Tintagel Church to Trebarwith Strand

From the ancient church on Glebe Cliff, the walk follows the rugged coast of Port Isaac Bay past huge pillars of slate remaining from coastal slate quarries to the cliffs overlooking the sandy surf beach at Trebarwith Strand. After an optional visit to the beach, and possibly the pub overlooking it, the route then follows one of the quarrymens' trails into Treknow and returns along country lanes and mediaeval tracks connecting Treknow to the church and castle.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3 miles/4.8 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: St Materiana Church
  • Parking: Church car park. In Tintagel, follow Fore Street from the roundabout towards the castle and just past the King Arthur's Arms, turn left down Vicarage Lane and follow this to the church. Satnav: PL340DL
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots/shoes or trainers in dry weather

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic coastal views from Penhallic Point
  • Exploding waves at Dunderhole and Penhallic Point during a large swell
  • Ancient church of St Materiana
  • Long beach of golden sand at Trebarwith Strand
  • Wildflowers along the coast in spring and summer
  • Views over Trebarwith Strand from the Port William Inn

Directions

  1. Facing the sea, make your way towards the right-hand corner of the church car park. Take the left of the two paths (towards the sea) and follow it to a waymark.

    Tintagel Parish church, dedicated to St Materiana, is located on Glebe Cliff at the end of Vicarage Lane.The first church on the site was thought to be in the 6th century, founded as a daughter church of Minster in Boscastle which is even older. The current church was built in the late 11th or early 12th century with the tower added in the late Mediaeval era. The Norman font bowl by the south wall is believed to have been brought from St Julitta's chapel at Tintagel Castle. The church also contains a Roman stone from the 4th century bearing the name of the Emperor Licinius which may be evidence that there was once a Roman camp nearby.

  2. At the waymark, bear left to stay on the path and follow it to another waymark.

    Coastal slate quarries are confined to a small area of about five miles either side of Tintagel and relatively little is known about their history. In order to work the vertical cliff face, strong points were built from stone above the working areas. From these, ropes were dropped down the quarry face. Men were lowered down the faces on these ropes to split blocks of slate from the face. The slate was hauled up the cliff face on these cables which were wound using "horse whims" - capstans powered by horses or donkeys walking around a circular platform. The stone was split and shaped on "dressing floors" on the cliff top, originally covered with sheds. The remains can be seen as level terraces and are marked by screes of waste rock on the cliff below. Splitting was (and still is) done with a bettle (hammer) and chisel, hence the name of the pub in Delabole.

  3. At the waymark, bear right and follow the small path to another waymark. From here, continue ahead along the path until it emerges at another waymark by the Youth Hostel.

    There are 9 slate quarries along the coast path between Tintagel Church and Trebarwith Strand. Slate quarrying began here in the early 14th Century and ended just before The Second World War. The slate was exported from Tintagel Haven and later from boats moored along Penhallic Point.

    Cutting the stone and loading it onto boats was harsh work and could be lethal. A local man - Alan Menhenick - recalled in the 1920s: "we worked with the tides, around the clock. I've been at the quarry at four in the morning. When the tide was in, we blasted; when the tide was out, we went down and collected the slate". In 1889, three men vanished into the sea when the face that they were boring sheared off the cliff.

  4. Bear left along the track to another waymark and go down the steps on the right to the coast path. Follow this until you reach a kissing gate.

    On the point opposite Tintagel Youth Hostel is the remains of Gull Point Quarry. The quarry face on the rear of the cove was known as Lambshouse Quarry (Lambshouse is the name of the cove). Both were worked in the 19th Century, and jointly for much of their later life. The round platform near the top is the remains of a "horse whim", where a blindfolded donkey used to circle, operating the winding gear.

  5. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path until it forks on the top of Penhallic Point. Keep left at the fork to reach a bench.

    Penhallic Point is the long headland along the northern edge of the bay at Trebarwith Strand. In the late 1800s, a wharf (which has now been taken by the sea) was constructed at Penhallic Point where the cliff edge was trimmed to form a 100ft vertical face. Ships could lie against this face as there is a natural deep-water berth alongside the point. The slate was lowered by crane down into their holds.

    A path from the top of the point zig-zags down to a grassy platform where there is a lifebuoy. It's possible to get down onto the rocks from here, but only in the summer when the rocks are dry.

