Hell's Mouth to Godrevy circular walk

Hell's Mouth to Godrevy

The valley at Hell's Mouth is marshy all year round. Wellies are strongly recommended. Alternatively it's possible to combine the Red River Valley walk with the Hells Mouth to Godrevy walk into a roughly 9 mile walk that bypasses this (and then walking boots should be ok).

A circular walk following the coast from Hell's Mouth past to Godrevy lighthouse to the sandy beaches of St Ives Bay, returning via a pilgrimage route along the Red River Valley.

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The route follows the high cliffs from Hell's Mouth to Navax Head, passing some north-facing coves with very steep paths. The route crosses the heathland reserve of The Knavocks before reaching Mutton Cove. The path continues around Godrevy Head with excellent views of the lighthouse. The path passes some small coves before turning inland up the Red River Valley, following a small lane to the Gwealavellan cross and returns to Hell's Mouth along footpaths through the wooded valley below Carlean.


  • The first stretch of road where route turns inland can get quite busy with tourist traffic during peak holiday periods. The rest of the lanes are pretty quiet.
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102,104
  • Distance: 5.0 miles/8.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Wellies essential - mud in valley at Hell's Mouth is deeper than a walking boot

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version) OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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


  • Rugged coastline and iconic lighthouse
  • Sandy beach at Godrevy
  • Seals along the coastline
  • Wildlife in the Red River valley


  1. Cross the road to the waymark on the coast overlooking Hell's Mouth. Turn left onto the coast path and follow it until it ends at a waymark where it joins another path.

    The cliffs above Hell's Mouth are one of the highest points in the area at just under 300 feet. The cove, cliffs and two isolated stacks out to sea are breeding grounds for guillemots and razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes. The caves were once used by smugglers.

    There is a blowhole in the caves on the east side of the beach which makes a boom as compressed air escapes, towards high tide. There is also a good view of the blowhole towards the end of Navax Head which, when the tide is high and there is a sufficient swell, produces a large horizontal jet of spray.

  2. At the waymark, turn right and follow the path between the granite gateposts until it ends at two metal gates.

    Fishing Cove is a north-facing sandy beach on Navax Head, separated by a thin, rocky promontory from Castle Giver Cove. To avoid any surprises when spotting seals with binoculars, it’s worth noting that Fishing Cove is a naturist beach. There is a steep path down to the beach which is reported as challenging. The name "Castle Giver" is from the Cornish words Castel Gaver ("castle of the goats"), perhaps referring to the precipitous nature of the cliff paths here.

  3. Cross the stile between the two gates (or go through the gate alongside if open) and follow the left fence to reach a stile consisting of steps.

    In Nov 1854 the steamship "Nile" was on its way from Liverpool to Penzance. On the approach to Cornwall, a storm blew up. As the vessel began to turn along the coastline of Penwith in preparation to round Land's End, it hit the outer edge of the Stones Reef. The ship floated free from the reef but was holed and sank in deep water. One lifeboat was launched but there were no survivors either amongst the crew or passengers. The empty lifeboat was found on the shore.

  4. Climb the stile and go through the gate. Follow the well-worn coast path to reach a junction where a path to the left leads to a trig point and a path to the right leads out onto the headland.

    The heathland on Navax Point is known as The Knavocks, which is thought to be from the Cornish word for Autumn dwelling Kynyavos. It is some of the best heathland in Cornwall for wildlife, providing a habitat for a range of butterflies and birds. The heath is maintained by the National Trust who graze it with ponies and the gorse is also cut back regularly to stop it overwhelming the other vegetation.

  5. At the junction, continue ahead on the main path. Follow the path around the headland and across a grassy cliff to meet a fence and reach a gate in the corner of the hedges.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

    Gorse seeds each contain a small body of ant food. The seeds also release a chemical which attracts ants from some distance away. The ants carry the seeds to their nests, eat the ant food and then discard the seeds, helping them to disperse.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the coast path until you reach a wooden railing where the coast path has been diverted around the collapsing cliffs.

    Kynance Cove on Godrevy Head is a small, inaccessible, rocky beach which is north facing so barely gets any sunshine, and thus much disappointment would arise from packing a bucket and spade, expecting to visit the picture-postcard sandy cove by the same name. The name in this case is thought to come from Porth Kynyavos, meaning "cove of the autumn dwelling" whereas the somewhat more famous south-facing beach on the Lizard is thought to be from keynans meaning "ravine".

  7. Follow the path through the gap in the wall and between the wall and fence until you reach another opening with a notice about the wildlife reserve.

