Kennack Sands to Cadgwith circular walk

Kennack Sands to Cadgwith

A circular walk from Kennack Sands to Cadgwith Cove via the Poltesco valley where during Victorian times waterwheels and steam engines powered an industry producing large decorative pieces of serpentine but has now been recolonised by nature

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you to the start of the walk via satnav.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app guides you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
The walk route is described with detailed, regularly-updated, hand-written directions.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are at all times and even which way you are facing.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk is packed with information about the history and nature along the route, from over a decade of research than spans more than 3,000 topics.
Person looking at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need wifi or a phone signal during the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
The walk follows the cliffs from Kennack Sands to Carleon Cove where serpentine boulders cover the beach. The walk continues along the coast to the coastguard lookout perched overlooking Cadgwith Cove. The route then comes inland to Ruan Minor church and returns via Poltesco Mill, Kugger and a footpath across the fields to Gwendreath at the top of the valley above Kennack Sands. The circular route is completed by a woodland path down the valley to reach the Coast Path.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Buy walk

Sign in to buy this walk.

This walk is in your basket. Proceed to your basket to complete your purchase.

My Basket Remove from basket

You own this walk.

An error occurred while checking the availability of this walk:

Please retry reloading the page. If this problem persists, please contact us for assistance.

Reload page

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 4.5 miles/7.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 103 OS Explorer 103 (laminated version)

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


  • Sandy beach at Kennack Sands
  • Pretty fishing village and pebble beach at Cadgwith Cove
  • Serpentine boulders at Carleon Cove
  • Views across the bay to Bass Point and Black Head

Pubs on or near the route

  • Cadgwith Cove Inn


  1. From the car park, follow the road uphill to reach the coast path departing from the left.

    At high water, there are two separate beaches known as East and West Kennack Sands and are divided by the reef known as the Caerverracks. The path over the hill links the two. At low tide, it's possible to walk on the sand from one side to the other.

  2. Turn left onto the coast path, keeping left to stay on the main path where a path departs to the right. Continue to emerge onto a small golf course.

    Swallows forage for insects on the wing, typically around 7-8 metres above the ground, but will skim over the surface of the ground if that's where the insects are. They can sometimes be seen skimming the surface of water either to drink or to bathe which they also do in flight.

    At Kennack Sands, it is reported that a local man with a metal detector found a 14th Century Belgian gold coin, known as a mouton d'or which has been dated between 1355 an 1383 and valued at £1000. Another was found in a rockpool by a holidaymaker during the summer of 1960. It's possible that these are from a treasure wreck in the bay that so far has not been discovered by divers.

  3. When you reach the golf course, follow along the left side of the field to reach a path leading into the bushes near an information board.

    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.

  4. Follow the path through the bushes to re-emerge on the golf course and keep following along the edge to reach a kissing gate in the corner with a waymark.

    In 1991, sloes were found in the stomach contents of a 5,300 human mummy in the Alps, indicating that they were part of the Neolithic diet. Alone they are extremely bitter but with enough sugar, they can be made into a range of preserves.

    Blackthorn wood is very tough and hard-wearing. In order to form its thorns, the tree allows the tips of the tiny stems that make up the thorns to die. The dead wood in the thorn tip is harder and therefore sharper than the living wood.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path to a fork with a waymark.

    There is enough space for wind turbines in UK inshore waters to generate more than three times the power that the whole of Britain uses. Offshore wind energy is still more expensive than onshore wind, but the price is falling rapidly. As production costs fall, the fact that, on average, offshore turbines get nearly double the amount of wind as onshore may ultimately make this out-compete large-scale onshore generation. At the time of writing, the UK was the world leader in offshore wind energy with most wind farms being planned off the south and east coasts where the seabed and wave conditions are less challenging than the west coast.

  6. At the fork, take the path on the left indicated for Cadgwith and follow it to where the other path rejoins. Continue along the Coast Path until you reach a junction of paths with a sign for Poltesco.

    Roughly 250 metres along the path to the right are the National Trust buildings at Poltesco Farm.

    The Poltesco valley has been under National Trust ownership since the 1970s and one of the barns at Poltesco Farm has been converted into the Discovery Centre where displays provide information about the heritage and wildlife in the valley.

  7. At the junction, keep left (signposted Cadgwith) and follow the path a short distance to where a small path departs to the left.

