Nare Head to Portloe

The walk meets the coast at Paradoe Cove, which it follows around Nare Head, with panoramic views, to the Cold War bunker. From here, the route is along the undulating coast path past Kiberick Cove and The Straythe to Manare Point. The descent to Portloe has some particularly nice views over the village. The return route is mostly on footpaths across the fields which are all quite level.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Path beside the car park
  • Parking: Kiberick Cove National Trust car park. From the A390 follow signs to Tregony, then signs to St Mawes and Veryan to follow the A3078. After the petrol station, take the left junction signposted to Veryan. Follow this road till you come to a sign for Veryan Riding Centre and turn left here. At the crossroads, continue ahead, signposted to Carne Beach. Continue to the next junction which is signposted to Nare Head and turn down this to reach the car park at the end of the lane. Satnav: TR25PJ
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views from Nare Head
  • Restored Cold War nuclear bunker
  • Unspoilt fishing village of Portloe
  • Coastal wildlife including birds and reptiles

Directions

  1. Facing out of the car park bear left to the footpath signposted for the viewpoint and Paradoe Cove. When you reach a kissing gate on the right, go through this and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a kissing gate beside a gate.

    If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
    • Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you can't avoid it: 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.
  2. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path down the hill until you eventually reach a stile next to a gate.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

    Chestnuts contain very little fat and are in many ways more similar to a cereal than other nuts, containing principally starch and sugars. They are consequently much less calorific: the kernels contain around a third of the calories of a similar weight of other nuts.

    The size of the nuts from wild British chestnut trees is quite variable but the largest approach that of the nuts sold in supermarkets. Nuts that are very flat or less than the girth of your little finger are not worth harvesting; anything bigger is viable. A painless way to extract the nuts is to grip the husk between your feet and rub it between your boots or against the ground. This saves having to handle the spiky husks as the spikes are very sharp and tend to break off under the skin to leave behind splinters. Often the husks contain one (fairly round) large nut surrounded by several small, flat nuts, so it's worth squeezing out quite a few husks to get the larger nuts. Discard any nuts with holes in (as they will contain maggots) or that are very dark in colour - the fresher ones will be "chestnut" brown rather than dark brown.

    To prepare wild chestnuts, prick each of your chestnuts with a skewer or slit the shell with a knife - this is vital to stop them exploding (and disappearing into dust). Bake them in a hot oven for at least 10 minutes. Wild chestnuts are harder to shell than the shop-bought variety as the shells are much thinner and the nuts are often smaller. An easier way to separate the edible part from the shell is to simply slice the shell in half and then scoop out the contents with the point of a knife blade. Also this way, the bitter pith covering the outside of the nut is left behind in the shell. The contents of the nut should be fluffy and pale yellow; discard any that are brown. Separating the flesh from the shells is a fairly tedious process, but with a few friends armed with large cups of tea, a formidable amount of chestnut can be extracted which can be used to make stuffings, soups or whizzed into flour and added to bread recipes. It also freezes nicely so it can be stored up for Christmas recipes.

  3. Cross the stile and follow the path until it ends at the coast path beside a waymark.

    Choughs are sometimes seen along this stretch of coast.

    The chough is a member of the crow family, with striking red legs and a red beak. It was known as the "Crow of Cornwall" and appears on the county coat of arms. The birds have a distinctive call which is perhaps best described as resembling a squeaky dog toy! They are also recognisable from feathers, spread like fingers, on their wings.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall.

    Since then, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing and choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland. The first pair settled in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula. Since then, the birds have successfully bred and been joined by a few more incoming birds, and the population has slowly but steadily grown. Each chough is fitted with one leg ring in the colours of St Piran's flag and two other colours on the opposite leg to identify them.

  4. Turn left onto the coast path and follow the path up the hill to a waymark and along the right edge of the field to a stile.

    The stone and cob cottage overlooking Paradoe Cove was built by a fisherman, who kept a boat in the inlet beneath his home, hauling it clear of the waves when not in use. He married a woman from Veryan, but the marriage cannot have been a happy one as he lived here alone during the week and only visited her at weekends with his catch. In the 1840s, he emigrated to Australia, leaving his wife behind, and started a new family there.

  5. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a field at the top of the hill.

    Mackerel come inshore during the summer and autumn to feed on prawns and small fish such as sandeels. They often occur in large shoals which at the surface can make the sea appear to "boil", often accompanied by excited seabirds. Although they cruise at a speed of around 2 knots, mackerel can reach 10 knots in short bursts.

