Maenporth to Budock Water

A circular walk between the beaches in Falmouth Bay and where one of the most dangerous marine rescues of modern times took place, requiring the rescue helicopter to fly backwards.

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The route ascends the valley from Maenporth to Penwarne then follows footpaths across the fields to Budock Water. After passing through the woods and beside the church the walk enters Falmouth passing the Boslowick Inn on the way to the Swanpool Nature reserve. After reaching the beach at Swanpool, the final stretch is along the Coast Path to Maenporth.


the directions and descriptions along the way made the walk one of the best we have ever done.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 7.0 miles/11.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Maenporth
  • Parking: Maenporth TR115HN. When you reach the roundabout on the A39 with the blue "Welcome to Falmouth" sign, turn right, signposted to Glendurgan garden. Continue ahead over the 2 roundabouts, signposted towards Budock Water, and follow the road until you reach Maenporth beach.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Mature woodland with chestnuts, hazelnuts and beechnuts in Autumn
  • Swanpool nature reserve
  • Views along the Falmouth coastline towards the Lizard
  • Sandy beaches at Swanpool and Maenporth


  1. Make your way to the central exit from the car park beside the brown sign for The Cove. Cross the road to The Cove bar and grill and turn left to cross the Maenporth Estate road and reach a public footpath sign at a gravel track beside the Old Boatyard. Turn right and follow the gravel track marked "Private Lane". Continue until you reach a turning area beside a house.

    Maenporth, pronounced "main-porth" is an east-facing, crescent-shaped beach, sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. Due to its proximity to Falmouth and easy parking, the beach gets fairly busy in the summer but out-of-season, or even early on summer mornings, you can have the beach to yourself.

  2. Follow the small path ahead from the turning area and continue until you reach a fork in the path, just before the left-hand path reaches a stile.
  3. Keep left at the fork and cross the stile. Follow the path until it eventually emerges onto a lane.
  4. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past the houses, a public footpath sign on the right and through the 40mph signs to reach a Public Footpath sign on the left, just before a sharp bend.
  5. Go through the gate on the left indicated by the footpath sign and follow the track to a gateway in the hedge opposite.
  6. Go through the gate and follow the track parallel to the right hedge to the gateway opposite.
  7. Go through the gateway and follow along the right hedge to a gate with a stone stile to the right.
  8. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow along the right hedge for roughly three quarters of the length of the field until you reach a recess in the hedge with a gate on your right. Head to the gate.
  9. Cross the stile to the left of the gate and follow the track until it emerges onto a road at the entrance to a farm café.
  10. Continue ahead on the driveway marked "No Entry" (which is intended for cars) until you reach a gate on the right, just past a building and opposite a sign on the left marked "No public right of way beyond this point".

    The first record of settlement of Penwarne is from 1327. Fragments of a mediaeval building have been found in the garden and incorporated into one of the current buildings. It is thought that these came from either a mediaeval chapel or manor. The name is from the Cornish words pen (meaning top) and guern (meaning alder) - perhaps depicting a location above a grove of the trees - and is also name of a manor near Mevagissey.

  11. Go through (or around) the gate on the far side of the building and follow roughly half-way along the right hedge of the field to reach a stile made of rusty iron.
  12. Cross the iron stile on your right and turn left when you reach the drive. Follow the drive until it ends on a lane.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees can live up to 400 years.

  13. Cross the lane to the stile and gateway opposite. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway if open) and follow the path to cross the field just to the left of the buildings to reach a gate.

    In the distance you can see the lighthouse on St Anthony's Head.

    St Anthony's Lighthouse was built out of granite in 1835 on the eastern entrance to Falmouth Harbour to guide vessels clear of the Manacles rocks. In most directions, the light is white but a sector close to The Manacles rocks is coloured red, warning vessels to steer offshore. The lighthouse was featured in the UK version of the TV series "Fraggle Rock" as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse". Until 1954, the lighthouse possessed a huge bell which hung outside the tower and was used as a fog signal. This was later replaced with a foghorn.

  14. Go through the gate and turn right onto the driveway. Follow this past Higher Crill Farm to a bend with a stepped stone stile. Continue past this to reach a small stone stile at the end of the wall.

    The settlement of Crill was first recorded in 1321. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish words ker and kel with meanings of "fort" and "concealed", respectively.

  15. Cross the stile on your left and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a stile in the hedge opposite, roughly 10 metres from the right-hand corner.
  16. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to the side of the embankment ahead. Then continue ahead to keep the embankment and farmyard on your right and reach a small stone stile ahead.

    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. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  17. Cross the stile and follow alongside the barn to reach a gate and stile in the corner of the field.