    The path to the left leads to a grassy headland which provides a nice viewpoint overlooking the cove.

    The circular tower dates from the 1700s and housed a capstan used to haul fishing boats up the beach. There were originally fish cellars associated with this but these were removed and replaced by the Victorian buildings which form the other visible remains in the cove.

  8. Keep right to follow the main path downhill keeping right where paths depart to the left. Continue to reach a footbridge over the stream.

    The paths to the left lead to Carleon Cove.

    The buildings at Carleon Cove are remains of the Poltesco serpentine factory which was established in around 1855 and was used to manufacture relatively large items such as church fonts, shop fronts etc. Power for cutting, turning and polishing the stone was originally supplied by a large water wheel fed from higher up the stream. Steam power was introduced in 1866 and there are the remains of a boiler house, a demolished chimney stack and engine room on the site. The factory ceased operations in the early 1890s and was largely demolished in the 1930s.

  9. Cross the footbridge and climb the steps on the other side to reach a junction of paths with a Poltesco sign. Turn left at the junction and follow the Coast Path until you pass through a wooden fence reach a signpost beside a gate.

    The path to the right also leads to the National Trust discovery centre.

    Orchids can sometimes be seen flowering along the path in spring.

    The early purple orchid has a Latin name meaning "virile" which is in keeping with the word "orchid" coming from the Greek word for testicle (on account of the shape of the tuber).

    This particular species is the con-man of the plant kingdom, with brilliant purple flowers resembling those of other nectar-rich orchids. When the insects arrive and push through the pollen to investigate the promising flowers, they discover that the flowers contain no nectar.

    The serpentinization process results in rocks that are quite soft. The rock is often also very colourful and may contain veins of green, yellow and red, due to iron compounds within the rocks. Its softness and attractive colours were first noticed on stiles and cattle rubbing posts which had highly polished areas where walkers or cattle had rubbed against them. An industry grew up in the 19th Century making ornamental stone, initially for quite large architectural pieces but it was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who ordered serpentine tables for their home. Over time, serpentine proved less suitable than marble for architectural purposes due to its tendency to crumble in heat and to absorb water and crack. Interior ornaments are still produced although the quarrying of serpentine is now very strictly regulated.

  10. Turn left at the signpost (signposted Cadgwith) and through the kissing gate beside the larger gate. Follow the path to the top of the headland and between the headlands, passing through a V-shaped stile. Then climb the rocky path to reach the top of the next headland where a small path departs to the left.

    Before the Industrial Revolution, gorse was valued as a fuel for bread ovens and kilns as it burns rapidly, very hot and with little ash. It was in such demand that there were quite strict rules about how much gorse could be cut on common land.

    In more recent times, due to reliance on fossil fuels, this is now out of balance and gorse has increased in rural areas which have been abandoned agriculturally.

  11. Turn left to follow the small path out onto the headland and keep right along the path around the headland to reach a pedestrian gate into a field.

    There is a blowhole in Enys Head which sends plumes of spray into the air at high tide when there is a swell.

    Blowholes form when waves enter a cave, and the air they compress weakens the roof of the cave and enlarges the chamber. Often the blowhole eventually breaks through to the surface, forming a collapsed cave which can ultimately result in a rock stack being severed from the land.

  12. Go through the gate and head across the field to a stile to the left of the gateway, close to the corner of the field.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic.

    If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause a miscarriage. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.

    Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  13. Cross the stile and turn left to follow along the hedge. Continue to reach a kissing gate.

    One of the species caught at Cadgwith is red mullet.

    Red mullet are a warm-water fish normally found in the Mediterranean but venture into Cornish waters during the summer and are likely to become more common with global warming. They have two long barbels which are sensory, a bit like fingers, which they use to feel along the bottom to locate worms and crustaceans.

    Unlike grey mullet which is a member of the perch family, red mullet is a member of the goatfish family and only distantly related. Also unlike grey mullet, they are fast-growing fish and able to reproduce when only two years old. They therefore have great potential for a sustainable fishery.

  14. Go through the gate and follow the path out along the coast to reach a small building overlooking the bay.

    The large rectangular building on the headland in the distance is Lloyds Signalling Station.

