Budock Water and the Lakes

A walk from what was once the parish church for Falmouth to the lakes in a river valley which the Celtic people described as secluded and where Argal Mill lies somewhere beneath the water in a Cornish version of Atlantis

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The walk starts at Budock Church and follows footpaths across the fields to reach the top of College Reservoir. The walk follows the waterside path to the other end of the lake and then continues across the dam of the Argal reservoir to reach the café. The route then passes all the way around Argal Lake before returning to Budock Water.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 6.5 miles/10.5 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Budock church car park entrance
  • Parking: Budock church car park (closes at 5) or Churchtown beside disabled spaces TR115BZ
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots in winter

OS maps for this walk

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Mediaeval church at Budock Water
  • Walkway along the top of the dam at Argal Lake
  • Aquatic wildlife in the College Lake nature reserve
  • Spring flowers including primroses and bluebells along the shady paths around the lakes

Adjoining walks


  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the road a short distance to where a footpath departs from the right opposite Eglos Farmhouse. Bear right onto the footpath and follow this parallel to the road to reach a footpath sign on the right opposite wooden railings on the left.

    The church in Budock Water dates from the 13th Century with a rebuild during the 15th Century. The churchyard itself is thought to date back to the times of the Celtic saint Budock in 470 AD, also associated with St Budeaux in Plymouth.

  2. Continue on the footpath until you reach a second wooden railing on the left just after the start of a wire fence on the right.
  3. Turn left through the railing to reach the road. Carefully cross the road and take the track directly ahead signposted for Nangitha Farm. Follow the track to reach an area with buildings.
  4. As the buildings come into view, keep right to follow the concrete track leading uphill. Keep following the track until you reach a gate and stile.

    The footpath is the remains of a mediaeval cart road, beside which there was once a cross. At one time Nangitha Lane, as it was known, was described as "a good road with pavement along one side".

  5. Cross the stile and follow the path to a metal kissing gate beside a farm gate.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  6. Go through the kissing gate and cross the field to the stile opposite.
  7. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow along the right hedge to the corner of the field and turn left to keep following along the right hedge. Continue to reach a stone stile just after passing a gateway.

    A mediaeval leper hospital (known as a lazar house) was located in the field and may be the reason that two footpaths meet here. The name of one of the fields also suggests there may have been a chapel associated with it.

  8. Cross the stile and cross the field to a stile roughly a third of the way along the far hedge from the right-hand corner.
  9. Cross the stile and carefully cross the road to the track opposite to Tregonhaye. Follow the track to reach a farmyard.

    The first record of Tregonhay is from 1350. Other then Tre (meaning farmstead) the origin of the name is not known but because it's based on the Cornish language, it is thought that the settlement was probably in existence during the Dark Ages prior to the Norman Conquest.

  10. Continue ahead through the farmyard, passing through any gates to reach 3 gates leading in different directions at the far end.
  11. Go through the gate ahead onto the concrete track and follow this downhill to reach another gate.
  12. Go through the gate (or the climb the stile to the right if closed) and follow the left hedge of the field downhill to reach a line of trees on the left near the bottom. Continue to roughly half-way along these then turn right to cross the contour of the hill to reach a path leading between the brambles above the trees.
  13. Join the path through the brambles and follow it towards the far side of the field until you can see a gap in the brambles on the left leading to a stile, then make for this.

    The bramble is a member of the rose family, and the roots are perennial but its shoots last just two years. In the first year, the shoots grow vigorously (up to 8cm in one day!) and can root to form daughter plants. In the second year, the shoots mature and send out side-shoots with flowers. The flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen) as well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants. The word "bramble" comes from bræmaz - a word of Germanic origin meaning "prickly".

  14. Cross the stile and follow the path to the left of the tree down to the track (the path to the right has a drop at the end). Bear right across the track to the waymark then turn left at the waymark to pass between the boulders and reach some steps by the wooden fence. Go down the steps and up the steps on the other side to reach a footbridge (don't cross it).

    The reservoirs are based on a small river which has its source at Longdowns and runs along a fairly deep valley, reaching the sea at Glasney Creek in Penryn.

  15. Continue uphill towards the dam from the first footbridge and go up the steps to reach a second footbridge. Cross this one to join the path around the reservoir. Follow this for about a mile and then pass through a pedestrian gate to reach a road.

    College Reservoir is the earlier and smaller of the two reservoirs in the valley. It was completed in 1906 and has a capacity of just under a quarter of a million litres. The walkway along one side of College Reservoir was repaired and reopened in 2012 after it been closed for over 12 years.