    The settlement of Trewen was first recorded in 1321. The name is from the Cornish for "white farm".

  18. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track. Follow this, keeping right where the track forks to go into a field. Continue on the track to reach a junction of tracks with some waymarks.
  19. At the junction, bear left to cross the waymarked stile to the left of the gate ahead. Follow the left hedge of the field to reach an opening in the hedge with concrete, roughly 15 metres to the right of the bottom-left corner of the field.
  20. Go down the flight of steps and follow the path. Where the path forks, keep left to descend the tree covered bank and continue downhill to reach a ford over a stream.
  21. Just before the ford, bear right along a path to a footbridge just downstream of the ford. Cross the bridge and bear right to follow the path on the other side of the river. Continue to reach a waywmark beside a crossing over a wall.
  22. Cross the wall at the waymark and bear left onto the driveway. Follow this uphill to a waymark. Continue for another 20 metres, just past the buildings on the right to reach a path leading to a wooden gate.

    The settlement is known as Sparnon and was first recorded in 1327. The name contains the Cornish word spern, meaning "thorns", perhaps describing an area of hawthorn or blackthorn trees.

  23. Turn right opposite the staddle (mushroom) stones and follow the path towards the wooden gates but stop short and turn left to follow a small path up the bank to a gate into the field. Go through the gate and follow the path around the edge of the field to reach a stile.

    Staddle Stones (also known as Mushroom Stones) were originally used to raise granary barns off the ground. These had two purposes: the first was that the elevation above the ground kept out the damp which would spoil the grain. The second was that the overhanging stone cap made it an extreme rock-climbing expedition for any mice and rats wishing to enter the barn.

  24. Cross the stile and turn right onto the footpath. Follow this to a waymark at a junction of paths.

    The footpath is the remains of a mediaeval cart road, beside which there was once a cross. At one time Nangitha Lane, as it was known, was described as "a good road with pavement along one side".

  25. Keep right at the waymark and follow the path beneath the trees. Continue ahead as the path merges onto a surfaced drive, keeping left past the buildings to reach a waymark.
  26. At the waymark, bear right over the stone stile and down the small footpath. Follow this over one stile to reach a second stile, leading onto a road.
  27. Cross the stile onto the road and carefully cross this to the steps opposite. Climb these, go through the pedestrian gate and cross the field towards the church to reach a footpath sign.

    Hazelnuts can be found beneath the trees in October and are a favourite with squirrels so you'll need to forage those that haven't already been nibbled. Once harvested, the nuts need to dried before shelling and eating. Wash and dry the nuts first to reduce the chance of them going mouldy. Then lay them out on something where the air can circulate and dry them for 2-4 weeks. An airing cupboard is a good place. You can tell that they are ready when the nuts rattle in their shells. Once shelled, the nuts can be stored in a fridge or even frozen for a couple of years.

  28. Turn right on the drive as indicated by the footpath sign then keep left to cross a low stone stile with a small waymark and follow a path along the wall of the churchyard. Follow this to another stile and waymark at a junction of paths.

    The church in Budock Water dates from the 13th Century with a rebuild during the 15th Century. The churchyard itself is thought to date back to the times of the Celtic saint Budock in 470 AD, also associated with St Budeaux in Plymouth.

  29. Cross the stile and turn right. Follow the path to reach another waymark and stile.

    Earliest records of the parish of Budock are from 1207. The "water" was appended to indicate the village was near a stream (as with Chacewater and Canworthy Water).

  30. Cross the stile and follow the lane ahead until it ends. Then follow the path leading from it alongside a garden to emerge into a yard.
  31. Cross the yard to the lane ahead. Follow the lane until you reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    Chestnut trees overhang the lane.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

  32. Cross the stile below the footpath sign and bear right across the field to a stile in a gap in the middle of the hedge opposite.

    On the skyline you can see Pendennis Castle, on the top of the headland ahead.

    Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against a possible French attack and was re-inforced during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, more re-inforcement took place and the castle withstood five months of siege from Parliamentary forces before it was captured. The castle was adapted for the World Wars of the 20th Century and the guardhouse has been restored to how it might have looked in the First World War. During the Second World War, underground tunnels and magazines were added which can now be visited.

  33. Cross the stile and carefully cross the road to Prislow Lane opposite. Follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    The Boslowick Inn was formerly a house, and was originally thatched. During WW2, the building was hit by a shower of incendiary bombs. Fortunately, due to the steeply-sloping roof, these rolled off the roof without doing any serious harm. In the more distant past, the building is reputed to have been the haunt of smugglers. A number of rare coins were found in a vegetable garden during the 20th Century and sent to the British Museum.

