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Section 1. Padstow to Porthcothan - Cornish Coast Path Route

Distance - 13.5 miles    Grade - Easy - What these grades mean.

Information about overnight stops in Padstow before you start your South West Coast Path walk.

Leaving bustling Padstow you have a gentle start to your walk as you pass the old fortifications at Gun Point on your path along the sheltered Camel Estuary, heading for the brooding and foreboding coastline ahead. 

As you cross the boardwalks through the orchid marshes at Harbour Cove across the Camel you glimpse Betjeman’s tiny St Enodoc church peeping out from the sands beside the conical Brae hill.. If the tide is out you can shortcut across the golden sands and dunes to Hawkers Cove, the site of the old Lifeboat station with its isolated row of pilot and coastguard cottages. This was the outpost for those who guided vessels in and out of the estuary trying to avoid the deadly Doom Bar which now sits on your right side. The Doom bar is a constantly shifting sand bank said to have been created by a dying mermaid who cursed the town after being fatally wounded by one of the fisherman. Cursed the town was, with over 300 vessels lost here since records began. At Stepper point the estuary dramatically ends as you hit the open coastline - a point marked by the lonely 40ft daymark tower built to prevent loss of life on the Doom Bar by the rather bizarre association for preservation of life and property.

On the coastline now Razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars accompany you as you walk above a series of serrated holes and inlets. Pass Pepper Hole, said to refer to a smugglers cave used to store the spice, the multicoloured rock strata of Butter Hole and the dark caves at Fox Hole. The rocks and inlets are broken up by steep crossings of small coombes and valleys before reaching the strange stack formation at Chimney Rock, and the spectacular and vertigo inducing double arched Porthmissen Bridge cliff formation. Beyond this the rather sinister round hole set back from the coast is a huge meteor like depression in the ground which is the top of a collapsed sea cave. Gaze down hundreds of feet to see the crashing booming blow hole below you. 

Reach your first  "classic" cove at Trevone, which has plenty of rocky nooks and crannies as well as a beautifully enclosed corridor of golden sand. You can pause at the excellent beach cafe for refreshments or enjoy some fresh seafood for lunch from the small restaurant. If you need instead to burn off what you had in the Padstow restaurants last night, then you can always take a refreshing dip in the surf.

After a break at Trevone it's an easy amble over small cliffs as you wind your way around the fresh and open coastline, which brings you to the first long stretch of sands at the hamlet of Harlyn Bay.

Overnight stops at Harlyn Bay on the South West Coast Path

For those continuing on today to Porthcothan, you climb another series of serrated zawns and inlets to round Mother Ivey’s Bay - named after a witch who cursed the local fields here. Trekking a heavily fractured coastline you approach the jagged Merope rocks, a dramatic home to flocks of ravens and, since 1967, Padstow's lifeboat station (open for visitors) which over the years has saved over 400 lives from the Doom Bar.

At Cat’s Cove magnificent views reach as far back as Hartland Quay, 7 days walking away to the east and onwards towards Cape Cornwall close to Lands End,  a good 100 miles in all.

The trail meets the striking 60 foot tall lighthouse at Trevose head and then leads you into the ominously dark sounding Stinking Cove. At Booby’s Bay (a boobie is another name for a gannet - a type of seabird), and just beyond another round hole look for the remains of The Carl - a German ship visible at low tide and wrecked on route to Cardiff in 1917.  From here you cross the back of superb sand and surfing beaches at Constantine Bay and Treyarnon Bay before crossing the run of three coves, Pepper, Warren and Fox cove to descend to the hidden little beach at Porthcothan.

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