Padstow town circular walk

Padstow town

A short circular walk from Padstow harbour to the viewpoints at the War Memorial and Victorian obelisk, the Elizabethan Manor at Prideaux Place, and including some pretty back streets that lie off the main tourist routes.

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The walk follows Padstow harbour to the North Quay and then the Coast Path to the war memorial overlooking the estuary. The route then follows back lanes to Prideaux Place and re-enters the town through the churchyard where the Celtic monastery of Lanwethinoc is though to have been. The walks cuts down a "drang" from the harbour to join the Saint's Way and follows this to the obelisk on Dennis Hill where there are exceptional views. The return to Padstow is along the Camel Trail past the National Lobster Hatchery.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 3.5 miles/5.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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


  • Padstow's historic harbour
  • Panoramic views of the Camel Estuary from the memorial
  • Ornate Elizabethan manor of Prideaux Place
  • Panoramic views of the river and creeks from the obelisk
  • Cornish food in Padstow

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Golden Lion Hotel
  • The Harbour Inn
  • The London Inn
  • The Old Customs House
  • The Old Ship Hotel
  • The Shipwrights


  1. From the Lobster Hatchery, cross the zebra crossing in the direction of the Harbour Hotel and follow the pedestrian path alongside the bollards to reach the zebra crossing towards Stein's Deli. Cross here and turn right to follow the pedestrian route to the car park exit with a "Welcome to Padstow" sign.

    The National Lobster Hatchery, located on the quayside at Padstow, are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. The lobsters are reared in captivity until they are 2-3 months old - the age when they set up home in a burrow. They are then released at different points around the coast to replenish stocks caught by fishermen. There is a visitor centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.

  2. Turn right out of the car park and follow the pavement to the harbour.

    The black-and-white L-shaped building arranged around a courtyard, that you pass on your left, was the Padstow Courthouse.

    Padstow Court House, situated on Riverside, was originally built in the 16th Century and extended in the late 17th and 19th centuries. Sir Walter Raleigh lived in Padstow at the end of the 16th Century when he was Warden of Cornwall and his Court House was the administrative centre for the collection of taxes and dues. Before the 19th century remodelling of the harbour, the water's edge would have been directly in front of the house.

  3. Make your way around the harbour past the Shipwrights to the uphill path on the left indicated by the green sign for Lower Beach.

    Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the Saints Way from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the "old place", to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

  4. Follow the path up from the harbour in the direction indicated for Lower Beach to reach a metal gate.

    The top of the High Streetin Padstow is the head of what once was a tidal creek, overlooked by the church until the tidal seashore was reclaimed over the past three centuries. Whilst Tokyo is perhaps more famous for its reclaimed land, Padstow got there first!

  5. Go through the gate and keep right to follow the lower tarmacked path. Continue on this to the war memorial.

    The path with the blue sign to the right leads to the beach where the passenger ferry to Rock docks at low tide because Padstow Harbour is only navigable when the tide is in. Gates trap water in the harbour at low tide so the boats remain afloat. At high tide, the ferry docks on the outside of the quay.

  6. At the memorial, double back and keep right to join the upper path with many benches. Follow this until it ends at a gate.

    There is a good view across the estuary if you climb to the top of the stile just past the memorial. The beach on the opposite side is Daymer Bay.

    The hill behind Daymer Bay is known as "Brea Hill". Since brea already means "hill" in Cornish, "hill hill" is a bit redundant.

  7. Go through the gap beside the gate onto a lane and continue until you reach a junction opposite a post box.
  8. At the junction, turn right and follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    The large house on the left at the far end of the lane is known as the Dower House.

    The Dower House is situated by Prideaux Place in Padstow. The house was formerly known as The Nook and home of the town doctor. Dr Henry Frederick Marley, born 1831, practised there for about 50 years. His father - Dr Miles Marley - was a surgeon from London who eventually retired to Port Isaac to be nearer his son.

    In 1843, Charles Dickens dined with his friend Miles Marley. They agreed that Marley was an unusual name and Dickens exclaimed (somewhat confidently), "Before the New Year, your name will be a household word!" He then used the name "Jacob Marley" for Scrooge's partner in "A Christmas Carol", which was finished at the beginning of December 1843. The book sold 6,000 copies by Christmas Eve, which at the time was a record, and Dickens' confident claim was realised.

