Walk from Daymer Bay to Padstow

Daymer Bay to Padstow

A figure-of-8 walk from Daymer Bay thorough the dunes to Rock, passing the once-buried St Enodoc church, before crossing on the ferry to Padstow, and returning along three miles of sandy beaches.

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The walk starts from Daymer Bay and heads through the sand dunes to Rock, via St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjeman. The next leg is on the passenger ferry to Padstow, where the route ascends from the harbour, passing the ancient church and Prideaux Place, once the site of St Petroc's monastery. The walk continues past Tregirls to the Doom Bar. The beaches of Harbour Cove and St Georges Cove form the return route to Padstow. After a second river crossing, the route follows the sands of Daymer Bay from Rock.


  • After prolonged heavy rain, the wetland area beside the track across the dunes at Harbour Cove can overspill onto the track making wellies necessary.
  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 6.4 miles/10.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in summer; wellies during a wet winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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


  • Sandy beach from Rock to Daymer Bay
  • St Enodoc Church - the burial place of Sir John Betjeman
  • Panoramic views over the Camel Estuary from Tregirls
  • Sandy beaches at Harbour Cove and St George's Cove
  • Padstow's historic harbour
  • Local food in Padstow
  • Sand dunes with wildflowers

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Golden Lion Hotel
  • The Harbour Inn
  • The London Inn
  • The Old Customs House
  • The Old Ship Hotel
  • The Shipwrights


This walk involves crossings on the ferry, which runs quite frequently. See the timetable for more information about the times of the first and last ferry.

  1. Make your way to the wooden Coast Path sign in the car park and descend the steps to the beach. Walk along the top of the beach, about halfway to Brea Hill opposite, to a gap between the fences.

    Daymer bay is situated around the corner from Polzeath, facing into the Camel Estuary. The beach lies directly in front of the car park, down a short flight of steps. The sheltered estuary means that Daymer Bay is popular for windsurfing, kitesurfing etc. There is a beach at all states of the tide and the waves are never very big so it's a safe place to take young children paddling, though in deeper water the tidal river currents can be strong so swimming out into the estuary is not advised.

  2. Bear left to follow the path between the fences and reach a waymarked fence post at the far end of the fence on the right.

    The coiled casts of sand that can be seen in damp areas on many Cornish beaches are from lugworms. These resemble earthworms (but have gills) and are rarely seen as they live in U-shaped burrows beneath the sand. The worm typically stays in one burrow for several weeks before moving a short distance under the cover of high tide to make another one. The worms are a fairly popular fishing bait but are more tricky to dig out than one might expect as their burrows are quite deep.

  3. Continue on the left of the two paths ahead from the end of the fence for a few paces to reach a tall waymark post where a path comes into view with white St Enodoc Golf Course signs. Bear right to follow this path (marked out with white signs and white stones) across the golf course, heading for St Enodoc church, until the path enters some bushes and emerges on another path at a waymark.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The Camel Estuary is a geological ria - a deep valley flooded by rising sea levels after the last ice age, stretching from the headlands of Pentire Point and Stepper Point all the way to Wadebridge. The estuary is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Marine Conservation Zone.

  4. At the waymark, bear right onto the track and follow it a short distance to a crossing of paths.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales and was viewed as the father of the Celtic saints.

    Most of his children were reported to have evangelised Cornwall and North Devon, with many of the churches dedicated to them. Consequently, many of the place names in North Cornwall (St Teath, St Mabyn, St Endellion, St Minver, St Clether, Egloshayle, Egloskerry, Advent, Morwenstow, Lelant etc) are associated with the names of his children.

  5. From here you may wish to visit the church (along the path to the left) and then return here to continue the walk. Follow the path along the fence and then follow the white marker stones across the golf course to reach a gravel path.

    St Enodoc church is located amongst the greens of the St Enodoc Golf Course. The church dates from the 12th century and is said to lie on the site of a cave where St Enodoc lived as a hermit. It is thought that St Enoder (aka Enodoc) was the grandson of the 5th Century Celtic King Brychan.

    Over a number of centuries, the church became virtually buried by the towans (dunes) and was known locally as "Sinking Neddy". In order to collect its tithes, the church had to host services at least once a year so the vicar and congregation had to enter through a hole in the roof during this period. During the 19th century, the church was excavated and later it became a favourite place of Sir John Betjeman who is buried in the churchyard.

  6. Join the sandy path ahead and follow this and the small footpath leading from it indicated by white stones. Continue over the grassy mounds to reach a gravel track.

