Perranporth to St Agnes walk

Perranporth to St Agnes (via bus)

A one-way coastal walk, made circular via an initial bus journey, along the ore-bearing cliffs between Perranporth and St Agnes passing the remains of Nobel's dynamite works, Britain's best preserved spitfire base and the Blue Hills of Trevellas Coombe where tin is still processed on a small scale using traditional methods.

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After an initial bus journey from St Agnes to Perranporth, the route follows the coast path from Perranporth beach around Droskyn Point and past the blowholes of Shag Rock. From here, the path passes Alfred Nobel's dynamite works and crosses the mineral lodes on Cligga Head to reach the knife-edge cliffs of Hanover Cove. The walk then crosses the old spitfire base and descends into the steep valley of Trevellas Coombe. After a fairly steep climb out of the valley on the Motorcycle Club's Land's End course the route follows the ridge and climbs into St Agnes via Stippy Stappy, completing the walk in the centre of the village.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 4.7 miles/7.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Bus: 87 from St Agnes Institute to Perranporth.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 104 OS Explorer 104 (laminated version)

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


  • Huge sandy beach at Perranporth
  • Panoramic views of Perran Bay from Droskyn Point
  • Snorting blowholes at Shag Rock
  • Rugged coast at Hanover Cove
  • A colourful history including battles between mines, nitroglycerine, and a shipwreck laden with gold bullion
  • Britain's best-preserved spitfire base
  • Iconic engine houses and mining relics surrounding St Agnes
  • Sandy beach at Trevaunance Cove and rockpools at Trevellas Porth
  • Bird's eye views of Trevaunance Cove and St Agnes from Coronation Walk
  • Historic pub and local brewery at the Driftwood Spars

Pubs on or near the route

  • St Agnes Hotel
  • The Deck
  • The Driftwood Spars
  • The Green Parrot
  • The Perranporth Inn
  • The Peterville Inn
  • The Railway Inn
  • The Seiners Arms
  • The Tywarnhayle Inn
  • The Watering Hole


  1. Start by catching the bus from St Agnes to Perranporth and make you way to the car park immediately above the beach. From the beach car park, follow the lane up the hill past the Seiners Arms and Atlantic House Hotel to reach a path leading from three metal poles onto a grassy area on the right.

    At high tide, there are two distinct beaches within Perran Bay: the long, thin Perran Beach (also known as Perran Sands) to the north, between Carn Clew and Ligger Point, and the smaller Perranporth beach to the south between Cotty's Point and the river beside Chapel Rock. At low tide, the beaches combine into a 2.2 mile stretch of sand between Droksyn Point and Ligger Point, up to a quarter of a mile wide. There is a tidal swimming pool on the seaward side of Chapel Rock (the one with the flag on). The northern end of the beach is generally much quieter due to the town of Perranporth and associated holiday parks being at the southern end of the beach, and much of the dunes to the north (known as Penhale Sands) being military land with no public access. Even when the tide is too far in to walk along the beach, most of the time it's still possible to reach the other half via the coast path.

  2. Bear right off the lane and follow the path along the fence to the sundial.

    The cliff steps known as the Tamblyn Way were constructed in 1974. By 2010, after over 30 years of being battered by the sea, the steel bolts had corroded and the concrete was also suffering from erosion so the steps were closed to the public. An initial piece of repair work was done in 2011 but after inspection, further work was needed and the steps were (somewhat controversially) closed again, only a few weeks after re-opening. Having been repaired twice, the steps should hopefully be good for at least a few more decades.

  3. Continue along the fence until you reach a track leading to the cove ahead and a path to the left with a waymark leading to a flight of steps.

    The Perranporth Millennium Sundial is corrected for "Cornish time" which is around 20 minutes behind GMT due to its position roughly 5 degrees West of the Greenwich Meridian. If the same sundial were used in London, it would be 20 mins fast.

  4. Turn left onto the waymarked path and climb the steps. Follow the lane uphill, passing Droskyn Castle on your right, until the lane ends at a junction with a waymark.