    In April 1872, the signalling station opened to pass messages to ships arriving in the English Channel, which removed the necessity for ships to call at Falmouth. Messages were passed using flags, which was limited to fine weather and daytime. Initially, messages back from the ships were sent by horse rider to the nearest telegraph station at Helston. Two months later the telegraph cable was extended to the station which enabled near real-time messaging. As winter approached and daylight hours grew shorter, night-time signalling was tried using arrays of coloured lights, steam whistles, rockets and guns but was not that effective, particularly right next to a massive lighthouse and huge foghorn. Despite the limitations, the savings made by bypassing Falmouth meant the station was heavily used and a rival station soon opened up next door. The resulting confusion, arising from two rival stations both signalling from shore with flags, was fortunately short-lived when the companies merged and the second station was demolished. In the early 20th Century, the station was extended by adding two additional buildings known as "night boxes" to enable night-time lamp signalling without interference from the lighthouse and were used until the 1950s when they were taken over by the Coastguard.

  15. Follow either path (the left path passes around the outside of the lookout) and then follow the path down into the village to emerge onto a narrow lane and reach a T-junction with the road.

    The hut overlooking Cadgwith Cove was used as a Coastguard lookout and is now maintained by the National Trust. A stone near the hut inscribed with 1869 may possibly indicate its age. It is postulated the hut may have originally been built as a huer's hut to spot shoals of pilchards.

  16. At this point you can optionally take a short diversion to the left to see Cadgwith. The walk continues up the hill to the right to reach a stone stile on the left, a couple of hundred yards up the hill, just past the sign for Ruan Minor.

    Cadgwith Cove was originally called Porthcaswydh based on the Cornish words kas meaning a fight and wydh meaning wood, which were combined to mean "thicket", probably because the valley was densely wooded. In mediaeval times, there was little more than a collection of fish cellars around the cove used by local farmers for fishing. From the 16th Century, the cove became a permanent settlement with fishing as the main industry.

  17. Cross the stile and keep following the path to reach a low stone stile.

    Cadgwith has an anthem which has been recorded with slightly different variations of words, sometimes under the title "The Robbers Retreat". It starts with:

    Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry, For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

    ...which sounds promisingly Cornish, but it then mentions mountains, valleys, lilies and roses and even "the beauty of Kashmir" which has everyone confused. In fact it makes no mention of Cadgwith, Cornwall or even the coast. Nobody is quite sure where it came from, when it originated, or to what it refers!

  18. Cross the stile and follow the track ahead until it ends on the road.

    Serpentine is not a single mineral but a broad group of minerals formed when minerals rich in iron and magnesium react with water in a series of chemical reactions known as serpentinization. Rocks containing these minerals are known as Serpentinite. The name is due to the resemblance of the patterning in the rocks to the skin of reptiles.

  19. Cross the road to the gate into the playground. Cross the corner of this to the gap on the other side and cross the low stone stile to emerge a gravel track. Follow the track leading ahead along the green fence to reach a small building. Pass to the right of this and follow the narrow path to emerge onto the road.

    Camellias are native to eastern and southern Asia. The first camellia grown in England was in 1739. Many varieties now popular in Britain as ornamental garden plants are from species collected during plant hunting expeditions in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were regarded as the ultimate luxury flower in Victorian times.

    "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.

  20. Turn right onto the road and follow it a short distance to a junction. Bear right at the junction to pass the playground on your left and go through the gateway into the churchyard. Follow the path to a junction of paths beside the church.

    The memorial the entrance to the churchyard was constructed in honour of the local people lost in the First World War.

    During the First World War nearly 10,000,000 military personnel and over 10,000,000 civilians were killed. A further 23 million people were injured. In addition, over 8,000,000 horses, mules and donkeys and more than 1,000,000 dogs lost their lives. The sixteen million animals that served in World War 1 are commemorated with purple poppies.

  21. Turn left and follow the path to a stile and gate out of the churchyard.

    Ruan Minor originated as a chapelry of Ruan Major but by the end of the middle ages, it had developed into a parish in its own right. The present church is mainly 15th Century but the earliest parts of the church may be from the 13th Century. The blocks of serpentine used in its construction are so large that there are only six courses from the ground to the roof. The font and piscina in the church are thought to date from the 12th or 13th Century when a previous building stood on the site. A wooden panel from 1677 painted with the ten commandments was found in a cottage near the church.

  22. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow it until it eventually passes over a bridge and ends in a T-junction.

    The mill dates from the 14th century and was first recorded in 1396. It was in use until 1945 and restored in the 1980s.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water. An overshot design also allowed the mill to be located slightly further away from the main river which had obvious advantages during floods.