  16. Carefully cross the road to the remains of a junction opposite and follow the narrow path leading from the wooden barrier on the left side to emerge next to the dam of Argal Reservoir.

    In 1939, South West Water work began to dam the river to create a reservoir for public water supply. The concrete dam on Argal Lake was completed in 1941 and at full capacity, the lake holds 1.3 billion litres of water. South West Water still own Argal and College lakes but lease them to the Southwest Lakes Trust.

  17. Turn right to follow the path across the top of the dam to the other side.

    Mabe parish church dates from the 14th Century but the church was largely re-built in 1869, after being struck by lightning. The churchyard is on the site of an earlier Celtic religious enclosure. The churchyard contains a mediaeval cross and a standing stone inscribed in the mediaeval period but thought to have been erected originally during prehistoric times.

  18. Follow the path leading from the dam to emerge in a gravel area and continue ahead to reach a tarmacked road.

    Although most primroses tend to be pale yellow, in residential areas, extensive hybridisation occurs with pink and purple garden primulas to create all kinds of weird and wonderful mutants, with some even shaped like cowslips. However there is a pale pink variety of primrose (known as rhubarb and custard) that is thought to be a naturally-occurring variant of the pale yellow (rhubarb-free) version as it has been found miles away from any domestic plants.

  19. Bear right across the road to the car park and walk to the far end of the car park to locate a path on the left marked "Round Reservoir walk" (not the one by the café).

    Beneath the water of Argal Lake lies Argal Mill. The mill was shown existing on an OS Map of 1938, the year before the river was dammed, although it had not been in use since 1878.

  20. Follow the path, keeping left at any major junctions to go all the way around the reservoir and return to the dam, where there is a wooden gate leading to the road on the right.

    Swans usually mate for life, although "divorce" can sometimes occur if there is a nesting failure. The birds can live for over 20 years but in the 20th Century many swans were found to be suffering from lead poisoning. This was tracked down to the tiny "lead shot" weights used for fishing that swans would hoover up with weed and roots from the bottom of rivers and lakes. Since the introduction of non-toxic metals for making fishing weights, incidents of poisoning have disappeared and the swan population is now even growing very slightly.

  21. Go though the wooden gate on the right and carefully cross the road to the Public Bridleway opposite. Follow this uphill to meet a lane.

    In the 1990s, a process was put in place to transfer the leisure activities managed by South West Water to a new charity. The South West Lakes Trust was formed in 2000 and looks after the following lakes in Cornwall: Argal, College, Crowdy, Porth, Siblyback, Stithians and Tamar. The trust now also includes the Wheal Martin china clay museum.

  22. Continue ahead onto the lane and keep following it until it eventually ends in a T-junction.

    The settlement of Argal takes its name from the Cornish word argel meaning "secluded place". Usually, place names that derive from the Cornish language date from a period when this was spoken by the land-owning classes, i.e. in early mediaeval times before the French-speaking Normans took control. However, in this case there are no records of the name from mediaeval times but this could be simply because Argal was so secluded!

  23. Carefully cross the road to the stone stile opposite and climb this. The metal gate (just about) opens so you can squeeze out to the right. Once in the field, follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile on the far hedge, just to the left of the gateway.

    Moles are solitary except when breeding so a network of tunnels is occupied by a single mole. Moles typically live for around 3 years and when a mole dies, its tunnel network is often inherited by one of its offspring. Thus the expanding estate can be passed down through several generations. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill from rising water, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  24. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to reach a metal gate in front of a stile roughly 20 metres from the corner of the field.
  25. Cross the stile and cross the small field to the metal gate opposite.
  26. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track to the gate and stile.
  27. Cross the stile and follow the track the length of the field on the right until you reach a stone stile (easily missed) in the hedge on the right just before the next field.
  28. Cross the stile on the right and follow the path along the edge of the field to reach a pedestrian gate.
  29. Go through the gate and down the steps to a driveway. Bear right a few paces to reach a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it downhill until it ends in a T-junction with the main road.

    Earliest records of the parish of Budock are from 1207. The "water" was appended to indicate the village was near a stream (as with Chacewater and Canworthy Water).

  30. Carefully cross the road to the public footpath opposite. Follow the path uphill until it emerges onto another path.
  31. Turn left and follow the path uphill to reach the church.

    During the spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks.

    The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems. As the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and have a small bulb. In fact, in New Zealand they are known as "onion weed".

  32. Turn left and follow along the wall of the churchyard, around the corner to the right to return to the car park.

    According to folklore, it's unlucky to bring bluebells into a house and also unlucky to walk through bluebells as it was thought that the little bells would ring and summon fairies and goblins.

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

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