Circular walk from Gorran Haven to Dodman Point

Gorran Haven to Dodman Point

A circular walk on the Roseland from the fishing village of Gorran Haven to the remote, sandy Hemmick Beach via The Deadman's Point of old nautical maps, still marked with a huge cross to warn sailors of the perilous lee shores, and Vault Beach where the wreckage washed ashore.

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The walk follows the Coast Path from Gorran Haven around Pen-a-Mean to Vault beach, named after the wreckage that often washed up here. The walk follows the path around the bay to reach the daymark cross on Dodman Point. The route continues along the coast to Hemmick Beach and then turns inland along footpaths to Penare Farm, Treveague and descends into the valley to return to Gorran Haven.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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



  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the road towards the beach until you reach Foxhole Lane.

    Gorran Haven is a typical fishing village with narrow mediaeval streets and a sheltered place to launch boats: the beach faces East into a bay protected by headlands to the North and South. Prior to the 19th Century, the village was known as Portheast which is thought to be a corruption of Porth Just.

  2. Turn right onto Foxhole Lane and go up the steps. Follow the waymarked path until you reach a kissing gate into a field.

    In mediaeval times, the village at Gorran Haven was the primary fishing village of the area, dwarfing Mevagissey, and the quay has been rebuilt a number of times throughout its history. The first recorded use of seining for pilchards in Cornwall was here, in the 13th Century. Once drift netting became popular in the late 18th century, Mevagissey took over as the primary fishery and the quay fell into ruin but was rebuilt in 1886 and a period of crab and lobster potting continued until the Second World War. After the war, crab and lobster potting resumed from the bigger harbour at Mevagissey.

  3. When you reach the kissing gate, go through it and continue along the path, passing through another kissing gate. Carry on until you enter the next bay then reach a fork in the path.

    Roughly 70% of the edible crabs caught in the world are caught around the British Isles, most of which are sold to France and Spain. Around the UK, edible brown crabs are regarded as overfished, with the largest fishery based around Scotland. Devon and Cornwall have the most stringent regulations in the UK on the minimum acceptable size and the pots now have an escape hatch for undersized crabs. The crabs are not harmed by the pots which allows crabs carrying eggs to also be released to improve the sustainability of the fishery.

  4. Keep right at the fork and follow the path to a kissing gate. Alternatively, if you want to visit the beach, bear left to reach the beach and then from the beach, go up the steps and follow the path to rejoin the coast path, bearing left to the kissing gate.

    Vault beach is said to get its name from the cold shadow cast over the beach by Dodman Point in the evenings, and continuing in the death theme of Deadman's Point. The alternative name for the beach - Bow beach - describes its crescent shape. The beach is mostly shingle with some sand at low tide and is over half a mile in length and is sheltered from most wind directions by the points either side. The far southern end (furthest away from the path to the beach) is popular with naturists in warm weather. The main part of the beach was used as the location for filming Richard Curtis' "About Time".

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path until it forks.

    From this stretch of the coast, it's approximately 110 miles across the Channel to Roscoff.

    Due to the curvature of the earth, the distance you can see to the horizon depends on your height above sea level. This increases with the square root of height (i.e. with diminishing returns). An adult typically sees the horizon about 3 miles from the beach. From the top of a 100 foot lighthouse, it is about 12 miles away. At the top of the highest cliff in Cornwall it is roughly 33 miles out but if a 100ft tower were built all the way up here, it would only allow an extra 2 miles to be seen.

  6. Keep left at the fork and follow the path to a sequence of two gates.

    The male and female parts of a foxglove flower mature at different times to help avoid self-fertilisation. This also ties in with the flowers maturing at the bottom of the spike first as pollinators often start at the lowest flower and then work upwards. They land on the mature female flowers first with a cargo of pollen from another plant, and then leave via the mature male flowers with a new load of pollen.

    The steam-powered cargo ship, the SS Eastfield, was carrying a cargo of coal from Newport in November 1917 and despite being armed with a small stern gun, was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off Dodman Point. She sank in Mevagissey bay, west of Gorran Haven in 40-50 metres of water. The wreck been commercially salvaged but many parts of it are still relatively intact, with the bow standing 8 metres above the seabed, making it a fairly popular dive site. The ship's bell is on display at the Charlestown Shipwreck Museum.

