Pendower Beach to Veryan circular walk

Pendower Beach to Veryan

A circular walk from Pendower Beach to Veryan via Nare Head where, in Victorian times, an unhappily married fisherman lived alone the in cliff-edge cottage, lowering his boat on a rope over the cliff and returning once a week to Veryan to bring his wife fish.

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The route follows the coast along Pendower beach and around Nare Head where there are panoramic reviews and a cold war nuclear bunker is preserved underground. The walk then follows tracks and footpaths across the fields to Veryan, where the church, holy well and pub can form a small diversion from the route. From Veryan, the walk follows a small lane to the mill at Melinsey. The route then joins a footpath to Pendower beach along the wooded valley which has a nice display of bluebells and wild garlic flowers in spring.


  • A couple of the stiles consist of stone footholds over a wall.
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 5.2 miles/8.4 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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


  • Panoramic views from Nare Head
  • Restored Cold War nuclear bunker
  • Bluebells in the woodland in May
  • Restored mill at Melinsey
  • Sandy beach stretching from Pendower to Carne Beach.

Pubs on or near the route

  • The New Inn


  1. Follow the path downhill from the car park to reach a fork just before a Coast Path sign.

    Tidal range is mainly determined by 15 fixed points around the world’s oceans, known as amphidromes, around which water rotates. The further a coastline is from the nearest amphidrome, the larger the tidal range. This is a fair way in the case of Cornwall so difference between low and high tide is around 7 metres on average. Consequently offshore rocks that are 20ft below the surface at high tide can lie just under the surface as the tide falls.

  2. Keep left at the fork to pass the Coast Path sign and follow the path over a bridge. Once over the bridge, follow the middle path to reach another car park.

    Pendower beach joins with Carne beach at low tide to form a sandy beach that is roughly a mile long. There are numerous rockpools along the sides of the beach at low tide (below the car park at Pendower Beach and alongside Nare Head on Carne Beach).

  3. Once you reach the car park, turn right and follow the lane up the hill to a bend where a small footpath departs via a stone stile.

    Pendower beach is named after the settlement of Pendower which has become the Pendower Beach House hotel. The name is from the Cornish words pen, meaning "top", and dowr, meaning "water".

  4. Turn right off the lane and cross the stile. Follow the path until you reach a fenced garden with a gate leading into it and a coast path sign beside the fence.

    The domestic radish has been cultivated from one of the subspecies of wild radish - a member of the cabbage family. Another of its subspecies is found on the coast and appropriately known as sea radish.

    Sea radish is a biennial plant (2 year lifecycle) and during its first year it creates a rosette of leaves that are dormant over the winter. These are quite noticeable during January and February when there is not much other vegetation. The leaves are dull grey-green, slightly furry and each leaf consists of pairs of fairly long thin leaflets along the length of the stem plus a final bigger one at the end. Alexanders grows in similar places at similar times but its leaves are glossy green and each leaf is made up of 3 leaflets.

    By the late spring, sea radish is a reasonably tall plant, recognisable by its yellow flowers that have 4 narrow petals. The flowers go on to form tapering seed pods later in the year with 2 or 3 large seeds in each pod with a spike at the end.

    The plant is edible and probably at its best in the autumn and winter when the leaf rosettes are present. The leaves have a mild cabbage flavour but the leaf stems and ribs taste like a milder version of radish.

  5. As you approach the hotel garden, turn left as indicated by the sign for Carne Beach to follow the path alongside the fence to some steps.

    Ribwort plantain grows in the grass along the fence.

    Ribwort plantain is a common weed on cultivated land with long leaves and unmistakable black seed heads on the end of tall stalks often with a halo of white flowers. Generations of children have worked out that by knotting the stem, the seed head can be launched as a projectile at unsuspecting adults.

    A tea made from the leaves is a popular herbal remedy but care should be taken where the plant is harvested as it is not only highly tolerant of high metal levels in the soil but also accumulates these. It will even tolerate and accumulate arsenic which is normally toxic to plants. It therefore has the potential to be used for cleansing soils contaminated with mine waste.

  6. Follow the path up the steps and along the fence at back of the hotel to reach a lane.
  7. Follow the lane downhill until you reach a ramp to the beach at the bottom.

