Summer had arrived in Cornwall and just in time for a family weekend stay in Carlyon Bay, temperatures were hitting the 30-degree mark and a coastal walk was already planned, we hadn’t decided on the finer details although the destination was Pentewan via the South West coastal path. Starting out from our camp site via Carlyon Bay beach, the route is roughly a distance of 14km / 9 miles, give or take a few detours and covers some of the most gorgeous, rugged landscape I’ve seen, it’s an exhilarating walk through an area of outstanding natural beauty.
A combination of beautiful, peaceful rolling hills and stunning seascapes. While looking across the bay to whence you first came or overlooking secluded coves, most only accessible by kayak, boat or paddle board, there’s so many reasons to want to put in the effort for this coastal walking delight.
We were back in enchanted, picturesque Cornwall for another weekend break and we intended to make the most of every second of it. Our youngest son spent time with his girlfriend while my husband, daughter and I explored. The first day, or what was left of it after the long drive, was mostly spent messing about in the pool at the camp site, but on the next full day we splatted on the sun screen and donned a hat ready for the hike ahead. Our refillable water bottles were packed and off we strolled to the beach, because why not start with a paddle in the sea. What a lovely beach Carlyon Bay has, and with it being privately owned, it has its own café and bar on the beach too. There’s a hire station on the beach for jet skis and wetsuits too, so if a hike isn’t your thing, go for a ride and search out those beach coves. As we arrived on the beach, a yoga class was in full swing and I can’t think of a more pleasant place for it, how relaxing must that be. Walking barefoot along the beach was for me, a peaceful start to our adventure, the water, so clear and blue and with the backdrop of rocky outcrops and cliffs, I could have easily stayed and chilled, but no, onwards. Back on track and up onto the South West coastal path.
The first section of the SW coastal path on our journey takes a left off the beach and towards Charlestown, which I have mentioned previously in another post. Charlestown is such a quaint little town and takes the imagination to another era, always a charming location, but on our hike, we were only passing through briefly to take in the views and kept moving along. The harbour scene was a complete change from that which I photographed on our last trip, where the sea was rough and lapping up the harbour walls, the summer scene showed clear, calm waters and children playing nearby. What a difference a season makes.
Onwards and upwards, and only just beginning the hike as we leave Charlestown. A little further and we found some welcome shade under the trees before reaching Duporth, a small, dog friendly beach, but on this trip, we had to leave the dogs at home to be looked after by our second eldest son and his fiancée due to Max’s health. So, we hiked on, surprisingly from me, no photos either because we needed to crack on. Before very long Porthpean was in sight, a small but bustling beach, overlooked by cliffs on either side with a refreshments kiosk and toilets, and I add this because after this point you won’t find any toilets or refreshments for miles. A picturesque little beach and on such a hot, sunny day as we had on our coastal walk, it was indeed a popular spot.
Yes, you might have noticed a trend, the coastal path went up once more, it continues this way throughout the walk. Up the many steps to the top of a cliff until the views stopped us in our tracks, the seascapes and landscapes here are breathtaking from the top of each prominence. I found it a great way to judge how far we had travelled as I looked back to see the coves of each beach or town we had already passed by as we looked across the bay. Also looking behind us, the steps we had climbed and ahead of us the decent down into the next valley, not all of which had a beach or any means of reaching a road. That is why I mention the need to bring with you a good supply of water, I think of these things when hiking in the hills, but a coastal walk needs a similar preparation, since access to a water re-fill is miles in-between.
This decent and climb is a constant, which makes for some wonderful view points and a damn good excuse to stop occasionally to admire the coastline, not to mention the stunning rural countryside all around. If only I’d counted the steps, it would have been interesting to have a step count to match the miles. The stunning South West coastal path just kept giving, I found this to be an exhilarating walk, I loved the diverse scenery, rugged and at the same time serine, and with surprises at every turn, every view point, a new perspective, from such height looking down and across the water to pastures new, pinpointing focal points along the coast was so interesting, you don’t get to see those sights without putting in the miles.
There are some spectacular secluded coves on the coast, but most of which can only be reached by the sea, kayaking or similar mode of exploration would be perfect to discover these little gems, the sea was calm on that day and would be good conditions for checking out those secret coves with aqua marine clear waters. The water looked so inviting on that scorcher of a day along the coastal path, but our destination was only a couple of miles ahead of us and a pub visit was a sure bet for a good lunch and a refreshing drink.
Those last two miles passed too quickly before our final descent into Penewan, which is within an area of outstanding natural beauty in Cornwall. Unsurprisingly, most of the South West coastal path is an AONB. Our last rest stop, sitting back to back on a stile up on high in the wholesome fresh air, gave us time to reflect on where we had hiked, and our start point, Carlyon Bay, on the far side of the bay was no longer in sight, everything in this moment in time, stood still, the sounds of bird song and the rustle of dry grasses were the only sounds carried on the warm breeze, and the calming, Cornish seascapes were our sweet, panoramic views from left to right. Special memories often come from the most humbling experiences, listening to nature and really stopping to admire what is before you, I mean taking it all in, including sights, sounds, and atmospheres. Just take the time to stop and be.
St Austell Bay has a very contoured shape, and as the coastal path follows this erratic pattern the seascape changes dramatically at each view point. After our reflective rest stop up a top of the cliffs, we descended to Penewan, (Cornish Bentewyn.) The St Austell river meets the sea here so it’s no wonder the name, Bentewyn means foot of the radiant stream, how lovely. Pentewan is a former port and the history of this can still be seen around and about, though it is mainly a seaside destination now as can be seen along the beach front, with the plentiful holiday chalets and vibrant beach, filled with summer holidaymakers. For us, our South West coastal walk was at an end and the Ship Inn was a welcome sight, we stopped for a hearty lunch and a very thirst quenching cold drink which I felt we had earned over the miles of our walk and all three of us thoroughly enjoyed. I would love to walk the South West coastal path again, maybe in less heat next time, but those beautiful views across the bay and beyond are drawing me back even now as I type