Perranporth to Trevellas circular walk

Perranporth to Trevellas

A circular walk past the remains of Alfred Nobel's dynamite works to the red-and-yellow ore-rich cliffs above the wreck of the treasure ship Hanover, returning, via the spitfire base, along Perran Coombe where a 2 mile leat once carried water to power a massive waterwheel in a chamber within the cliffs.

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The route follows the coast path around Droskyn Point past the blowholes of Shag Rock. From here, the path crosses the mineral lodes on Cligga Head resulting in the scenery resembling the Australian Outback or possibly Mars. The route passes the knife-edge cliffs of Hanover Cove before circling the old spitfire base and descending into Perran Coombe via Trevellas. The return route is via small lanes along the bottom of the valley and Perranporth gardens.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 104
  • Distance: 5.4 miles/8.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Deck
  • The Green Parrot
  • The Perranporth Inn
  • The Seiners Arms
  • The Tywarnhayle Inn
  • The Watering Hole


  1. 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 left-hand path (not the waymarked coast path) and follow the path across the tarmac to reach another waymark.

    Ravens can sometimes be seen along the coast here.

    Scientists have found that ravens will console a friend after it has had an aggressive encounter with another bird. This is good evidence for empathy i.e. the birds are able to determine emotional needs of other birds and respond to them.

  21. At the waymark, turn left and follow the tarmac past a junction on the right to a T-junction.

    Magpies are also quite common here.

    Even up to the 16th Century, magpies were simply known as "pies" from the Old French word pie (related to the Latin word for magpie - pica). The term "pied" meaning "black-and-white" (as in pied wagtail) is from the magpie's colouration. It's also possible that the pastry thing we now know as a pie (which can be traced back to Mediaeval Latin) was named after the magpie. It has been speculated that the assortment of ingredients in the pastry crust was likened to objects collected in a magpie nest. The "mag" in the modern name is a (somewhat sexist) mediaeval slang word for someone who chatters, based on the name Margaret.

  22. At the junction, keep right to follow the pedestrian lane along the edge of the tarmac past one track to the right to reach a second track to the right at the very end of the pedestrian lane.

    The Common Toadflax is recognisable from its pale yellow flowers which appear from June all the way though to October. The flowers are said to be shaped liked toads and are completely closed, only opening when a bee forces its way in to reach the nectar. Only larger species of bee, with long enough tongues, are able to reach to the bottom of the flower. In early summer the plant is regarded as resembling a flax plant, hence the name.

    Windsocks are used as a visual guide to wind speed as well as wind direction. Some windsocks are marked with alternating orange and white bands. Each band represents 3 knots of wind speed so the speed can be estimated from the number of bands that are held out horizontally by the wind.

    Whilst windsocks were used decoratively by the Japanese and later by the Romans, their functional use is thought to have arisen from 19th Century windsails - a ventilation mechanism for the lower decks of ships consisting of a tube of canvas.

  23. Turn right off the tarmac down the unsurfaced track and follow this to a gate.
  24. Go through the gap to the right of the gate and bear left onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends at a T-junction.

    The bushes along the lane provide cover for blackbirds.

    The reference in the nursery rhyme "sing a song a sixpence" to "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" is thought to be to the 16th Century amusement (though not for the blackbirds) of producing a large pie which included an empty chamber. After the pie had been baked and was ready to be served, a trapdoor would be cut in the empty chamber and live birds were placed inside which would fly out when the pie was cut open. Live frogs were sometimes used as an alternative.

  25. As you approach the junction, cut across the grass to the left to join the lane. Bear left onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a junction outside Zion House.
  26. At the junction, bear left and follow the lane until it ends at a T-junction onto a larger road.

    The settlement along the main road is Trevellas and to the right along the main road is another settlement known as Blowinghouse.

    Blowing houses were mills used for smelting tin and are documented in Cornwall as early as 1402. A pair of bellows was powered by a water wheel, and was used to drive air into a furnace. An account from the late 18th century describes the operation:

    The fire-place, or castle, is about six feet perpendicular, two feet wide in the top part each way, and about fourteen inches in the bottom, all made of moorstone and clay, well cemented and clamped together. The pipe or nose of each bellows is fixed ten inches high from the bottom of the castle, in a large piece of wrought iron, called the Hearth-eye. The tin and charcoal are laid in the castle, stratum super stratum, in such quantities as are thought proper; so that from eight to twelve hundred weight of Tin, by the consumption of eighteen to twenty-four sixty gallon packs of charcoal, may be smelted in a tide or twelve hours time.

    The molten metal drained from the bottom of the furnace into a granite trough from which it was ladled into stone moulds. A stick was inserted into each, which burned away to leave a hole which could be used to lever the ingot from the mould.

