Gorran Haven to Dodman Point

The walk follows the Coast Path from Gorran Haven around Pen-a-Mean to Vault beach, named after the wreckage that often washed up here. The walk follows the path around the bay to reach the daymark cross on Dodman Point. The route continues along the coast to Hemmick Beach and then turns inland along footpaths to Penare Farm, Treveague and descends into the valley to return to Gorran Haven.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Gorran Haven
  • Parking: Gorran Haven. Satnav: PL266JG
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty fishing village of Gorran Haven
  • Panoramic views of South Cornwall
  • Sandy beaches at Gorran Haven, Vault Beach and Hemmick Beach

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the road towards the beach until you reach Foxhole Lane.

    Gorran Haven is a typical fishing village with narrow mediaeval streets and a sheltered place to launch boats: the beach faces East into a bay protected by headlands to the North and South. Prior to the 19th Century, the village was known as Portheast which is thought to be a corruption of Porth Just.

  2. Turn right onto Foxhole Lane and go up the steps. Follow the waymarked path until you eventually reach a kissing gate.

    In mediaeval times, the village at Gorran Haven was the primary fishing village of the area, dwarfing Mevagissey, and the quay has been rebuilt a number of times throughout its history. The first recorded use of seining for pilchards in Cornwall was here, in the 13th Century. Once drift netting became popular in the late 18th century, Mevagissey took over as the primary fishery and the quay fell into ruin but was rebuilt in 1886 and a period of crab and lobster potting continued until the Second World War. After the war, crab and lobster potting resumed from the bigger harbour at Mevagissey.

  3. When you reach the kissing gate, go through it and continue along the path around the headland, passing through another kissing gate, until you reach a waymark at a fork in the path.

    Roughly 70% of the edible crabs caught in the world are caught around the British Isles, most of which are sold to France and Spain. Around the UK, edible brown crabs are regarded as overfished, with the largest fishery based around Scotland. Devon and Cornwall have the most stringent regulations in the UK on the minimum acceptable size and the pots now have an escape hatch for undersized crabs. The crabs are not harmed by the pots which allows crabs carrying eggs to also be released to improve the sustainability of the fishery.

  4. Keep right at the waymark and follow the path to a kissing gate. Alternatively, if you want to visit the beach, bear left at the waymark to reach the beach and then from the beach, go up the steps and follow the path to rejoin the coast path, bearing left to the kissing gate.

    Vault beach is said to get its name from the cold shadow cast over the beach by Dodman Point in the evenings, and continuing in the death theme of Deadman's Point. The alternative name for the beach - Bow beach - describes its crescent shape. The beach is mostly shingle with some sand at low tide and is over half a mile in length and is sheltered from most wind directions by the points either side. The far southern end (furthest away from the path to the beach) is popular with naturists in warm weather. The main part of the beach was used as the location for filming Richard Curtis' "About Time".

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path until it forks.
  6. Keep left at the fork and follow the path to a sequence of two gates.

    The steam-powered cargo ship, the SS Eastfield, was carrying a cargo of coal from Newport in November 1917 and despite being armed with a small stern gun, was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off Dodman Point. She sank in Mevagissey bay, west of Gorran Haven in 40-50 metres of water. The wreck been commercially salvaged but many parts of it are still relatively intact, with the bow standing 8 metres above the seabed, making it a fairly popular dive site. The ship's bell is on display at the Charlestown Shipwreck Museum.

  7. Go through the gates and follow the path until you reach a gate by a National Trust sign for Dodman.

    The Darlwyn was a pleasure craft which disappeared on a voyage from Fowey to Mylor on the day after England won the World Cup in 1966. The boat was not seaworthy, with dry rot in the hull and heavily overloaded above its 12 passenger limit. In addition it had no radio and only 2 lifejackets. Despite this the skipper ignored local advice not to go to sea and set out in a storm. The boat disappeared and the 23 adults and 8 children aboard all drowned. An air and sea search was conducted but the boat was never found. 12 of the bodies washed ashore and autopsies indicated they had drowned in deep water. Fifty years later, remains were found on the sea bed off Dodman Point which are all consistent with that was known about the vessel. It is thought the vessel struck the reef and sank almost immediately. Following the disaster, marine regulations were introduced for pleasure craft ensuring boats meet safety requirements and licence holders must demonstrate boat handling skills.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path along the field to reach a kissing gate.
  9. Go through the gate and follow the path a short distance until you reach a signpost at a junction of paths.

    The National Trust use Shetland and Dartmoor ponies on this section of coast for conservation grazing.