    Some of the places that the ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge are also thought to be based on Dickens' visit to Cornwall in 1842 with elements including the "bleak and desert moor where monstrous masses of rude stone were cast about" and the Longships Lighthouse at Land's End (described as "upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed"). One of the main objectives of Dickens' visit was to witness the working conditions at Botallack Mine, particularly for women and children, and this also features in the story.

  9. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane to another T-junction.

    The manor house to your right is Prideaux Place.

    Prideaux Place, situated at the top of Padstow, is an Elizabethan manor house which has been the home of the Prideaux family for 14 generations. It was built in 1592 by Nicholas Prideaux and survived unaltered until the 18th century when Edmund, Nicholas's great grandson, influenced by his Grand Tour through Italy in 1739, created a formal garden and updated the house by installing modern sash windows and coal burning grates.

    Consequently, the house combines some traditional Elizabethan architecture with the 18th century exuberance of Strawberry Hill Gothic. Of its 81 rooms, 46 are bedrooms and only 6 of those are habitable (the rest are as the American Army left them at the end of the Second World War). The deer park is thought to be the oldest in the country and has been dated back to its enclosure by the Romans in AD 435.

  10. Turn left onto Church Street and follow it a short distance to a gateway into the churchyard on the right.

    According to legend, St Petroc arrived from Ireland around AD 520 and settled here. After his death, a monastery called Lanwethinoc was built on the hill above the harbour in Padstow. The monks there acquired land from Portreath to Tintagel. After the Viking raid of 981 documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the monks moved inland to Bodmin taking the relics of St Petroc with them. The site of the monastery has never been identified with certainty, but it is thought to be based on the present parish church with an extension towards Prideaux Place.

  11. Go through the churchyard gate and follow the right-hand path to the church door.

    There have been 3 churches on the site of St Petroc's in Padstow. The first, was built in the early 6th Century by Petroc and was destroyed in 981 by the Vikings. In the 12th Century, another church was built, which is thought might have been of sandstone and therefore didn't last long. This was replaced by the current church in the early-mid 15th Century. The cream-coloured stone in the interior, used for the columns, was imported from Normandy; the dark stone used for the font and windows is blue elvan quarried from Cataclews Point between Harlyn and Mother Ivy's bay.

  12. With your back to the church, follow the path to the left onto Church Lane and follow this until you reach a junction at the Golden Lion.

    The Golden Lion is the oldest inn in Padstow, dating back to the 14th century. Many sales of salvaged goods took place in the "Long Room" behind the Inn. During the May 1st Obby 'Oss festival, the Golden Lion acts as a "stable" for the Old 'Oss.

  13. Go straight ahead past the Golden Lion onto Lanadwell Street and follow this until it ends in a T-junction beside Stein's Patisserie.

    The celebrity chef and presenter Rick Stein lives in, and is heavily invested in, the Padstow area. At the time of writing, he and his (ex wife) business partner own four restaurants, four shops, a cookery school, a cluster of self-catering holiday cottages, a pub and 40 guest rooms in and around Padstow. Unsurprisingly this is controversial: Padstow is cynically referred to by some locals as "Padstein", whilst others point out his enterprises employ over 400 local people and potentially attract more visitors to Padstow than perhaps otherwise would have been the case. Either way, there are now lots of places to eat in Padstow.

  14. Bear left at the T-junction and walk about 20 metres to reach a narrow road to the right leading to the harbour. Turn right down this one, continuing a few paces further along the harbour until you reach a tiny alley marked "Drang" on your right.

    If you can see fish swimming around in the harbour, they are likely to be grey mullet.

    Grey mullet are related to the perch family (which includes bass) and are surprisingly unrelated to the "red mullet" (which is in fact a type of goatfish). Mullet caught in the open sea are excellent eating fish and can be used in similar dishes to bass. However, those living in muddy water (such as the harbour) generally taste of mud. This can apparently be diminished by soaking them in acidic, salty water but the flavour is still described as "earthy".

  15. Turn right up Drang and follow the cobbled alley until it emerges on a road.

    Although most of the buildings in Padstow are from the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, the street pattern near the harbour dates from the mediaeval period.