    The rock in the middle of the beach is known as Chapel Rock. This was the site of a mediaeval chapel recorded as "Chapel-angarder" which was in ruins by 1702 and had disappeared by the 19th Century. The name is derived from -an- (meaning "of the") and kador meaning seat or chair but is sometimes used to describe sites perched on rocks. On the seaward side is a large rockpool which has been walled to create a tidal swimming pool.

  5. Turn right at the junction onto a lane named "Droskyn Point" and keep right along the lane until it ends at a gate with a "YHA" sign.

    There are remains of a tin mine at Droskyn Point, visible as various holes in the rocks at low tide. The large hole with a grille is thought to be a wheel pit, as waterwheels were used heavily as a source of power before steam engines. An early feature of the mine was a waterwheel 22 feet in diameter, housed in a chamber carved out of the rock. This was fed by a 700 foot long tunnel passing beneath Tywarnhayle Road which connects to a leat that channelled water for 2 miles from the stream in Perran Coombe. The waste water was then fed through a further tunnel to another shaft where it drove a second waterwheel. It is recommended that you avoid exploring the holes in the rocks as there are vertical shafts; a young girl fell down a shaft from an adit at Perranporth in 2010 and died (though that particular opening and two others have since been covered with grilles).

    On the top of Droskyn Point is a grassy platform below the coast path with a covered mineshaft. In the rocks surrounding this are shallow surface workings which are thought to be perhaps the oldest in Cornwall dating back to prehistoric times. Fires were used to heat the rock face which was then cooled suddenly with cold water to crack the rocks. Cracks could then be levered apart by hammering in wooden wedges and soaking these in water to expand them.

    More about Droskyn Mine

  6. Go through the gap next to the gate and follow the lane past the Youth Hostel until it ends at a pair of double gates, with a waymarked path leading off to the right.

    In March 1901, the Dutch ship Voorspoed ran ashore on Perran Beach in a northerly gale, on its way from Cardiff to Bahia. The wreck was looted by the local population, who used horses to cart away the cargo. The captain commented:

    I have been wrecked in different parts of the world, even the Fiji islands, but never amongst savages such as those of Perranporth.
  7. Bear right onto the waymarked path and follow it past a bench and a waymark at a junction of paths to a second waymark at a junction of paths, with multiple yellow arrows.

    The French steel sailing ship, La Seine was on her way to Falmouth in December 1900 when she ran into a gale off the Scilly Isles. She ran aground at Perranporth and all crew members were rescued by rocket apparatus. The captain was reported as the last man to leave the ship before it broke up in the next flood tide. An eye witness at the time was recorded as saying:

    Twenty-four men and one boy, all French, were saved; it was a new ship. Some of the men had been in Cornwall before, selling onions. It was about December 28th 1900. Decks were ripped out by the force of the sea the the ship heeled over and could never be re-floated. The cargo was saltpetre.

    The wrecked ship was photographed on the beach by the Gibson family from the Scilly Isles before it was sold as scrap for £42. Fragments from the wreck can sometimes be seen on very low tides in the area between Chapel Rock and Droskyn Point.

  8. At the waymark, keep right along the coast and follow the path until it ends with a flight of steps leading up to another path.

    The rock off the headland ahead is known as Shag Rock.

    The large black birds nesting on offshore rocks, known colloquially as the cormorant and shag, are two birds of the same family and to the untrained eye look pretty similar. The origin of the name "shag" is a crest that this species has on top of its head and the cormorant doesn't. The cormorant is the larger of the two birds with a whiter throat. The shag's throat is yellow, and mature shags have a metallic green sheen on their feathers which cormorants lack.

  9. Climb the steps and bear right onto the path. Follow this until you reach a waymark where the path passes over a wall.

    As you round the headland, there is a blowhole between the small rock and the cliff which projects a jet of water horizontally when there is a swell.

    Blowholes form when waves enter a cave, and the air they compress weakens the roof of the cave and enlarges the chamber. Often the blowhole eventually breaks through to the surface, forming a collapsed cave which can ultimately result in a rock stack being severed from the land.