  27. At the junction, turn left onto the road and follow it carefully for a short distance past the 40 sign to where a track departs on the right, just before Homedene.
  28. Turn right onto the track, and keep left at the junction alongside the cottages. Follow the track ahead past Home Manor Farm until you reach a junction where an unsurfaced track splits from the left.

    One of the birds that you might encounter when walking (partly because they are quite brave) is the robin.

    The tradition of robins on Christmas cards is thought to arise from Victorian postmen wearing red jackets. Consequently they were nicknamed Robins.

  29. At the junction, keep right and follow the main track until you reach a metal gate where a path departs from the left.
  30. Turn left onto the path and follow it until it ends on a driveway.

    Some large holly bushes occur in the hedgerows that surround the path.

    The association of holly with winter celebrations predates Christianity: druids were known to use holly wreaths which, it is likely with some discomfort, they wore on their heads.

    From Roman times, holly trees were planted near houses as it was believed to offer protection from witchcraft and lightning strikes. There is some scientific basis for the latter at least: the spines on the leaves can act as lightning conductors. The sharp points allow electrical charge to concentrate, increasing its potential to form a spark.

  31. Turn right onto the driveway and follow it downhill a short distance to meet a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it over the stream and around the bend. Continue until you to reach a junction by a Leycroft Valley sign.

    Rooks nest in the trees near where the path joins the lane.

    Experiments have shown that rooks are able to use tools to solve problems, choosing tools with optimal sizes and shapes to solve a problem. They are also able to adapt tools e.g. bending a wire to make a hook to retrieve food.

  32. Bear left at the junction and follow the road for some distance until you reach a path departing into the woodland area on the right with some Memorial Gardens.

    Many houses in the area built in the early 20th Century made use of the waste from the mines for concrete.

    During the early 1900s, concrete began to be used for house construction. Sources of sand and gravel were required and the piles of crushed rock on the mine tips provided a free source of material of the perfect granularity. However, some of this contained small amounts of uneconomic ore such as iron pyrites (fool's gold). This is known locally as mundic which is based on the Cornish words for "beautiful stone". These compounds are formed deep in the earth's crust where there is little oxygen but lots of sulphur. Iron would much rather be surrounded by more pert oxygen atoms so in the presence of air and water, the mundic reacts chemically to form iron hydroxide also known as rust. This is less dense (causing the concrete to expand and crack) and also crumbly. The overall result is that the concrete disintegrates over time and houses can fall down. Within Cornwall, mortgage lenders now require a mundic check to be done on any concrete from the first half of the 20th Century.

  33. Bear right onto the path and follow it parallel to the road. Continue until it ends by St Michael's Church.

    Winston Graham moved to Perranporth in 1925 at the age of 17 and lived there for 34 years. The first four Poldark books were written whilst he lived there together with over 20 other literary works. As well as the fictional Poldark books, Winston Graham also published "Poldark's Cornwall" about his life in Cornwall and some of the background for the Poldark books. Elements of the Poldark stories are based on locations in the Perranporth area including Holywell Bay and Porth Joke.

  34. Bear left past St Michael's church and follow the road until you reach a metal gate on the left just after the church hall.

    If you look carefully at the stained glass in St Michael's church you can see an Austin Healey sports car.

    Donald Healey was born in Perranporth and became famous in the 1930s as a racing driver and later as a car designer resulting in the Austin Healey sports car. During the years he lived in Perranporth he owned a number of businesses there including a garage (naturally). With the wealth that he accumulated, he bought Trebah House on the Helford River. His descendants set up and run Healey's Cyder Farm.

  35. Go through the gate on the left into the park and turn right at the lake. Follow the path through the park to a triangular flowerbed where the path bends away from the lake.

    Something that's not at all obvious from the ground is that the Perranporth boating lake is in the shape of a boat. Residents were shocked and amused when a photograph taken by a drone was published, as the shape of the lake had gone unnoticed since it was first built. A similar situation exists with the adult-only Scarlet Hotel near Mawgan Porth, but a look on Google Maps will reveal a shape that is most definitely not a boat!

  36. Keep left around the flowerbed and follow the path alongside the lake and over the wooden bridge, and turn right to reach a small road. Cross the road to the path behind the railings opposite and keep left past the shelter to emerge onto the main road.

    Organised by "Stamp and Go" - a group of Perranporth-based sea shanty singers, Perranporth hosts an annual sea-song and shanty festival, with performers travelling from as far away as Scotland and Norway. The festival is held during the third week of April, in The Watering Hole on the beach.

  37. Turn left onto the road and follow it a short distance to a junction. Bear left at the junction, to pass alongside the Tywarnhayle Inn and return to the beach car park.

    Surfing in the UK became popular in the 1960s, driven by the music of The Beach Boys and the Hawaiian influence in California. However there were pioneer surfers in Cornwall and the Channel Islands shortly after the First World War. In the 1920s, the young men of Perranporth were provided with coffin lids by the local undertaker for use as surfboards.

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