Porthcurno to Penberth Cove

The route follows the Coast Path to the WW2 bunker overlooking Porthcurno and then follows clifftop paths overlooking Pednvounder beach to rejoin the Coast Path near Treryn Dinas. After the hillfort, the route follows the coast path to Penberth Cove. The route follows a footpath up the valley from the cove to Treen and then returns across the fields to Porthcurno.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3 miles/4.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Porthcurno car park
  • Parking: Porthcurno car park. Satnav: TR196JX
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Sandy beaches at Porthcurno and Pednvounder
  • Spectacular views across the bay
  • Treryn Dinas Iron Age Hillfort
  • The infamous Logan Rock
  • Pretty fishing port of Penberth Cove
  • Wildlife including seals, birds of prey and choughs

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the bottom of the car park and follow the path towards the beach to reach a granite waymark with a coast path sign just before the Beach Information board in front of the lifeguard hut.

    From 1870 to 1970, Porthcurno valley was a hub of international communications and, for a time between the First and Second World Wars, was the largest submarine cable station in the world. Up to two million words per day could be transmitted using up to 14 cables. It was chosen over Falmouth to reduce the risk of damage to cables by shipping. Even today, fibre-optic cables land at Porthcurno, connecting the UK to the internet backbone.

  2. Take the leftmost path past the granite boulders and up the headland to reach a fork in the path at the top, near a WW2 bunker.

    In common with most of the other beaches around Penwith, the sand at Porthcurno is composed of fragments of seashell. Larger pieces of shell, and some intact shells, are usually washed up along the high-tide line. These mostly seem to be venus clams which are very pale in colour and may explain the particularly white sand around this coast. Another factor is that, unlike the slate in much of the rest of Cornwall, the granite here does not weather into minute flakes which mix into the sand and darken the colour.

  3. When you reach the fork, turn left and follow the path to join the coast path at a waymark next to some boulders and a Porthcurno sign.

    Tides in the Atlantic are closely aligned with the moon's position above the Earth which takes just under 25 hours on average to return to the same position; this is slightly more than 24, as the Earth has to chase the moon's orbit. The tides therefore "slip" by at just under an hour each day so that over a 7 day week, low tide and high tide have approximately changed places (e.g. no beach in the afternoon vs a huge beach in the afternoon). High tides occur every 12-13 hours when the moon is directly overhead or on the opposite side of the Earth and its gravity is pulling the water in the oceans towards it. There are therefore just over 6 hours between low and high tide. The speed with which the tide comes in or goes out follows a sine wave: slow at low tide, speeding up to the fastest at mid-tide (known as the "tide race", when currents are at their strongest) and slowing down again towards high tide. Thus high and low tides are also referred to as "slack tide" when tidal currents are at their minimum.

  4. When you reach the Porthcurno sign, cross onto the coast path and turn right. Keep ahead at a waymarked junction and continue through some WW2 defences until you reach a fork in the path.
  5. At the fork, turn right and follow the path to a large white stone pyramid.

    The white pyramid on the cliffs between Porthcurno and Logan Rock marks the place where, in 1880, the first submarine telegraph cable connected Britain to France and a transatlantic cable between France and Canada. However the pyramid has not been erected for sentimental reasons: there was once a communications hut where the cable came ashore which was quickly adopted by shipping as a navigational aid. When the hut was demolished, something needed to replace it as a navigational marker - hence the white pyramid.

  6. Follow the path from the pyramid to the next large rock outcrop where a small path leads down the cliff.

    A few different factors all combine to vary the colour of the sea:

    A glass in your hand might lure you into thinking otherwise, but pure water is faintly blue. The main wavelengths that the chemical bonds in water absorb are either in the infra-red or ultra-violet, and not in the visible spectrum, which is why a glass of pure water does not look coloured. However one fairly obscure harmonic of the vibrations in the water molecule corresponds to the wavelength of red light and so water very weakly absorbs the red from white light, giving it a very slightly blue tinge. If there is enough water, both the blue tinge and reflection of blue light by any suspended particles make it look blue.

    Another factor is that the surface of the ocean acts as a mirror and reflects the colour of the sky and this is why it may appear grey under a cloudy sky. Under a blue sky, this intensifies the blueness.

    In shallow water, the sand which is golden in Cornwall due to fragments of seashell, reflects yellow light and this combines with the blue from seawater to generate colours from green to turquoise. The ocean also sometimes appears green due to the presence of planktonic plant life.