  6. Follow along the right hedge of the field to reach a junction of paths.

    Nare head was known until the 16th Century as Penare, which still survives in the name of Pennare Farm; since then, the name for the headland has become shortened to "Nare". The name is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. Dodman Point was originally known by the same name.

  7. At the junction, take the path ahead towards the coast. Follow the path until you reach a bench by the path near two green metal objects protruding from the ground.

    The grassy mound with a concrete doorway on Nare Head is a World War Two bunker that was earthed-over after the war. It was the control bunker for a naval decoy centre built by Ealing Film Studios to lure German night bombers away from Falmouth. A sister site existed on Nare Point on the other side of Falmouth Bay, so whichever direction bombers approached from, they could be intercepted before they reached Falmouth. The sites were used to create two types of decoy. The first used muted lights to simulate the railway of Falmouth Docks. The second used a series of controlled fires to replicate a military or urban area that had been targeted by bombs. Orders came from Falmouth on an underwater cable.

  8. After exploring, keep right along the edge of the gorse on the coastal path to reach a stile.

    The green ventilator shafts protruding from the ground on your left are the top of the Cold War bunker.

    The bunker on Nare Head was built during the Cold War for the Royal Observer Corps who were in charge of monitoring radiation in the event of a nuclear war. It opened in 1963 and was accessed via a hatch connecting to a 12ft ladder. Below ground, it consisted of a state-of-the-art operations room and living accommodation that was designed to support three people for three weeks, giving them protection from radioactive fallout. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the bunker was decommissioned, and has since been restored in a joint project between the National Trust and Royal Observer Corps, and is open to visitors several times a year.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach another stile.

    The large offshore rock is known as Gull Rock

    The bays either side of Nare Head contain a large number of shipwrecks. Many of these vessels were running for safety to Falmouth harbour from a storm but misjudged the narrow passage between the Manacles reef and St Anthony's Head. Once a sailing ship had passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's Head, it became trapped within the "lee shores" between Dodman Point at St Anthony's Head where there was no safe anchorage. The Whelps reef beside Gull Rock was particularly hazardous, with jagged rocks just below the surface.

  10. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a waymark on the edge of the valley. Continue down into the valley to reach a waymark as you emerge from the bushes above the grassy valley bottom.

    The SS Hera was a steel-hulled German sailing vessel which in February 1914 was bound for Falmouth from Chile with a cargo of nitrates. She had been sailing in thick fog for three days, using dead reckoning for navigation. As the ship approached Falmouth, the captain shortened the sails to reduce speed and was hoping to see the lights of The Lizard or St Anthony's Head on his approach but the fog was too thick. The ship passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's head and hit The Whelps Reef before he was able to turn it away. The holed ship continued travelling for another 10 minutes and then began to sink. The crew fired distress flares and were initially confident of being rescued. Although two lifeboats had broken free and drifted away, most of the crew climbed aboard a third and successfully launched it. However, moments later, the ship's hull failed and sank quickly without any warning, swamping the nearby lifeboat, but a few survivors managed to cling to the foremast which stayed above the water. Delays in launching the rescue, and locating the stranded crew in the dark, meant it was nearly 6 hours before the five surviving crew members were rescued; the remaining 19 crew members perished and only 12 of the bodies were recovered, now buried in a grave in Veryan churchyard. The grave is 30 metres long with a headstone at one end and is thought might be the longest in Britain. The wreck broke into two pieces when it sank, but parts of the wreck still stand 5 metres above the seabed and it provides a habitat for a variety of marine life, making it popular with scuba divers.

  11. At the waymark, bear right down the steep path to the bottom of the valley and cross to the waymark on the other side. Continue on the path to reach a stile.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  12. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the path along the fence to a waymark. Follow the path from the waymark to reach a kissing gate.
  13. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another kissing gate.
  14. Go through the gate and head between the clumps of gorse to follow along the line of gorse, keeping it on your right. Then follow the path to the bottom of the valley to a waymark, and bear right to a kissing gate.

    The inaccessible beach at the bottom of the steep cliff is now known as Parc Caragloose, but is actually from the name of the field (park is the Cornish word for "field").

  15. Go through the gate and follow the path until you eventually reach a wooden walkway crossing an area of reeds.

    As the path descends to a rocky area, a small path on the right leads down onto the rock platform.

  16. Cross the walkway and follow the path over the wall. Continue until you reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    In Summer, you might possibly encounter an Adder sunbathing on the coastpath.

