Daymer Bay to Padstow

The walk starts from Daymer Bay and heads through the sand dunes to Rock, via St Enodoc Church: the burial place of Sir John Betjamen. The next leg is on the passenger ferry to Padstow, where the route ascends from the harbour, passing the ancient church and Prideaux Place, once the site of St Petroc's monastery. The walk continues past Tregirls to the Doom Bar. The beaches of Harbour Cove and St Georges Cove form the return route to Padstow. After a second river crossing, the route follows the sands of Daymer Bay from Rock.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.4 miles/10.3 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Daymer Bay car park
  • Parking: Daymer Bay car park. Satnav: PL276SA
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Sandy beach from Rock to Daymer Bay
  • St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjamen
  • Panoramic views over the Camel Estuary from Tregirls
  • Sandy beaches at Harbour Cove and St George's Cove
  • Padstow's historic harbour
  • Local food in Padstow
  • Sand dunes with wildflowers

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

This walk involves crossings on the ferry, which runs quite frequently. See the timetable for more information about the times of the first and last ferry.

  1. Take the steps down to the beach and cross a small stream. Walk across Daymer Bay, about halfway to Brea Hill opposite, to a gap in the dunes between two fences.

    Daymer bay is situated around the corner from Polzeath, facing into the Camel Estuary. The beach lies directly in front of the car park, down a short flight of steps. The sheltered estuary means that Daymer Bay is popular for windsurfing, kitesurfing etc. There is a beach at all states of the tide and the waves are never very big so it's a safe place to take young children paddling, though in deeper water the tidal river currents can be strong so swimming out into the estuary is not advised.

  2. Turn left and follow the path to reach a waymarked post at the far end of the fence on the right.

    The coiled casts of sand that can be seen in damp areas on many Cornish beaches are from lugworms. These resemble earthworms (but have gills) and are rarely seen as they live in U-shaped burrows beneath the sand. The worm typically stays in one burrow for several weeks before moving a short distance under the cover of high tide to make another one. The worms are a fairly popular fishing bait but are more tricky to dig out than one might expect as their burrows are quite deep.

  3. Continue ahead from the end of the fence until a path comes into view with white St Enodoc Golf Course signs. Follow this path (marked out with white stones) across the golf course, heading for St Enodoc church, until the path enters some bushes and emerges on another path at a waymark.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay. The name Cam-El is from the Cornish meaning "crooked one". It is documented that only the upper reaches of the river, above Boscarne, were originally known as the "Camel". The section from Boscarne to Egloshayle was known as the "Allen" and below this, it was known as "Heyl".

    The River Camel is classed as a SSSI and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EC Habitats Directive. Bullhead, Atlantic Salmon and Otters breed in the river.

  4. At the waymark, bear right onto the track and follow it a short distance to another waymark.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales. He had a large number of children, and most of these were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshale, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are from the names of his children. Brychan is buried on Lundy Island, known in the Celtic language as Ynys Brychan.

  5. From here you may wish to visit the church and then return here to continue the walk. Follow the path along the fence and bottom hedge of the golf course to reach a gravel path.

    St Enodoc church is located amongst the greens of the St Enodoc Golf Course. The church dates from the 12th century and is said to lie on the site of a cave where St Enodoc lived as a hermit. It is thought that St Enoder (aka Enodoc) was the grandson of the 5th Century Celtic King Brychan.

    Over a number of centuries, the church became virtually buried by the towans (dunes) and was known locally as "Sinking Neddy". In order to collect its tithes, the church had to host services at least once a year so the vicar and congregation had to enter through a hole in the roof during this period. During the 19th century, the church was excavated and later it became a favourite place of Sir John Betjeman who is buried in the churchyard.

  6. Join the gravel path ahead and follow this and the small footpath leading from it. Continue over the grassy mounds to reach a gravel track with a No Entry sign.

    In 1889, some local golf enthusiasts laid out a few holes amongst the dunes at Rock and they formed St. Enodoc Golf Club in 1890. A course was built in 1890 but initially only consisted of 9 holes. It wasn't until 2 years later that another 9 were added. In 1907, a new 18 hole course was laid out, which forms the basis of today's course, with a number of alterations in the intervening years. The course now ranks within the top 100 in the world.

  7. Cross over the track and follow the line of white stones and yellow posts to reach the stone bridge crossing the pond.

    Golf developed in The Netherlands during the Middle Ages and was introduced into Scotland towards the end of this period where it evolved to its present form. The word golf is thought to be a Scots alteration of Dutch colf meaning "club". Golf is first documented in Scotland in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the games of gowf and futball as these were a distraction from archery practice.

  8. Cross the bridge to reach a waymark. Turn left and follow the track until it ends on a strip of tarmac.

    On the slopes of the valley created by the stream that feeds the lake is a holy well known as the Jesus Well.

    The Jesus Well at Rock is said to be where St Enodoc baptised converts to the Christian faith in the 6th Century and the water is still used for baptisms. The well was rebuilt in Victorian times and was restored to its current form in the 20th Century. The reason for it being known as Jesus Well is connected with the tale of a visit to the estuary by tin-trader Joseph of Arimathea with the young Jesus.