  23. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane to a junction at Polstangey Praze.

    The source of the river is up on the Goonhilly Downs near the Earth Station.

  24. Keep right at the junction to reach a T-junction.

    The jay is a member of the crow family recognisable by the flash of electric blue on their otherwise brown body. Their natural habitat is woodland, particularly oak.

    Like squirrels, jays collect and bury acorns as a winter food store. Once jays were the main means by which oaks colonised new locations as a population of 65 jays can bury (but not always find again afterwards) half a million acorns in a month. Jays prefer to bury their acorns in open ground which is an ideal spot for a new oak tree.

  25. Turn right and carefully follow the road to a junction. Keep right at the junction to continue ahead towards Kennack Sands. Continue on the lane past the Potters Bar to reach a footpath on the left, immediately before the bus signs either side of the road.

    The settlement of Kugger dates from mediaeval times. It was recorded as Coger in 1324 but is now generally pronounced Koogar rather than to rhyme with "lugger". It is the Cornish name of the stream.

  26. Follow the footpath on the left over the stile and continue to emerge into a field. Follow the left hedge of the field to reach a path into the bushes.

    The furthest headland ahead is Black Head. The headland in the front of this with the offshore rocks is Carrick Luz.

    Lankidden Point is a dyke of hard, grey gabbro rock which protrudes through the surrounding blacker serpentine rocks. The rock stack on the end is called Carrick Lûz, which is Cornish for "grey rock".

  27. Follow the path into the bushes and over a stone stile and stile/footbridge. Continue on the path through the woods to emerge into a field.

    One of the birds you may encounter in the woodland is the robin.

    The Cornish name for the bird is rudhek from rudh = "red" (in Cornish, "dh" is pronounced like the "th" in "with"). Cornish place names like Bedruthan, Ruthern and Redruth are all based on the colour red.

  28. In the field, turn right and follow along the right hedge to reach a path leaving from the field. Follow the path and bear right to join a grassy track and follow this a short distance to reach a footpath on the left just before the gate into a campsite.

    Conifers evolved around 300 million years ago, a long time before the first dinosaurs. For nearly 200 million years, conifers were the dominant form of trees and it wasn't until around 65 million years ago that broadleaf trees were out-competing conifers in many habitats.

  29. Turn left onto the footpath and follow this to a corner with a gate. Keep right to follow the path between the hedges and emerge on the driveway of a holiday park.

    The holiday parks are built around the settlement of Gwendreath which was first recorded in 1241. The name is Cornish for "white sand" hence Silver Sands.

  30. Bear right onto the driveway and follow this until it ends at a T-junction with a lane. Bear left a few paces downhill to a Public Footpath sign on the opposite side.

    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.

  31. Turn right onto the signposted Public Footpath and follow this through the woods until it ends in a T-junction of paths near the coast.

    In Old Cornish, both bluebells and marigolds were known as lesengoc which translates to "flower of the cuckoo". In Modern Cornish, the marigold has remained more-or-less the same but the bluebell has been changed to bleujenn an gog ("plant of the cuckoo"). The association between bluebells and cuckoos exists in Welsh ("bells of the cuckoo") and Gaelic ("cuckoo's shoe"), and in some English folk names such as Cuckoo's Boots and Cuckoo Stockings. It is thought that the association is due to the time that bluebells flower coinciding with the time that the call of the cuckoo is first heard.

    A number of prehistoric implements are have been found on or near Kennack sands ranging from stone-age implements fashioned from the local rocks and imported flints, an iron axe and a figure made from terracotta with white skin and Prussian blue hair. Some of the stone implements were found in a deposit laid down in the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago.

  32. Turn right at the junction and follow the coast path back to the car park of the beach café. Follow the road uphill to reach the other parking areas if you parked there.

    Somewhere beneath one of the beaches, runs one of the high-speed telecommunication cables linking London and New York. These are fibre-optic cables carrying laser signals for both telephone and internet traffic. The laser signal fades along the length of the cable so there are laser amplifiers every now and then along the length of the cable. As there is nowhere to plug these in on the sea bed, the cable contains its own 10,000 volt power supply. There is little risk of electrocution by digging sandcastles, though, as the cables are buried very deep under the beach.

either as a GPS-guided walk with our app (£2.99) or a PDF (£1.99)

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.