Mullion to Predannack

The walk follows the valley from Mullion to Polurrian Cove then follows the coast path to Mullion Cove. From here the path enters the National Nature Reserve and follows Mullion Cliff past Mullion Island to Predannack Head. The route departs from the Coast Path at Ogo-dour Cove and follows an ancient route from Predannack Woolas to Trenance marked by a mediaeval cross. The final stretch is along back lanes through Mullion to end beside the Old Inn and church.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.2 miles/10 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Village Car Park
  • Parking: Village or Tremenhee car park. Follow the one way system and then turn right to pass the church and reach the car parks Satnav: TR127HW
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or boots in winter

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Sandy beach at Polurrian Cove
  • Views across Mount's Bay to Penzance and St Michael's Mount
  • Pretty harbour at Mullion Cove
  • Rugged coastline and islands along Mullion Cliff

Directions

  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the road past Laflouder Fields on the left, and Woodlands on the right, to Laflouder Lane on the left.

    The name Mullion is likely to be from the Cornish Porth Melyn, meaning "mill cove". The name may also be connected with St Mellanus, to whom the church was dedicated, born in South Wales some time in the early sixth century. Like many Celtic saints, he later migrated to Brittany and the cathedral in the capital, Rennes, is dedicated to him. The names may be a coincidence or St Mellanus may have been retrospectively adopted, based on the similar-sounding name.

  2. Turn left down Laflouder Lane and keep left when you reach the junction with Meres Valley. Follow Laflouder Lane, which fades out into a track, until you reach a junction of tracks and paths at a No Through Road sign.

    There are records of smuggling in Mullion up to 1840. Some of the old cottages still have cupboards with false backs or bottoms and spaces beneath the floor where contraband was stored.

  3. Bear left down the small path between the tracks. Follow this to reach a coast path signpost.

    The beach at Polurrian Cove is mostly composed of fine golden sand. In winter, patches of fine shingle sometimes appear but these give way to golden sand as the tide goes out. The cove faces southwest which can result in some good winter surf and is sheltered from the wind by the headlands either side which also helps to keep the surf clean.

  4. Turn left and cross the footbridge. Then either climb the steps or follow the longer but less steep path to the left to a waymark, and keep right to the top of the cliff. Follow the path to a junction of the two paths at a waymark at the top of the hill

    Polurrian is on the geological boundary between the Cornish slates of Mount's Bay and the volcanic rocks of the Lizard which were pushed out from the Earth's mantle during the collision of two ancient continents.

  5. Continue ahead from the waymark and follow the path until it ends at a junction of lanes and tracks at a coast path signpost.

    Part of the Earth's mantle, normally tens of miles below your feet, was once bulldozed onto Cornish mainland in front of the advancing continent. The mantle contains elements such as iron, magnesium and calcium which are less common in the Earth's crust as they are comparatively heavy and normally get chance to sink back into the mantle. The rocks rich in these minerals, such as Greenstone, are referred to as "mafic" whereas those containing relatively little (e.g. granite which is formed from magma which slowly works its way up through the Earth's crust) are referred to as "felsic".

  6. Turn right and follow the track until you reach a small path ahead marked with Polurrian National Trust sign.
  7. Follow the path ahead with the Polurrian sign to reach a fork as you approach a building. Keep right at the fork and follow the path past the bench to reach a lane.
  8. Turn right onto the lane and follow it alongside a parking area opposite the hotel to reach a waymark near the cannon.

    The cannon was found in Mullion Harbour in the 1880s when the harbour walls were being built. The ship that it originally came from is unknown.

  9. Follow the path between the waymark and the cannon to descend to Mullion Cove. Stay on the main path to reach a waymark beside the buildings.

    The equipment for catching pilchards included multiple boats and large nets which were beyond the means of the majority of poor fishermen. Therefore many pilchard fisheries provided the equipment but paid the workers a relatively small wage. Mullion was an example of this, where the operation was run by seining companies based around Penzance and Newlyn. 75% of the catch went to the owners and the remaining 25% was allocated in shares to the crew, on top of a weekly wage. The clifftop lookouts were the most highly paid, followed by net shooters, the bowman and finally the rest of the crew. The payment system also included a cash bonus for the more senior members of the boat crew for each hogshead barrel of fish in the owner's share to prevent the crew from cheating the system.