    Adders are easily identified by the pretty diamond pattern along their backs. Also known as vipers, these are Britain's only venomous snake though no-one has died from an adder bite in over 20 years. They are a protected species, are not aggressive, and generally only bite if trodden on or picked up (unsupervised dogs or children may attempt the latter). On warm days from late April, you may be lucky enough to witness the "dance of the adders" (a pair of adders wrestling). This was once thought to be a mating display, but is actually a larger male attempting to drive away a smaller one.

  17. At the waymark, turn right down the steps and follow the path to reach a stile into a field.

    The path to the left leads to Broom Parc.

    Broom Parc is a large Edwardian-style house built in the late 19th Century and is now owned by the National Trust and run as a Bed and Breakfast. It was used as the main location for Channel 4's 1992 serialisation of Mary Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn". Richard Curtis' film "About Time" was also partly filmed there.

  18. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge, crossing over a wall into a second field. Continue along the right hedge to reach a path leaving from the field and follow this to reach a large boulder on the headland and onwards to reach a waymark at a junction of paths as the path begins to descend towards Portloe.
  19. Continue downhill to reach a waymark beside a bench with arrows in multiple directions.

    There are excellent views over the coast around Portloe from the top of the boulder on the headland as you approach.

  20. Keep right along the coast path and follow it around the headland, turning left when you reach a bench. Continue down to the slipway to reach the lane next to the Lugger Hotel.

    The name Portloe is thought to be derived from the Cornish Porth Logh, meaning something along the lines of "inlet cove". Due to its natural harbour, it developed as a fishing village, although whereas most fishing villages were thriving in mediaeval times, Portloe's development was not until the 17th and 18th Centuries. Due to the road access being along narrow, winding lanes, Portloe also missed the 20th Century commercialisation that happened to many other seaside towns. Consequently it has been used as a filming location in a number of productions and was cast as the hamlet of St Gweep for the BBC comedy series "Wild West", which starred Dawn French and Catherine Tate.

  21. Follow the lane uphill to a junction.

    The RNLI stationed a lifeboat at Portloe in 1870. It was kept at first in a boat house built at the end of the road above the beach but proved difficult to launch (one attempt to launch the boat resulted in the demolition of a shop) and manoeuvre across the beach. In 1877, a new boathouse was built nearer the water, and the original one became the church. However it was found that whenever a strong wind blew from any southerly compass point, it was impossible to launch the lifeboat, which was exactly when one was needed. It was finally withdrawn from service in 1887, without ever having performed a rescue. The second boathouse was used as a school for a while but has since become a private house.

  22. Bear left at the junction and follow the lane past the Ship Inn to a junction where a road joins from above.
  23. Stay on the lower lane and follow this past some public footpath signs, past the national speed limit signs to reach a flight of steps to the right, opposite Innis Carne.

    The name is from the Cornish word enys, for island, and karn which means "rock pile". It's possibly a reference to an offshore rock.

  24. Climb the steps into the field and cross the field to the stile opposite.

    The hawthorn tree is most often found in hedgerows where it was used to create a barrier for livestock, and in fact haw was the Old English word for "hedge".

  25. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge, past the gate, to reach another stile.
  26. Cross the stile and bear left to cross the field diagonally to a stile slightly to the left of the building.
  27. Cross the stile and follow the path to the lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past all the buildings to reach a small stile on the left, just before a gateway.
  28. Cross the stile and go through the gate. Follow the right hedge to another stile.

    In late spring and early summer, dandelion plants will be obvious from their bright flowers.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. Dandelion leaves can be eaten in salads, though their bitterness is not to everyone's taste. However, the bitterness can be removed by blanching: drop the leaves into boiling salted water and remove after a minute and quench in ice-cold water to prevent the leaves from cooking.

  29. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge to a stile roughly 20 metres before the end of the hedge.

    To make wine from dandelion flowers, pour a gallon of boiling water over a gallon of flowers and steep for 2-3 days in a covered container, stirring occasionally. Then boil, add 1.5kg sugar and allow to cool. To the basic liquor, citrus is often added (lemon/orange juice+zest) which gives some acidity, and chopped raisins or grape concentrate can be used to give more body to the wine. Ferment with a white wine or champagne yeast.

  30. Cross the stile into the field on the right then turn left and follow along the left hedge to a gap. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge to a stile.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  31. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to two gateways. As you approach, head to the gateway on the right which has a stile next to it.
  32. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the left hedge to where it meets a fence. Turn left down the path between the hedge and the fence to reach a stile.
  33. Cross the stile in the bottom corner of the field and turn right onto the track. Follow this a few paces to a junction of tracks and then join the track ahead. Continue until the track ends on a lane beside a National Trust sign for Nare Head.
  34. Bear left onto the lane and follow it back to the car park 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.

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