Circular walk from Millook Haven to Dizzard

Millook Haven to Dizzard

A circular walk through the Millook woodland reserves to the ancient gnarled oak forest of The Dizzard, returning along the coast with panoramic views to Hartland Point, to the chevron-folded cliffs and honeycomb reefs of Millook Haven.

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The walk starts at Millook Haven and heads up the valley through the broadleaf woodland. The route climbs out of the valley to reach the coast at Dizzard Point. The return route skirts across the top of the ancient coastal woodland at Dizzard, passing Cancleave Strand and crossing Millook Common, before descending to Millook Haven with spectacular views over Bude Bay.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4.8 miles/7.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • Wildflowers including orchids in the meadows along the valley
  • Ancient woodland around Millook Valley
  • Spectacular coastal views from Millook Common
  • Geological origami at Cancleave Strand and Millook Haven


  1. From Millook Haven, head up the road towards Crackington (to the left if you are facing the beach) until you reach a gate on the left with a footpath sign, just past double white doors. Go through the gate and follow the track to a signpost for Poundstock Church opposite a house.

    Millook Haven is a pebble beach at mid-high tide, though there is some sand at the very lowest part of the tide. The cliffs behind the beach have impressive zig-zag folding patterns, formed 320 million years ago. The rocks are part of the "Crackington Formation": thin layers of sandstones and shales, deformed by the tectonic plate collision at the end of the Carboniferous period, that crumpled the earth's crust, giving rise to the tors of Bodmin Moor.

    More about Millook Haven

  2. Continue along the track from the signpost to reach a waymark where the track emerges into a meadow.

    Millook was a notorious spot for smuggling.

    In the 1780s, Britain was in financial crisis after losing the American War of Independence. High levels of duty were imposed on luxury goods in order to recoup the national debt and this included the curing salt vital to the pilchard industry which was taxed at around 4000%! Consequently many Cornish fishermen that were previously legally employed by the trade were driven into illegal smuggling. Towards the end of the 18th Century, nearly half a million gallons of brandy and more than a quarter of a million pounds of tea were being smuggled into Cornwall each year. This continued until the 1840s, when Britain adopted a free-trade policy that slashed import duties. Within ten years, large-scale smuggling was just a memory.

  3. From the waymark, continue on the track until the track ends at a gate with a concrete bridge ahead over the stream and a small path departing to the right.

    Baby blackbirds usually leave the nest before they can actually fly then hop and scramble through the bushes. Their parents watch over them so don't attempt to rescue them.

  4. Bear right onto the small path and cross the footbridge over the stream to a waymark. Turn right and follow the path along the stream until you emerge in a meadow.

    Millook water is fed by a network of small streams running down the valleys covered by Millook woods, finally reaching the sea through the pebbles on Millook Haven. The longest of the tributary streams has its source at Wainhouse Corner. Part-way along its course within the woodland are the ruins of a mediaeval corn mill, first documented in 1516 as Bastard Mill and still appears with this name on modern OS maps.

  5. Cross the meadow, to the left of the telegraph pole at the opposite side, to emerge onto a track.

    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.

    In marshes, micro-organisms thrive in the wet mud and use up the supply of oxygen. To survive being partially buried in mud with low oxygen levels, many marsh plants have therefore evolved snorkels: air channels in the stem which allow oxygen to reach the base of the plant. This is why the leaves of reeds feel spongy.

  6. Bear right on the track and follow it in the direction signposted to Dizzard and Trengayor to reach a small bridge over a stream.
  7. Cross the bridge over the stream and then bear left, past the house, to a waymark next to a kissing gate.
  8. Turn right through the kissing gate and cross the meadow to a footbridge into Landy Wood.

    The Millook Valley, above Millook Haven, contains an area of ancient woodland. The broad-leaved woodland is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are primroses in spring, wildflowers including orchids in summer and blackberries and sloes in autumn. Fauna includes dormice, otters and smooth snakes.

  9. Cross the bridge and climb the steps, following the path up the steps to a waymark. Keep left at the fork and follow the path through the woods, keeping the stream on your left until you reach some planks crossing a brook.

    There is often a dense patch of bluebell flowers next to the bridge in spring, but fewer in the woods themselves.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

    Flowering plants have evolved a complex double-fertilisation process where one sperm fertilises the egg whilst a second sperm combines with other nuclei in the cell to create a nutrient-rich tissue. This gives the seed a head start so it can out-compete others (e.g. conifers which don't have this). This also allows flowering plants to produce viable seeds more quickly: whilst conifers take around 18 months to produce a new batch of seeds, many flowering plants produce a batch of seeds each year and some can produce seeds more than once a year.

  10. Cross over the planks and follow the path until it cuts through a bank beside a tree with a waymark.

    The Woodland Trust was founded in 1972 and is dedicated to providing a UK rich in native woods and trees. They summarise themselves as "the RSPCA of trees" and have set themselves the ambitious target of doubling native tree cover throughout the UK over the next 50 years. They now look after more than 1,100 woods and over 110 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are committed to providing free public access wherever possible.

