Trevose Head

The walk starts at Constantine Bay, crosses the sandy beach to Booby's Bay and then follows the coast path past a collapsed cave before reaching Dinas Head and the lighthouse. The route passes around Trevose Head to reach the Padstow lifeboat station and the sheltered beach of Mother Ivey's Bay. The walk continues along the coast to the surf beach at Harlyn Bay along cliffs where there have been numerous Bronze Age finds including neck ornaments made of gold. The return route is fairly quick and easy, following lanes and footpaths back to Constantine Bay.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6.1 miles/9.7 km
  • Grade: Easy
  • Start from: Constantine Bay beach car park
  • Parking: Beach car park (limited space). From the B3276, follow signs to Constantine Bay, keeping left at the golf club and turning right beside Constantine Bay stores. Satnav: PL288JL
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in dry weather

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Spectacular coastal views overlooking The Bull and The Quies, the lighthouse and Padstow lifeboat station
  • Sandy surf beaches at Constantine, Booby's Bay and Harlyn
  • Rockpools at Booby's Bay with wildlife including blennies and shrimps
  • Circular abyss created by a collapsed cave on Trevose Head
  • Coastal heath rich in birdlife and wildflowers
  • Sheltered beaches at Onjohn Cove and Mother Ivey's Bay with azure water in Summer

Alternative walks in same location

Directions

  1. From the Constantine car park, walk down to the beach

    The area around Trevose Head and Constantine Bay is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for both geological and biological reasons. Wild asparagus grows on the cliffs of Dinas Head, and Shore Dock at the base of the cliffs. The cliffs are also important breeding grounds for fulmar, razorbill and guillemot.

  2. Turn right and walk along the back of the beach to the steps at the far end.
  3. Walk up the steps and along the cliff behind Booby's Bay until the path meets some tracks leading inland.

    Against the rocks of Booby's Bay is the shipwreck of the SV Carl.

    The wreck of the SV Carl lies against the rocks of Booby's Bay, next to Constantine Bay. The SV Carl was in Cardiff docks when war broke out in 1914 and was impounded. In 1917 it broke free in a storm whilst it was being towed to London to be broken up for scrap. An eyewitness account was recalled in 1966:

    The Carl went aground on the outer reef... Two Admiralty tugs came from Devonport to try to refloat her. They got her off the reef, but as soon as they had done so, the towing hawser on each tug parted, Carl went ahead out of control and grounded on the inner reef. She was there examined by salvage experts...who found no damage whatever to the hull. The Admiralty tugs therefore had another try to tow her off, but once more both ship’s towing harnesses parted. Carl broke her back and became a total loss. But for the unusual misfortune of both towing hawsers parting on two successive attempts Carl would in all probability have been salvaged.

    The 60ft (18m) wreck lay buried beneath the sand with only the occasional part (often just part of the anchor) protruding until the huge storms of early 2014 stripped more than a metre of sand from the beach, exposing the wreck in an excellent state of preservation from being under the sand.

  4. Where the path meets a track, keep left along the coast path until you reach a kissing gate in the wall at the far end.

    A number of prehistoric flint tools have been found in the Booby's Bay and Trevose Head area. The flints were likely to have been from pebbles washed ashore from the offshore chalk deposits that run under the Celtic Sea, possibly from the Haig Fras reefs approx 100 miles to the west of Trevose Head. The flint tools are thought to date from around 6500BC. In that period, sea levels were much lower and Trevose head would have been a couple of miles inland and forested.

  5. Go through the kissing gate, bear left to stay on the coast path and follow it out onto the headland, passing a stile which you can simply walk past and a huge collapsed cave on your right, until you reach a (second) stile which you need to cross.

    The rocks off Trevose Head have been the cause of many shipwrecks, and are the main reason that the lighthouse was built. The single large rock, a couple of hundred metres off Dinas Head, is known as The Bull. The group of rocks just over a kilometre offshore are known as The Quies, though were recorded as the "Cow and Calf" on maps of 1720, continuing the bovine herd further out to sea.

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path ahead to a track. Bear left onto the track and follow it down into the quarry (you may want to take a short diversion onto Dinas Head on the left, then return to the quarry).

    On April 18th 1918, the cargo ship Runswick, carrying coal, was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Despite the damage, she didn't sink. The crew were transferred to another vessel which proceeded to tow the Runswick. However, the towing hawsers broke and she drifted onto The Quies, off Trevose Head, and sank. The wreck lies between the innermost two islands and is now festooned with sea life including Cup Corals, Jewel Anemones of different colours, Dahlia Anemones, Sea Squirts, Starfish and Spider Crabs.