    In 1889, some local golf enthusiasts laid out a few holes amongst the dunes at Rock and they formed St. Enodoc Golf Club in 1890. A course was built in 1890 but initially only consisted of 9 holes. It wasn't until 2 years later that another 9 were added. In 1907, a new 18 hole course was laid out, which forms the basis of today's course, with a number of alterations in the intervening years. The course now ranks within the top 100 in the world.

  7. Cross over the track and join the path marked with white stones. Follow this to reach the stone bridge crossing the pond.

    In mediaeval times, golf balls were made from wood. In the 17th Century, the "featherie" was created, made from leather and stuffed with feathers. In the mid-1800s balls moulded from sap were the first to be mass-produced. They could also be heated and re-cast if they went out of shape from being hit. However people noticed that battle-scarred balls that had been used a long time seemed to fly more consistently. Golf ball manufacturers began etching different protrusions on the surfaces in attempts to improve the aerodynamics. The potential of a ball of elastic bands was discovered by a bored golfer waiting for a friend to finish work and by the 1890s, these were being coated in sap to make golf balls. In the early 1900s, it was found that indentations (rather than protrusions) on the surface resulted in better aerodynamics.

  8. Cross the bridge to reach a waymark. Turn left and follow the track until it ends on a strip of tarmac.

    On the slopes of the valley created by the stream that feeds the lake is a holy well known as the Jesus Well.

    The Jesus Well at Rock is said to be where St Enodoc baptised converts to the Christian faith in the 6th Century and the water is still used for baptisms. The well was rebuilt in Victorian times and was restored to its current form in the 20th Century. The reason for it being known as Jesus Well is connected with the tale of a visit to the estuary by tin-trader Joseph of Arimathea with the young Jesus.

  9. Cross the tarmac to the path opposite with a large white marker stone. Follow the path along the line of white marker stones all the way across the golf course to the back of a sign where the path forks. Keep left here to pass a white boulder and keep left through some bushes to a junction of paths with a coast path waymark.

    "Holy wells" were created because the Christian church was unhappy with the people continuing their old Pagan ways and worshipping sacred springs. In the 10th Century, the church issued a cannon (law) to outlaw such practices. This didn't work, so they issued another one in the 11th Century, and again in the 12th Century. Even despite the church going to the lengths of building a chapel over the top of some springs to obliterate them, the people still hung onto their sacred springs. The church finally settled on a compromise and rebranded the springs as (Christian) Holy Wells, so the old practices could continue behind a Christian façade.

  10. Turn left at the waymark and follow the waymarked coast path, ignoring any smaller paths leading from this. Continue past two waymarks to reach a waymark post with a tree on the opposite side of the path.

    The estuary is a popular spot for windsurfing.

    Boards with vertical sails were in use by Polynesians for short trips between islands. The idea of using a universal joint to connect a sail to a board was conceived in 1948 by Newman Darby in the USA who spent the next two decades perfecting the approach. The first boards went on sale during the 1960s and the sport of windsurfing was popularised in the 1970s.

  11. If the tide is out, walk a couple of paces from the waymark and turn right to make your way down to the beach as if the tide is very low, it's possible the ferry will be running from the beach here; otherwise walk along the beach to the slipway at Rock and catch the ferry from there. If the tide is high, continue ahead to follow the waymarked coast path to Rock car park, walk through this, then turn right down the red tarmac path to the slipway.

    Depending on the tide, the ferry also has different drop-off points in Padstow. At high tide, you'll be dropped on North Quay. At low tide, you'll be dropped onto the beach below the war memorial.

    On the ferry, take note of the times listed for when it will be going from the beach in Padstow. You'll need this both for the walk directions now and also to know where to catch the ferry for the return trip.

    If the ferry drops you on the beach at Padstow, you'll need to follow the path from the beach to the left into the town, where the walk resumes.

  12. From North Quay Parade, walk around the harbour until you reach The Chough Bakery.

    Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the Saints Way from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the "old place", to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

  13. Turn right, in front of The Chough Bakery, in the direction signposted to Prideaux Place. At the end of the alley, head to the right of Padstow Institute, in the direction signposted to Prideaux Place. Continue until you reach a fork at the Cross House Hotel.

    "Pasty" was another word used for "pie" throughout England from the Middle Ages onward, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no veg, just meat (venison), port wine and spices. The first "Cornish pasty" recipe is from 1861 which contained just beef and no veg.

