Hell's Mouth to Godrevy

A circular walk following the coast from Hell's Mouth past the large grey seal colony at Mutton Cove and Godrevy lighthouse to the sandy beaches of St Ives Bay, returning via a pilgrimage route along the Red River Valley.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you via satnav the start of the walk.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app leads you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are and which way you are facing.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
Detailed, triple-tested directions are also included.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk includes lots of information about the history and nature along the route.
Person look at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need a phone or wifi signal for the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price of £1.99 for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
Loading...
The route follows the high cliffs from Hell's Mouth to Navax Head, passing some north-facing coves with very steep paths. The route crosses the heathland reserve of The Knavocks before reaching Mutton Cove. The path continues around Godrevy Head with excellent views of the lighthouse. The path passes some small coves before turning inland up the Red River Valley, following a small lane to the Gwealavellan cross and returns to Hell's Mouth along footpaths through the wooded valley below Carlean.

Reviews

Love this walk and spending time watching the seals
A gorgeous walk today using the @iwalkc app - Hells Mouth to Godrevy. Blue for miles & lots of seals too!!
Fantastic walk today. Hell's mouth to Godrevy.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102,104 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.0 miles/8.1 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: the lay-by at Hell's Mouth
  • Parking: Hell's Mouth lay-by TR275EG. Follow the B3301 to Hell's Mouth café. The roadside parking is just next to it, up hill towards Godrevy.
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof walking boots (valley leading back to Hell's Mouth can be marshy)

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)

Highlights

  • Seal colony at Mutton Cove
  • Rugged coastline and iconic lighthouse
  • Sandy beach at Godrevy
  • Wildlife in the Red River valley

Directions

  1. Cross the road to the waymark on the coast overlooking Hell's Mouth. Turn left onto the coast path and follow it until it ends at a waymark where it joins another path.

    The cliffs above Hell's Mouth are one of the highest points in the area at just under 300 feet. The cove, cliffs and two isolated stacks out to sea are breeding grounds for guillemots and razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes. The caves were once used by smugglers.

    There is a blowhole in the caves on the east side of the beach which makes a boom as compressed air escapes, towards high tide. There is also a good view of the blowhole towards the end of Navax Head which, when the tide is high and there is a sufficient swell, produces a large horizontal jet of spray.

  2. At the waymark, turn right and follow the path between the granite gateposts until it ends at two metal gates.

    Fishing Cove is a north-facing sandy beach on Navax Head, separated by a thin, rocky promontory from Castle Giver Cove. To avoid any surprises when spotting seals with binoculars, it’s worth noting that Fishing Cove is a naturist beach. There is a steep path down to the beach which is reported as challenging. The name "Castle Giver" is from the Cornish words Castel Gaver ("castle of the goats"), perhaps referring to the precipitous nature of the cliff paths here.

  3. Cross the stile between the two gates and follow the left fence to reach a stile.

    Grey Seals are one of the rarest seal species in the world and the biggest land breeding mammal in the UK. Roughly half of the world population of grey seals is found in Britain, a large proportion of which are found in Cornwall. They are big animals with the larger males often over 10ft long; the females are somewhat smaller at around 6ft and usually lighter colours than the males. The latin name for the grey seal translates to the somewhat unflattering "hooked-nosed sea pig" and the alternative common name of horsehead seal isn't much better.

  4. Cross the stile and follow the well-worn coast path to reach a junction where a path to the left leads to a trig point and a path to the right leads out onto the headland.

    The heathland on Navax Point is known as The Knavocks, which is thought to be from the Cornish word for Autumn dwelling Kynyavos. It is some of the best heathland in Cornwall for wildlife, providing a habitat for a range of butterflies and birds. The heath is maintained by the National Trust who graze it with ponies and the gorse is also cut back regularly to stop it overwhelming the other vegetation.

  5. At the junction, continue ahead the main path. Follow the path around the headland and across a grassy cliff to meet a fence and reach a gate in the corner of the hedges.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the coast path until you reach a wooden railing where the coast path has been diverted around the collapsing cliffs.

