Portholland to Portloe

The walk starts at West Portholland and follows the coast path to the top of Perbagus Point, overlooking Portholland. The route then continues around Veryan Bay, passing small coves, some of which are accessible from the path and others only by sea. The walk descends from the cliffs to reach the tiny natural harbour of Portloe. The return route is on easier terrain via lanes, tracks and footpaths across the fields to reach Perbargus Point before the final descent via the coast path to return to Portholland.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: West Portholland
  • Parking: West Portholland car park. From the A390, follow signs to Tregony until you encounter Portholland signs and then follow these. If you come into Portholland with the 1.5T and falling rocks sign on your right beside a right-hand turn, follow this to reach West Portholland. The car park above the beach beside the old chapel. Satnav: TR25PU
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Views across Veryan Bay to Dodman Point
  • Unspoilt fishing villages of Portloe and Portholland
  • Sandy beach at Portholland
  • Coastal wildlife including birds and reptiles

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Cross the footbridge from the car park and follow the coast path until you eventually reach a gate across the path (usually open).

    The lime kiln in West Portholland was originally built in 1805 and consisted of the part nearest the road, with two alcoves to access the bottom of the kiln. This was later extended twice in the seaward direction, with each extension containing a new alcove.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the path to a signpost at a junction of paths.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  3. Turn left, signposted to Portloe, and follow the path to reach a footbridge.

    Up until the 19th century, when Portland Cement became popular, lime was used for mortar to cement together stones in buildings. Quicklime generated from a lime kiln was first "slaked", by adding water, to create a slurry which was then mixed with sand. Further inland, building sand was often the waste from china clay pits, with the larger pieces of quartz sieved out. The mortar hardens because the slaked lime reacts with carbon dioxide in the air and turns into calcium carbonate (limestone).

  4. Cross the bridge and follow the path via a couple of stiles and pedestrian gates to eventually reach another footbridge.

    In December 1830, a hurricane drove three ships (from France, Denmark and Russia) onto the rocks at East Portholland. Five local fishermen "stripped to their drawers" and salvaging one of the boats washed off the Russian vessel, rowed out with a line to one of the three ships, allowing the crews of all three ships to get ashore. Over the course of 48 hours, around 20 ships were wrecked off the Cornish coast.

  5. Cross the bridge and follow the path to reach a shack beside the path.
  6. Keep right along the path and follow it down the steps into Portloe.

    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.

  7. At the bottom of the steps, follow the path ahead in front of two cottages until it forks. Turn left at the fork and follow the path to emerge onto a tarmac path at the bottom of the slope. Turn right onto this and follow it to a driveway. Turn left onto the driveway and follow it past a waymark until it ends on a lane beside a pole with a duck.
  8. At the duck, turn right onto the lane and follow it for about half a mile up the hill, past the car park and 30mph signs until just after Grey Roofs when you reach a gate on the right at a bend in the lane.

    Before leaving Portloe, you may want to turn left at the duck to have a look around or visit the pub which is a bit further along this road to the left.

    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.

  9. Go through the pedestrian gate next to the gate and follow along the wall on the left. Then bear left slightly to a gate in the corner of the field, just to the left of the barns on the skyline.

    The barns belong to a farm called Cruggan which is most likely from the Cornish word krugynn meaning "small mound", reflecting the elevated position of the barns.

  10. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the grassy track. When it joins a stony track, continue ahead to reach a gate into a farmyard.
  11. Go through the gate and keep the barns on your right, initially continuing ahead and then follow the track around a bend to the right. Then follow the track away from the farm and continue on the concrete track until it ends at a lane.

    The farm have a herd of South Devonshire cattle.

    The cattle breeds known as Devon were also the traditional breeds used in Cornwall until recent years. The South Devon breed, affectionately known as "Orange Elephant" or "Gentle Giant", is the largest of the British native breeds: the largest recorded bull weighed 2 tonnes. They are thought to have descended from the large red cattle of Normandy, which were imported during the Norman invasion of England. The other breed, known as "Devon Ruby" or "Red Ruby" (due to their less orange colouration), is one of the oldest breeds in existence, with origins thought to be from pre-Roman Celtic Britain.

  12. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past the entrance to Tregenna Farm to reach another junction.

    The name Tregenna is from a Cornish word genna which means "wedge-shaped". It's possible that this is a reference to the V-shaped valley that the farm sits at the top of.

  13. Turn right down the bridleway and follow this until you reach the gate for Morvah Cottage.
  14. At the gate, turn right down the grassy path and follow it to emerge at the signpost on the coast path that you encountered near the start of the walk.

    The hamlets of East and West Portholland are owned by the Caerhayes Estate and conservative management by the landowner has preserved many historic buildings and prevented commercialisation of the beaches.

  15. At the signpost, turn left onto the coast path to return to West Portholland.

    Pengelly Farm, overlooking West Portholland beach, dates back to 1465 and is one of the last remaining examples of coastal farmsteads which were once often found beside beaches in Cornwall. The name contains the Cornish words pen (meaning top) and kelli (meaning copse).

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.

A free way to not kill penguins: discarded ink cartridges float in rainwater, can wash into rivers, be broken up by the sea into reflective shards eaten by dopey fish, and build up in the stomachs of seabbirds, causing them to starve to death. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
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