  7. Cross the quarry, then follow the path on the other side, up the steps to the road.

    In April 1901, the cargo steamer Whinfield was bound for Cardiff with a cargo of Iron ore. As the ship approached Trevose Head, a fog descended which concealed the lighthouse. Disoriented, the ship ended up deviating inland of its intended course and struck the Quies off Trevose Head. Fortunately the crew managed to escape in a lifeboat before the ship went down. A court somewhat harshly found the captain's seamanship to be substandard and suspended his licence for 3 months, arguing he could have dropped a plumbline to establish he was inshore of his intended course and averted disaster by veering seaward.

  8. Turn left and walk down the road a short distance towards the lighthouse until you reach a path leading up to the right.

    Trevose lighthouse is situated on the north west extremity of Trevose Head. Built in 1847 of granite quarried from the headland, the lighthouse tower is 27 metres tall, and has a range of 20 nautical miles (37 km). Between 1912 and 1995, the lighthouse flashed red (since then it's been white). Up until 1995, the lighthouse had a keeper; now it's automated. Between 1913 and 1963, a fog horn developed by Lord Rayleigh was in use here. This consisted of a 36 foot long rectangular trumpet. Walking along the coast path on a foggy day was not for the feint-hearted back then!

  9. Turn right up the steps and follow the coast path around Trevose Head until the path passes the corner of a wall and forks at a waymark.

    Trevose is at a corner on the Cornish peninsula, so a lot of shipping traffic passed close by. During the first World War, a number of cargo ships were sunk by German U-boats lurking off Trevose Head, or mines laid in the area. Two of the ships sunk here towards the end of the war were cargo ships carrying coal from South Wales.

    The Poldown was a 1370-ton steamship. On 9 October 1917, she was on her way from South Wales with a cargo of coal, when she struck a German mine and sank.

    The Anna Sofie was a large cargo ship of 2577 tons. On 23 July, 1918 she was returning from Northern France to South Wales when she was torpedoed by U55, just off Trevose Head. Four days before sinking the Anna Sofie, the U55 had sunk the Carpathia: the liner that rescued survivors from the Titanic in 1912.

    The approximate position of the Anna Sophie was recorded on Admiralty charts. However, when divers eventually located and dived the wreck, they had a surprise: this was the Poldown with its cargo of coal. For many years, another shipwreck alongside Diver Rock was known about, but its identity was unclear. Once the Poldown had been correctly identified, there were suspicions that this one might be the Anna Sofie. This was finally confirmed by a number found on a steam valve.

  10. At the waymark, follow the path to the left to a cairn between the two benches on the skyline.

    From the cairn, you can make a short diversion onto the end of the headland where there are good views of the lifeboat station and the rocks around Barras Bay. Return the to cairn to continue on the route.

  11. From the cairn, bear right to a stile in the corner where the fence meets the hedge.

    In late spring and summer, listen out for the characteristic song of skylarks hovering high above the coast path. The coastal heath is a particularly good habitat for them, being mild but with fairly short vegetation in which they can hunt for insects.

  12. Cross the stile onto the lane to the lifeboat station. Cross the stile opposite onto a path. Follow it along the fence until you reach a stile.

    The lane that the footpath crosses leads to the Padstow lifeboat station.

    The Padstow Lifeboat was relocated to Mother Ivy's Bay in October 1967 due to river silting at Hawker's Cove. The current lifeboat, known as the "Spirit of Padstow", was brought into service on July 17th 2006. Things have moved on a little from Padstow's original lifeboat rowed by hand: this one is controlled using touchscreens, has a top speed of 25 knots and is capable of towing 7 tonne ships. It has a crew of 7, including a doctor.

  13. Cross the stile onto a track and turn left, then immediately right over the stile indicated by the Coast Path sign. Follow the path until it emerges at a waymark on a track next to Mother Ivy's Cottage.

    Mother Ivey's Bay is named after a white witch who is said to have cursed the land of a local fishing family who didn't share their catch with the starving inhabitants of Padstow and instead ploughed the fish into their fields as fertiliser. Since then, mysterious deaths have allegedly occured for people digging in the cursed fields. David Cameron apparently stayed in the cursed house for his summer holiday in 2008 but this didn't seem to have stood in the way of his succession to power, perhaps due to limiting his digging to making sandcastles on the beach.

  14. From the waymark, pass the path to the beach and head towards the gate for Mother Ivy's Cottage. Go through the kissing gate to the right of the gate. Follow the path until you reach the main track onto the beach at the Holiday Park.