    Even during Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. The Cornish dialect word for a pork flatbread eaten in the mines during the 18th and 19th Centuries is hogen (pronounced "hugg-un") which evolved into "oggy" - the dialect word for pasty. The really poor had a "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all).

    The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect from its more formal name of "Swedish turnip") seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought that this probably dates from the late 18th Century (when the Poldark novels were set) when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor but the first documented "traditional" recipe is not until 1929. Over 120 million Cornish pasties are now consumed each year.

  14. At the fork, keep left and follow the lane past St Petroc's church on your left until you reach a junction (Tregirls Lane) on your right.

    There have been 3 churches on the site of St Petroc's in Padstow. The first, was built in the early 6th Century by Petroc and was destroyed in 981 by the Vikings. In the 12th Century, another church was built, which is thought might have been of sandstone and therefore didn't last long. This was replaced by the current church in the early-mid 15th Century. The cream-coloured stone in the interior, used for the columns, was imported from Normandy; the dark stone used for the font and windows is blue elvan quarried from Cataclews Point between Harlyn and Mother Ivy's bay.

  15. Turn right at the junction, passing Prideaux Place on your left, and follow the lane through the arch and onward for about half a mile until the lane ends at Tregirls Farm.

    Prideaux Place, situated at the top of Padstow, is an Elizabethan manor house which has been the home of the Prideaux family for 14 generations. It was built in 1592 by Nicholas Prideaux and survived unaltered until the 18th century when Edmund, Nicholas's great grandson, influenced by his Grand Tour through Italy in 1739, created a formal garden and updated the house by installing modern sash windows and coal burning grates.

    Consequently, the house combines some traditional Elizabethan architecture with the 18th century exuberance of Strawberry Hill Gothic. Of its 81 rooms, 46 are bedrooms and only 6 of those are habitable (the rest are as the American Army left them at the end of the Second World War). The deer park is thought to be the oldest in the country and has been dated back to its enclosure by the Romans in AD 435.

    The deer park is on the right-hand side of the road. The deer can often be seen there.

  16. At the end of the lane, walk to the sign on the building ahead then turn right to reach a stile beside the gate.

    According to legend, St Petroc arrived from Ireland around AD 520 and settled here. After his death, a monastery called Lanwethinoc was built on the hill above the harbour in Padstow. The monks there acquired land from Portreath to Tintagel. After the Viking raid of 981 documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the monks moved inland to Bodmin taking the relics of St Petroc with them. The site of the monastery has never been identified with certainty, but it is thought to be based on the present parish church with an extension towards Prideaux Place.

  17. Go through the gate if open (or cross the stile) and turn left onto a track. Follow this along two fields until you reach a waymark on your right, at the end of the second field.

    To your left, across the estuary, is Daymer Bay and directly ahead are the cottages at Hawker's Cove where the Padstow Lifeboat was originally launched.

    The row of six cottages at Hawker's Cove were built in 1874 for the crews of pilot gig boats allowing them quick access to reach ships entering the mouth of the estuary before they foundered on the Doom Bar. During the 19th Century, the deep river channel ran along this side of the estuary so launching at lower states of the tide would have been much easier than it is today. A pilot's lookout was situated on the edge of Iron Cove, facing out into the mouth of the estuary.

    The headland ahead is Stepper Point along which the river channel used to run. Over the last century the channel has moved towards the middle of the Estuary, possibly caused by sand piling up against the many hundreds of shipwrecks in the channel. The lifeboat has therefore had to be relocated and now launches from Trevose Head.

    The 40ft stone tower on Stepper Point, affectionately known as "The Pepper Pot", was built as a daymark - a navigation beacon for seafarers during daylight. At 240 feet above sea level, it is visible from 30 miles away. When it was built in 1830, the daymark cost the sum of £29. The money was raised by giving donors voting rights in the Harbour Association: one guinea would buy one vote.

  18. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path up the steps and along the edge of the field to reach a stone stile between fields.

    Alternatively, in summer (when the track ahead to the beach isn't waterlogged), it's possible to walk along the beach instead if the tide is out, and return to the coast path at St George's Cove to rejoin the route.

    Harbour Cove is the beach on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary from Daymer Bay. There is a beach at all states of the tide at Harbour Cove although at low tide, the vast beach stretches out towards Doom Bar and merges with the other beaches, making it possible to walk around Gun Point to St George's Cove across the sand.