  6. From the bench, follow the path around a bend to the right to reach a kissing gate.

    Several small beaches make up Trebarwith which, at low tide, join to form a mile long ribbon of golden sand:

    • Port William round to the left is strewn with rocks except at the lowest point of the tide. It's popular with local surfers but not recommended for novices due to the rocks and strong currents.
    • Trebarwith Strand is in the centre and is the lifeguard-patrolled area. It's sandy on the left and, to the right side, there are more rocks including some good rock pools.
    • Lill Cove around to the right. There is a gully between rocks that makes it possible to get through to Trebarwith when access is cut off by the sea (though this route isn't available at high tide). There is also a footpath up from Lill Cove joining the coast path which is accessible at all times of the tide.
    • Vean Hole, further to the right, is a continuation of Lill Cove once the tide is a little way out, but is technically a separate beach.
    • Hole Beach to the far right. There is some good snorkelling along the right-hand edge of Hole Beach and due to the large numbers of Sea Bass, it's a good spot for beachcasting. Apart from at the lowest couple of hours of the tide, Hole Beach is cut off by the sea.
  7. Go through the kissing gate and follow the wall on your left to reach a stile over a fence.

    The cliff on your right was Dria Quarry.

    Dria quarry, between Bagalow Quarry and Penhallic point near Trebarwith Strand, was developed from a natural cove (Dria Cove). No processing areas or lifting equipment have been found above the quarry, so it is assumed that this was shared with Bagalow Quarry. Dria Cove is no longer accessible due to landslips on the cliffs between the two quarries.

  8. Cross the stile and the one ahead of it then turn right. Follow the path parallel to the fence to reach a stile over the wall.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage. It is known locally as "Jack and Jill", "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave". The latter two names are based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. On a long wall, the herringbone sections are often between "towers" of flat-laid slate (built from the larger and squarer stones) which helped to prevent the wall slumping sideways. Traditionally, hedges (stone boundary walls) were built with whatever was cleared out of the fields, whilst buildings were constructed from stone that was quarried and cut.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the path until you reach a waymark.

    The crumbling stone walls and the outlines of buildings are the remnants of Bagalow quarry.

    Bagalow Quarry is located above Bagalow Beach, next to Hole Beach and just south of Trebarwith Strand. It is one of the smaller coastal quarries in the Trebarwith area and dates back to at least the 1800s. The quarry face runs from sea level all the way to the top of the cliff. At the top of the cliff are remnants of a powder magazine (some low banks are all that remain) and a horse whim used to haul the slate up from the quarry face.

  10. From the waymark, follow the cliff edge to another waymark in front of a fork in the path. Take either of the paths ahead which rejoin to reach a stile.

    There are more than 20 breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons along the coast from Bude to Padstow.

    The peregrine falcon can reach over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its hunting stoop (high speed dive) making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom. In 2005, a peregrine was measured at a top speed of 389 km/h (242 mph). The air pressure at this speed could damage a bird's lungs. However small bony tubercles on a falcon's nostrils guide the powerful airflow away, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving. In Cornish dialect, these falcons are known as "winnards" and local expressions include "shrammed as a winnard" (meaning chilled) and "rumped up like a winnard" (meaning huddled).

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path along the edge of a wall to reach a waymark.

    The vertical cliffs of Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were the site of Caroline Quarry. The hole in the cliff, from which the beach gets its name, was excavated to quarry out a chunk of good quality slate. Caroline together with the neighbouring Lanterdan and Bagalow quarries, were some of the last still operating at the start of the 20th century but production had ceased by the Second World War.

  12. Continue straight ahead at the waymark past the slate quarries to reach another waymark.

    The Lanterdan and West quarries above Vean Hole and Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were once some of the biggest in North Cornwall. In Lanterdan quarry there is a tall, distinctive, pinnacle of rock. This was left behind as the slate in the pinnacle was not of a sufficiently good quality; shorter pinnacles were left in West Quarry for the same reason. These chunks of inferior-quality slate were known locally as "scullocks".

    The quarry workings never reached the shoreline as there is a fault along the base of the quarry, known as the Trambley Cove Formation. This is made of volcanic lava which was no good to the quarrymen. Lanterdan Quarry is now owned by the National Trust and is a site of geological interest for two reasons. The first is that it contains brachiopod (shellfish) fossils. Second, a rare mineral called monazite is present which contains rare-earth (lanthanide) metals.

  13. From the waymark, continue ahead until you pass through a gap in a wall by a bench and climb over a small hill past another bench to reach a rocky outcrop. Go down the steps from the outcrop and follow the path a short distance to reach a waymark.

