ferry runs between the two. Old Cornwall Polruan and its surrounding parish of Lanteglos are redolent of old Cornwall. Prehistoric settlers found a natural refuge on the narrow headland on which it stands. Christian 'saints' and medieval worshippers set up chantries and chapels in the sheltered hollows; merchants prospered from the lucrative sea trade into Fowey's natural harbour. During the wars of the 14th and 15th centuries, Fowey ships harried foreign vessels, and because of their outstanding seamanship, earned themselves the admiring sobriquet of 'Fowey Gallants'. The entrance to the estuary was protected from attack by a chain barrier that could be winched across the river's mouth from blockhouses on either bank. In peacetime the Gallants continued to raid shipping of all types until Edward IV responded to complaints from foreign merchants, and several English ones, by confiscating ships and by having the protective chain removed. Resilient as always, the seamen of Fowey and Polruan turned their hands successfully to fishing and smuggling instead. The route of this walk starts from Polruan. It wanders through peaceful countryside that was once owned by wealthy medieval families who played a major part in organising the freebooting activities of Polruan seamen. Original fortunes made through piracy were turned to legitimate trade and to farming and land management, and the delightful countryside through which the walk leads is the product of long-term land ownership and rural trade. At its heart lies the splendid Lanteglos Church of St Winwaloe, or St Willow. The second part of the walk leads back to the sea, to the steep headland of Pencarrow and to the dramatic amphitheatre of Lantic Bay with its splendid beach, an old smugglers domain if ever there was one. From here, the coastal footpath leads airily back to Polruan and to the rattle and hum of an estuary that has never ceased to be alive with seagoing.

Directions
  1. Walk up from the Quay at Polruan, then turn left along East Street, by a telephone box and a seat. Go right, up steps, signposted 'Hall Walk'. Go left at the next junction, then keep along the path ahead, eventually passing a National Trust sign, 'North Downs'.
  2. Continue forward, eventually turning right at a T-junction with a track, then in just a few paces, bear off left along a path, signposted 'Pont and Bodinnick'. Ignore side paths to reach a wooden gate on to a lane. Don't go through the gate, but instead bear left and go through a footpath gate. Follow a path, established by the National Trust, and eventually descend steep wooden steps.
  3. At a T-junction with a track, turn right and climb uphill. It's worth diverting left at the T-junction to visit Pont. On this route, reach a lane. Go left for a few paces then, on a bend by Little Churchtown Farm, bear off right through a gate signed 'Footpath to Church'. Climb steadily to reach the Church of St Winwaloe.
  4. Turn left outside the church and follow a narrow lane. At a T-junction, just beyond Lantic Bay car park, cross the road and go through a gate, then turn right along the field-edge on a path established by the National Trust, to go through another gate. Turn left along the field-edge.
  5. At the fence corner, bear left towards a gate. Just in front of the gate, turn right on to the coast path and descend very steeply. (To continue to Pencarrow Head go left through the gate and follow the path on to the headland. From here the coast path can be rejoined and access made to Great Lantic Beach.) Follow the coast path for about 1.25 miles (2km), keeping to the cliff edge, ignoring any junctions.
  6. Where the cliff path ends, go through a gate to a road junction by Furze Park. Cross the road, then go down School Lane. Turn right at 'Speakers Corner', then turn left down Fore Street to reach the Quay at Polruan.
Extending the walk

To extend the walk, cross the head of Pont Pill, just down from the junction on the main walk at Point 3 on the main walk. It is hard to resist, once you've diverted to the charming creekside settlement of picturesque Pont.A little footbridge beckons; the wooded heights opposite draw you on; good things are hidden amid the trees. At Pont are the remains of a lime kiln indicating that the quay here was once busy with sailing barges offloading limestone, sand and coal, and carrying away grain, timber and farm produce, worthier, if more mundane trades, than piracy and smuggling.Once over the bridge, at Point A, bear right along the path, which is signposted to Bodinnick. Turn left at a T-junction and climb up through the trees of the Grove and emerge on to open fields. Go diagonally left across the first field, then go through a gate and follow the next field-edge to another gate. Go along the right-hand edge of the next field and through the middle gate of three on to a track. Soon you'll pass the ruins of the 14th-century Hall Chapel. On a bend just beyond the chapel, keep ahead through a gate into a field. Keep straight on and follow the right-hand hedge to a wooden stile. Beyond the stile, at Point B, join the Hall Walk path, by a war memorial.Turn right if you want to visit Bodinnick, another settlement on the tidal River Fowey that played an important part in the history of the area. On the main route, turn left along Hall Walk, a 16th-century estate promenade. Follow Hall Walk round Penleath Point to where a granite memorial commemorates the novelist Arthur Quiller-Couch, who wrote under the pen name of 'Q'. He lived for many years in the area and immortalised the town of Fowey as 'Troy Town' in his novels. Eventually the path enters woodland and continues to a kissing gate into a field above the Grove. Keep ahead to find ( a stile and gate on the right; turn right to retrace the outward route back towards Pont.

While you're there

The handsome Church of St Winwaloe, or Wyllow, has notable wagon roofs containing some original 14th-century timbers as well as many other beams added during later centuries. The side walls and piers lean engagingly to either side. In summer, there's also squash laid on for thirsty visitors. The novelist Daphne du Maurier was married here in 1932 and the church features as 'Lanoc Church' in her book The Loving Spirit.

Where to eat and drink

There are no refreshment opportunities on the walk, but the Russell Inn at the bottom of Fore Street, Polruan and the Lugger Inn on Polruan Quay, both do good pub lunches, and Crumpets Teashop is found at the bottom of Fore Street. The Old Ferry Inn at Bodinnick is handy for lunch.

What to look out for

Spend some time exploring Polruan, at the beginning or end of the walk. This fine little port has retained much of its vernacular character in spite of some modern development. Polruan thrived because of seagoing and there is still a rich sense of those former sea-dominated days in the narrow alleyways of the village.

Buy 50 Walks in Cornwall from the AA Amazon Shop.