Gorran Haven to Dodman Point

Gorran Haven car park is currently closed. In the meantime, it's possible to park at the NT car park at Penare Farm near Hemmick Beach and start the route half-way round.

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.

Reviews

Manned car park costs £3, or put £1 in box after 5.30pm. Stunning views around Dodman Point. If you've got dodgy knees take a stick for descent towards Hemmick beach. Watch out for deer in bracken. Take plenty of water on hot days.
Beautiful views from start to finish. Paths very easy to follow and good quality. The ascents and descents weren't soul destroying for a walk around the Cornish coast. Obviously popular with dog walkers too. Benches near the starting end to sit and have a picnic. Thoroughly recommended.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Gorran Haven
  • Parking: Gorran Haven PL266JG
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

Directions

  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 strech 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 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 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.

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

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. 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:

    Do

    • 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-emergiences use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).

    Don't

    • 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 round 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 National Trust use Shetland and Dartmoor ponies on this section of coast for conservation grazing.

    Dartmoor ponies, bred for hauling goods, have been recorded living on the wild and unhospitable moors since the Middle Ages. They are unsurprisingly a very hardy breed and have a lifespan of around 25 years. Over the 20th Century, their numbers declined from just over 25,000 in the 1930s to about 5,000 by the start of the 21st century when only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor. Dartmoor ponies have recently found a new niche as conservation grazers. As well as on moorland, they are used by the Wildlife Trusts to graze the coast to prevent bracken and gorse taking hold.

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

    Bracken releases toxins into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants, and the shade created by its large leaves and its thick leaf litter also makes it hard for other plants to compete. This and avoidance by grazing animals makes it quite difficult to control, particularly in steep areas where mechanised cutting or ploughing is difficult. Treading by livestock can reduce bracken's competitive advantage, particularly during winter when frost can attack the plants.

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

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape. They are one of the best eating mushrooms and have firm white flesh.

  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. The name is a corruption of Deadman's Point and the name appears on maps as "Deadmans Pt" or "Deadman Pt" up to the mid 1800s, though the original name was Penare. The massive granite cross was erected on top of the point in 1896 by the rector of St Michael Caerhayes to act as a daymark for shipping.

  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 the follow 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.

    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 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. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate for the sourness.

    Blackthorn wood is very tough and hard-wearing as therefore was used to make tool handles, walking sticks and as a traditional Celtic weapon for clubbing people to death! It is still regarded as the ultimate wood for making walking sticks. Once cut and trimmed, the wood needs to be dried for at least a year (often several) which allows moisture to escape and the wood to shrink and harden.

  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 (signposted to Gorran Haven) and follow it uphill past the cottages to a kissing gate on the right just after the last (Bodrugan) cottage.
  19. Go through the gate and cross the field directly ahead (not to the right as signposted) to a gap in the hedge.
  20. Go through the gap 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.
  22. Go through the gate and turn right, signposted to Gorran Haven, and follow the track to another signpost by the last cottage on the right.

    Red valerian is also known as kiss-me-quick, fox's brush and Devil's or Jupiter's beard and can be seen flowering in early summer in hedgerows near the coast. The plant is originally from the Mediterranean and is thought to have been introduced as a garden plant roughly around the Tudor period. It has since become naturalised and the brightly-coloured flowers provide nectar for bees, butterflies and moths. Over time the base of the stems can get as thick as a small tree trunk which can lever apart the walls in which it can often be seen growing.

  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.

    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.

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

    Ivy is unusual in that it flowers particularly late in the year - from September to November - and therefore provide vital nectar for insects such 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.
  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.

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

Take a photo and 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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