Nare Head to Portloe

A circular walk around Nare Head, past the restored Cold War nuclear bunker, to the pretty fishing village Portloe, with views along the length of The Roseland coast and over The Whelps reef - a graveyard for sailing ships that misjudged the entrance to Falmouth.

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 via satnav the start of the walk.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app leads you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
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 and which way you are facing.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
Detailed, triple-tested directions are also included.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk includes lots of information about the history and nature along the route.
Person look at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need a phone or wifi signal for 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 of £1.99 for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
The walk meets the coast at Paradoe Cove, which it follows around Nare Head, with panoramic views, to the Cold War bunker. From here, the route is along the undulating coast path past Kiberick Cove and The Straythe to Manare Point. The descent to Portloe has some particularly nice views over the village. The return route is mostly on footpaths across the fields which are all quite level.

Some of the stiles on the route are fairly athletically-demanding (stone footholds over walls etc)


Loved the walk, did it 2 years ago... Will do it again as well.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Path beside the car park
  • Parking: Kiberick Cove National Trust car park TR25PJ. From the A390 follow signs to Tregony, then signs to St Mawes and Veryan to follow the A3078. After the petrol station, take the left junction signposted to Veryan. Follow this road till you come to a sign for Veryan Riding Centre and turn left here. At the crossroads, continue ahead, signposted to Carne Beach. Continue to the next junction which is signposted to Nare Head and turn down this to reach the car park at the end of the lane.
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Panoramic views from Nare Head
  • Restored Cold War nuclear bunker
  • Unspoilt fishing village of Portloe
  • Coastal wildlife including birds and reptiles

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Ship Inn


  1. Facing out of the car park bear left to the footpath signposted for the viewpoint and Paradoe Cove. When you reach a kissing gate on the right, go through this and follow the right hedge of the field to reach a kissing gate beside a 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. 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.
  2. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path down the hill until you eventually reach a stile next to a gate.

    Chestnut trees overhang the path and the husks may be visible in September and October.

    Chestnuts contain very little fat and are in many ways more similar to a cereal than other nuts, containing principally starch and sugars. They are consequently much less calorific: the kernels contain around a third of the calories of a similar weight of other nuts.

  3. Cross the stile and follow the path until it ends at a junction with the coast path.

    Choughs are sometimes seen along this stretch of coast.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall. In recent years, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing. Choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland.

  4. Turn left onto the coast path and follow the path up the hill to a waymark and along the right edge of the field to a kissing gate.

    The stone and cob cottage overlooking Paradoe Cove was built by a fisherman, who kept a boat in the inlet beneath his home, hauling it clear of the waves when not in use. He married a woman from Veryan, but the marriage cannot have been a happy one as he lived here alone during the week and only visited her at weekends with his catch. In the 1840s, he emigrated to Australia, leaving his wife behind, and started a new family there.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a field at the top of the hill.

    Mackerel come inshore during the summer and autumn to feed on prawns and small fish such as sandeels. They often occur in large shoals which at the surface can make the sea appear to "boil", often accompanied by excited seabirds. Although they cruise at a speed of around 2 knots, mackerel can reach 10 knots in short bursts.

  6. Follow along the right hedge of the field to reach a junction of paths.

    Nare head was known until the 16th Century as Penare, which still survives in the name of Pennare Farm; since then, the name for the headland has become shortened to "Nare". The name is from the Cornish word penn-ardh (pronounced "penarth") meaning promontory. Dodman Point was originally known by the same name.

  7. At the junction, take the path ahead towards the coast. Follow the path until you reach a bench by the path near two green metal objects protruding from the ground.

    The grassy mound with a concrete doorway on Nare Head is a World War Two bunker that was earthed-over after the war. It was the control bunker for a naval decoy centre built by Ealing Film Studios to lure German night bombers away from Falmouth. A sister site existed on Nare Point on the other side of Falmouth Bay, so whichever direction bombers approached from, they could be intercepted before they reached Falmouth. The sites were used to create two types of decoy. The first used muted lights to simulate the railway of Falmouth Docks. The second used a series of controlled fires to replicate a military or urban area that had been targeted by bombs. Orders came from Falmouth on an underwater cable.

  8. After exploring, keep right along the edge of the gorse on the coastal path to reach a kissing gate.

    The green ventilator shafts protruding from the ground on your left are the top of the Cold War bunker.

    The bunker on Nare Head was built during the Cold War for the Royal Observer Corps who were in charge of monitoring radiation in the event of a nuclear war. It opened in 1963 and was accessed via a hatch connecting to a 12ft ladder. Below ground, it consisted of a state-of-the-art operations room and living accommodation that was designed to support three people for three weeks, giving them protection from radioactive fallout. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the bunker was decommissioned, and has since been restored in a joint project between the National Trust and Royal Observer Corps, and is open to visitors several times a year.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another kissing gate.

