SOUTH WEST COAST PATH NATIONAL TRAIL
Stage 26: Mevagissey to Portloe
Thursday, May 29, 2014
After taking a day off to explore Mevagissey and the Lost Gardens of Heligan (about an hour's walk inland from the village), I returned to Mevagissey's harbour to rejoin the Coast Path on an overcast Thursday morning. Following the long quayside around to the landward end of the harbour's outer pier, I found some steps that climb steeply up to the small Cliff Park, from which there are good views back over the harbour (picture 1) and northwards along the coast to Black Head (picture 2).
Crossing the park, the Coast Path joins a road behind clifftop houses, following it through a residential area, never very far from the clifftop, to reach the sleepy Portmellon Cove after about 800 metres (picture 3). The route follows the road downhill and around to the other side of the cove, turning left into Chapel Point Lane when the main road bears inland. After about 200 metres the village is left behind and a similar distance further along the lane, the Coast Path departs to the left to follow a well-worn trail along the side of Chapel Point (picture 4).
The path doesn't go all the way up to the tip of Chapel Point, which is occupied by a couple of houses, but rather shortcuts across the back of the point to the small Colona Beach (picture 5). Beyond the beach the path runs along the low cliffs, entering a National Trust property called Bodrugan's Leap (picture 6). The name apparently comes from an episode during the Wars of the Roses where a local nobleman from the nearby village of Bodrugan who found himself on the wrong side was said to have leapt from the cliff to escape his pursuers and get himself aboard a waiting boat bound for France.
The Coast Path then rounds Pabyer Point and continues to follow field edges along the cliffs above Great Perhaver Beach, which was entirely submerged by the high tide (picture 7). After climbing steadily for around a kilometre, the path then descends for another kilometre to the sheltered cove and village of Gorran Haven.
On reaching the edge of the village, the path leaves the field-edge path via a stile and cuts through a small band of bushland to join the top of Cliff Road. The road runs gently down into the middle of the village, turning left into Church Street, which continues downhill past the church of St Just to the beachside Mermaid Café. Rather than going onto the beach, the route turns right then left behind a building at the foot of Foxhole Lane to find a path that climbs up to Little Perhaver Point which has views back over the Haven (picture 8).
The route then continues ahead on a sometimes vertiginous path along the steep flank of Maenease Point (picture 9), eventually rounding the point to gain a view ahead over the white sands of Vault Beach to the more substantial headland of Dodman Point (picture 10). The Coast Path follows the contours of the hillside high above the sandy beach, passing through the National Trust's Lamledra estate before climbing up to follow field-edge paths above the eastern face of Dodman Point (picture 11). Nearing the end of the headland, the path enters a patch of scrub to approach a tall granite cross (picture 12), erected by a local parson in 1896 as a daymark to help shipping steer clear of the dangerous rocks around the headland.
On reaching the cross, the path turns right to run beside several fields on the western edge of the relatively flat top of Dodman Point (picture 13) before eventually dropping down into the gorse and fern-covered hillside to descend to the deserted Hemmick Beach (picture 14). The path briefly meets the lane behind the beach before joining a clifftop path along the edge of an unusual field system where the plots are separated by knee-high grass-covered banks.
After a couple of minor ups and downs the path rounds the small Greeb Point into the rocky Lambsowden Cove (picture 15) then cuts across the back of the next point to reach the sandy Porthluney Cove (picture 16).
Occupying a sheltered position on the hillside behind Porthluney Cove is Caerhays Castle (picture 17), which despite its castellated exterior is actually an early 19th-century stately home rather than a medieval fortress. The castle was designed by John Nash, the architect responsible for famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and the Brighton Royal Pavilion.
The path gently descends to meet a road that runs along the wall of the castle grounds, separated from the beach by a large carpark that suggests that this must be a popular spot at the height of summer. The road snakes along beside the wall before bending sharply to the left to climb through Battery Walk Wood on the western side of the cove. When the road turns right at the far edge of the wood, the Coast Path climbs some wooden steps to a gate on the left of the road and joins a field-edge path leading back to the clifftops.
The Coast Path now takes a westerly course along the clifftops for a kilometre before descending to the small village of East Portholland, where a small chapel and around ten houses shelter in a coombe above another small sandy cove (picture 18). After descending into the village the Coast Path runs a short distance up the coombe to find a sharp left hand turn onto a lane that runs over the small hill that separates East Portholland from the even smaller hamlet of West Portholland in the foot of the next coombe (picture 19).
From the carpark by the small beach, the path climbs overgrown steps onto a scrub-covered hillside, where a fairly strenuous walk with several ups and downs takes the route into the National Trust's Tregenna (picture 20).
Not long after leaving Tregenna, the path drops down from the clifftops to take a lower-level route around Caraglooze Point (picture 21). The Coast Path follows the jagged coastline just above rocky outcrops for another rather strenuous kilometre to reach the edge of the village of Portloe, where two coombes meet at right angles behind a small and very rocky cove (picture 22).
A footpath between houses takes the Coast Path onto the narrow village street (picture 23). About 100 metres along the street, a left turn opposite the small church (picture 23) takes the path down past the Lugger Hotel to the small harbour, where a dozen small boats were pulled up onto the tiny beach.
I had managed to walk 19.7 kilometres in fairly good time despite some fairly difficult stretches of path, reaching Portloe just after two in the afternoon. This was as far as I was walking today. The next opportunity for public transport was another 12 kilometres further along the path and that section was described as being quite challenging by the guidebooks, so I didn't like my chances of making the last bus in just over three hours. That proved to be a wise decision, as the next day it would take me almost five hours to complete that stretch of the path.
After a short wait at the bus stop in front of the church I caught a bus for the 45 minute ride to Truro, Cornwall's administrative capital, where I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the compact city centre. I was quite lucky to arrive in good time for the bus, as the service only runs every two or three hours. The 42 kilometre stretch of coastline between Mevagissey and Falmouth is relatively remote, with public transport being infrequent and generally finishing quite early, so careful planning is needed to get through this part of the Coast Path without any unpleasant surprises.