    In 1886, an iron-hulled sailing ship, named the "Sarah Anderson", got into difficulties off Tintagel Head in a violent gale then blew up and sank off Trebarwith Strand. According to one source, the ship was carrying a cargo of 966 tons of manganese ore and 15 tons of dye. According to another source, it was hinted that she might also be carrying copper, silver and gold. Due to the huge waves, the Port Isaac lifeboat was unable to launch and the ship was out of range of the marine rescue rockets brought to the shore at Trebarwith Strand. All the 14 crew and 4 passengers (2 women, including the captain's wife, and 2 children) perished. Divers report that the hull is now almost entirely gone. One section (presumably the stern) stands about 3m high and is separated from the main wreckage; the remainder consists of the ore cargo with the odd piece of steel protruding.

  14. From the waymark, keep right and descend to another waymark at the bottom of some steps.

    The beach at the bottom of the cliff to your right is Lill Cove.

    A small water-powered copper mine existed on the cliff slopes above Lill Cove and was worked until the early-mid 19th Century. A hollow in the cliff was dammed to form a reservoir which was fed by a leat; the reservoir in turn was used to drive a waterwheel to pump out the groundwater draining into the mineshaft. Little remains now as some massive landslips on this part of the cliff have obliterated the majority of the mine workings.

  15. At the waymark, the walk continues to the left in the direction signposted to Treknow. Follow the path to Treknow until it emerges on a track beside a bench.
    Before doing so you may want to continue ahead to the beach and return here afterwards to continue the walk.

    Gull Rock lies approximately 500 metres offshore from Trebarwith Strand and has given its name to RR Gordon's crime thriller set in the area. It is made of a very hard volcanic material that has withstood the sea whilst the slate around it has been worn away. On the seaward side, where a chunk of the rock has cracked off, you can see the tightly folded volcanic rocks within.

    Recently the rock has turned green during the spring and summer, and brown in autumn, due to Rock Samphire colonising the side facing the beach, which is sheltered from the westerly winds, helped by fertiliser provided by the seabirds also colonising the sheltered side of the rock.

    In the 1800s, the rock at Trebarwith (or Trebarrow as it was known then), was known as Otterham Rock, or Rocks, acknowledging the rocks to the side of the main rock which protrude a small amount from the water. Below the surface of the water, these are part of an extensive reef.

    For some refreshment, the Port William Inn is up the path on the opposite side of valley, across the road to the beach.

    The Port William Inn sits on the cliff top above Trebarwith Strand. The outdoor terrace and conservatories of the Port William offer spectacular views of the beach and coastline for weary walkers to enjoy some well-deserved refreshment. The interior is decorated with various trophies recovered from ship wrecks such as brass propellers, lanterns and even half of a rowing boat!

  16. Follow the track ahead until you reach a junction.
  17. Keep left at the junction and follow the track ahead until it ends on a lane at a bench.

    Treknow (which in Cornish means 'the valley place') is perhaps one of the oldest 'industrial' settlements in the area dating back to Mediaeval times, based mainly on slate quarrying with some early metal mining. The physical structure of Treknow - its bowl-like formation, in parts literally carved out of the rock - could be the result of early slate excavations. It was in direct response to the needs of industrial workers, in the expanding quarrying industry of the early 19th century, that the rows of cottages were constructed. The use of slate for roofs, chimneys, walls and paving, which contributes so greatly to their character, is further testimony to the dominant role of the local industry.

  18. At the lane, continue ahead and follow the pavement until the lane ends at a T-junction.

    Slate is formed when clay or volcanic ash is compressed under millions of years of deposits to form shale, and then the shale is subject to a (relatively low, in geological terms) heat and pressure transforming it into a harder, less-crumbly rock - slate. The heat and pressure can arise from an intrusion of molten magma into the sedimentary rocks or from the friction associated with collision of tectonic plates. Like shale, slate also has a layered structure, splitting into thin sheets which have proven ideal for shedding water from roofs without collapsing them under the weight of stone. However, the direction that the slate splits into layers is often not the same as the direction of the layers that were laid down in the original shale. This is because a reorganisation of the mineral components occurs during the metamorphosis, based on the direction that the pressure was applied. In other words, it's possible to have stripey slates.

  19. At the T-junction, turn left and follow the pavement to a sharp bend where a narrow lane departs ahead, signposted to the Youth Hostel.
  20. Follow the lane ahead in the direction of the Youth Hostel until it ends at a staggered crossroads.
  21. At the crossroads, take the middle track signposted to the Youth Hostel and follow this to a footpath sign at a buried cattlegrid.
  22. At the junction just past the sign, keep right and follow the track ahead to reach the church car park.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

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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