The Rumps to Polzeath around Pentire Point

The walk starts near the coast at the Lead Mines National Trust car park and heads out onto the coast path. The route follows the coast onto Com Head, where there is a stunning view of Port Isaac Bay. The coast path continues to Rumps Point, where you can walk through the Iron Age fortifications to the twin headlands. The coast path continues to Pentire Point, where there are views across the Camel Estuary, and on to the beach at Pentireglaze. The route finally heads inland at New Polzeath along lanes towards Pentire Farm to complete the circular walk.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.7 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Pentireglaze lead mines
  • Parking: Lead mines car park. From the B3314 take the turning signposted Port Quin and Polzeath. Pass the Bee Centre and take turning to New Polzeath. Follow the lane past the Lundy Bay car park and take next right beside the house. Keep right at Pentire Farm and cross the cattlegrid to reach the Lead Mines car park. Satnav: PL276QY
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic views of Port Isaac Bay, Polzeath and the Camel Estuary
  • Rugged granite cliffs and rock stacks with seabird colonies
  • Remains of an Iron Age fort at The Rumps
  • Sandy beaches at Pentireglaze and Polzeath

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

  1. From the map in the Lead Mines car park, follow the path over the hill to the opposite corner of a small field where there is a gate.

    The lead mines on Pentire Point now form a National Trust car park near Pentire Farm. There were mines producing lead, antimony and silver here for around 400 years, with the production finally stopping at the Pentire mine in 1857 and the Pentireglaze mine in 1875. The ore cerrusite (lead carbonate) can contain over 75% lead and is often found in considerable quantities. Between 1850 and 1875, the Pentireglaze mine produced nearly 1000 tons of lead ore and over 19,000 ounces of silver.

  2. Go through the gate, and at the waymark, turn left towards The Rumps and follow the coast path through a gate and up the steps to the top of a hill where a path leads off to the right onto the top of Com Head.

    On the way up the hill, don't forget to stop and look back as there is a great view. Rough Tor (left) and Brown Willy can be seen in the distance.

    Rough Tor is the second highest peak on Bodmin Moor. It is pronouced "row-tor" because the local dialect word "row" meant "rough". The summit of Rough Tor is encircled by a series of rough Neolithic stone walls which link natural outcrops, to form a tor enclosure. Also on the summit are the foundations of a mediaeval chapel, built into the side of one of the larger cairns.

  3. When you reach the path onto Com Head, keep left to stay on the coast path until you reach a gate.

    To get 360 degree panoramic views of the coastline, you can take a short diversion along the path on the right to the top of Com Head. On your left is the Rumps headland with The Mouls islet. To your right is Doyden Point at Port Quin. Behind you is the Camel Estuary; the headland with the daymark is Stepper Point.

  4. Go through the gate and continue on the coast path to reach another gate above some sandy beaches.
  5. Go through the gate and continue towards the headland until you reach another gate across the path.

    About a mile out into the bay on your right, lies the wreck of the SS Sphene.

    The SS Sphene was a steam-powered coal coaster that sank in Port Isaac Bay in 1946 after hitting the reef around The Mouls in bad weather. The remains of the ship now rests on the sandy seabed in 22 metres of water. At the start of the 21st century, the wreck was snagged by a trawler which ripped off the winch and foredeck. Despite this and some collapse of the midships due to corrosion over the decades, the wreck is still fairly intact and popular with divers as it hosts a lot of marine life.

  6. Go through the gate and bear right through the gap in the ramparts of the cliff fort, onto the headland to where the path forks.

    The twin-headed promontory known as The Rumps is formed from hard basaltic rock and projects north into the Atlantic Ocean. Its two headlands lie east-to-west: The Mouls lies off the eastern headland; the western headland is named Rumps Point.

    The name in Cornish is Din Pentir, meaning "fort at Pentire". Three ramparts (banks and ditches) span the narrowest part of the promontory. These date from the late Iron Age and were once topped by wooden palisades.

  7. At the fork in the path, take the path on the right to the rightmost headland until you reach a rock pillar.

    The island off The Rumps headland on the Western side of Port Isaac Bay is called The Mouls. It is the protruding part of a large surrounding reef which rises from the sea bed some 30 metres below the surface. At mid-tide, strong currents rush through this shallow channel between The Rumps and The Mouls which are often visible on the surface. The Mouls is also referred to as Puffin Island as it is one of the last remaining breeding places for atlantic puffins on the coast. Other seabirds including gannets also breed here.