  7. Go through the gates and follow the path until you reach a gate by a wooden signpost.

    The name "buttercup" is thought to have come from a mediaeval belief that cows eating the flowers gave butter its yellow colour. In fact this couldn't be further from the truth as the plant contains toxins which make it taste acrid and is therefore avoided by grazing animals.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path (signposted towards Dodman Point) along the field to reach a kissing gate.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  9. Go through the gate and follow the path a short distance until you reach a signpost at a junction of paths.

    The Darlwyn was a pleasure craft which disappeared on a voyage from Fowey to Mylor on the day after England won the World Cup in 1966. The boat was not seaworthy, with dry rot in the hull and heavily overloaded above its 12 passenger limit. In addition it had no radio and only 2 lifejackets. Despite this the skipper ignored local advice not to go to sea and set out in a storm. The boat disappeared and the 23 adults and 8 children aboard all drowned. An air and sea search was conducted but the boat was never found. 12 of the bodies washed ashore and autopsies indicated they had drowned in deep water. Fifty years later, remains were found on the sea bed off Dodman Point which are all consistent with that was known about the vessel. It is thought the vessel struck the reef and sank almost immediately. Following the disaster, marine regulations were introduced for pleasure craft ensuring boats meet safety requirements and licence holders must demonstrate boat handling skills.

  10. Bear left, signposted to Dodman Point, and follow the path to a kissing gate into a field.

    Although the fronds of bracken die back each year, the black underground roots are perennial and spread extensively, sending up fronds at intervals. The root system of one bracken plant can stretch up to a quarter of a mile across making bracken one of the largest plants in the world.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path along the left edge of the field to another kissing gate.

    Along the coast, from June onwards but particularly in the late summer and autumn, parasol mushrooms are common. They are one of the easier mushrooms to recognise due to their huge size (and umbrella shape when fully open). The brown flecks on their otherwise white flesh are caused by the rapidly expanding young mushroom bursting through a brown outer coating as it grows (a bit like sugar puffs breakfast cereal!).

    Parasol mushrooms have firm white flesh and delicate flavour which is not strongly "mushroomy". This makes them an excellent carrier for other flavours within a sauce, adding texture and body to a dish.

    The English Channel is a relatively recent name. The Saxons called it the "South Sea" (their "North Sea" still remains) and then became known as the "Narrow Sea" until the 18th century.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path to the gap in the hedge leading to the large granite cross.

    Dodman Point is the highest headland on the south coast of Cornwall at around 400 feet high. It appears on maps as "Deadmans Pt" or "Deadman Pt" up to the mid 1800s, though the original name was Penare. The 20ft high granite cross was erected on top of the point in 1896 by the rector of St Michael Caerhays to act as a daymark for shipping. It was blown down by a storm in 1905 and had to be re-erected

    The small building in an area of metal railings just inland of the point was a watch house - part of a signal station built during the Napoleonic Wars. The whitewashed structure beside it was a lookout platform.

    More about Dodman Point

  13. The walk continues to the right (you may want to have a look at the cross first). Follow the coast path to reach a signpost for Penare in a dip.

    From left to right you can see the protruding headland of the Lizard in the distance and then the area around Falmouth with ships parked-up. This side of Falmouth Bay is St Anthony Head and the nearer headland with the large offshore rock is Nare Head with the fishing village of Portscatho behind it. To the right of that, the narrow group of white houses is Portloe. And further to the right again, the sea wall with a couple of buildings is Portholland.

  14. Continue ahead on the coast path from the signpost, passing through a pedestrian gate, to reach a V-shaped stile overlooking the beach.

    The path to the right from the signpost runs between the two ramparts of the Dodman Point promontory fort.

    Dodman Point was fortified in the Iron Age, with two large ramparts and ditches running across the headland to create an enclosed settlement containing an ancient field system and some barrows.

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path downhill to where the bank on the right ends. Then turn right to keep the bank on your right. Follow along the bottom of the bank until a gate comes into view, then head for this.

    The beach is mostly sand with some shingle near the high tide line and rocky ridges down either side. At low tide, an area of rock is exposed on the right-hand side which contains a number of rockpools. Due to its remote location and limited parking, there are usually not many people on the beach.