    The large offshore rock is known as Gull Rock

    The bays either side of Nare Head contain a large number of shipwrecks. Many of these vessels were running for safety to Falmouth harbour from a storm but misjudged the narrow passage between the Manacles reef and St Anthony's Head. Once a sailing ship had passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's Head, it became trapped within the "lee shores" between Dodman Point at St Anthony's Head where there was no safe anchorage. The Whelps reef beside Gull Rock was particularly hazardous, with jagged rocks just below the surface.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a waymark on the edge of the valley. Continue down into the valley to reach a waymark as you emerge from the bushes above the grassy valley bottom.

    The SS Hera was a steel-hulled German sailing vessel which in February 1914 was bound for Falmouth from Chile with a cargo of nitrates. She had been sailing in thick fog for three days, using dead reckoning for navigation. As the ship approached Falmouth, the captain shortened the sails to reduce speed and was hoping to see the lights of The Lizard or St Anthony's Head on his approach but the fog was too thick. The ship passed on the wrong side of St Anthony's head and hit The Whelps Reef before he was able to turn it away. The holed ship continued travelling for another 10 minutes and then began to sink. The crew fired distress flares and were initially confident of being rescued. Although two lifeboats had broken free and drifted away, most of the crew climbed aboard a third and successfully launched it. However, moments later, the ship's hull failed and sank quickly without any warning, swamping the nearby lifeboat, but a few survivors managed to cling to the foremast which stayed above the water. Delays in launching the rescue, and locating the stranded crew in the dark, meant it was nearly 6 hours before the five surviving crew members were rescued; the remaining 19 crew members perished and only 12 of the bodies were recovered, now buried in a grave in Veryan churchyard. The grave is 30 metres long with a headstone at one end and is thought might be the longest in Britain. The wreck broke into two pieces when it sank, but parts of the wreck still stand 5 metres above the seabed and it provides a habitat for a variety of marine life, making it popular with scuba divers.

  11. At the waymark, follow the steep path to the bottom of the valley and cross to the waymark on the other side. Continue on the path to reach a kissing gate.

    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.

  12. Go through the gate and turn right. Follow the path along the fence to a waymark. Follow the path from the waymark to reach a kissing gate.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round. Their name comes from the sound of the call which sounds like stones being knocked together.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another kissing gate.

    The name "Kissing Gate" is based on the way that the gate touches either side of the enclosure. Romantics may however wish to interpret the name as part of the walk instructions.

  14. Go through the kissing gate and head between the clumps of gorse to follow along the line of gorse, keeping it on your right. Then follow the path to the bottom of the valley to a waymark, and bear right to a kissing gate.

    The inaccessible beach at the bottom of the steep cliff is now known as Parc Caragloose, but is actually from the name of the field (park is the Cornish word for "field").

  15. Go through the gate and follow the path until you eventually reach a wooden walkway crossing an area of reeds.

    As the path descends to a rocky area, a small path on the right leads down onto the rock platform.

  16. Cross the walkway and follow the path over the wall. Continue until the path levels out and you reach a junction of paths with a couple of steps to the right.

    In summer, you might possibly encounter an adder sunbathing on the coastpath.

    On warm days from late April, you may be lucky enough to witness the "dance of the adders" (a pair of adders wrestling). This was once thought to be a mating display, but is actually a larger male attempting to drive away a smaller one.

  17. At the junction, turn right down the steps and follow the path to reach a stile into a field.

    The path to the left leads to Broom Parc.

    Broom Parc is a large Edwardian-style house built in the late 19th Century and is now owned by the National Trust and run as a Bed and Breakfast. It was used as the main location for Channel 4's 1992 serialisation of Mary Wesley's "The Camomile Lawn". Richard Curtis' film "About Time" was also partly filmed there.

  18. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge, crossing over a wall into a second field. Continue along the right hedge to reach a path leaving from the field.
  19. Follow the path from the field onto the coast and continue to a large boulder at a bend in the path.

    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.

  20. Continue on the path to a junction of paths with a grassy path departing uphill to the left where the main path bends right.
  21. Keep right to continue downhill to reach a waymark beside a bench with arrows in multiple directions.

    There are excellent views over the coast around Portloe from the top of the boulder on the headland as you approach.

  22. Keep right along the coast path and follow it around the headland, turning left when you reach a bench. Continue down to the slipway to reach the lane next to the Lugger Hotel.

    The name Portloe is thought to be derived from the Cornish Porth Logh, meaning something along the lines of "inlet cove". Due to its natural harbour, it developed as a fishing village, although whereas most fishing villages were thriving in mediaeval times, Portloe's development was not until the 17th and 18th Centuries. Due to the road access being along narrow, winding lanes, Portloe also missed the 20th Century commercialisation that happened to many other seaside towns. Consequently it has been used as a filming location in a number of productions and was cast as the hamlet of St Gweep for the BBC comedy series "Wild West", which starred Dawn French and Catherine Tate.