    The Saphir was a 1406 ton Norwegian steamship and was another coal-carrying victim of the German U-boats off Trevose head during World War One. It was torpedoed by U94 on 25 May, 1918 and sank 1.5 miles NNW of Trevose Head. The Saphir was U94’s last victim, and the U-boat survived the war to be surrendered less than six months later. The wreck lies alongside a rocky reef. It has fallen and then collapsed to starboard, perhaps as a result of initially landing on the ridge of reef that runs almost parallel to the keel.

  15. When the path joins the track to the beach, turn left then immediately right up the steps and follow the coast path until you reach a gate.

    The offshore island that you can see is known as Gulland.

    Gulland is the most westerly and largest of the 3 rocky islands around the Camel estuary, lying between Stepper Point and Trevose Head. The name "Gulland" is likely to be a corruption of the Cornish word goelann meaning "gull", and the rock appears as "the gull rock" on map of 1576. It is reported to be used by seals as a nursery. Puffins can also sometimes be seen here and it is postulated this might be a small colony distinct from the larger colony on The Mouls.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the path to the track. Cross the track to the path opposite, and continue on the coast path around the headland until you reach a stile in front of a house at Onjohn Cove.

    The headland is known as Cataclews Point.

    Cataclews Point is located between Mother Ivey's and Harlyn Bay. "Cataclews" is a corruption of the Cornish Karrek Loos, meaning grey rock. This refers to the quarries on the point which have been worked since Mediaeval times. The stone, sometimes known as Catacleuse, is a form of Greenstone (also known locally as Blue Elvan) and has been carved into features such as doorways and windows in churches such as Padstow's St Petroc's. Although the quarry is no longer being worked, it is designated a "heritage" quarry which means it could be re-opened in the future to extract stone for the repair of heritage buildings.

  17. Cross the stile and keep left on the path past the house to a kissing gate.

    The edge of the coast from Cataclews Point to Harlyn Bay was used as a graveyard in the Bronze Age. There have been many archaeological finds here, particularly as the cliffs have been eroded away and burial cists have been uncovered. For example in 1990, an early Bronze Age burial pit was discovered, in which a pottery vessel contained a bronze pendant as well as cremated remains.

    In 1900, workmen digging the foundations for a new house found over 200 graves. Each one contained a body laying on its side in a crouched position with the head pointing North. One contained the body of a child, buried with two mice. The relics are now in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

  18. Go through the kissing gate and take the second path left (the first goes down onto the beach) and follow the coast path to a waymark at Haryln Bay.

    The small beach is named Onjohn Cove, though it merges with the other beaches across Harlyn Bay at low tide.

    In 1865, a labourer found two wafer-thin crescents of gold, known as lunulae, above Onjohn Cove (a small cove between Harlyn Bay and Cataclews Point). They probably date from the early Bronze Age, and are likely to have been grave goods, as there are several prehistoric burial mounds nearby. They are now in the British Museum.

    Lunulae were neck ornaments and have been found dating from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Four have been found in Cornwall and are all made of very thin gold. The crescent shape of lunulae is thought to indicate a symbolic meaning, representing the crescent horns of the moon, and they may thus have been objects of ceremonial significance. A number of similar lunulae have been found in Ireland and also Brittany. It is thought the four found in Cornwall were all made from Irish gold and manufactured either in Ireland or Brittany and brought along the trade route between the two passing through Cornwall.

  19. At the waymark, turn left down the steps and follow the coast path onto the beach. On the beach, turn right and hug the cliff on your right which will eventually bring you out onto the lane at the side of the bridge.

    Harlyn Bay faces Northeast which means that the prevailing southwesterly winds are offshore. This is very good news for surfing, but due to the sheltered location it needs a good size swell to produce surf of any size. The best waves are reported to be at mid tide.

    The original name was Ar-Lyn which transliterates to something along the lines of "on the lake". Somewhere over the years, a well-spoken Englishman probably thought the locals must be dropping an "H", and helpfully added one.

  20. At the lane, turn right and follow it to a junction.
  21. At the junction, turn right and follow the lane around the bend to a junction signposted to the lifeboat station.
  22. Continue ahead at the junction to stay on the lane and follow it until you reach a junction beside the Club House with a Public Footpath sign pointing between the overflow car park and a hedge.
  23. At the footpath sign, turn right in the direction signposted to the coast path. Follow the path until you reach the top of a flight of steps from the dunes to the beach.
  24. Rather than take the path ahead down the steps, turn left and follow the path along the edge of the dunes to reach the track to the car park.

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