  10. Bear right over the wall and follow the waymarked path through the mine tips and along the headland until you reach a waymark labelled "Cligga".

    The tips are from the Perran St George complex of mines.

    During the first half of the 19th Century, there were two large copper mine complexes on the west side of Perranporth known as Wheal Leisure (in Perranporth) and Perran St. George (on the hill, now on the edge of the airfield). As the mines expanded, they eventually joined deep underground. Following this, Wheal Leisure sued Perran St. George, claiming encroachment. The success was somewhat short-lived, as faced with a huge compensation bill, the investors pulled out of Perran St George and turned off the pumps. This flooded both mines and brought a premature end to mining in Perranporth.

  11. Follow the waymarked path ahead until the path passes through a quarry on the end of the headland and reaches a waymark overlooking the coast.

    The stripy rocks in the quarry contain veins of greisen - a light-coloured rock which was formed when hot vapour from cooling magma caused a chemical alteration of the granite. The veins of greisen often contain a small percentage of tin ore (cassiterite).

  12. At the waymark, turn left and follow the path to another waymark. Follow the coast path to reach a plateau with concrete remains. Pass the concrete remains on your left until you reach a final concrete platform with paths leading off to the right.

    The concrete remains are of Nobel's explosives factory.

    An explosives works was built on Cligga Head near Perranporth to service the Cornish mining industry. Built by British and Colonial Explosives Company, it was established in 1889 and production began in 1891. It was purchased by Alfred Nobel - inventor of dynamite - in 1892.

    Women would walk from Perranporth to work 10-12 hour shifts in the factory. They wore specially-made clothes and shoes to reduce the risk of creating a spark. The factory buildings were also surrounded by earth banks in the hope they would contain a blast in the event of an explosion, to avoid a chain reaction.

    However by 1905, increased competition and reduced demand for explosives rendered the operation uneconomical and it was mothballed. When war broke out in 1915, production resumed but once the war was over, the plant was scrapped and the land was used as part of Perranporth Airfield during the Second World War. A wooden stool from the factory, which was sold off when it closed in 1918, is now in the Perranzabuloe museum in Perranporth.

  13. Turn right away from the remains and follow the path down into a gully. Continue until you reach a fork in the path.

    Cligga Head has a number of mineral lodes containing ores of tin, tungsten, arsenic, copper, iron and silver. It was mined for tin during the 19th century and wolfram (tungsten ore) during the first half of the 20th century, closing in 1945 when tungsten could be imported more cheaply from the USA. There are still substantial mineral reserves beneath the headland and the mine was considered for re-opening on three separate occasions during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. There is a capped mineshaft located within the concrete remains on the headland, and a number of openings are visible on the cliff faces.

  14. At the fork in the path, take the right-hand path and follow this until the path passes through a line of posts and forks.

    The cove ahead with the sharp cliffs is Hanover Cove.

    The cove is named after the ship which was wrecked here in December 1763 on its way from Lisbon to Falmouth and parts of it are still visible at low tide. Most of the crew and passengers aboard the ship perished - there were only 3 survivors. It is estimated that in 1763 the total value of the cargo was worth £60,000. Subsequently a large insurance claim was made for the valuable cargo which was assumed to be irrecoverably lost. The exact nature of its cargo became apparent when a chest of gold bullion was washed ashore on the beach. A landmark legal case followed where the insurance claim had to be repaid. Most of the cargo was salvaged (somewhat rapidly), but not quite all of it was accounted for and there are rumours that a few gold coins may still be buried deep in the sand.

  15. Continue ahead across the gully (the path to the left is less steep in dry weather but floods in the winter). Continue to where the two paths rejoin and then a bit further to a fork with an "Unstable Cliff - Please Keep Clear" sign.

    According to Winston Graham, in 1834 a couple fell to their death when gathering rock samphire at Hanover Cove.