    Dartmoor ponies, bred for hauling goods, have been recorded living on the wild and unhospitable moors since the Middle Ages. They are unsurprisingly a very hardy breed and have a lifespan of around 25 years. Over the 20th Century, their numbers declined from just over 25,000 in the 1930s to about 5,000 by the start of the 21st century when only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor. Dartmoor ponies have recently found a new niche as conservation grazers. As well as on moorland, they are used by the Wildlife Trusts to graze the coast to prevent bracken and gorse taking hold.

  10. Bear left, signposted to Dodman Point, and follow the path to a kissing gate into a field.

    Bracken releases toxins into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants, and the shade created by its large leaves and its thick leaf litter also makes it hard for other plants to compete. It is both poisonous and carcinogenic to many grazing animals which therefore avoid it if at all possible. All these things make it quite difficult to control, particularly in steep areas where mechanised cutting or ploughing is difficult. Treading by livestock can reduce bracken's competitive advantage, particularly during winter when frost can attack the plants.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left hedge of the field to another kissing gate.
  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to a waymark, just before the large granite cross.

    Dodman Point is the highest headland on the south coast of Cornwall at around 400 feet high. The name is a corruption of Deadman's Point and the name appears on maps as "Deadmans Pt" or "Deadman Pt" up to the mid 1800s, though the original name was Penare. The massive granite cross was erected on top of the point in 1896 by the rector of St Michael Caerhayes to act as a daymark for shipping.

  13. Turn right at the waymark and follow the coast path until you reach a signpost for Penare.
  14. Continue ahead on the coast path from the signpost, passing through one pedestrian gate, until you reach a kissing gate overlooking the beach.

    The path to the right from the signpost runs between the two ramparts of the Dodman Point promontory fort.

    Dodman Point was fortified in the Iron Age, with two large ramparts and ditches running across the headland to create an enclosed settlement containing an ancient field system and some barrows.

  15. Go through the kissing gate and follow the coast path diversion along the edge of the bank to reach a path running along the bottom of the bank. Then turn right onto the path along the bottom of the bank to depart from the coast path. Follow the path around the bank, up the valley, to a field gate with a path running to the right.

    The beach is mostly sand with some shingle near the high tide line and rocky ridges down either side. At low tide, an area of rock is exposed on the right-hand side which contains a number of rockpools. Due to its remote location and limited parking, there are usually not many people on the beach.

  16. Keep right to stay on the path and follow this parallel to the road for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a pedestrian gate.
  17. Go through the gate and down the steps, and turn right onto the lane. Follow this to a corner outside Lower Penare Farmhouse where various tracks meet the lane.

    Penare is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. The farm graze Dexter cattle on the coast which helps to stop bracken taking over the headland and improves the habitat for wildflowers, butterflies and birds. It also produces some really nice beef fed on grass and wild herbs. If you’d like to try some, their beef is on sale at weekends at Cornwall Market World on the Par road from St Austell.

  18. Keep left to stay on the lane and follow it uphill past the cottages to a stile on the right just after the last (Bodrugan) cottage.
  19. Cross the stile and cross the field directly ahead (not to the right as signposted) to a gate.
  20. Go through the gate to emerge onto a lane at a junction. Go through the gate ahead and follow the path between the fences to the campsite. Continue between the hedges at the campsite to reach a track.
  21. Follow the track ahead through the campsite to reach a public footpath signpost at a gateway.
  22. Turn right, signposted to Gorran Haven, and follow the track to another signpost by the last cottage on the right. Turn left at this and follow the path alongside a house to some paths leading from behind the house.
  23. Keep left along the wall and follow the path away from the house to a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path until it eventually ends at a kissing gate.
  24. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another gate.

    The path down the valley has a good range of wildflowers in the spring and summer which attract butterflies.

    The Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Tortoiseshell butterflies are all quite closely related and specialised for overwinter hibernation. Their wings, when closed, have a jagged outline and camouflaged colours that allows them to blend in with dead leaves. Their feet contain chemoreceptors (taste buds) which allows them to detect nectar-bearing flowers when they land.

  25. Go through the gate and follow the path to a track. Bear right onto the track then at the corner, turn left and follow the track away from the houses to reach a road.
  26. Turn right onto the road and follow it carefully downhill to reach the car park and complete the circular route.

    Gorran Haven has two sandy beaches, separated by a rocky promontory, facing east into a sheltered bay. The northern beach, known as Little Perhaver Beach, merges with the main beach at low tide but can be accessed at high tide via a steep flight of steps connecting to a footpath which departs from the road a short distance uphill from the chapel. For this reason it tends to be a fair bit quieter than the main beach.

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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • 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 useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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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