  16. Go through the wooden pedestrian gate on the right of the metal gate and stile, and follow the path between the fences for about a quarter of a mile until you reach a signpost beside a wooden gate.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    In common with many vegetables, sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid is poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas although more tend to shrivel as the autumn advances. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. This is because freezing breaks down the bitter tannins. Therefore you can pick your sloes in September before they go too wrinkly and then pop them in the freezer to achieve the same thing.

    Given the right conditions, a blackthorn tree can live 100 years and grow to about 20ft in height. In harsher environments such as by the coast the bushes may be as little as 2ft tall.

  17. Continue ahead, signposted Dodman Point, to emerge on the lane then turn right onto the lane. Follow this to a corner outside Lower Penare Farmhouse where various tracks meet the lane at another signpost.

    Penare is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. The farm graze Dexter cattle on the coast which helps to stop bracken taking over the headland and improves the habitat for wildflowers, butterflies and birds. It also produces some really nice beef fed on grass and wild herbs. If you’d like to try some, their beef is on sale at weekends at Cornwall Market World on the Par road from St Austell.

  18. Keep left to stay on the lane and follow it past the cottages to a kissing gate on the right just after the last (Bodrugan) cottage.

    The name "hogweed" comes from the unpleasant scent of the flowers which is described as resembling a pig sty. The name "cow parsnip" is a reference to the culinary inferiority of roots compared to wild parsnip. In North America, the name "cow parsnip" is applied to a different species which is native to that continent (American cow parsnip is Heracleum maximum whereas the original English one is Heracleum spondylium).

    Giant hogweed is regarded by some as the most dangerous plant in the UK (although hemlock is also a good contender). If you encounter giant hogweed, avoid touching it and children and dogs should be kept away from it as the sap contains a chemical which is extremely phototoxic. When activated by sunlight, this binds to the DNA in skin cells and kills them. Skin reaction starts as an itchy rash and can develop into third degree burns and scarring. It also makes the affected areas susceptible to severe sunburn for several years.

    The plant gets its name as it can grow more than 10 feet tall, topped with white umbrella-shaped flowers. Due to the similar style of flowers, it is also known as giant cow parsley although the giant hogweed leaves are much more solid with a toothed edge, more similar to cow parsnip (normal hogweed). It is typically found near water or on waste ground.

    The plant was introduced to Britain by Victorian botanists in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and has escaped from gardens into the wild. It has been spreading across the UK (as one plant produces 50,000 seeds) but is still very rare in Cornwall. A project to eradicate it along the Tamar River system is helping to stop further spread into Cornwall.

    If you find giant hogweed in Cornwall (and are sure it's not normal hogweed), take a photo and report it to

  19. Go through the gate and cross the field directly ahead (not to the right as signposted) to a gate in the hedge.

    If there are cows in the field, it can be bypassed by following the lane instead to reach the gate for the next direction at a sharp bend.

    A beef cow produces around 30kg of dung per day. As dairy cows need to eat more to produce milk, they also produce roughly double the amount of dung which adds up to around 20 tonnes per year.

    Cow dung is high in nitrogen compounds which makes it a useful fertiliser but depending how this is spread on the fields (e.g. sprayed as a liquid), harmful ammonia can be released into the air and run into watercourses. Large tanks of slurry can also decay anaerobically releasing methane so storage mechanisms are being re-examined in light of climate change.

  20. Go through the gate and cross the lane to the gate opposite. Go through the gate and follow the path between the fences to the campsite. Continue between the hedges at the campsite to where the path emerges on a gravel track.

    The church tower that you can see across the fields to the left is Gorran church.

    The church at Gorran is dedicated to St Goronus who is said to have come here from Bodmin at the time when St Petroc was also in Bodmin. The church building lies on a Norman foundation and was mostly rebuilt in the 15th Century, with the exception of the south aisle which is thought to date from the 14th century and North Door from the 13th. The tower was added later in the 15th century, replacing an earlier steeple which had fallen into disrepair. 53 of the carved mediaeval bench ends have been retained and the font is also thought to be from the late mediaeval period.