  11. Turn right and follow the path along the bank and down a few steps to a small stream.

    Sphagnum (peat) mosses use compressed air to launch their spores. To get an idea of the acceleration that the spores are launched with, an astronaut in a rocket launch experiences an acceleration g-force of about 3 g and the maximum in a fighter jet is about 9 g. Sphagnum moss spores are accelerated at 36,000 g!

  12. Cross the stream to a waymark and turn right. Follow the path uphill until it eventually ends at a gate.

    Primrose seeds are quite large and therefore, due to their weight, don't travel far from the plant. This causes a clump of primroses to spread out very slowly over time and means it takes a long time for primroses to colonise new areas. This makes large carpets of primroses a very good indicator of ancient woodland where they would have had many hundreds of years to spread out.

    In order to later find the nuts that they've buried, squirrels need to be organised. Some species of squirrel have been studied and found to structure their hoards by type of nut e.g. burying all their acorns under one tree and all their conkers under another. This is equivalent to us organising all the veg onto one shelf of the fridge to make it easier to remember where to look for them.

  13. Go through the gate onto a track and turn right. Follow the track past some cottages and barns until it eventually ends in a T-junction at a lane.

    The settlement of Trengayor was first recorded in 1244. As well as tre, meaning "farmstead", it is thought the name has been mangled from the Cornish word ker, meaning "fort", as there are remains of a circular fortified structure nearby.

  14. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past Old Dizzard to a Coast Path sign at Dizzard Farm.

    Daffodils were originally called asphodels (lumped together with the other plants that are now called asphodels). A pronunciation variation was "affodell". No-one is quite sure how the initial "d" was added - perhaps "the asphodel" by someone with a cold ("d affodel").

    Many of the shrubs forming the hedges are hazel.

    The rods cut from coppiced hazel shoots were woven into fences, used as thatching poles and as the foundation for wattle-and-daub walls. Baskets and traditional lobster pots were made from the thinner shoots. Hazel rods were also used to make clothes pegs and witches wands.

  15. Turn left onto the farm track signposted to the coast path and follow it past the barn to a waymarked gate leading onto a track.

    The name Dizzard is from the Cornish for "very steep" which most likely refers to the headland. Two settlements now called East and West Dizzard were documented with similar names (e.g. Estdysart) as far back as 1284. Some form of settlement at Dizzard was recorded a couple of centuries earlier during in the Domesday survey of 1086 but there isn't a Dizzard entry in the Domesday book. One possible reason could be that it was already divided into two different settlements and the corresponding Domesday entries are now not recognisable.

  16. Go through the gate onto a track and follow it until it ends at a gate into a field.

    The farm here specialises in breeding Zwartbles sheep, a black breed which you may see in the fields.

    The Zwartbles breed of sheep is originally from the Netherlands, originally primarily used for their milk. In the 20th Century, they declined significantly until by the mid-1970s they were listed as critically rare by the Dutch Rare Breed Survival Trust. Recently, the sheep has made a comeback in Britain as they produce excellent meat and wool; also being from a cold, wet, windy area of the Netherlands, the UK climate is not a problem. In Cornwall, they develop golden surfer highlights in the sunshine, and are known for being a "chilled-out" breed of sheep.

  17. Go through the gate and follow the right-hand hedge to the bottom of the field to a footbridge about 20 metres along the bottom fence from the right-hand corner.

    Skylarks can often be heard singing above the fields in the spring.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    During mediaeval times, skylarks were eaten and there are records of the food price for larks from the 13th Century onward. Larks were captured by dragging nets across fields at night, not unlike modern commercial fishing techniques.

  18. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate then bear right to follow the path uphill to emerge into a field.

    The purple flowers resembling a miniature pansy that you see along the footpaths from March to May are almost certainly dog violets, so-called because they are unscented (rather than scented of dog) to distinguish them from the sweet violet. The plants are able to thrive both in shade and full sun, so are found in grassland and hedgerows as well as woodland. Sweet violets prefer shade, so if you do encounter these it will most likely be in woodland, but the dog violets are more common even in this habitat.

    Woodland with plenty of bushes is an ideal habitat for blackbirds.

    Only male blackbirds are actually black. The females are brown. The difference in appearance between males and females is known as sexual dimorphism and is an evolutionary strategy by the males to get noticed more by females at the cost of decreased chances of survival.