    Seals are easily disturbed by the presence of humans (and dogs) and this is can be the difference between life and death for seals in several different ways. Perhaps the most obvious is that a panicking seal is liable to injure itself rushing for the water. When breeding, even mild disturbance can lead to mothers abandoning their pups which then starve to death. More subtly, disturbance also causes seals to burn up their precious energy reserves. Even in a "good" year, 75% of young seals can end up dying due to insufficient energy reserves (95% in a very bad year!). If a seal looks at you, this should ring alarm bells as it means you're too close. To watch seals responsibly, it's important to keep your distance (at least 100m), avoid being conspicuous (e.g. on the skyline) and minimise noise.

  8. Go through the opening to the coast and continue on the path around Mutton Cove until you reach wooden railings with warnings not to disturb the seals.

    There is a large grey seal colony in Mutton Cove and from the cliff top, the seals can be seen swimming in the sea or on the beach during breeding season. Up to 80 seals have been observed on the beach at one time. Although there is a path down to the beach, it is strongly recommended that you do not descend to the beach as this will drive away the seals; even the presence of noisy onlookers on the coast path has been found to disturb them.

    The Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust gather information about the numbers of seals in each location to study migration behaviour. Each seal has a unique pattern of spots which is like a fingerprint, allowing individuals to be identified so photos are also very useful.

    If you see one or more seals, take a photo if possible but never approach the seals to take a photo - use a zoom from a clifftop. Send the location, date, number of seals and photos if you have them to sightings@cornwallsealgroup.co.uk.

  9. Keep right to follow along the railings then join the main gravel path ahead which bends left around the headland and as the path descends towards the beach, stay on the main path to reach a stile crossing over a wall.

    The Stones Reef off Godrevy Point has always been a shipping hazard and a lighthouse had been considered for a long time, but nothing was done until in 1854, the SS Nile was wrecked with the loss of all on board. The lighthouse was finished in 1859 and is a 26m tall octagonal tower, located on the largest rock of the reef. The lighthouse inspired Virginia Woolfe's novel "To the Lighthouse", despite her setting the novel in The Hebrides. In 2012, the light was decommissioned and replaced with an LED light on a platform facing the sea. The tower is still maintained as a daytime navigation aid.

    More about Godrevy Lighthouse and Virginia Woolfe in Cornwall

  10. Cross the stile and follow the second path from the right (i.e. straight ahead) to reach the mound.

    On 30th January 1649, the Prince of Wales did not have a good day! His father (Charles I) was decapitated and on the same day a ship named The Garland carrying many of his possessions, including his entire wardrobe and that of his mother, was wrecked on the Stones Reef. There were only three survivors from the wreck - a man, a boy, and a dog. A few of the garments washed ashore, but the majority of the cargo was lost and divers still search the reef in the hope of finding treasure.

  11. At the mound, bear right onto the surfaced path and follow it a short distance to reach a waymark.

    Dunes (called towans in Cornish) form when dry sand from the beach is blown by the wind, and initially lodges against an obstruction, eventually forming a ridge. More sand can then accumulate against the ridge and vegetation such as marram grass can then take hold, preventing the resulting sand hill from washing or blowing away.

  12. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path along the low wall to reach a lane.

    Much of the Towans dune system is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest), noted for both its geological and biological interest, and includes a nature reserve managed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust. The dunes and grassland provide a habitat for plants including the pyramidal orchid and a rich butterfly population which includes one of the largest UK populations of the silver-studded blue. Other wildlife includes skylarks, adders and even glow worms.

  13. Join the lane and walk a short distance until a path leads off to the right.

    The National Explosives Works was established in 1888, within the dunes of Upton Towans, to supply explosives such as dynamite to the local mines and the area became known as Dynamite Towans. By 1890 the plant was producing three tons of dynamite every day and employed 1800 people. The works was also used throughout the First World War to manufacture explosives such as cordite for ammunition. Production stopped in 1919 and the site was then used for storing explosives before finally closing in the 1960s.

    A number of small enclosures were made in the dunes to house individual buildings interconnected with single-track railways. The arrangement was so that if one plant accidentally detonated, the blast would be deflected upwards so it would not cause a chain reaction, setting off the neighbouring buildings.

  14. Bear right off the lane and follow the path parallel to it, along the wooden walkway. Continue for some distance until you reach a grassy area just before the lifeguard hut.

    As you might guess, the largest concentration of buildings on the opposite side of the bay is St Ives with Carbis Bay to its left.

    The settlement of St Ives is first recorded in 1284 as "Juxta Sanctam yam Porthia". St Ives is named after Saint Ia who, according to legend, was an Irish princess who arrived in Cornwall in the 5th Century, was martyred, and buried in St Ives on the site of St Ia’s church.

  15. Keep left along the gravel path to continue following the path parallel to the road. Continue on it as far as you can go, until it ends at the Godrevy Beach Café car park.

    Godrevy is a Cornish word meaning "small farms" or "hamlets". The headland is thought to be more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rocks due to bands of sandstone and slate which are harder than the surrounding mudstones. Sightings of dolphins and porpoises are fairly frequent from the point and basking sharks and oceanic sunfish are also sometimes reported.