    Rock samphire has been a popular wild food since Celtic times. It has a strong, characteristic, slightly lemony flavour and recently has become more well-known as a flavouring for gin. It was very popular as a pickle in 16th century Britain until it almost died out from over-picking in the 19th Century. Consequently, it's currently a protected plant but is now making a good comeback. In Shakespeare's time, a rope was tied to a child's ankles and he was dangled over the cliff to pick the rock samphire that grew in crevices and clefts in the rocks.

    The completely unrelated but similar-looking golden samphire also grows around the North Cornish coast. The leaves look almost identical, but the daisy-like yellow flowers in summer are a giveaway, as rock samphire has tiny green-white flowers that look more like budding cow parsley. Golden samphire is edible, but is inferior in flavour to rock samphire; it is also nationally quite rare in Britain.

    Also completely unrelated is marsh samphire (also known as glasswort) which looks more like micro-asparagus. This is what typically appears on restaurant menus or in supermarkets as "samphire".

  16. Take the left-hand path to keep back from the cliff edge and continue following the path to where a path departs to a large capped mineshaft on your right.

    The cap covers one of the shafts of the Wheal Prudence mine complex.

    The Wheal Prudence tin and copper mine ran during the early-mid 18th Century, incorporating a number of earlier mines and extracted several thousand tonnes of copper ore using steam engines to drain deep shafts. The area along the cliffs had been mined for copper to a lesser depth in much earlier times by the use of adits - near-horizontal drainage tunnels which ran downhill slightly to near the bottom of the cliffs, allowing water to run out from the mineshafts under gravity. As the shallower reserves of copper were exhausted, mining "below adit" (deeper than the lowest drainage level) required pumping mechanisms. During most of the 1700s, this was done using man and horsepower, often with many more men employed pumping the mine than actually mining it; the pumping had to be carried out every single day to stop the shafts flooding, so there was no "rest on The Day of the Lord" that travellers from upcountry were acquainted with.

  17. Continue on the coast path uphill until you reach a junction of paths beside a picnic bench.

    When the continental plates collided and pushed Cornwall up from the seabed, upwellings of magma gradually cooled to form granite. During cooling, the granite cracked (vertically as the weight of rock above compressed the granite horizontally). Later, mineral-rich molten rock bubbled up into these fissures and crystallised. The result is that nearly all the mineral lodes in Cornwall are close to vertical and the Cornish mines consequently consisted of large numbers of vertical working areas known as "stopes".

  18. At the junction, keep right on the path along the coast and follow this for some distance until you reach the remains of an airfield where the path crosses some tarmac and then reaches a waymark.

    RAF Perranporth was constructed in 1941 as a fighter base for spitfire squadrons, though initially it was just a single runway with a large tent as barracks. The airfield was built on a former field system and efforts were made to camouflage the airport by painting in field boundaries to join with the former hedges. This proved effective and the airfield escaped German bombings. After the war, the airfield was bought by a mobile phone magnate and pilot who commuted from Guernsey. It is now the best preserved spitfire base in England. Many of the original WW2 features are present and most are in good condition. The airfield was awarded National Heritage status in 2000 with two areas protected as Scheduled Monuments by English Heritage. At the time of writing, the airfield is for sale via Savills and the The Spitfire Heritage Trust is running a campaign to purchase it.

  19. From the waymark, bear left across the tarmac to reach an unsurfaced path departing from the opposite side with another waymark. Follow the unsurfaced path to reach one more waymark where the path forks.

    Heather plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi which grows inside and between some of the plant root cells. Up to 80% of the root structure can be made up of fungi. The fungi are able to extract nutrients from poor, acidic soils that plants struggle with. In return, the plant is able to generate other nutrients (e.g. sugars by photosynthesis) that are useful to the fungi. A similar partnership between plants and fungi occurs in lichens.

    The Supermarine Spitfire was developed during the 1930s and was used as a high performance fighter aircraft in WW2 alongside the "workhorse" Hurricane. In total, over 20,000 Spitfires were produced - more than any other combat aircraft before or after WW2.