    The Cornish language has a word glas (often appearing in place names as "glaze") which is the Swiss Army Knife of sea colour descriptions. It means blue, or green, or grey.

  7. Keep left to stay on the cliff-top path and follow it until it rejoins the coast path at a junction of paths.

    The beach at Pedn Vounder is virtually covered at high tide, but at low tide, particularly on a spring tide, a large, sandy beach is revealed. The name is the Cornish for "end of the lane". On a low spring tide it's sometimes possible to walk along the beach from Porthcurno, but for the rest of the time, access is down a fairly steep but well-worn path from the Coast Path which ends with a slightly awkward climb down the rocks onto the beach. The beach consists of sand bars which cause some areas to flood faster than others when the tide comes in, so be careful not to be caught by the tide. Due to the limited access, the beach is popular with Naturists during the summer.

  8. At the junction, turn right and follow the rightmost path along the coast to a small gate.

    Logan Rock is balanced on the top of the outcrop on the headland ahead.

    Logan Rock is a granite boulder of about 90 tons, originally known as Men Omborth (meaning "balanced stone"), and is the most famous of all the rocking stones in Cornwall. This is in part due to an account in "Antiquities of Cornwall" from 1754 which stated: "it is morally impossible that any lever, or indeed force, however applied in a mechanical way, can remove it from its present situation." This challenge proved too much of a temptation for the Victorians and in 1824, Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith and ten or twelve of his crew of the cutter HMS Nimble, armed with bars and levers, rocked the huge granite boulder until it fell from its cliff-top perch. There was a local outcry and the Admiralty ordered that the rock was put back. This required the help of more than sixty men with block and tackle, but the Logan Rock was finally repositioned and returned to "rocking condition", although it is said that it does not rock as easily as it did originally. It is still possible for one adult to cause it to rock but some knowledge of where to apply the force is required.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path until the path merges with the inland path. Then continue to the gap in the wall.

    A number of large rocking stones exist around Cornwall and are invariably given the name Logan Rock or Logan Stone. These are formed by weathering, where a horizontal crack is eroded away leaving a rounded boulder balanced on a block of granite. The word "logan" (pronounced "logg-un") is thought to be derived from the Cornish dialect word "log", meaning "to rock like a drunken man".

  10. Turn left and follow the path alongside the ramparts and over a stream to reach a gate.

    Treryn Dinas is a clifftop fort dating from the Iron Age. It consists of a huge outer earth bank which is several metres high in places. Inside this is a large flat area that once might have been settled. Beyond this are a series of banks and ditches before the narrowest point in the headland, where there is a final ditch and stone-fronted rampart. The reason for the inner ramparts is not well understood. It could have been a more fortified position to retreat to if the outer defences had been breached, but the inhospitable rock outcrop would not have been somewhere that a siege could have been withstood for long. Some historians have suggested that the smaller ramparts around the inner area could have been non-military, for example to separate off a ceremonial area from "the rabble".

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path over the headland to reach a gate just above Penberth Cove.

    In 2007, a 17th Century shipwreck was discovered in the English Channel, roughly 40 miles off Mount's Bay. The gold and silver coins salvaged from the wreck were valued at half a billion US dollars, making it possibly the highest financial value of any shipwreck yet discovered. The wreck lies just outside UK territorial waters, and so the US-based salvage company was able to claim the find for themselves.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to the bottom. The route continues at the bottom to the left, along the track up the valley to reach the white cottage. You may want to have a look at Penberth Cove before continuing.

    Many elements of the fishery at Penberth Cove date back to the 18th century. The capstan dates from the 19th Century and was used to winch boats up the beach before the electric winch was installed in the 1960s.

  13. When you reach the white cottage, follow all the way along the right-hand side to join a path up the valley and follow this to reach a fork.
  14. Turn left at the fork and follow the path through the woods, keeping right when the path passes between two stone walls, to reach a stile into a field.
  15. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge of the field to a stile.
  16. Cross the stile and initially follow the left hedge then as you approach the corner, bear right to reach a waymarked gateway with granite gateposts in the far hedge, roughly 20 metres along.
  17. Go through the gateway and follow the wall on the left to a stile roughly half-way along.
  18. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the path along the wall to a waymark in the corner, next to the gate.
  19. Turn left at the waymark to stay in the field and follow the path between the fences to reach a stile.

    The settlement across the field on the right is Treen.