  9. Cross the tarmac to the path opposite indicated for the beach. Follow the path along the line of white marker stones all the way across the golf course and through some bushes to reach a fork in the path.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was most unhappy with the Celtic people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  10. At the junction, go left, and then straight ahead towards the river where it crosses another path. Continue until the path ends at a T-junction with the coast path.

    Red valerian is also known as kiss-me-quick, fox's brush and Devil's or Jupiter's beard and can be seen flowering in early summer in hedgerows near the coast. The plant is originally from the Mediterranean and is thought to have been introduced as a garden plant roughly around the Tudor period. It has since become naturalised and the brightly-coloured flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths. Over time the base of the stems can get as thick as a small tree trunk which can lever apart the walls in which it can often be seen growing.

  11. Turn left and follow the waymarked coast path to Rock, until you reach a waymark by the beach, at the bottom of a hill.

    Due to its sheltered position in the Camel Estuary, Rock has been popular for sailing for decades. There is a car park with toilets and a slipway to launch boats into the estuary. Rock is also home to Sharp's brewery. There is a pub, next to the car park, which serves food, and a café. A passenger ferry to Padstow runs frequently and, if it's not too busy, will let you take bikes across.

  12. If the tide is out, turn left onto the beach. If the tide is very low, it's possible the ferry will be running from the beach here; otherwise walk along the beach to the slipways at Rock and catch the ferry from there. If the tide is high, bear left up the hill and follow the waymarked coast path to the car park, then turn right down the path to the beach to catch the ferry from, or below, the middle slipway.

    Depending on the tide, the ferry also has different drop-off points in Padstow. At high tide, you'll be dropped on North Quay. At low tide, you'll be dropped onto the beach below the war memorial.

    On the ferry, take note of the times listed for when it will be going from the beach in Padstow. You'll need this both for the walk directions now and also to know where to catch the ferry for the return trip.

    If the ferry drops you on the beach at Padstow, you'll need to follow the path from the beach, up the estuary, into the town, where the walk resumes.

  13. From North Quay Parade, walk around the harbour until you reach The Chough Bakery.

    Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the 'Saints Way' from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the 'old place', to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

  14. Turn right, in front of The Chough Bakery, in the direction signposted to Prideaux Place. At the end of the alley, head to the right of Padstow Institute, in the direction signposted to Prideaux Place. Conrtinue until you reach a fork at the Cross House Hotel.

    "Pasty" was another word used for "pie" throughout England from the Middle Ages onwards, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect) seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought this probably dates from the late 1700s when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor. Even into Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. In fact, the really poor had "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all). A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no potato or swede, just meat (venison), port wine and spices.

  15. At the fork, keep left and follow the lane past St Petroc's church on your left until you reach a junction (Tregirls Lane) on your right.

    There have been 3 churches on the site of St Petroc's in Padstow. The first, was built in the early 6th Century by Petroc and was destroyed in 981 by the Vikings. In the 12th Century, another church was built, which is thought might have been of sandstone and therefore didn't last long. This was replaced by the current church in the early-mid 15th Century. The cream-coloured stone in the interior, used for the columns, was imported from Normandy; the dark stone used for the font and windows is blue elvan quarried from Cataclew Point between Harlyn and Mother Ivy's bay.

  16. Turn right at the junction, passing Prideaux Place on your left, and follow the lane through the arch until the lane ends at Tregirls Farm.

    Prideaux Place, situated at the top of Padstow, is an Elizabethan manor house which has been the home of Prideaux family for 14 generations. It was built in 1592 by Nicholas Prideaux and survived unaltered until the 18th century when Edmund, Nicholas's great grandson, influenced by his Grand Tour through Italy in 1739, created a formal garden and updated the house by installing modern sash windows and coal burning grates.

    Consequently, the house combines some traditional Elizabethan architecture with the 18th century exuberance of Strawberry Hill Gothic. Of its 81 rooms, 46 are bedrooms and only 6 of those are habitable (the rest are as the American Army left them at the end of the Second World War). The deer park is thought to be the oldest in the country and has been dated back to its enclosure by the Romans in 435 AD.

  17. At the end of the lane, walk to the sign on the building ahead, then turn right to reach a stile beside the gate.

    According to legend, St Petroc arrived from Ireland around 520 AD and settled here. After his death, a monastery called Lanwethinoc was built on the hill above the harbour in Padstow. The monks there acquired land from Portreath to Tintagel. After the Viking raid of 981 documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the monks moved inland to Bodmin taking the relics of St Petroc with them. The site of the monastery has never been identified with certainty, but it is thought to be based on the present parish church with an extension towards Prideaux Place.

  18. Cross the stile and turn left onto a track. Follow this along two fields until you reach a waymark, on your right, at the end of the second field.