    During Victorian times and even during the early 20th Century, the main river channel ran alongside Stepper Point and so there were no sand dunes or sand bars here and the cove was surrounded by rock platforms below the edges of the field. Harbour Cove itself was a tiny beach at the mouth of the inlet in the area which is now marshland with an old double wooden walkway.

    Harbour Cove is also known locally as Tregirls beach, named after Tregirls Farm. In 1600, the name was originally "grylls" but was corrupted into "girls" over the years. It's possible the name of the farm arises from the Grylls family who were part of the Cornish gentry.

  19. Cross the stile and follow the path to another stile.

    The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the path to a junction of paths with a waymark. Bear right to follow the waymarked path around Gun Point to the wooded valley at St George's Cove.

    A gun battery on Gun Point is shown on maps as early as 1801 and may originally date back to defences against the Spanish Armada. It was re-fortified during the Second World War and these are the remains visible today.

  21. From St George's Cove, continue along the coast path up the estuary to a waymark in front of the War Memorial.

    The Camel Estuary is a nursery ground for bass and is a designated conservation area. Young bass spend their first 3-4 years in estuaries and then move into inshore waters. At 6-7 years the bass are sexually mature and migrate out into the Atlantic into deeper water to breed during the winter, returning each summer to coastal waters. Fishing for bass is illegal in the estuary during the summer and autumn to help protect the breeding population.

  22. Go through the gate ahead and past the Memorial to the gate on the other side.

    Padstow's fishing industry reached its heyday in the nineteenth century, by which time there were also six shipyards. In the 1880s, shipbuilding declined when wooden ships were replaced by iron but the town was fortunate that by the end of the nineteenth century, east-coast trawlers made Padstow the centre of their winter fishing.

    When the railway opened in 1899, this quickly became important for fish export and during the 1920s, there were still well over 100 fishing boats in the harbour. When the railway closed in 1967, the fishing industry went into decline but recovered somewhat in the 1980s with Padstow being recorded as the 3rd largest fishing port in the South West in 1986.

    The fishing fleet is much smaller today but is still active, and the National Lobster Hatchery is based beside the car park on the South Quay.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the left (lower) path until you reach a junction where another surfaced path departs to the left.

    The National Lobster Hatchery, located on the quayside at Padstow, are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. The lobsters are reared in captivity until they are 2-3 months old - the age when they set up home in a burrow. They are then released at different points around the coast to replenish stocks caught by fishermen. There is a visitor centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.

  24. At this point, you need to check the time, to deduce whether the ferry will be going from the beach or the harbour. If the ferry is going from the beach, turn left and follow the path to the beach. Otherwise, follow the path ahead, down to North Quay Parade, and turn left onto North Quay, to catch the ferry from there.

    Rock has been referred to as "Britain's Saint-Tropez", the "Kensington of Cornwall" and "Chelsea-on-sea" due to its popularity as a holiday or second home location for celebrities (including Prince Harry, the actor Hugh Grant, the Rothschilds, the Sainsburys, the Freuds, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Jay Kay of Jamiroquai, Gordon Ramsay and David Cameron). Contrary to stereotypes about how celebrities might spend their holidays and despite the density of fine dining establishments in and around Rock and Padstow, Bodmin's Barnecutt's bakery still very much holds its own here. It's only a matter of time before "Wasson my 'ansome?" is customary in the House of Lords.

  25. If the tide is out, you can turn left and return along the beach to Daymer Bay. If the tide is in, follow the pedestrian path indicated by the red tarmac into the car park and make your way to the steps in the corner beside the toilets.

    On 9th August 1879, the four Prideaux-Brune sisters (of Prideaux Place) and their friend Miss O'Shaughnessy were in a rowing boat and being towed into Padstow by a fishing boat after the rapid onset of strong winds. On their way up the estuary, they spotted a sailor in distress who had been capsized by a squall of wind off Bray Hill. They asked to be cast off, and rowed through heavy surf - at considerable risk to their own lives - to his rescue. Their "intrepid and prompt services" resulted in the award of Silver Medals for Bravery.

  26. Go up the steps beside the toilets and turn right. Follow the path by the fence uphill for a few paces to a junction of paths.

    By the 1880s, Rock was established as a small industrial settlement with quarries, crane and a limekiln. Stoptide and Porthilly were separate small hamlets. Rock consisted of roughly a dozen buildings including a hotel. Due to its sheltered position in the Camel Estuary, Rock became popular for sailing. In 1890 the first golf course was built. These were two hobbies favoured by the upper-class "sportsmen" of the time and this established Rock as a destination for this socioeconomic group. As with many of Cornwall's most-publicised tourist attractions (e.g. Tintagel Castle and Bedruthan Steps), the patterns established in Victorian times are still being repeated and reinforced in the 21st Century.