  10. At the waymark, go down the steps to reach the harbour (which you may want to explore). The walk continues to the left, past the PorthMellin Café. Continue along the lane until you reach a wooden Coast Path signpost.

    Mullion Cove is naturally sheltered to some degree by Mullion Island and this was further improved by the construction of Mullion Harbour in 1895. The construction was financed by the Robartes family of Lanhydrock who also owned Predannick Woolas, after the local fishermen had endured several disastrous years of pilchard fishing in the early 1890s. The estate which included the harbour and island was given to the National Trust in 1945 who then had the unenviable task of maintaining the harbour walls which are of the problematic Victorian block design and to make matters worse are partially built from notoriously soft serpentine rocks. The breakwaters have been damaged by storms a number of times since the 1990s and repairs have already cost the National Trust well over £1 million. The Trust aim to patch up the breakwaters for as long as they can but concede that at some point over the next couple of decades, they are likely to be damaged beyond repair.

  11. Turn right at the signpost to reach a waymark then bear right around the house to reach a path which forks. The lower path leads onto the harbour wall, should you wish to have a look at this first. To continue the walk, follow the upper path leading up the cliff to reach a fork in the path.

    Harbour walls created from mortared square blocks of granite during the Victorian period very quickly become unstable when the mortar between them is eroded by the sea. The large square blocks are particularly susceptible to the hydraulic lifting effect of the sea and the receding waves can suck loose blocks out of the harbour wall.

    The previous old-fashioned way of building drystone harbour walls from unshaped boulders stacked on their edges did not suffer this problem, as the hydraulic pressure would be released through the gaps between the stones and the narrow, rounded bottom of each one did not present the sea much surface area to lift against.

  12. Keep right at the fork, then go left at the next fork, up the cliff. Follow the Coast Path indicators and continue on the main path up the cliff to reach a Lizard National Nature Reserve sign at the top of the hill.

    The unusual geology of The Lizard peninsula combined with its mild maritime climate has resulted in a landscape of great conservation interest, supporting over 250 species of national and international importance, many of which are found nowhere else in Britain. Consequently, over 1,600 hectares of The Lizard are designated a National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England and others are managed by the National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife.

  13. From the sign, follow the main path along the coast, which forks and rejoins a number of times. Continue until you reach a fork where the path to the left goes past a gate and the one ahead follows the coast.

    Various copper mines were worked on Predannack Head, Mullion cliff and the Predannack Downs during the 18th Century. Many of these were amalgamated into Wheal Unity in the early 19th Century, which was later re-opened as Wheal Trenance. Although the usual copper ores were also extracted, the remarkable feature of this mine were the large pieces of very pure copper metal that were found. One weighed 30 tonnes and had to be cut up to get it out of the mine. The largest chunk of this, weighing 3 tonnes, was displayed in the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and is on display in London's Natural History Museum.

  14. Follow the path ahead along the edge of the coast. As you descend into a valley, approaching a house, keep right past the Mullion and Predannack Cliffs information board to the wooden posts which form a gap in the electric fence.

    The trench on the Mullion Cliff is thought to be the remains of a WW2 rifle range where the bank in front of the trench was used as the butt for the targets.

  15. Go through the gap in the fence and wall behind and follow the path to the bottom of the valley. Follow the path up the other side and continue on the path to reach a stone stile beside a Lizard Nature Reserve sign.

    Mullion Island is roughly half a mile offshore but was still part of the estate of Lower Predannack. It is an important nesting site for seabirds, particularly kittiwakes, and is now owned by the National Trust.

  16. Cross the stile and follow the path ahead past the boulders then take the path to the right towards the coast. Cross over another path and pass between the two rock outcrops to reach the coast. Continue along the coast to the edge of a bay where the path forks.