    To your left, across the estuary, is Daymer Bay and directly ahead are the cottages at Hawker's Cove where the Padstow Lifeboat was originally launched. The headland ahead is Stepper Point along which the river channel used to run. Over the last century the channel has moved towards the middle of the Estuary, possibly caused by sand piling up against the many hundreds of shipwrecks in the channel. The lifeboat has therefore had to be relocated and now launches from Trevose Head.

    The 40ft stone tower on Stepper Point, affectionately known as "The Pepper Pot", was built as a daymark - a navigation beacon for seafarers during daylight. At 240 feet above sea level, it is visible from 30 miles away. When it was built in 1830, the daymark cost the sum of £29. The money was raised by giving donors voting rights in the Harbour Association: one guinea would buy one vote.

  19. Follow the track, past a waymark on the left, until the track bends sharply left, and a path continues ahead into the dunes.

    The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

  20. Take the path ahead, over the dunes, towards Harbour Cove until you reach a crossing of paths.

    Harbour Cove is the beach on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary from Daymer Bay. There is a beach at all states of the tide at Harbour Cove although at low tide, the vast beach stretches out towards Doom Bar and merges with the other beaches, making it possible to walk around Gun Point to St George's Cove across the sand. Harbour Cove is also known locally as Tregirls beach, named after Tregirls Farm. In 1600, the name was originally "grylls" but was corrupted into "girls" over the years. It's possible the name of the farm arises from the Grylls family who were part of the Cornish gentry.

  21. Where some other paths cross, you can turn right along either of the paths across the dunes to join the coast path. Make your way around Gun Point to the tiny wooded valley at St George's Cove, either along the path or beach. If you go via the beach: continue around the headland, past the Gun Point and turn right to head inland between the trees, up the middle of the valley; then turn left where the path ends.

    Dunes (called towans in Cornish) form when dry sand from the beach is blown by the wind, and initially lodges against an obstruction, eventually forming a ridge. More sand can then accumulate against the ridge and vegetation such as marram grass can then take hold, preventing the resulting sand hill from washing or blowing away. Erosion of the vegetation by foot traffic can cause the dunes to disintegrate, so areas are sometimes fenced off to allow the all-important weeds to recover. Most of the major dunes on the North Cornish coastline are thought to have formed more than 5,000 years ago when sea levels finally stopped rising after the glacial ice from the last Ice Age had finished melting.

  22. From St George's Cove, continue up the estuary, along the coast path, to a waymark in front of the War Memorial.

    The Camel Estuary is a breeding ground for bass and is a designated conservation area. Fishing for bass is illegal during the closed season in the summer and autumn. Given they are normally found in the sea, bass are surprisingly tolerant of freshwater and sometimes venture quite a long way upriver.

  23. Go through the gate ahead, and past the Memorial, to the gate on the other side.

    Padstow's fishing industry reached its heydey in the nineteenth century, by which time there were also six shipyards. In the 1880s, shipbuilding declined when wooden ships were replaced by iron but the town was fortunate that by the end of the nineteenth century, east-coast trawlers made Padstow the centre of their winter fishing.

    When the railway opened in 1899, this quickly became important for fish export and during the 1920s, there were still well over 100 fishing boats in the harbour. When the railway closed in 1967, the fishing industry went into decline but recovered somewhat in the 1980s with Padstow being recorded as the 3rd largest fishing port in the South West in 1986.

    The fishing fleet is much smaller today but is still active, and the National Lobster Hatchery is based beside the car park on the South Quay.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the left (lower) path until you reach a junction where another surfaced path departs to the left.

    The National Lobster Hatchery, located on the quayside at Padstow, are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. The lobsters are reared in captivity until they are a year old - the age when they set up home in a burrow. They are then released at different points around the coast to replenish stocks caught by fishermen. There is a visitor centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.

  25. At this point, you need to check the time, to deduce whether the ferry will be going from the beach or the harbour. If the ferry is going from the beach, turn left and follow the path to the beach. Otherwise, follow the path ahead, down to North Quay Parade, and turn left onto North Quay, to catch the ferry from there.

    Rock has been referred to as "Britain's Saint-Tropez", the "Kensington of Cornwall" and "Chelsea-on-sea" due to its popularity as a holiday destination for rich and famous (including Prince Harry, the actor Hugh Grant, the Rothschilds, the Sainsburys, the Freuds, Mohamed Al-Fayed and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai).

  26. If the tide is out, turn left and walk along the beach to Daymer Bay. If the tide is in, take the path leading up to the car park and bear left onto the coast path; then follow the waymarked coast path back to Daymer Bay.

    On 9th August 1879, the four Prideaux-Brune sisters (of Prideaux Place) and their friend Miss O'Shaughnessy were in a rowing boat and being towed into Padstow by a fishing boat after the rapid onset of strong winds. On their way up the estuary, they spotted a sailor in distress who had been capsized by a squall of wind off Bray Hill. They asked to be cast off, and rowed through heavy surf - at considerable risk to their own lives - to his rescue. Their "intrepid and prompt services" resulted in the award of Silver Medals for Bravery.

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