  8. Follow the path around the end of the headland to reach the back of an inlet.

    The Puffin population in Cornwall has declined dramatically from a population of many thousands at the start of the 20th century to around 30 birds by the year 2000. Puffins are long-lived birds that only produce one egg per year so anything which quickly kills off a lot of the adults has a catastrophic effect on the population. Their demise is likely to be due to lack of food (in particular sandeels) though it's not completely clear how much of this is due to overfishing (and associated damage to the marine habitat by e.g. beam trawlers) and how much is due to the timing of plankton blooms being affected by climate change (resulting in lack of sandeel food).

  9. Follow the path around the inlet, keeping right along the coast, to a rock outcrop at the start of the second headland.

    Ocean Sunfish can sometimes be seen on hot summer days basking on the surface, with their fin flapping out of the water as they lie on their side sunbathing. They are extremely weird-looking fish, resembling a large round dinner place with no real tail, just two large fins at the top and bottom and two smaller ones on the sides (doing the flapping). The average weight of a full grown adult sunfish is a tonne - the largest known bony fish, which is particularly impressive on a diet principally of jellyfish.

  10. Bear left on the path uphill, then turn right onto the path heading between the rocky outcrops. Bear left between the rock outcrops to reach the top of the headland.

    As you walk around the headland, you'll likely see a number of gulls gliding along the cliff edges. The large ones, with black feathers all along their back and a red mark on their bill, are Greater Black-backed Gulls.

    The Greater Black-backed Gull is the largest member of the gull family and a bird of formidable size, with a wingspan of nearly 6ft. Unlike other gulls, the Greater Black-backed Gull is highly predatory. Young birds are a significant portion of its diet and it tends to live amongst other seabirds where it can eat the neighbours. It has also been known to swallow whole rabbits and even eat young lambs. It often steals food from other seabirds using its large size to intimidate them into dropping it, and consequently it is sometimes referred to as a pirate.

  11. At the top of the headland, continue to bear left around the rock outcrop until you find the path. Follow this back between the ramparts to the coast path.

    From the top of the headland, you can often see gannets flying to The Mouls and sometimes diving for fish on the reefs around the island.

    Gannets are the largest sea birds in the North Atlantic with a wingspan of up to 2 metres and are easily recognisable by their long white wings with black tips. Gannets can dive from up to 30 metres, achieving speeds of up to 100kph as they strike the water, enabling them to catch fish much deeper than most seabirds. To achieve this they have air sacs in their face and chest, which act as cushioning when they hit the water. Also they have no external nostrils, instead they are situated inside the mouth.

  12. At the coast path, turn right and follow it until you reach a waymark for Pentire Farm.

    The name "Pentire" is common on the coast for the simple reason that it means "headland": in Cornish pen means head or top and tir means land. Some Anglicised names such as "Pentire Point" (i.e. Headland Point) are somewhat tautological.

  13. Ignore the waymarked path leading inland to Pentire Farm and follow the coast path to the headland until you reach a small waymark on the corner of a wall where there is a bench to your right.

    This headland is a good place to spot dolphins on their way in or out from the Camel Estuary.

    Both Common Dolphins and Bottle-nosed Dolphins are quite frequently encountered off Cornwall. Bottle-nosed Dolphins are the species found in marine parks and are the saloon car of the dolphin world: quite large (adults are 7-12ft long), plain grey and tend to cruise at fairly low speeds though they can do short bursts of over 30km/h. Common Dolphins are their sports car cousins: a little smaller (adults are 6-8ft long) with a flashy hourglass-shaped "go faster" stripe of gold at the front and light grey at the back and can swim up to 60km/h. The considerable intelligence of dolphins includes the ability to learn new behaviours from each other and cooperate with other dolphins or even human fishermen to catch fish.

  14. From the bench, continue along the coast path to the point on the headland - this is Pentire Point.

    Next to the bench on your right is a plaque entitled "For the Fallen". The poet Laurence Binyon wrote "For the Fallen" in 1914 while sitting on the cliffs here between Pentire Point and The Rumps. The stone plaque was erected at the spot in 2001 to commemorate this and quotes the stanza popularly known as The Ode.