    The settlement of Treen between Porthcurno and Penberth Cove is first recorded in 1321 when it was spelt "Trethyn". It is thought to have been Tredyn originally, with a meaning along the lines of "castle farm". This explains why there is also another settlement now called Treen near the Iron Age cliff castle on Gurnard's Head, near Zennor. Arranging to meet at the inn in Treen could therefore be problematic, as both have a pub although these, fortunately, do have different names.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the path to emerge onto a track and follow this to reach a lane.

    In the early 20th Century, a Roman denarius coin was found in Treen, between Porthcurno and Penberth Cove, suggesting there may have been some Roman occupation of the area. There have also been finds of Roman artefacts at the Trereen Dinas cliff castle: there are records from Tudor times of a brass pot full of Roman coins being found, and a Roman brooch was found in 2006.

  21. Follow the lane ahead past the postbox to reach a public footpath sign.
  22. Turn left at the footpath sign and follow the rightmost track around the side of Houses Farm and alongside a barn to a gateway next to a flight of stone steps.

    The Logan Rock Inn is short distance up the lane to the right.

    The Inn dates back to the 16th Century and until late Victorian times there was an old maypole outside the inn that is thought might have dated back as far as early mediaeval times.

  23. Climb the steps next to the gate (or go through the gate if open) and follow the left hedge along the length of the field to a gateway in the far hedge.

    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.
  24. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to the gateway opposite.
  25. Go through the gateway and continue ahead to a gate and stile in the far hedge.
  26. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and continue ahead to a waymarked stile to the left of the gate ahead. Cross this and continue ahead to a kissing gate in the hedge opposite.
  27. Go through the gate and cross the stile then turn right. Follow along the right hedge and around the corner of the field to reach a stile just before the gate.
  28. Cross the stile, or go through the gate if open, and turn left. Follow the track to a gate with a waymarked stile alongside.

    Trendrennen was first recorded as a manor in 1313, spelt very similarly as Trendrenen. The name is thought to come from the Cornish word for thorn bushes - dreyn. A number of cupped stones have been found built into the farm buildings and these are thought to be evidence that a settlement existed here in Roman times.

  29. Cross the stile or go through the gate and cross the field to a waymarked gateway beside a telegraph pole in the middle of the hedge opposite.
  30. Go through the gateway and bear right slightly across the field to an opening in the opposite hedge.

    If the fields are ploughed just before the spring, the low light from the winter sun picks out the threads of gossamer which can carpet the fields here.

    Young spiders disperse by spinning several threads of silk which catch the wind and carry them away. The process is known as "ballooning" or "kiting" and the extremely thin strands of silk are known as gossamer. These very fine strands don't break in the wind because the silk is tougher than kevlar. Normally the spiders only travel a few metres in one "ride" but sailors far out to sea have reported spiders landing on their sails.

  31. Follow the path leaving the field to a gate at the bottom of the next field.
  32. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges onto a driveway.
  33. Turn left onto the lane and follow it to the Telegraph Museum.

    During the Second World War, Cornish miners dug a series of tunnels to create an underground bomb-proof and gas-proof building, housing all the telegraph operations at Porthcurno. This also included a secret escape tunnel leading to a concealed entrance in a field. In total, 15,000 tons of rock were excavated and an office space was created in the excavated area complete with a pitched roof to shed seepage, a suspended ceiling and plastered walls. Known as "The Tunnels", the dry space at constant temperature proved to be the perfect environment for the sensitive telegraphy equipment and so operations stayed there after the war and the equipment continued to be upgraded until the 1970s. It now forms part of the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and houses the main museum displays.

  34. Turn right down the steps at the front of the museum and follow the path to return to the car park and complete the circular route.

    Some of the largest specimens of the greater weever have been caught by anglers at Porthcurno. However, these rarely come into shallow water. Their cousin, the lesser weever is sometimes found on Cornish beaches during the summer.

    During hot weather, weever fish migrate to Britain from the Mediterranean. They bury themselves in the sand where they are camouflaged, and ambush small fish in shallow water. To protect against predators, they have spines that inject a nerve toxin; if trodden on, this can be very painful. It's therefore a good idea either to wear some form of footwear in the sea or to shuffle your feet through the sand which is more likely to scare away any fish. If you are unlucky enough to tread on a weever, get your foot into hot water as soon as possible as this denatures the venom. Most lifeguards have a kettle on standby (and although its primary purpose might be cups of tea rather than weever stings, they will forego a cuppa in the interests of pain relief).

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.

If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?