    On the eastern side of Pendower beach (towards Nare Head), the rocks contain fossils, preserved as impressions in the quartzite rocks. These are mostly of shells from the Odovician period when the first fish with jaws evolved. Very occasionally, trilobite fossils are found. If you are lucky enough to find a trilobite, it should be reported to a museum as they are scientifically important.

  8. From the ramp, follow the lane ahead (signposted for Portloe) around the bend to reach a narrow flight of steps on the right opposite the yellow parking restrictions sign.

    The striking magenta flowers seen in Cornish hedgerows and gardens in May and June are known as Whistling Jacks, Mad Jacks, Cornish Jacks or Corn Flag. The "whistling" is thought to be from children using the leaves as a reed between their fingers and blowing. The plant is a species of Gladioli originally from the Mediterranean but has been naturalised in Cornwall for some time. Opinions differ on exactly when it first arrived but numerous opportunities have existed during the trade that has taken with Cornwall over the centuries, and the great gardens and cut flower industries in more recent times.

    Mermaids purses are the egg cases of the shark family and are sometimes found washed up on the seashore. The are usually light brown, approximately rectangular and fairly flat, with curly strands on 4 corners. At first glance they be mistaken for a piece of kelp or a melted piece of plastic. The strands attach to seaweeds to lodge the egg case a safe environment for the baby shark or skate to develop.

  9. Climb the steps on the right to a kissing gate. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the field to a stone stile.

    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. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway to the left if it is muddy) then keep right to follow the lower path along the edge of the field. Continue to reach a kissing gate on the far side of the field.

    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. Go through the gate and follow the path to a crossing over a wall with a waymark to the left.

    Along the coast, from June onwards but particularly in the late summer and autumn, parasol mushrooms are common. They are one of the easier mushrooms to recognise due to their huge size (and umbrella shape when fully open). The brown flecks on their otherwise white flesh are caused by the rapidly expanding young mushroom bursting through a brown outer coating as it grows (a bit like sugar puffs breakfast cereal!).

    Despite their large size, parasol mushrooms are quite delicate and cook quickly. Any heavy-handed cooking (e.g. frying) them causes them to shrivel away to nothing. We've had good results by gently folding slices of the parasol into a sauce just a couple of minutes before serving so it gets lightly cooked but the texture is preserved.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round.

    The name "stonechat" comes from the sound of their call which resembles stones being knocked together.

  12. Climb over the wall and follow the path to a kissing gate into a field.

    Large daisy-like flowers on the coast are likely to be oxeye daisies, also known as the dog daisy or moon daisy - the latter is said to be because they are so bright that they appear to glow in the evening. The flowers of oxeye daisies are edible and can be used in salads or deserts. The flower buds can also be picked in vinegar and spices and used like capers.

    The name for the Roseland Peninsula derives from the Celtic word ros which can be used to mean a number of things including "moor", but the meaning most applicable in this case is "promontory".

  13. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge to a path leaving the field. Follow this down into the valley to reach a kissing gate.

    The male and female parts of a foxglove flower mature at different times to help avoid self-fertilisation. This also ties in with the flowers maturing at the bottom of the spike first as pollinators often start at the lowest flower and then work upwards. They land on the mature female flowers first with a cargo of pollen from another plant, and then leave via the mature male flowers with a new load of pollen.

    Like other members of the pea family, gorse produces its seeds in pods. The seeds are ejected with a popping sound when pods split open in hot weather. This can catapult the seeds up to five metres. The plants are able to live 30 years and survive sub-zero temperatures, the seeds can withstand fire and remain viable in the soil for 30 years.

  14. Go through the gate, cross the footbridge and follow the waymarked path up the hill and along the right edge of a field to reach 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.

  15. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges into a field at the top of the hill.

    Although their main residential area is further west, choughs are sometimes seen along this stretch of coast.

    The chough is a member of the crow family, with striking red legs and a red beak. They are also recognisable from feathers, spread like fingers, on their wing tips. It was known as the "Crow of Cornwall" and appears on the county coat of arms. The birds have a loud, distinctive "chee-ow" call which is perhaps best described as resembling a squeaky dog toy! Once you've heard it a couple of times, you'll be able to recognise them from the sound long before you can see them.

  16. On reaching the field, follow along the right hedge to reach a junction of paths near the far side.

    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.

  17. At the junction of paths, there is an optional diversion to the right to the headland.
    To continue the walk, take the leftmost path to stay in the field. Follow this to merge onto a grassy track and keep left at the pair of green ventilation shafts to reach an iron post beside a mound on the left.