    In June 1979, a coaster known as the Shoreham, carrying a cargo of limestone, went offcourse in thick fog and ran aground on the Mullion Cove side of Predannack Head. Fortunately, the weather was calm so the crew were all rescued by the Lizard lifeboat and after dumping some of the cargo to lighten the ship, it was eventually refloated and repaired in Falmouth.

  17. Keep left at the fork to reach a gate beside a wall.

    The carpets of tiny blue flowers on the coast during April and May are the appropriately-named spring squill, which up close is a star-shaped pale blue flower with a dark blue stamen. They achieve their early flowering by storing energy over the winter in a bulb so they can be the first flowers out on the cliffs before they become overshadowed by larger plants. They thrive in locations which are beaten with wind and salt-laden spray which they are able to tolerate but other plants, which might otherwise out-compete them, cannot.

  18. Go through the gate and when the path forks, keep right to reach a rock outcrop on the edge of the valley. Then take the path leading downhill to the left to reach a crossing over the stream.

    The Lizard peninsula is famous for its serpentine, which forms the rock outcrop here and the majority of the coastline.

    Serpentine is not a single mineral but a broad group of minerals formed when minerals rich in iron and magnesium react with water in a series of chemical reactions known as serpentization. Rocks containing these minerals are known as Serpentinite. The name is due to the resemblance of the patterning in the rocks to the skin of reptiles.

  19. Cross the stream and follow the path until you reach a junction of paths on the other side of the valley.
  20. Keep right along the coast and follow the path until you reach a National Trust sign for Predannack with a path to the left for Predannack Wollas.
  21. Turn left onto the path to Predannack Wollas and follow this to a gate.

    The settlement of Predannack was first recorded in 1196, as 'Bridanoc' and was already subdivided into two manors of Higher and Lower Predannack (Wollas is from the Cornish word goles meaning "Lower" - the "g" changes to a "w" when it appears after certain letters). During mediaeval times, Higher Predannack was the seat of the Le Petit family, who had a chapel and mansion here. The manor at Lower Predannack (Predannack Wollas) was owned by the Robartes family of Lanhydrock from at least 1696.

  22. Cross the stile on the right of the gate and follow the path to a fork.

    Be careful crossing the stiles in wet weather.

    Serpentine rocks are well-known for being slippery. The reason is that the serpentization process produces soft minerals such as talc. These minerals have a plate-like structure that have strong chemical bonds within a layer, but the bonds between layers are weak so that the layers glide over each other. Rocks composed almost entirely of talc are known as "soapstone" as they are so slippery. Also, because the minerals are quite soft, foot traffic causes the surface of the rocks to become polished.

  23. Bear left at the fork to reach a track and bear left onto this. Follow the track, crossing the footbridge over the stream, to reach a gate beside the barn.
  24. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left of the gate and follow the track into a car park. Turn right out of the car park and follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign on the left, just before the left hedge ends.
  25. Turn left below the footpath sign and cross the stile. Follow the right hedge of the field to a stone stile in the far hedge.

    During the warmer months, swallows can often be seen skimming over the fields.

    Swallows have evolved a long slender body and pointed wings that makes their flight more than twice as efficient as other birds of a similar size. Swallows forage for insects on the wing, typically around 7-8 metres above the ground. They can sometimes be seen skimming the surface of water either to drink or to bathe which they also do in flight.

  26. Cross the stile and bear left slightly to a stone stile in the hedge opposite.

    In summer, you may see swifts high in the sky, chasing insects. Visually, they resemble swallows in that they have long scythe-like wings and forked tails (they can be distinguished by their uniform brown-black colour apart from a small white patch on the throat) and also, like swallows, they migrate to Africa in the winter. That's where the similarity ends because swifts are much more closely related to hummingbirds. They never perch on wires, in fact they even sleep whilst in flight.

    Numbers of swifts have fallen by about 30% in recent years and Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with the RSPB to gather information on swift nesting sites to see if this decline can be halted. The RSPB are running a national swift survey online where you can record any sightings.

