17. South West Coast Path (North Cornwall)

177. Port Isaac to Trebarwith Strand

Sunday 21st April 2019

Although it was Easter Sunday, as usual I left home about 5am and reached the Wellington Hotel in Boscastle by 9am. I had a Boscars taxi booked for 10am so gave them a call to see whether they could do the job earlier only to get a recorded message saying that due to unforeseen circumstances they would not be available until Monday. Left a message and then began to wonder how I could deal with this as there are not many taxis in the area and it was Easter Sunday. Fortunately they rang me back and said that they would do the job so panic over.

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Port Isaac (GR996811)
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Lobber Point, Port Isaac GR996811)

Took the taxi to The Old School Hotel, Port Isaac (GR997809) – it was originally a school and performs this role in the TV series Doc Martin. Walked up the hill around the harbour towards Port Gaverne. At the top of the hill there is a view all the way round Port Isaac Bay to Gull Rock at Trebarwith Strand and beyond that Tintagel Head.

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Port Isaac Bay (GR999811)

A little bit misty this morning but very, very hot for the time of day and time of year. According to the thermometer in the taxi it was 20 degrees already at 10 o’clock and the forecast was for it to reach the mid-twenties. In fact it was a record-breaking Easter weekend for much of the country. At least I had the foresight to bring three bottles of water with me for the day and they all got drunk.

It was with some trepidation that I set off as although as others have said, looking round the coast this looks like an easy six or seven miles stroll, I know there are some severe downs and ups, four or five of them at least. This is reckoned to be one of the toughest bits of the South West Coast Path and is rated ‘severe’ by the South West Coast Path Association.

I have a plan. It is:

  • to go very, very slowly and rest often
  • on the upward bits perhaps try to use two sticks like crutches
  • if all else fails walk cross country instead of over the cliffs.

At Port Isaac’s main car park (GR999810) a fingerpost says “Trebarwith Strand 5½ miles” – sounds easy. Joined the road just past the car park and dropped down into Port Gaverne (GR003808) which is a small pleasant enough place with a beach, the Port Gaverne Hotel, a wet fish shop and not much else.

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Castle Rock, Port Gaverne (GR001809)
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Port Gaverne (GR001809)

The road climbs steeply up out of Port Gaverne and just round a bend in front of a house called “Silver Spray” (GR004809) took a footpath off to the left with a signpost saying “Trebarwith Strand 6 miles”. I take this as an expression of what today is going to be like as the distance has increased by ½ a mile over the last ½ mile.

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Back towards Port Gaverne (hidden), Port Isaac, Lobber Point and Varley Head (GR007811)

The path was a pleasant grassy path above Cartway Cove with fields of bluebells looking particularly attractive and was a proper clifftop path, quite near the edge and above many little, mainly unnamed, bays.

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Bluebells on path above Rams Hole (GR011811)

Soon reached the first significant down and up of the day at St Illickswell Gug (GR012811). Fifteen minutes for the down and up and annoyingly for the last part I could have walked round and avoided some of the climb if I had taken an alternative path. At the top of the climb reached a kissing gate (GR015811) where there is a footpath sign saying “Tintagel 6 miles” which doesn’t sound too bad as it is beyond my aiming point for today. Unfortunately on the other side it says “Port Isaac 1 mile” whereas I have done 1.8 miles already this morning. The path continued to climb but more gently to reach a massive stone stile where the path levelled off. Getting towards midday now and getting very hot.

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Gorse and Bluebells above Pigeon’s Cove (GR015812)

Continued along the field edge to another massive stone stile and immediately, for no apparent purpose, a smaller wooden stile and then the path began to descend. A very pleasant walk along a field path with gorse bushes on the left and in front a view all around the coast to Tintagel Head. Also in view are the folds in the land, and it is of course these folds that hold all the horrors for the next mile or so of this walk.

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Towards Tintagel Head (GR025815)

A feature of this part of the coast seems to be the foam on the sea which here is making interesting patterns.