    Kynance Cove on Godrevy Head is a small, inaccessible, rocky beach which is north facing so barely gets any sunshine, and thus much disappointment would arise from packing a bucket and spade, expecting to visit the picture-postcard sandy cove by the same name. The name in this case is thought to come from Porth Kynyavos, meaning "cove of the autumn dwelling" whereas the somewhat more famous south-facing beach on the Lizard is thought to be from keynans meaning "ravine".

  7. Follow the path through the gap in the wall and between the wall and fence until you reach another opening with a notice about the wildlife reserve.

    In Nov 1854 the steamship "Nile" was on its way from Liverpool to Penzance. On the approach to Cornwall, a storm blew up. As the vessel began to turn along the coastline of Penwith in preparation to round Land's End, it hit the outer edge of the Stones Reef. The ship floated free from the reef but was holed and sank in deep water. One lifeboat was launched but there were no survivors either amongst the crew or passengers. The empty lifeboat was found on the shore.

  8. Go through the opening to the coast and continue on the path around Mutton Cove until you reach wooden railings with warnings not to disturb the seals.

    There is a large grey seal colony in Mutton Cove and from the cliff top, the seals can be seen swimming in the sea or on the beach during breeding season. Up to 80 seals have been observed on the beach at one time. Although there is a path down to the beach, it is strongly recommended that you do not descend to the beach as this will drive away the seals; even the presence of noisy onlookers on the coast path has been found to disturb them.

  9. Keep right to follow along the railings then join the main gravel path ahead which bends left around the headland and as the path descends towards the beach, stay on the main path to reach a stile crossing over a wall.

    The Stones Reef off Godrevy Point has always been a shipping hazard and a lighthouse had been considered for a long time, but nothing was done until in 1854, the SS Nile was wrecked with the loss of all on board. The lighthouse was finished in 1859 and is a 26m tall octagonal tower, located on the largest rock of the reef. The lighthouse inspired Virginia Woolfe's novel "To the Lighthouse", despite her setting the novel in The Hebrides. In 2012, the light was decommissioned and replaced with an LED light on a platform facing the sea. The tower is still maintained as a daytime navigation aid.

  10. Cross the stile and follow the second path from the right (i.e. straight ahead) to reach the mound.

    On 30th January 1649, the Prince of Wales did not have a good day! His father (Charles I) was decapitated and on the same day a ship named The Garland carrying many of his possessions, including his entire wardrobe and that of his mother, was wrecked on the Stones Reef. There were only three survivors from the wreck - a man, a boy, and a dog. A few of the garments washed ashore, but the majority of the cargo was lost and divers still search the reef in the hope of finding treasure.

  11. At the mound, bear right onto the surfaced path and follow it a short distance to reach a waymark.

    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 from around 5,000 years ago when sea levels finally stopped rising after the glacial ice from the last Ice Age had finished melting.

  12. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path along the low wall to reach a lane.

    Much of the Towans dune system is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest), noted for both its geological and biological interest, and includes a nature reserve owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The dunes and grassland provide a habitat for plants including the pyramidal orchid, a rich butterfly population which includes the silver-studded blue butterfly, skylarks, adders and even glow worms. On the cliffs, there is a small pond which is home to newts and toads.

  13. Join the lane and walk a short distance until a path leads off to the right.

    The National Explosives Works was established in 1888, within the dunes of Upton Towans, to supply explosives such as dynamite to the local mines and the area became known as Dynamite Towans. The plant was also used throughout the world wars to manufacture explosives for ammunition, finally closing in the 1960s.

    A number of small enclosures were made in the dunes to house individual buildings interconnected with single-track railways. The arrangement was so that if one plant accidentally detonated, the blast would be deflected upwards so it would not cause a chain reaction, setting off the neighbouring buildings.

