Hall Walk from Fowey to Polruan

After a crossing on the Bodinnick Ferry, the route climbs through Bodinnick to the start of the original Hall Walk. The walk follows the mediaeval route to Penleath Point, where the "Q" memorial overlooks Fowey. The walk then continues along footpaths through the woods around Pont Pill, crossing the river at Pont. The footpath ends in Polruan from which there is another ferry crossing back to Fowey. The final stretch is through the heart of Fowey to complete the circle.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Station Road car park
  • Parking: Station Road car park. Follow the A3082 to the roundabout at the end then follow signs to Bodinnick Ferry. Satnav: PL231AU
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Hall Walk - famous since mediaeval times
  • Historic port towns of Fowey and Polruan
  • Spectacular views over the Fowey Estuary
  • Wildlife along the creeks

Directions

  1. From the car park, catch the Ferry to Bodinnick.
  2. Depart from the ferry and walk up the hill past the Old Ferry Inn to reach a footpath signpost on the right marked "Hall Walk", just before Hall Walk Cottage.

    The name Boddinick is thought to be a corruption of the Cornish Bosdinek, meaning "fortified dwelling".

    The house by the water at the bottom of the hill, known as Ferryside, was Daphne Du Maurier's first Cornish home. Her parents bought the cottage as a second home in 1926 and Daphne spent time in it whenever she could, writing her first novel "The Loving Spirit" during her stays here. One of her readers was so affected by the book that he sailed to Fowey to meet the author. They fell in love and were married in nearby Lanteglos Church. Before it was converted into a house, Ferryside was a shipbuilding yard and the figurehead mounted on it is from a schooner.

  3. Turn right at the Hall Walk signpost and follow the path to reach a gate.

    Hall Manor, just above Bodinnick, was built in the 13th century. An ornamental promenade was created which ran from the manor to Penleath Point and dates back to at least the 16th Century. It was described by Richard Carew in 1585 as:

    cut out in the side of a steepe hill….evenly levelled, to serve for bowling, floored with sand, for soaking up the rayne, closed with two thorne hedges, and banked with sweete senting flowers: It wideneth to a sufficient breadth, for the march of five or sixe in front, and extendeth, to not much lesse, then halfe a London mile …..and is converted on the foreside, into platformes, for the planting of Ordinance, and the walkers sitting; and on the back part, into Summer houses, for their more private retrait and recreation.

    One of the Summer Houses remains on the point, containing a row of benches. Later, the path was extended to Polruan. The full length of this is now known as the "Hall Walk" but originally the name would have probably just referred to the promenade to Penleath Point.

    The land for the walk was given to the National Trust as a joint memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and the men of Fowey and Polruan who had died during the Second World War.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path to the memorial carved with a large sword. Continue along the path to reach another stone memorial on the point, just past a row of benches within an ancient Summer House.

    In August 1644, during the English Civil War, King Charles I visited Cornwall, which was a Royalist stronghold. During his visit, Charles stayed with the Mohun family of Hall Manor. On a stroll along Hall Walk, he narrowly avoided being hit by a musket shot fired from parliamentary troops stationed in Fowey. The shot was reported to have killed a fisherman who was standing where the King had stood only moments before. Hall Manor itself was destroyed shortly afterwards during the Civil War.

  5. From the memorial on the point, bear left to follow the path and continue until you reach a gate into a field.

    The path from the other side of the memorial leads to the rocks of Penleath Point, from which there are some nice views of Fowey across the river. However the path is very steep and liable to be slippery in wet weather.

    The memorial is dedicated to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (aka "Q") which is inscribed on the side facing Fowey.

    The memorial stone on Penleath Point, opposite Fowey Harbour, is to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch was born in Bodmin, lectured at Oxford and then lived in Fowey, working as a literary critic and author, publishing under the name Q. He is best known for the Oxford Book of English Verse. He was regarded by the Cambridge establishment as "rather eccentric", even by the university's standards, and is thought to be the inspiration for the character "Ratty" in Wind in the Willows. This is perhaps epitomised by Ratty's exclamation "there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats". His novel "Castle Dor" was left unfinished when he died and was completed by Daphne Du Maurier "in memory of happy evenings long ago when 'Q' was host at Sunday supper". He is buried in Fowey churchyard.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path along the right hedge to a waymark.

