Section 3. Newquay to Perranporth - Cornish Coast Path Route
Distance 11 miles - Grade - Moderate - What these grades mean.
Leaving the harbour bustle of Newquay behind you, head out towards the attractive headland of Towan Head past the white washed 14th Century Huers hut. Huers were the pilchard spotters who gazed out to sea to alert the town’s fishing fleet as soon as a shoal was spotted. You can see the launching ramp here for the old Newquay lifeboat which must have been some sight when it returned from rescues to the town beach as it required 8 horses to haul it back through the streets. Walking round the headland you arrive at legendary Fistral Beach, the last of Newquay’s nine beaches but without doubt its best and home to The Cribber - a wave of up to 9 metres high that attracts the country’s top surfers and international competitions – this is the Cresta Run of UK Surfing.
You now need to turn your attentions to crossing the fast flowing River Gannel which charges into the Atlantic here, guarded by flocks of wading birds. Cross the estuary by ferry or one of four possible foot bridges depending on the tide height. If you have to take the more inland route be philosophical – you get to cross some excellent salt marsh dotted with ancient quays and mooring chains dating back to a time when the Gannel was the main source of incoming trade.
The Cornish Coast Path now takes you back to the coast below the village of Crantock and you choose from the mass of trails winding coastward through the grasses of Rushey Green and alongside the broad sand dunes of Crantock Beach.
At Pipers hole look out for the cave which, if entered, bears the inscription “Mar not may face but let me be secure in this lone cavern by the sea, let the wild waves around me roar, kissing my lips for evermore”. Also here listen out for the legendry Gannel Crake a noise “like a thousand voices in pent up misery with one long drawn wail dying away in the distance”. Perhaps it’s the noise of a coast walker who missed the last Gannel Ferry, either way no one has managed to work out its source yet!
Back on the coastline now after the dark inlets at Vugga Cove, you round Pentire Point with its collapsed sea cave surrounded with pretty sea lavender and sea pinks and background views back over Newquay Town. Porth Joke is a special place, a sheltered cove known as Polly Joke locally, with its little pool and sprays of corn marigolds, poppies and cowslips in summer.
At Holywell bay you drop down to one of Cornwall’s most stunning beaches with its powder white sands and rock pools, the twin peaks of Carters Rocks offshore and the mountainous sand dunes and grasslands behind you. Its most recent claim to fame being its use for the opening scenes of the James Bond film Die Another Day.
Holywell’s name refers to its narrow sea cave which can be visited at lower tides. This spot has been a pilgrimage in the past for healing the sick who were brought here to be dipped in the grotto like steps of red and brown stained calcium deposits inside the cave that hold the pools of holy water.
At the southern end of the beach a magnificent rock stack dominates in front of huge pristine sand dunes, whilst those wanting a break from the beach can rest up at the thatched medieval pub The Treguth. The next climb brings Penhale Point, its surprise being the Army Camp and rifle ranges on one side of the trail with fantastic views out to sea and the Gull Rocks on the other. Don’t be caught looking too closely however as Penhale Sands below remains a hot spot for naturists!
The remaining route to your overnight stop at Perranporth gives you a choice. If tide allows, follow three miles of magnificent sand along Perran beach. If not, then it's the inland route, where you can watch the sand yacht, kite surfing and body boarding from the safety of unspoilt and magnificent sand dunes. On the inland trail you pass the last resting place of St Piran, buried under the sands, with a three holed granite cross being all that remains above the dunes to mark the spot.