  20. At the fork, take the right-hand path (waymarked for the coast path) and follow it past the mound and one waymark to reach a junction of paths at a second waymark.

    Fulmars nest on the cliffs here and ride the updraft against the cliff face.

    The fulmar is a grey and white bird related to an Albatross although it can be mistaken at a distance for a gull. Close up, the beak is the giveaway: the fulmar has a tube on its beak which is visible as a black bar across the beak at a distance. The tube is a gland for excreting salt from the seawater that they drink. As a defence mechanism, the fulmar regurgitates foul smelling oil from its stomach - the name comes from the Old Norse for "foul" (full) and "gull" (mar). The oil disrupts the waterproofing of predatory birds' feathers in a similar way to a crude-oil spill, so they avoid preying on fulmars.

  21. Continue along the coast until you pass over an area of exposed rock to reach a waymark beside a wooden fence.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onward, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

    Sand martins are migratory birds related to swallows and housemartins but are smaller and browner. They get their name from the nesting tunnels that they bore into cliff-edge turf which can be up to a metre deep. They usually nest in colonies.

    The interdependency between plants and pollinating insects is thought to have accelerated the formation of new species (i.e. a group where members can only reproduce successfully with other members from that group, not from other groups) both for the plants and for the insects. This is thought to explain why there are a few hundred species of conifer but a few hundred thousand species of flowering plant. This has allowed flowering plants to become highly specialised for habitat niches (e.g. salty coastline) and so dominate many of them.

  22. Continue a few paces on the path from the waymark until a path departs to the right before a second waymark. Turn right to reach a third waymark at the top of a flight of steps and descend these to the car park.

    Trevellas Coombe is a valley close to St Agnes and was known as the Blue Hills due to the colour of the slate here. The place name was first recorded in 1302 as the site of the Trevellas family manor. There is a long history of tin mining in the valley. Initially this was "streaming" for alluvial tin and from the 1690s onward, the stream in the valley provided the power for tin processing. By the late 1800s, almost the entire valley was covered with huge sheds and ore dressing machinery.

  23. Bear left to walk along the top of the car park towards a waymark then just after this, bear right onto the path departing between the three small granite posts. Follow this to a fork in the path just before the chimney stack.

    The ruins of the building on the other side of the car park were a stamping mill for crushing ore. The chimney was and ruins of a building near it were from a calciner furnace for roasting the separated ore to drive off impurities such as arsenic.

  24. Keep left to follow the major path nearest the chimney stack and continue until it ends on the tarmacked lane.

    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.

  25. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a little way up the other side of the valley to where a path marked with a Coast Path signpost departs to the right via a gate and stile.

    In 1974 Blue Hills Tin was set up as a small-scale tin producer using the tin ore from the seabed that washes ashore at Trevellas Porth. It is dressed and smelted using traditional methods; for example, water-powered stamping machines are used to crush the tin ore. For a number of decades, they have been the only tin producer in the UK, but with tin and copper prices in 2014 around 500% higher than they were in 2000, it's possible that large-scale mining of Cornish tin may once again become economically viable.

  26. Bear right off the lane and cross the stile next to the gate. Follow the path uphill to where it opens out and forks.

    The Motorcycling Club's Lands End Trail began in 1908 as a timed race from London to Lands End and back. Other than some wartime breaks, this has continued to the present day but was converted to a one-way race in the 1920s and the end point has since been moved to Newquay. The race takes place each Easter.

    In 1924, Bluehills mine was added to the route, and in 1936, a miners' path was enlarged to make the route more challenging than the original route along the lane. One of the main challenges of the race is that hills such as these must be climbed without stopping.

  27. Keep right at the fork to follow the path to reach a junction of paths at a waymark with an "unfenced cliff ahead" sign.

    The mine workings and remains of buildings to your left were part of Wheal Kitty. Some of the old engine houses have been converted into residential buildings, and the area is also the headquarters of the Cornish marine charity Surfers Against Sewage.

    Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an environmental charity dedicated to protecting the UK's oceans, waves and beaches. They were established in 1990 by Cornish surfers, campaigning about untreated sewage being drained into the sea and have pressured water companies into cleaning up their act. As well as highlighting any remaining areas for improvement to water treatment, they have also diversified their efforts to tackling other forms of marine pollution, in particular marine rubbish: a plastic bottle left on a beach may persist in the marine environment for more than 450 years, and a large proportion of the rubbish on a beach is sadly dropped there by beach-goers. As well as educating the public, they also organise beach cleans.

  28. At the waymark, take the middle path ahead and follow this to another waymark where the path on the right rejoins.

    Many of the waste tips on the headland are the result of a late period of working with Wheal Kitty during the 1920s. Before this, the clifftop was the site of an ancient tin mine - Penhalls (Cornish for "top of the cliffs") - which was worked periodically until 1884. The land is dotted with mineshafts (around 20 recorded and at least one "possible" that is unrecorded) so it is unwise to wander off the paths.

  29. Bear left to follow the path beneath the mine tips and reach a junction of paths just after two benches and with a rock inscribed Peterville and The Village.

    Trevaunance Cove is a shingle beach at high tide and is popular with surfers as its north-facing position means that the prevailing southwesterly winds are offshore. As the tide goes out, the central area of the beach is sandy. To the right, large areas of rock are revealed with numerous rock pools, and at low tide it is possible to clamber over the rocks to reach Trevellas Cove. On the left side of Trevaunance Cove are the remains of the old harbour wall and beyond this there are caves, arches and rock stacks along the cliffs.

  30. At the junction, the route continues on the left-hand path to follow the path to Peterville and The Village. Beforehand you may want to visit the Driftwood Spars Inn and Trevaunance Cove by following the path downhill to the right and returning here to continue the walk. Follow the path along the ridge until it a passes through a wooden barrier and then emerges onto a driveway.

    The Driftwood spars is located beside the road to the beach at St Agnes. The building was converted over the years from a number of buildings dating back to the 17th Century, including a tin mining warehouse, chandlery, sail making loft and fish cellar. The name is derived from the huge timber beams (spars) that are said to have come from ships wrecked along the coast. The pub started its own micro-brewery in 2000 and since then, the beer has won national awards. All the proceeds from their Red Mission beer go to the Cornwall Air Ambulance.

  31. Continue onto the driveway and follow this downhill until it ends on the road.
  32. Turn right onto the road and follow it a short distance to where a track departs from the left, just past "Woodlands".
  33. Turn left onto the track and continue onto the path leading onwards from it uphill past the cottages to emerge on the road.

    The row of cottages known as "Stippy Stappy".

    The row of 18th century cottages on a steep path from Town Hill in St Agnes known as "Stippy Stappy" was built when St Agnes had a working harbour at Trevaunance Cove. The cottages were built originally for ships' captains, though following the obliteration of the harbour by the sea, their occupancy rapidly diversified.

  34. Cross the road to the pavement opposite and follow it uphill to the church.

    At the top of the hill is St Agnes Church.

    The first church in St Agnes was believed to have been built in early Celtic times and it also had an enclosure. The current church of St Agnes was built on the same location around 1482. St. Agnes, to whom the church is dedicated, was a Roman girl who was only thirteen years old when she was executed for refusing to marry the emperor's son.

    During an excavation in 1931, to add heating to the church, the remains of an earlier chapel were discovered and also a wet area that is thought to be the remains of a holy well. By the churchyard gate is a granite wayside cross which dates from the Middle Ages.

  35. Cross the road to the St Agnes Hotel and then follow the pavement on the right-hand side of the road to the bus stop. Continue a little further to reach the car park on Trelawny Road.

    The original name for the settlement of St Agnes was along the lines of Breanek or Bryanick, a Cornish name which may mean either "Agnes hill", or more mundanely "pointed hill". Either way, this is likely to refer to St Agnes Beacon. Since prehistoric times, the area was a centre for mining copper, tin and arsenic.

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