  16. Follow the pedestrian path around the right-hand edge of the car park to reach a metal barrier outside the café.

    Despite its name, the glow worm is not a worm. In fact it's a beetle that looks a bit like an elongated woodlouse. During the day you're unlikely to notice one, but at night the last few segments of the female's abdomen glow like an incredibly bright yellow LED. The female (who can't fly) uses her light to attract males (who can fly). Once she has mated, the proverbial and literal light goes out on her relationship.

    Until electric lighting was introduced, the light for a lighthouse was produced by burning a thin oil such as paraffin. However this wasn't burnt on a wick like domestic lighting. Instead, a pressurised system was used, typically powered by a hand pump, to force the oil through a nozzle to create fine mist which instantly vaporised in the heat from combustion. This mixture of paraffin gas and air burnt rapidly, generating a bright light. As well as header tanks in the lighthouse itself, larger storage tanks were needed nearby.

  17. Pass the barrier and then turn right to walk along the side of the café and reach a path starting beside a wooden fence. Follow the path alongside the road (crossing a tarmacked track part-way along) until you eventually reach a junction at a bridge.

    The chimney is thought to be the remains of a furnace for roasting tin ore to drive off impurities such as arsenic. This was part of a sandworks site which extracted tin ore in the form of gravel from the beach and dunes. This was in operation during late Victorian times and continued through the 20th Century until the Second World War.

  18. At the bridge, turn left onto the larger road and follow this carefully uphill until you pass a cottage called Sandcot on the left and reach a junction on the right.

    During the early 19th Century, a small chapel (also known as an Oratory) was discovered with the relics of St Gwithean (also known as Gocianus or Gothian) which according to some sources was thought to have been built in AD 490. It was recorded in 1925 that the "oratory ... is more perfect than the Oratory at Perran, having been less meddled with, though it is probably not so ancient". The oratory was allowed to be reclaimed by the shifting sands and now lies buried beneath the dunes. In 2000, a piece of stone wall was observed sticking out from the dunes and this was identified as the top of the buried oratory. It is located within a fenced-off area in the field near the bridge over the Red River.

  19. Turn right at the junction and follow the small lane for about three quarters of a mile to reach a large wayside cross on your right. Continue for another quarter of a mile to reach a metal gate with a public footpath sign on the left just before a large barn on the right.

    The mediaeval cross at Gwealavellan was found to be in use as a gatepost and was restored by Camborne Old Cornwall Society. It was one of thirteen marking the route from Gwithian to Camborne Church. The name of the farm - Gwealavellan - is from the Cornish words gwel a melyn meaning "view of the mill".

  20. Turn left through the metal gate and follow the right hedge to reach a gateway in the far hedge.

    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.
  21. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to reach a small wooden gate beneath the trees at the bottom of the field. The area in front of the gate at the bottom is often muddy but the firmest ground seems to be tight against the hedge.

    The tall trees in the valley make good perches for crows.

    The word crow is from the Old English crawe. Since this sounds a lot like the noise the bird makes, there is a misconception that the Old English is directly derived from this. In fact the word is far older. It's related the the Old Saxon kraia and can be traced back further to a Proto-Indo-European word from the late Neolithic period which is thought to mean "to call hoarsely".

  22. Go through the gate and cross the stream via stepping stones. Use the branches and boards to cross the marshes and follow the path up the other side to reach a waymark on a track.

    The stream is a tributary of the Red River but where the natural confluence would have been (probably somewhere near Reskajeage that the small lane passed) the course of both the stream and river have been modified by streamworks to extract tin from the river.

    Mineral works have been carried out in the Red River catchment area for many centuries and the river water was used for separation processes and as a source of power to drive mills. Relics from this still exist in the form of modifications along the river's course including embankments, diversions and canal-like channels. Even with the advent of steam power during Victorian times, this was still one of the most industrialised areas of Cornwall. Until the late 20th century, the river water was coloured a distinctive red, stained by iron ore washing out of the slime pits and dressing floors into the tributary streams. Towards the end of the 19th Century it was estimated that £30,000 of tin was being lost from the mines into the river each year and "squatters" could earn a living by recovering this from the slimy river-bed.

  23. At the waymark, turn right and follow the track until you reach another waymark.

    Unlike many birds that just sing in spring, robins sing nearly all year round. In fact during winter if you hear birdsong, it's most likely to be a robin. Despite how cute robins look, they are actually very territorial and the chirp is an aggressive warning to any would-be intruders not to even think of trying it. When robins don't sing, this a sign that their body fat reserves are low and they are conserving what little they have left until food becomes more plentiful.

  24. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path along the side of Hell's Mouth Café to complete the circular route.

    Jackdaws can be distinguished from other members of the crow family by their short black beaks and grey necks. They are smaller than all the other black birds in the crow family and are only slightly larger than jays.

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