  16. Turn left and follow the road until it ends at a T-junction.
  17. Bear left at the junction and cross to Dennis Road opposite. Follow this in the direction signposted for the Saint's Way until you reach a junction at a bend.

    Many place names in Cornwall containing "Dennis" are corruptions of Dinas which is the Celtic (Cornish and Old Welsh) word for a fort or citadel. The boy's name Dennis has an altogether different origin, from Dionysus - the god of wine. St Dennis (in Cornwall) and the shortened version of it in Australia - Sydney - are both of the latter origin.

  18. Depart from the road at the bend and continue ahead onto Dennis Lane and the Saint's Way. Follow this until you reach the second of 2 tracks on the left, opposite a Saint's Way sign.

    The Saints' Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey, and follows one of the likely routes of early Christian travellers making their way from Wales and Ireland to the Continent during the Dark Ages. Rather than risk a premature martyring on the rocks around Land's End, they would disembark their ships on the North Devon and Cornish coast and cross the peninsula, on foot, to ports on the south coast such as Fowey. The Bush Inn at Morwenstow is thought to be one of the stopovers from the North Devon ports. The route from Padstow to Fowey was in use before the Dark Ages which is evident from Roman coins found along the route. However it is thought that it was likely to have been in use even earlier still, in the Iron Age.

  19. Follow the track, just before the gate across the lane and marked with the Saint's Way sign, a short distance to a waymark in front of the gate for 1-4 Dennis Cove. Turn right at the waymark to follow the track uphill to a gate into a field.

    The settlement of Dinas, to the south of Padstow, was first recorded in 1327 when it was spelt Dynays. The name Dinas (the Cornish word for fort) is thought to have arisen because the neighbouring Dennis Hill (which is likely to have once been called Dinas Hill) has a natural geological formation which resembles an Iron Age hillfort.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to an old iron gate on the left at the top of the hill.

    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.

  21. Go through the iron gate on the left and follow the path to reach the Obelisk.

    The obelisk was erected to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887.

    Royal Jubilees began with George III celebrating 50 years on the throne in 1809 with a Golden Jubilee, followed by Queen Victoria in 1887. Victoria was the first monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Elizabeth II celebrated a 25 year Silver Jubilee in 1977, a Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

  22. From the obelisk, retrace your steps - follow the path back into the field, follow the left hedge to the gate, go through it and follow the track - to return to the lane.

    During the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, regattas were popular in Cornwall. Skiffs were built in Padstow for races on estuaries of the Camel and Gannel that more resemble the boats used in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race than the seaworthy gigs normally found in Cornwall. As with the racing in Oxford and Cambridge, a small, light person was found to cox the boat, typically a child in Cornwall. One such skiff named "Swift" was found in the rafters of a Padstow boat yard in the 1950s and is now in the National Maritime Centre in Falmouth.

  23. Turn right onto the lane and take the second track onto the right passing alongside a lake and follow the path to reach a flight of steps departing to the left on the far side of the lake.

    Ducks can change gender. This happens for about 1 duck in 10,000 and more commonly from female to male than the other way around. It seems to occur in a flock of ducks where there is a significant gender imbalance where it gives the duck that changes a competitive advantage. It's likely that the female to male direction is a bigger evolutionary win because one male can fertilise multiple females.

  24. Climb the steps and turn left onto the Camel Trail. Follow this until it ends at a large Camel Trail information board.

    The Camel Trail is a recreational walking and cycling track along the track bed of an old railway running from Wenfordbridge to Padstow. The railway, where the Camel Trail now runs, was originally built in 1831 by local landowner, Sir William Molesworth of Pencarrow. The line from Wadebridge to Wenfordbridge, with a branch to Bodmin, was intended to carry sand from the Camel estuary to inland farms for use as fertiliser. Later, the railway was used to ship slate and china clay from inland quarries to ships in Padstow and also transport fish, landed in Padstow, to London and other cities. The last passenger train was in 1967 and freight finally ceased in 1983, when a need to invest in new track forced closure of the line.

  25. From the information board, continue ahead on the lane to return to the car park and complete the circular walk.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The Camel Estuary is a geological ria - a deep valley flooded by rising sea levels after the last ice age, stretching from the headlands of Pentire Point and Stepper Point all the way to Wadebridge. The estuary is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Marine Conservation Zone.

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