  19. Follow the right hedge of the field to a stile beside a gate.

    The combination of the Great British Weather and a tonne of cow balanced on stilt-like legs can result in some muddy tracks and gateways to navigate, ideally without sinking below the level of your walking boots (or wellies in extreme cases!). Some suggestions for avoiding liquid-filled socks are:

    • Know your enemy: use a stick as a dipstick to assess how deep the mud is. A lake of extremely unpromising liquid mud may only turn out be a couple of inches deep.
    • If there are any rocks nestling in the mud, these are usually a good bet to stand on. Generally they would have already sunk if they weren't on fairly solid ground.
    • Clumps of grass have a root system that means you’re less likely to sink than in areas with no vegetation.
    • Where there are wheel ruts, the bottoms of the ruts are often the firmest ground, having been compressed under several tonnes of tractor. However, ruts filled with deep water are best avoided as mud will have washed in with the water so the overall depth will be hard to estimate.
  20. Go through the kissing gate and turn immediately left through another kissing gate into a field. Bear right around the gorse then follow the hedge on the left until you reach a kissing gate in the corner of the field.

    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.

  21. Go through the gate and follow the path down some steps to reach the coast path.

    The name "Dizzard" is from the Cornish word deseth which means "very steep". However, you may be pleased to know that particular section of coast path is not on this route. When you reach the coast path, to the left it descends the very steep Chipman Cliff. At the bottom of the valley it's possible to get onto Scrade Beach and at low tide it's possible to walk a long way across the rocks to Chipman Strand and even to Cancleave Strand which the walk passes later on.

  22. Turn right onto the coast path and follow it, passing through a gate, until it ends in a kissing gate into a field.

    The woods on the cliffs of Dizzard are more than 6,000 years old. The trees include sessile oak and wild service trees, stunted by the salty winds. Wild service berries were used to make a strong alcoholic liqueur. The berries and associated spirit are known in some areas as "chequers" and this is thought to be the origin of a number of pubs with this name.

  23. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the left edge of five fields (via gates and stiles as needed), until you eventually reach a waymark, where a path descends into some woods on the left.

    The UK is one of the windiest places in Europe and considered as one of the best places in the world for wind power. Over 10% of the UK's energy already comes from wind power (which rises to around 40% during windy months) and it is now one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Wind turbines last for about 20-25 years until the moving parts wear out and they need to be replaced.

  24. Follow the path through the woods, over a stream, back up the other side of the valley and into a field to reach a waymark.

    The ancient broadleaf woodland along the coast and along the valley here supports a population of bluebells.

    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.

    Ferns evolved a long time before flowering plants and dominated the planet during the Carboniferous period. The bark from tree ferns during this period is thought to have been the main source of the planet's coal reserves.

  25. From the waymark, follow the left hedge to a little waymark. From here, keep left along the edge of the field to reach a fence in front of a garden.

    The stones of sloes (and plums, cherries and peaches) contain the compound amygdalin which is metabolised into hydrogen cyanide. Therefore breaking the stones is best avoided when using them in cooking, gin etc.

    Blackthorn stems are often covered in fungi or bacteria and if a thorn punctures skin, these can sometimes cause infection. Any splinters left in the skin can also disintegrate over time and result in an immune response. If a puncture wound becomes infected, it's a good idea to get it checked-out in a minor injuries unit in case antibacterial or anti-fungal treatment is needed to prevent it escalating.

  26. Follow the path along the fence, past a footpath to the beach, to reach a stile. Cross the stile and follow the coast path for about half a mile through gates and over stiles until it eventually ends at a stile onto a lane, opposite a signpost to Millook Haven.

    The rocky beach at the bottom of the cliff on your left is Cancleave Strand.

    Cancleave Strand is a rocky beach to the west of Millook Haven. The foreshore of Cancleave Strand consists of impressively folded rock strata which have been upended and eroded by the sea creating a maze of rocky ridges. The offshore island on the right side of the beach is, like many other offshore rocks in Cornwall, known as Gull Rock. There are quite good views of the beach from the coast path at low tide, but if you're feeling brave and the tide is out, it is possible to reach the beach. However note the warning on the sign beside the path which offers the words of encouragement: "informal access to beach via roped descent on eroding cliff face".

  27. Turn left and follow the lane downhill to Millook Haven.

    At low tide, a series of delicate reefs is revealed.

    Honeycomb Worm reefs are fascinating structures, built out of sand on the lower shore. The large golden hummocks have an intricate honeycomb structure up to several metres across and a metre deep. Filter-feeding worms, about 3-4cm long, live in tubes, fanning out plankton from the passing water and capturing particles of shell and rock to build their tubes. Each worm can live for 3-5 years, although the overall reefs last much longer. Although quite brittle, the reefs provide a habitat for a number of other species including anemones, barnacles, limpets, winkles, whelks, mussels and crabs.

    The worms need hard rock to build on, and sand to build with, so their requirements are very specific: there must be enough wave action to bring a supply of sand to the rocky areas, but not so much that the worms are blasted off the rocks. The formation of reefs is assisted by a clever biological mechanism. Honeycomb worm larvae drift around in seawater and could settle anywhere to grow into adults. However, the presence of existing worm colonies, or their dead remains, strongly stimulates any passing larvae to settle out at that location, helping to ensure that the reef continues to grow.

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