    The green ventilator shafts protruding from the ground on your right 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.

  18. Follow the track ahead and go through the kissing gate beside the cattle grid. Continue following the track to reach a National Trust car park.

    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.

  19. Continue past the car park to join a rough lane and follow this to reach a stone stile between two metal gates on the left, just after passing the cottage.

    Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry.

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

    In late spring and summer, listen out for the characteristic song of skylarks hovering high above the ground. The rapid song takes place in quite a narrow frequency range but can contain more than 450 syllables used in highly variable patterns. This is the reason it sounds a bit like the "modem" devices used to transfer digital data as an audio signal.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the wooden stile beneath the telegraph pole ahead.

    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. Cross the stile and bear right across the field to a stile beside the metal gate in the hedge opposite.

    Sheep are now farmed pretty much solely for their meat rather than their wool. The reason that you may see scruffy sheep with wool falling off is that due to cheap synthetic (plastic) fibres, demand for wool declined through the late 20th and early 21st centuries resulting in many sheep not being shorn due to the wool price being lower than the cost of the labour to remove it.

  22. Cross the stile and bear right to the telegraph pole in the protruding corner of the hedge. Then follow along the hedge to a kissing gate.

    The reason that you can cut yourself on a blade of grass is that grass leaves contain minute particles of silica (glass). As well as deterring some animals from grazing, these particles also help to give the stems more rigidity.

  23. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to reach a stile onto a lane.

    Sorrel grows along the field margins.

    Sorrel is common in fields and hedgerows and easily recognisable by its red seeds at the top of a tall stalk. The leaves resemble small, narrow dock leaves.

    Sorrel is used both in soups or as a salad vegetable. The leaves have a pleasant lemony flavour. The plant was known in Cornwall during Victorian times as "green sauce".

    In common with many vegetables, sorrel contains oxalic acid. Exactly how much is a bit unclear: many articles mention "high amounts" though some published studies report a lower percentage than in spinach, parsley or rhubarb, though don't specify how easily soluble the oxalic acid is in each case. Oxalic acid is poisonous if enough is consumed and prolonged exposure can cause kidney stones. So use sorrel reasonably sparingly and don't eat it every day.

  24. Turn left onto the lane and follow it past Tregamenna Manor Farm to reach a public footpath signpost on the right.

    The bushes in hedgerows along the lane include both blackthorn and hawthorn.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorn trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  25. Cross the stile beneath the footpath sign and head to the tree protruding from the right hedge to reach a stile.

    The name "buttercup" is thought to have come from a mediaeval belief that cows eating the flowers gave butter its yellow colour. In fact this couldn't be further from the truth as the plant contains toxins which make it taste acrid and is therefore avoided by grazing animals.

    Over 99% of a protein molecule is made up from just 4 chemical elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Except in times of drought, hydrogen and oxygen are readily available from water. Plants can get carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis. That leaves nitrogen. Some plants are able to get this from the air but most plants need to get this from the soil in the form of nitrate or ammonium compounds. This is why cow manure, composted plants and even dried blood (which all contain nitrogen compounds) have been used to improve soils.

  26. Cross the stile and continue ahead until the cottages come into view then head towards the rightmost of these. As you continue over the brow of the hill, a wooden pedestrian gate will come into view. Head to this.

    The word "crow" is sometimes used to refer to the whole crow family (including jackdaws, rooks and ravens) and sometimes specifically to the common (carrion) crow. Carrion crows can be distinguished from their cousins by being totally black (jackdaws have grey heads, rooks have pale beaks) and having a slender and fairly straight beak (i.e. not the broad beak with a hooked top that a raven has). Biologists use the word "corvids" for "crow family" to avoid ambiguity, or to show off.

  27. Go through the gate and follow along the fence to reach a farm gate leading onto a track.
  28. Go through the gate and follow the track to a lane.

    The name Veryan is thought to be from Symphorian being corrupted to Severian and finally Saint Veryan. The settlement was recorded during Norman times in the Domesday book as the manor of Elerchi which has given rise to the various road and house names containing Elerkey. The name is from elerch - the Cornish word for swan.

  29. Turn right onto the lane and follow it between the roundhouses and past Treverbyn House to a junction.

    The thatched roundhouses in Veryan were built by Rev Jeremiah Trist in the early 19th-century with a crucifix was placed on the top of each. They were located in pairs either side of the roads entering Veryan to stop the devil entering the village. A fifth, roofed with slate, was built beside the school. The round design was said to be so that the devil could not hide in the corners.