    The author Kenneth Grahame also spent a lot of time in Fowey and became a close friend of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch.

    When "The Wind in the Willows" was completed by Kenneth Grahame in 1907, it was met with critical disdain and rejected by publishers both in the UK and US. Fortunately Grahame had a stroke of luck: two years after the book was completed, US president Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Grahame to tell him that he had "read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends". Roosevelt eventually persuaded US publisher Scribner to take it on. A.A. Milne was also a fan, stating: "The book is a test of character"... "The young man gives it to the girl with whom he is in love, and if she does not like it, asks her to return his letters. The older man tries it on his nephew, and alters his will accordingly".

  7. Go through the gate (or over the stile) next to the waymark and follow the path until it emerges on another path near the creek.
  8. At the junction of paths, turn right and follow the path down to a wooden footbridge crossing the creek on the left.

    The tiny hamlet of Pont was once a busy quay where barges would unload coal and limestone. Lime kilns were built here in the early 19th Century on each side of the creek and Pont Pill Farmhouse was once an inn frequented by the crews of the barges. The name "Pont" refers to St Willow's bridge at the top of the creek: the Cornish word for bridge is pons but in Old Cornish it was pont.

  9. Cross the bridge and follow the path alongside the cottages to reach a waymark.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  10. At the waymark, turn right up the steps and follow the path to reach a gate into a field.

    From the waymark, you can take a diversion of just under a quarter of a mile up the hill to Lanteglos Church. To do so, follow the path to the waymark ahead and bear left across the road to a gate on the bend marked "To the Church". Once through this, follow the path to reach a gate into the churchyard.

    The church is dedicated to St Wyllow who according to legend was born in Ireland in the 6th Century, lived as a hermit in Cornwall and was beheaded by the locals. The current church was built in the 14th Century and altered in the 15th. The brass of Thomas de Mohun within the church dates from this period and the brasses depicting John Mohun and his wife date from the start of the 16th Century. The bench ends were also carved in the 16th Century and carefully preserved during an 18th Century restoration. Daphne Du Maurier featured the church as 'Lanoc Church' in her first novel, "The Loving Spirit" and she was married here herself in 1932.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path up the steps, keeping right up the steps where a path departs through the bushes to a gate. Follow the path along the left hedge of the field to a gap into the field above with a wooden gate on the left.
  12. Go through the gap and follow the path along the left hedge to a pedestrian gate in the top corner
  13. Go through the gate and keep right at the fork in the path. Follow the path until you reach a fork where a grassy path departs to the right.
  14. When you reach the fork, the official Hall Walk route continues uphill ahead. Alternatively you can optionally turn right down the grassy path and follow this to a bench, where a small path leads down to a rocky beach, then continue from the bench to rejoin the main path. The path via the creek has a steeper climb but there is usually more wildlife along it.

    Herons can often be seen along the edges of the creek.

    The grey heron is an unmistakably massive bird with a 6ft wingspan and is most commonly seen in or near freshwater. The call of the heron is equally unsubtle - it is more like grating metal than the sound of birdsong. Although herons primarily eat fish, they will eat frogs, rodents, moles, ducklings and even baby rabbits! In Tudor and Elizabethan times, hunting herons with peregrine falcons was considered a royal sport which resulted in the birds being protected from peasants who might otherwise have caught and roasted them.

  15. If you are coming up from the creek, bear right onto the path, otherwise continue ahead and follow the path until it emerges onto a track.
  16. Cross the track to the waymarked path opposite and follow this until it eventually emerges down a flight of steps onto a narrow alleyway in Polruan.

    In the gaps between the trees, and as you enter Polruan, there are views across the estuary to Fowey. The large castellated building next to the church is Place House.