  27. Keep left at the fork and follow the path past the steps to the beach and then parallel to the beach for a few hundred metres to reach a stream crossing at the bottom of a flight of steps.

    It's estimated that on average around 1 tonne of fishing gear is left in the ocean every minute either by being lost or discarded. This is known as "ghost gear" as it drifts through the ocean, killing marine life in its path. This includes over 100,000 whales, dolphins and turtles every year as well as countless fish and seabirds. When it finally washes up on beaches, it makes up around 10% of all marine litter.

    A number of initiatives are underway to try to prevent fishing gear being dumped in the sea which even include recycling old nets into skateboards. However, since the gear that's already in the sea can take 600 years to break down, you can help by spotting any washed up on the beach. If you come across a small amount of fishing gear on a beach that's safe to remove then bin it. If you spot some that's too large to deal with yourself then take a photo and email it to seals@cornwallsealgroup.co.uk, describing where it is and giving an idea of size.

  28. Cross the stream to the path opposite then keep left at the waymark to keep following the path parallel to the beach. Continue to reach a deeply-carved path leading to the left just before a waymark on the path ahead.
  29. Turn left before the waymark and follow the path downhill to a T-junction. Turn right at this to pass the trees on your right and follow the main path until it forks.
  30. Keep right at the fork and follow the main path across the dunes towards the hill in the distance until just before the path ahead climbs uphill, a small path departs to the right past an area of ivy on the bank on the right.

    The calcium carbonate from seashells has been a key factor in Cornwall's natural and industrial history due to the shortage of lime-rich rocks. The golden colour of the sand on the beaches is due to the small fragments of shell and in the past this was transported around Cornwall using horses, donkeys, canals and even by railway. You may be wondering where the shellfish themselves got the calcium carbonate from in the first place, since it was so scarce. As well as the "salt" (sodium chloride) that you can taste, sea water contains a range of other dissolved salts and around 1% of the dissolved material is calcium. Molluscs are able to extract the calcium ions from the seawater which they use to construct their shells.

  31. Bear right to pass alongside the ivy then follow the path around a bend to the right and up the bank. Pass to the left of a windswept tree to join a well-worn path. Follow this to reach a T-junction just behind a bush with a waymark to the left.
  32. At the junction, turn left and follow the coast path past the waymark and around the side of the hill. As the path descends, follow it through some bushes to a fork.

    Erosion of the vegetation by foot traffic can cause the dunes to disintegrate, so areas are sometimes fenced off to allow the all-important weeds to recover, particularly the seaward edge which is both the most fragile and most visited area. During the 1970s-80s erosion was at its worst but many dunes have since been stabilised. Some of the fencing has now been removed to allow some bare areas of sand to be created which are necessary for the natural process of sand migration to the dunes further inland.

  33. At the fork, keep right to stay on the dunes and follow the path into a sandy area. Cross to the small path leading along the river and follow this over a footbridge to a T-junction in the path in front of a dune restoration sign.

    Since water drains away quickly through the sand, marram grass has evolved a number of strategies to capture and retain water including its waxy, curled leaves which contain hairs inside to minimise evaporation caused by moving air. Its roots form a fibrous mat which traps water but also plays a vital role in stabilising the dunes by stopping the sand blowing away. During the 17th Century, large amounts of marram grass were harvested for thatch and this destabilised the dunes so much that farms, estates and even entire villages were buried.

  34. Turn right (indicated for the church) and follow the path until you reach a fork with a path leading onto the golf course.

    Although the current town of Rock has only been built relatively recently, it is thought that in mediaeval times there might have been a settlement somewhere between St Enodoc church and St Michael's Church at Porthilly, and that this became overwhelmed with sand and was abandoned. In 1778, the shifting sands revealed a chapel and cemetery containing slate coffins and human bones. There are also reported finds of kitchen utensils such as spoons, ornaments and jewellery and English coins spanning the reigns of Henry I to Elizabeth I. Excavations at Porthilly to lay pipes have also found that the thick layer of sand seems to have been laid down after Tudor times.

  35. Keep left at the fork to pass between the bushes and emerge at a junction of paths. Keep left to follow the path between the fences (sometimes a stream in winter) onto the beach then turn right to follow the top of the beach to reach the flight of steps leading to the car park.

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