  15. From the point, follow the coast path around the headland, into the bay towards Polzeath until you reach a waymark at the back of the narrow inlet of Pentire Haven.

    The middle of the three islands around the Camel Estuary, which is almost exactly 1km offshore from Pentire Point, is called Newland and is home to seabirds such as cormerants and shags. The reef which surrounds the island contains some large gullies over 10 metres deep and some Pink Sea Fans several metres in height.

  16. At the waymark, keep right in the direction signposted to Polzeath until you reach a gate at the bottom of the steps at the next inlet of Pentireglaze Haven.

    In Cornish, "glas" or "glaze" means a grey-greeny-blue colour. "Grey-green headland" could well refer to the colour of the slate along this section of the coast.

  17. Go through a gate and follow the path until you reach a waymark.

    In 1843, the brig known as Hope, from Fishguard, was laden with copper ore and got into distress in a gale off Port Isaac Bay. Fires were lit in Port Isaac to guide the ship in, but it's thought the crew attempted to make a run for the more sheltered estuary at Padstow. They reached Hayle Bay at the entrance to the estuary, but here the ship was driven against the shore at Pentireglaze and all seven crew drowned.

    Another ship of the same unfortunate name was wrecked off the Cornish coast in 1887. A floating corked bottle was found near the shore of St Just Bar in Falmouth Harbour which contained the following message:

    "To who picks this bottle up out of the deep sea can say it is from a shipwrecks crew. I am, myself, Capt. Two Bars, of the lost schooner, and put it in the paper to let my wife know as I am drowned; God bless all my children and my dear wife, and I will meet them in Heaven. God love them. The crew is G. Smith, J. Brown, G. Emery, J. Russel, and C. Hucker. - 1st January 1887, schooner 'Hope, 'from England."
  18. At the waymark, turn left and follow the track towards Pentireglaze until you reach a bend in the track.

    You might have noticed that Hayle Bay is marked on maps as not at Hayle near St Ives but at Polzeath. Although this might look like the cartographer had a prior engagement with local scrumpy, there is another explanation: Heyl is Cornish for "Estuary". Further up the River Camel at Wadebridge is Egloshale, which translates to something along the lines of "church by the estuary".

  19. Where the track bends back on itself, bear left onto the footpath until you reach a gate with a National Trust Pentireglaze sign.

    The name Polzeath comes from the Cornish words for "dry" and for "pool/harbour", perhaps because there is a beach at all stages of the tide. Down the left side of the beach, there are some good rockpools at low tide. The rest of the beach is very flat and sandy, which can make for some long rides (and paddles!) if you are surfing. This also means that in the shallows, the waves are small which makes it safer for small children to paddle or surf than some of the steeper beaches further north. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards and there is usually a separately flagged malibu area to avoid surfers mowing down swimmers.

    The tide goes out and comes in a long way so bear that in mind to avoid floating picnics. In the event of such a catastrophe or for those more inclined, there are a number of caf├ęs around the beach and even a grocery shop. There is often an ice cream van on the beach in the summer, so parents may want to be armed with change to avoid diplomatic incidents.

  20. Go through the gate into a field and follow the fence on the right to a gate opposite.

    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.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the fence on the right across the next field to another gate opposite.
  22. Go through the gate and follow the path, through another gate mid-way along, to reach a final gate onto the lane.
  23. Turn left onto the lane and follow it up the hill past the farm on the right and Pentire Farm on the left (now owned by the National Trust) to a junction.

    The "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was founded in 1895 when snappy names weren't in fashion. Their first coastal acquisition was Barras Nose at Tintagel in 1897. Five years later, Tintagel Old Post Office was their first house to be acquired in Cornwall. The National Trust now has over 4 million members and owns over 700 miles of British coastline.

  24. At the top of the hill, turn left, signposted to the Lead Mines car park.

    The lead ore found in Cornwall is a form of lead sulphide known as galena which often contains an appreciable amount of silver. This was first smelted to produce "argentiferous lead" and then the silver was separated by a process known as "cupellation". The molten alloy of the 2 metals was placed in an oxygen rich furnace which caused the lead, but not the silver, to oxidise. The lead oxide was then absorbed into a calcium-rich material such as the ash from bones or seashells, leaving the liquid metal silver on the surface of the "cake". The lead oxide could later be converted back into lead by smelting it with charcoal.

  25. Turn right into the Lead Mines car park, to complete the circular walk.

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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