  14. Bear right off the lane and follow the path parallel to it. Continue for some distance until you reach a grassy area just before the lifeguard hut.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

    Red waymarks indicate a public byway, down which motor vehicles may be driven depending on how brave you are and how expensive your car is to fix. You are also permitted to use a horse-drawn carriage, should you own one. Byways tend to be surfaced in an ad-hoc manner either with gravel or occasionally with a smattering of tarmac, but still leaving plenty of room for a good crop of grass to grow down the centre. There are 130 miles of byways in Cornwall.

    Most waymarks you'll encounter are yellow, which is the convention for marking public footpaths, of which there are over 2000 miles in Cornwall. Permissive paths occasionally use other colours such as black, white or green.

  15. Keep left along the gravel path to continue following the path parallel to the road. Continue on it as far as you can go, until it ends at the Godrevy Beach Café car park.

    Godrevy is a Cornish word meaning "small farms" or "hamlets". The headland is thought to be more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rocks due to bands of sandstone and slate which are harder than the surrounding mudstones. Sightings of dolphins and porpoises are fairly frequent from the point and basking sharks and oceanic sunfish are also sometimes reported.

  16. Follow the pedestrian path around the right-hand edge of the car park to reach a metal barrier outside the café.

    Despite its name, the glow worm is not a worm. In fact it's a beetle that looks a bit like an elongated woodlouse. During the day you're unlikely to notice one, but at night the last few segments of the female's abdomen glow like an incredibly bright yellow LED. The female (who can't fly) uses her light to attract males (who can fly). Once she has mated, the proverbial and literal light goes out on her relationship.

  17. Pass the barrier and then turn right to walk along the side café and reach a path starting beside a wooden fence. Follow the path alongside the road (crossing a tarmacked track part-way along) until you eventually reach a junction at a bridge.

    Mineral works have been carried out in the Red River catchment area for many centuries and the river water was used for separation processes and as a source of power to drive mills. Relics from this still exist in the form of modifications along the river's course including embankments, diversions and canal-like channels. Even with the advent of steam power during Victorian times, this was still one of the most industrialised areas of Cornwall. Until the late 20th century, the river water was coloured a distinctive red, stained by iron ore washing out of the slime pits and dressing floors into the tributary streams. Towards the end of the 19th Century it was estimated that £30,000 of tin was being lost from the mines into the river each year and ″squatters″ could earn a living by recovering this from the slimy river-bed.

  18. At the bridge, turn left onto the larger road and follow this carefully uphill until you pass a cottage called Sandcot on the left and reach a junction on the right.

    During the early 19th Century, a small chapel (also known as an Oratory) was discovered with the relics of St Gwithean (also known as Gocianus or Gothian) which according to some sources was thought to have been built in 490AD. It was recorded in 1925 that the "oratory ... is more perfect than the Oratory at Perran, having been less meddled with, though it is probably not so ancient". The oratory was allowed to be reclaimed by the shifting sands and now lies buried beneath the dunes. In 2000, a piece of stone wall was observed sticking out from the dunes and this was identified as the top of the buried oratory. It is located within a fenced-off area in the field near the bridge over the Red River.

  19. Turn right at the junction and follow the small lane for about three quarters of a mile to reach a large wayside cross on your right. Continue for another quarter of a mile to reach a metal gate with a public footpath sign on the left just before a large barn on the right.

    The mediaeval cross at Gwealavellan was found to be in use as a gatepost and was restored by Camborne Old Cornwall Society. It was one of thirteen marking the route from Gwithian to Camborne Church. The name of the farm - Gwealavellan - is from the Cornish words gwel a melyn meaning "view of the mill".

  20. Turn left through the metal gate and follow the right hedge to reach a gateway in the far hedge.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  21. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to reach a small wooden gate beneath the trees at the bottom of the field.
  22. Go through the gate and cross the stream via stepping stones. Use the branches and boards to cross the marshes and follow the path up the other side to reach a waymark on a track.
  23. At the waymark, turn right and follow the track until you reach another waymark.
  24. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path along the side of Hell's Mouth Café to complete the circular route.

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

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.

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?