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Sea foam patterns near Ranie Point (GR025815)

The path goes steeply down to cross a tiny stream at Ranie Point (GR026817) for the second major down and up of the day. The path immediately goes steeply up so now is the time for the cunning plan of the second walking stick. The steep bit of the climb is very steep and sharp, the main problem being the loose stones that makes getting a safe footing difficult. Not sure the two walking sticks were actually very helpful but I will give it another go. It looks like much of this section of the path would be impassable in wet weather. Stopped at the stone stile at the top of the climb for a quick snack of a fun-size Mars Bar, twin finger Kit-Kat dark chocolate mint – very nice – and water.

Almost immediately of course after the stile path starts to descend again down towards what looks like a nice flat plain of really green grass with some walkers on it. The first walkers I have seen since Port Isaac. A steep hip-hurting descent to a stream at Delabole Point (GR029819) revealed that the nice green plain is in fact the next climb up beyond the stream – the third down and up.

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Stream at Delabole Point (GR028820)

Within a few hundred yards reach the fourth down and up descending gently at first alongside the edge of field to a stile and then more steeply to a stream again. Cross the stream by stepping stones to enter National Trust Dannonchapel (GR032823). A very discouraging sign here announces ‘Coastal Path Trebarwith Strand 3½ Miles” as it points up the steep hill. At this point got a text from Diane about meeting for lunch tomorrow in Boscastle (hopefully I will be able to make it for then). At the top of the hill stopped for some lunch and a decent rest. A bit of Southern Comfort, a bit of cheese, Scotch egg, Mars Bar – what else can a man ask for.

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The climb to Dannonchapel (GR031823)

There followed a very steep descent on steps down a winding path to get down to sea level at Jacket’s Point (GR034829) – the fifth down and up. The last 1.1 miles had taken me two hours still with climbs to come. Carried on up a steep hill which eventually levelled out where a footpath sign says “Trebarwith Strand 2¾ miles”. It doesn’t seem to get any closer.

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Imppressive but unnamed rock at Dannonchapel (GR031823

It is supposed to easier from here. Hope so as it has been pretty hard getting here. More people about now but the previous section was deserted and can now see the houses at Tintagel.

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Tregardock Beach, Gull Rock and Tintagel Head (GR033828)
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Jacket’s Point (GR035830)

Reached the cross path at Tregardock (GR044842) which is a very popular path backwards and forwards to the beach. Turned right here to go cross country to Trebarwith Strand. This might be a good idea, might not be. No end of families returning from the beach overtook me on the path even though they were carrying children, canoes, picnic baskets etc.

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Path on Tregardock Cliff (GR039835)

At junction of paths (GR047841) turned left on a wide grassy path towards Treligga. At Treligga (GR050844) turned left to go through the village and then at a road junction left again to go down a dead-end road into a farm and then followed footpath signs across fields including one stile that was completely overgrown with hawthorn which I had to fight my way through. This can be a problem in abandoning the coastal path for cross country walking – it can make a pleasant change but often the footpaths are not very heavily used or may not even exist.

Followed the footpath signs to the diverted path around Trecarne Farm to reach the road near Besloe (GR057857). Turned left down the road to Trebarwith and the very impressive looking Trebarwith Farm.

Just past the farm turned left on a footpath which eventually led directly down to the Port William pub at Trebarwith Strand (GR049864). This was quite a shock as it was very crowded with people enjoying a beautiful sunny early evening watching the sea pounding against the rocks – a complete contrast to the rather deserted coastal path.

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Trebarwith Strand and Gull Rock (GR050863)
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Trebarwith Strand (GR049864)

7.3 miles had taken me 7 hours so the first part of my plan worked and I had indeed walked very slowly and rested often (in fact my GPS recorded only 3 hours 9 minutes actually moving out of a total time of 6 hours 51 minutes, so I rested a great deal. Average walking speed was actually 2.4 mph which is not too bad considering the terrain). The two walking sticks part of the plan did not suit me although many people regularly use two and I did go cross country rather than keep to the coast for a short way but only after the most severe climbs.

A beer was the most important objective, and then a taxi back to Boscastle. No mobile signal and a broken public phone was a problem but very helpful bar staff let me use the pub’s phone even though it was in the middle of the very busy serving area. Couldn’t get a taxi until 7 o’clock so didn’t check in at the Wellington Hotel in Boscastle until 7.30 whereupon I had a ‘short rest’ on the bed which resulted in me waking at 11pm and getting properly into bed without a meal.

Days from Chepstow   177

Miles today   7.3

Miles from Chepstow   2146.7

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