  30. At the junction, you can optionally take a small diversion to the right to reach the pub, church and holy well, returning here afterwards.
    To continue the walk, turn left at the junction, signposted Portscatho, and follow the road to the 30mph signs and join the pavement. Follow this to the Sports Club.

    The plan of Veryan church is unusual, being one of only four Cornish churches with a south tower and having a floor that slopes up to the altar, reminiscent of the churches in northern France. The church has some Norman features including the carved faces on the porch, however it is possible that some these may have been the result of some souvenir collecting from another old church by one of the vicars! The building also contains mediaeval elements such as the door arches and window frames, and the font.

    Veryan Holy Well is thought to have a mediaeval core which was reassembled in Victorian times by the vicar, Samuel Trist and restored again in 1912. The mediaeval core which contains elements from the 15th, 13th and possibly 12th Centuries and the trefoil cross on the top dates from the 14th Century. Possibly as a result of the construction work for the roads and buildings immediately surrounding the well, groundwater no longer feeds the well and it is now dry.

  31. Continue on the lane from the Sports club to where it descends the valley to Melinsey Mill. Continue past the mill and uphill a short distance to reach a public footpath sign on the left.

    There has been a mill at Melinsey since at least 1210 and the name is from the Cornish word melinjy, meaning mill-house. The building there today dates from 1565. The mill originally had two sets of millstones: one for grinding flour and the set which remain which were used to produce animal fodder until 1928. The remaining stones are made from local granite but it was desirable for the stones used for grinding flour not to produce pieces of grit so these would likely have been a more fine-grained stone imported from Brittany. The building fell into disrepair after it closed but has since been restored and was opened to the public in 1996. Prior to the 19th Century, all of the mill mechanism would have been made from wood but it was replaced with cast iron in 1882.

  32. Turn left and cross the stile. Then follow the path along the valley to reach a footbridge.

    In folklore, the bluebell is a symbol of constancy, presumably based on the fact that they flower in the same place every year. It was said that anyone who wears a bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. This could be the origin of the "…something blue…" that a bride should wear on her wedding day.

    Chestnut trees deciduous but when in leaf, are recognisable by their large, long leaves with serrated edges. In September and October they can also be recognised by the nut cases which are spiky all over (conkers have infrequent spikes with bald areas in between) and the spikes are sharp.

    In England, the chestnut was originally known as the chesten nut. Both this and the modern French word châtaigne descend from the Old French word chastain.

  33. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to reach a drive. Follow this up the hill to a bend with a bronze flower sculpture.

    A corn mill existed here during Victorian times (and possibly before), known as "Lower Mill". A mill pond and two channels to bring water to the mill were recorded on maps in the 1840s and on later OS maps from the 1880s and early 1900s.

  34. Continue ahead on the grassy path past the bronze sculpture to reach a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path all the way to reach the car park you encountered near the start of the walk and cross this to the Pendower information board.

    All plants in the onion family are poisonous to dogs including wild garlic. This is one of the reasons that feeding dogs human foods (many of which contain onion such as gravy powder) is not good for them. Garlic is extremely toxic to dogs and cats and the consumption of even a small amount can lead to severe poisoning. Keep dogs away from wild garlic and wash their paws if they come into contact with it.

    The blackbird is a species of thrush. The name "blackbird" is mediaeval, first recorded in 1486. Since most of the crow family is also black, plus many seabirds, the choice of this particular species for the name is thought to be due to its size. Up to the 18th Century, larger birds such as crows were referred to as "fowl" and the term "bird" was only used for smaller species.

  35. Follow the path beside the information board and then bear right across the beach to complete the circular route.

    It has been suggested that a law must have been passed in Cornwall whereby all offshore rocks must be renamed "Gull Rock"! There are examples at:

    • Trebarwith Strand
    • Morwenstow
    • Buckator near Boscastle
    • Portreath
    • Nare Head on The Roseland
    • One of the islands at Kynance Cove
    • Holywell Bay (in the plural)

    It seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon as many reports from the 1800s use different names for the rocks now named Gull Rock.

    In the local dialect, the word "orestone" was used to describe such offshore rocks. An object was described as "orey" if covered in seaweed (oarweed being another name for the commonest kelp found around the Cornish coast).

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