    Place House was built around 1260 by the Priory as their headquarters within Fowey and soon after became the ancestral seat of the Treffry family. Sir John Treffry fought under the Black Prince at the Battle of Crécy in 1346, and captured the Royal Banner of France. In 1457, French marauders besieged the house, but met with Dame Elizabeth Treffry who gathered men together and poured melted lead, stripped from the roof, upon the invaders. The house incorporated fortified elements designed to repel any attacks including what was described in Tudor times as "a right fair and strong embattled tower". The building still includes 15th and 16th century fabric but was largely rebuilt in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  17. Turn right at the Hall Walk sign and follow the tarmacked path down the steps to reach another Hall Walk sign.

    Polruan is located in the lee of the prevailing winds within the Fowey estuary and is therefore a very sheltered natural harbour. The settlement originated as a small fishing village and later became a centre for boat building. The name is associated with St Ruan, who is said to have settled on the hill above Polruan during early mediaeval times.

  18. At the bottom of the steps, turn left and follow the path down more steps and along the narrow lane to reach a junction of lanes by the harbour.

    The location of Fowey close to the mouth of the estuary made it vulnerable to attack by sea. The town was destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1330, 1380 and 1457. Following the 1380 raid, blockhouses were built on either side of the estuary mouth. A chain spanned between them that could be raised to close the channel in times of need. The chain was later confiscated by the King after boats from Fowey and Polruan were convicted of Piracy.

    The Polruan blockhouse can be reached along the small lane which continues ahead from the junction, past the Russell Inn.

  19. Turn right and walk down to the harbour. Keep left along the quay past the Lugger Inn to catch the ferry to Fowey.

    There has been a ferry link between Fowey and Polruan for centuries. The road journey, via Lostwithiel, is still a long, winding one and takes the best part of an hour. For most of the period that the ferry has been running, the ferry itself was a rowing boat. Passengers could save the one penny return fare and travel for free if they did the rowing!

  20. If the ferry drops you on the Town Quay then facing the King of Prussia, bear left past the aquarium and museum to reach the Ship Inn and follow the last direction from there. If you are dropped by the large red tower, follow the alleyway up from the quay to the Esplanade.

    The King of Prussia Inn, on the town quay in Fowey, is thought to have been converted from a 17th Century merchant's house or market building which was only 2 storeys high. The Inn is named after the smuggler and privateer John Carter, nicknamed "The King of Prussia", who is said to have resided at the Inn in the 1780's. It was demolished and rebuilt as a 3 storey building in 1886, but retains the original 17th century granite columns which form the undercroft area.

  21. Turn right and follow the lane until it ends at a junction opposite a postbox.

    Despite the illegality of their "free trade", the Carters had a reputation for being honest and godly men. Swearing and vulgar conversation were banned on their ships and Harry Carter held church services for fellow smugglers and eventually retired to become a full-time preacher. John Carter's reputation is epitomised by a story of him breaking into the Penzance Custom House to liberate a confiscated consignment of tea which was due for delivery to his customer. The Customs officers are reported to have said "John Carter has been here, and we know it because he is an upright man, and has taken away nothing which was not his own."

  22. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane to the Ship Inn.

    The Ship Inn is the oldest surviving pub in Fowey, dating back to Tudor times. It was built by the Rashleigh Family in 1570 and some of the 16th Century interiors are still present. It was once linked by a first-floor bridge above the road to 1 Lostwithiel Street and this formed the tollgate to the town.

  23. Pass the church on your left and keep left to follow along Fore Street past Fowey's Lugger Inn. Continue following the road to return to the car park and complete the circular route.

    The Lugger was a type of sailing boat widely used for fishing until the 20th Century, and was the principal vessel of the Cornish fishing industry. The type of sails it used were known as "lugsails", and were positioned asymmetrically with respect to the mast so more of the sail was behind than in front of the mast. The origin of the name is uncertain, but one suggestion is that it might be from "ear-shaped-sail", which a French name for the class of boats ("aurique") also points to.

    In the early 20th Century, small petrol-paraffin engines became available which allowed the boats to enter a harbour more easily. At this point, the boats also began to last longer because oil spills from the engine soaked into the timber, both preventing rot and also killing off woodworm and woodlice that, formerly, had gradually devoured wooden vessels. Some of the vessels from this period have survived, converted to pleasure craft.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa
  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is also useful.

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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