  21. Follow the track ahead through the campsite to reach a gateway onto a tarmacked track.

    Recreational camping was first popularised in the UK on the river Thames as an offshoot of the Victorian craze for pleasure boating. Early camping equipment was very heavy and so transporting it by boat was pretty much essential. By the 1880s it had become a pastime for large numbers of visitors.

  22. Go through the gateway and turn right, signposted to Gorran Haven, and follow the track to another signpost by the last cottage on the right.

    Red campion is also known as "red catchfly". The flowers are an important nectar source for larger pollinating insects including butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Much smaller flies drawn to the nectar can become stuck in the froth on the stigmas of the female flowers but this is not intentional by the plant (it doesn't eat them).

    The settlement of Treveague was recorded in 1333 as Trevahek. Since the name is in Cornish, it's likely to date from Early Mediaeval times (Dark Ages) before the Norman Conquest. The meaning of the name isn't known but may simply be based on the Celtic landowner's name (e.g. "Vahek's farm").

  23. Turn left at this and follow the path alongside a house then alongside the wall on the left to reach a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path into the valley until it eventually ends at a kissing gate.

    Orange tip butterflies are one of the most noticeable and memorable due to their brilliant orange wing tips, but it's only the males that have orange-tipped wings. The striking orange is a warning to predators that they taste highly unpleasant. Intelligent birds such as crows will avoid repeating culinary disasters by remembering the colour pattern associated with it.

    The females are mainly white with a bit of black at the wing tips. There will be an evolutionary reason for why it's not worth the females bothering with the orange warning pigment. This could be because the males spend much more time in flight (looking for females), and the resources needed to produce the bitter chemicals and orange pigment are better spent instead on making more eggs.

    As additional protection from predators (especially for the females), they have also evolved a green camouflage pattern on the underside of their wings that makes them quite hard to spot when they land and close their wings.

    Orange tips overwinter as pupae so they are able to emerge in April, making them one of the first butterflies to be around in the spring. They can be seen until mid-summer then their caterpillars spend the remainder of the summer feeding ready for the winter.

    The path down the valley has a good range of wildflowers in the spring and summer which attract butterflies.

    The Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Tortoiseshell butterflies are all quite closely related and specialised for overwinter hibernation. Their wings, when closed, have a jagged outline and camouflaged colours that allows them to blend in with dead leaves. Their feet contain chemoreceptors (taste buds) which allows them to detect nectar-bearing flowers when they land.

    Gorse is also known (particularly in the Westcountry) as furze from the Middle English word furs. This itself is from the Old English word fyres, closely related to the Old English word for fire.

  24. Go through the gate and bear left onto the path. Follow the path to reach another gate.

    Nettles obtain soluble silicate compounds in the soil and use these to create silicon dioxide (quartz) from which their 1.5 mm long hollow stinging spikes (known by scientists as "trichomes" and most other people as "glass needles") are made. These spikes are located on the stems of the plant as well as the leaves and break off in the skin of a herbivore or walker that brushes against the plant. Because the spikes are so brittle, they also gradually break off during the lifetime of the nettle as other leaves rub against them on windy days, so older nettles are "less stingy" than fresh growth.

    Ivy is unusual in that it flowers particularly late in the year - from September to November - and therefore provides vital nectar for insects such as bees and moths. Ivy berries are an important winter food source for birds and will remain on the plant all the way through the winter until spring. The berries also have a high fat content so provide a dense source of energy at a time when animals need lots to keep warm.

  25. Go through the gate and follow the path to merge onto a track and continue a few paces to reach a junction. Turn left here and follow the track to reach a road.

    Blue tits prefer a habitat with scattered trees so hedgerows and garden bushes are perfect. Great tits thrive in a similar habitat but also in broadleaf woodland. Coal tits prefers conifers so are the most likely member of the family to be seen in denser forestry plantations.

  26. Turn right onto the road and follow it carefully downhill to reach the car park and complete the circular route.

    Gorran Haven has two sandy beaches, separated by a rocky promontory, facing east into a sheltered bay. The northern beach, known as Little Perhaver Beach, merges with the main beach at low tide but can be accessed at high tide via a steep flight of steps connecting to a footpath which departs from the road a short distance uphill from the chapel. For this reason it tends to be a fair bit quieter than the main beach.

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