  27. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedges to reach a waymark on the opposite side of a track leading into a farmyard.
  28. When you reach the waymark, bear right across the stile (or through the gate if open) and follow the track to a pair of gates.
  29. Cross the stile on the left of the gates and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane a short distance to a bend where there is a public footpath sign.
  30. Follow the path ahead between the walls to reach a stone stile into a field. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stone stile in the far hedge.
  31. Cross the stile and bear left slightly to keep the protruding hedge on your right. Follow along the right hedge to reach a stone stile in the far hedge.
  32. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge of the field to a low stone stile.
  33. Cross the stile and follow the path between the bushes. Follow the path past a pedestrian gate on the left and over a low stone stile; continue to reach a second stone stile, beside a stream.
  34. Cross the stile and follow the path over the marsh in the corner of the field; then follow the path along the right hedge of the scrubby field to reach a stone stile resembling a cattlegrid, into the next field.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its shape and structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  35. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a gateway on the far side of the field.
  36. Cross the stile on the right of the gate. Cross over the track to the small path opposite marked with a hydrant sign. Follow the path over another cattlegrid-like stile into a field. Follow the right hedge of the field to reach a stone stile.
  37. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to another stone stile.
  38. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a stile onto a lane.

    The serpentine stile has become polished by many decades of foot traffic to reveal its colours.

    The serpentization process results in rocks that are quite soft. The rock is often also very colourful and may contain veins of green, yellow and red, due to iron compounds within the rocks. Its softness and attractive colours were first noticed on stiles and cattle rubbing posts which had highly polished areas where walkers or cattle had rubbed against them. An industry grew up in the 19th Century making ornamental stone, initially for quite large architectural pieces but it was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who ordered serpentine tables for their home. Over time, serpentine proved less suitable than marble for architectural purposes due to its tendency to crumble in heat and to absorb water and crack. Interior ornaments are still produced although the quarrying of serpentine is now very strictly regulated.

  39. Cross the stile and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane a short distance past a gate to a public footpath sign on the right.

    The lane towards Predannack Woolas is known as Ghost Hill and the copper mine on the cliffs was also known as Ghost Mine.

    The name "Ghost Mine" is thought to originate from a well-documented phenomenon of glowing lights appearing in marshy areas known as "will 'o the wisp" or "jack 'o lantern". Travellers, mistaking these for lights of cottages, could be drawn into the marshes, which in Cornwall was known as being "pisky-led".

    A number of possible explanations for these lights have been put forward. The most well-known is that decomposing vegetation in the marshy ground releases flammable gasses such as methane, and this could be ignited by a small amount of phosphene, produced by microbes from dead animals. Other possibilities include bio-luminescence or chemical luminescence.

    So far, nobody has been able to reproduce the phenomenon under laboratory conditions and reports of sightings are now quite rare, thought to be due to the draining of marshland for agriculture and development, and light pollution.

  40. Bear right down the path and follow it over a bridge and stone stile into a field. Head straight up the field, just to the right of the house directly ahead, to reach a stile.
  41. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a road. Turn right onto the road and follow it a short distance to a junction. Cross to the pavement opposite and continue following the road, past the cricket club, to reach a narrow road on the left with no entry signs.
  42. Turn left up the lane marked with no entry signs and follow it until it ends in a junction.
  43. Turn right into Laflouder Fields. Continue until you reach a junction with a small circular area of grass, signposted for "41-89".
  44. Turn right at the junction signposted for "41-89" and follow the road to a junction at a bend, just after number 80 on the right.
  45. Keep left at the junction to stay on the road and follow it to a public footpath sign at the corner.
  46. Turn right down the path marked with the footpath sign; at the end of the fence, turn left into the park. Follow the path across the park to emerge next to the Old Inn and opposite the village car park.

    The church in Mullion dates from the 13th century but most of the stonework that can be seen today dates from the 15th Century with some restoration in the 20th Century. The main south door dates from the 13th century and has a dog flap to allow restless sheepdogs to be released during a long service. The wooden-studded north door is thought to have been brought from another church and to be around 1,000 years old. The north door was known as The Devil's Door as it was opened during baptisms to allow evil spirits to escape. The carved bench ends are thought to date from Tudor times and the wood is reputed to be from an ancient oak forest that once covered part of the Goonhilly Downs.

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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