  23. Follow the lane uphill to a junction.

    The RNLI stationed a lifeboat at Portloe in 1870. It was kept at first in a boat house built at the end of the road above the beach but proved difficult to launch (one attempt to launch the boat resulted in the demolition of a shop) and manoeuvre across the beach. In 1877, a new boathouse was built nearer the water, and the original one became the church. However it was found that whenever a strong wind blew from any southerly compass point, it was impossible to launch the lifeboat, which was exactly when one was needed. It was finally withdrawn from service in 1887, without ever having performed a rescue. The second boathouse was used as a school for a while but has since become a private house.

  24. Bear left at the junction and follow the lane past the Ship Inn to a junction where a road joins from above.
  25. Stay on the lower lane and follow this past some public footpath signs, past the national speed limit signs to reach a flight of steps to the right, opposite Innis Carne.

    The name is from the Cornish word enys, for island, and karn which means "rock pile". It's possibly a reference to an offshore rock.

  26. Climb the steps into the field and cross the field to the stile opposite.

    The hawthorn tree is most often found in hedgerows where it was used to create a barrier for livestock, and in fact haw was the Old English word for "hedge".

  27. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge, past the gate, to reach another stile.

    Clover is a native plant and a member of the legume (pea and bean) family. It is also sown as a fodder crop and as "green manure" as it improves soil fertility. The two most common species are known simply as white clover and red clover, based on the colour of their flowers, with the latter generally being a slightly larger plant.

    The flowers and leaves of red clover can be dried to make a sweet tasting herbal tea. In order to get a good flavour, this needs to be infused for quite a long time (around half an hour) until a deep amber colour develops. Fresh clover doesn’t work so well as the drying process breaks down the cell walls of the plant.

  28. Cross the stile and bear left to cross the field diagonally to a stile slightly to the left of the building.
  29. Cross the stile and follow the path to the lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past all the buildings to reach a small stile on the left, just before a gateway.

    The wall of "Camels" has some old cider bottles set into the stonework. Wild fennel grows along the verge in front of this.

    Originally from the Mediterranean, fennel has naturalised in the UK, particularly in coastal areas and is recorded as far back as the 10th century.

    The greek word for fennel is "marathon"; the name of the sporting event originates from a battle which took place in a field of fennel.

    The leaves, seeds and also flowers of the wild fennel can be used in cooking. Of these, the flowers are the most potent and also the most expensive to purchase.

  30. Cross the stile and go through the gate. Follow the right hedge to another stile.

    In late spring and early summer, dandelion plants will be obvious from their bright flowers.

    Dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de lion (lion's tooth), which is thought to refer to the shape of the leaves. The plant is a member of the sunflower family.

    Dandelions are dispersed very effectively by the wind. The tiny parachute-like seeds can travel around five miles.

    Every part of the dandelion plant is edible and is high in Vitamin A and higher still in Vitamin K. The leaves can be eaten in salads, though their bitterness is not to everyone's taste. However, the bitterness can be reduced by blanching: drop the leaves into boiling salted water and remove after a minute and quench in ice-cold water to prevent the leaves from cooking.

  31. Cross the stile and follow along the right hedge to a stile roughly 20 metres before the end of the hedge.

    To make wine from dandelion flowers, pour a gallon of boiling water over a gallon of flowers and steep for 2-3 days in a covered container, stirring occasionally. Then boil, add 1.5kg sugar and allow to cool. To the basic liquor, citrus is often added (lemon/orange juice+zest) which gives some acidity, and chopped raisins or grape concentrate can be used to give more body to the wine. Ferment with a white wine or champagne yeast.

  32. Cross the stile into the field on the right then turn left and follow along the left hedge to a gap next to a stone stile. Go through the gap and follow the left hedge to another stile.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomforable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  33. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field to the left of the barn to reach two gateways. As you approach, head to the gateway on the right which has a stile next to it.

    Whereas many plants rely mainly on bitter chemicals to avoid being eaten by herbivores, thistles have gone one step further and evolved spikes. Despite this, the plants are still eaten by the caterpillars of the Painted Lady butterfly as they are rich in nutrients. The non-spiky areas of the plant such as the stem and leaf ribs can be eaten (with extreme care to avoid ingesting any harmful spikes) by people too: the ribs from the middle of the leaves are still harvested and sold in markets in some parts of the world. The flowers are rich in nectar and provide an important food source for bees and butterflies.

  34. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the left hedge to where it meets a fence. Turn left down the path between the hedge and the fence to reach a stile.
  35. Cross the stile in the bottom corner of the field and turn right onto the track. Follow this a few paces to a junction of driveway and follow this past the barn on the left. Continue until the track ends on a lane beside a National Trust sign for Nare Head.
  36. Bear left onto the lane and follow it back to the car park to complete the circular route.

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, 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.

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.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?