  34. Turn right at the junction and follow the road uphill until you reach a junction for Carrick Road on the left.
  35. Turn left onto Carrick Road and follow this until it ends in a turning area.
  36. Keep right along the pavement at the turning area to pass through a gap then turn left and follow the path along the front of the houses and through some railings to emerge onto a residential road.
  37. Cross the road to the footpath opposite and follow this downhill until it eventually ends at a junction with a surfaced track beside a metal gate.

    During the Second World War, a large fuel depot for use in the D-Day landings was located on the hillside behind Swanpool. During the final air raid on Falmouth, the depot was hit by a bomb and a flood of burning fuel swept down the valley towards the houses below. An American navy officer managed to use a bulldozer to divert the flow away from the houses and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his bravery.

  38. When you reach the track, pass the gate and turn right down a small path with three bollards marked with a "Public Footpath Swanpool Beach" sign. Follow the path until it emerges, via two more bollards, onto a drive.

    The brackish lagoon at Swanpool forms an unusual habitat that supports some rare wildlife. This includes the Trebling Sea Mat which is found nowhere else in the UK. The wooded wetland behind the lake is criss-crossed by six small streams and it provides a valuable habitat for birds and small mammals. The whole area is now a designated nature reserve.

  39. Continue ahead on the driveway until it ends in a T-junction and then turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane alongside the lake and past some houses until it ends in a junction.

    The lake at Swanpool was once part of the sea but after the last Ice Age, a shingle bar formed (similar to the Loe Bar near Helston) which cut off the lake from the sea and it became a freshwater lake, roughly three times the size of the current lake. In the mid 1820's, a culvert was dug to drain much of the lake into the sea, creating the lake you see today. On high Spring tides, the seawater flows back through the culvert into the lake so the water is brackish (slightly salty).

  40. Turn right onto the road and follow the pavement until you reach a coast path sign, just past a driveway with a pair of gates.
  41. Turn left onto the coast path signposted to Maenporth and follow it to a waymark.

    Eight German U-boats surrendered at the end of the war were moored in Falmouth Bay, anchored at Gyllyngvase. Two were intentionally sunk during Navy exercises, and the remaining six broke free from their moorings in a fierce winter gale and were swept onto the rocks along Castle Drive. The remains of one can be seen at low tide at Castle Beach. The others have broken up but fragments of hull can seen amongst the rocks on low spring tides or by snorkelling.

  42. Continue ahead at the waymark, passing the gate on the right. Follow the path to the point, where a small path leads ahead and the main path bends to the right.

    In October 1940, the coaster Jersey Queen suffered an aerial attack with machine gun, cannon fire and incendiary bombs on its way though the Irish Sea. Two of the crew were injured but the incendiary bombs slipped off the hull into the sea preventing any major damage. Two days later, she struck an accoustic mine in Cornish waters and sank in Falmouth Bay with the loss of two crew. When the mine detonated, the captain was knocked unconscious but was pulled from the water before he drowned by one of the crew. Despite suffering attacks on two subsequent ships he captained, he survived the war and was awarded an MBE for his service.

  43. Keep right and stay on the main path and follow it to reach a waymark.

    In December 1978 the Scottish trawler Ben Asdale was in Falmouth Bay unloading its catch of mackerel into a Russian Factory ship. As the trawler cast off from the factory ship, the stern rope jammed in the rudder and the trawler was unable to steer. The captain attempted to anchor the vessel but in the force 8 gale, the anchor dragged and the ship was driven ashore on Newporth Head. Three of the crew who attempted to swim ashore drowned but eight were rescued by helicopter which had to fly backwards to avoid the headland in one of the most dangerous rescues of modern times. The remains of the vessel can still be seen at low water.

  44. Keep left at the waymark and go through the metal kissing gate. Follow the path until it emerges at the entrance to Maenporth car park, or alternatively cut down the steps beside the café.

    Razor clams are molluscs that get their name from the shape of their shell which resembles a cut-throat razor. They live in burrows in the sand using a powerful foot to dig to a safe depth. Their presence in the inter-tidal zone is indicated by keyhole-shaped holes made by their siphons as they filter-feed for plankton. They are very sensitive to changes of temperature and salinity and this has been exploited to catch them (pouring salt or brine down their holes) as well as simply digging them out. They have been quite overfished on many beaches and are in decline in many areas. In deeper water, they face a different problem: suction dredging hoovers them up with the sand. Although they usually survive the actual dredging process, they are deposited on the seabed and often get eaten by fish before they can dig to safety.

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
  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over).

Take a photo and email, 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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