Perranuthnoe to Prussia Cove

Perranuthnoe to Prussia Cove

A circular walk along Mount's Bay from the large sandy beach at Perranuthnoe to the smugglers' coves at Prussia Cove, returning across the fields with views over St Michael's Mount.

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The route follows the Coast Path from Perranuthnoe past a number of small coves to Cudden Point where there are panoramic views over Mount's Bay. The route continues along the coves of Prussia Cove before turning inland past the bakery. The return route is over the fields with views over St Michael's Mount.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version)

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


  • Sandy beaches at Perranuthnoe and Prussia Cove
  • A number of small coves with rockpools
  • Panoramic views from Cudden Point
  • Views across Mount's Bay to St Michael's Mount and Penzance

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Victoria Inn

Adjoining walks


  1. Turn left out of the car park towards the beach, then turn left at the Coast Path sign towards Prussia Cove. Follow the surfaced track to reach a waymark.

    The beach at Perranuthnoe is also known as Perran Sands, but so is the much more well-known one at Perranporth, so the name only tends to be used in a very local context. The name is accurate in that the beach is sandy at low tide, with relatively little shingle compared to many of the neighbouring beaches. Winter storms can reduce the amount of sand by either throwing up shingle or dragging the sand out into the bay, but it usually returns relatively quickly. At high tide, the beach is almost entirely covered by be sea, but on a low spring tide, the beach stretches for nearly half a mile - most of the way to Trevean Cove.

  2. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path to reach a stony track departing to the right with a waymark and Beach House sign.

    The village of Perranuthnoe is thought to get its name partly from the church being dedicated to St Piran and partly from the name of a mediaeval manor that was once here (Uthno). During the 13th Century, the manor was acquired by the Whalesborough family from Bude, and remained within their extended family for a number of centuries. The settlement in its current location dates back at least to Norman times when it consisted of 8 farmers, 7 villagers and 3 slaves. From the names of some of the fields, it is thought that area has been settled since prehistoric times and throughout the Roman occupation.

  3. Turn right and follow the track to pass one waymark and reach a second waymark before some gates where a path marked "Coast Path" departs from the right.

    The muddy cliffs along the bay are known (by geologists!) as periglacial head deposits.

    During the last Ice Age, sea levels were lower due to all the water trapped in ice and Mounts Bay was part of the land. The ice sheets stopped at the Bristol Channel, so Cornwall was under permafrost most of the year, apart from summer days where the sun melted the frost to create a layer of surface mud. Pieces of slate within the soil were shattered when moisture within them re-froze and expanded. The small shards of stone then sank through the mud to collect in a layer on top of where the soil was still frozen.

  4. Turn right off the track and follow the Coast Path to a fork at a waymark. The path to the right goes to the beach. Follow the left-hand path beneath the tree and along the fence to a kissing gate.

    The beach is technically part of Perran Sands, but is separated by the rock outcrop on the right until the lowest point of the tide. Although the beach is quite rocky, an area of sand is revealed on the right-hand side of the beach towards low tide.

  5. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a gap in the top corner of the far hedge.

    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.

    The efficiency of the chemical processes that plants use to metabolise nitrogen compounds varies with pH (acidity). In soils that are too acidic, many plants have trouble absorbing nitrogen (apart from specially-adapted ones known as "ericaceous"). The ongoing decomposition of plant matter into humus within the soil creates acidic compounds. Some soils contain rocks such as chalk and limestone which will react with the acid and neutralise it. In Cornwall, the beach sand includes a high proportion of seashell fragments which contain the same chemical compound as limestone.

  6. Go through the gap and follow the waymarked path ahead, between the bushes, to emerge from the bushes at a waymark.

    The name "blackthorn" is just a general reference to the dark colour of the bark, rather than anything specific to do with the thorns which are not any darker than the rest of the wood. It's primarily a comparison with hawthorn where the bark is lighter (in fact hawthorn is also known as "white thorn" despite not having white thorns). Just to confuse things further, the flowers of blackthorn are whiter than hawthorn!

  7. Bear left through the gap and follow the waymarked path ahead to reach a kissing gate.

    In spring, look out for the "tents" of lackey moths on the blackthorn.

    Lackey Moths are so named due to the brightly coloured caterpillars resembling a footman's livery. They are part of a family of "tent caterpillars" who spin their own silk greenhouse to keep them warm during the early spring. These have several compartments separated by insulating air gaps so the caterpillars can move between compartments to reach a comfortable temperature depending on the outside temperature and amount of sunshine. On sunny days in May, keep a look out for the caterpillars emerging from their tents.

    The English Channel is a relatively recent name. The Saxons called it the "South Sea" (their "North Sea" still remains) and then became known as the "Narrow Sea" until the 18th century.

  8. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a junction of paths at a waymark.

    The nutritiousness of nettle leaves makes it a preferred food plant for the caterpillars of many common butterfly species including the red admiral, tortoiseshell, peacock and comma.

  9. At the fork, take the right-hand (waymarked) path and follow this to a field where a small path crosses over the main path ahead.

    Alexanders are very salt tolerant so they thrive in Cornwall's salty climate. They are just as likely to be found along coastal footpaths as along country lanes. New growth appears in the autumn so during the winter, when most other plants are dormant, it is a dominant source of greenery along paths and lanes in exposed coastal areas.

    From geography lessons at secondary school, you'll probably know that wave-cut platforms form where waves hit the cliff face and create a wave-cut notch into which the cliffs above eventually collapse. The reason the cliffs are eroded faster than the platform below them is more in the realms of physics:

    • The energy from a wave is concentrated when it breaks against the cliffs; when waves are breaking onto the gently-sloping platform, their energy is more diffuse.
    • On the platform, the force from the waves is spread along the breadth of platform as the tide recedes. However, the cliff face usually takes a beating not just at the very highest point of the tide, but also for some of the time either side.
    • The tide rises and falls sinusoidally with time, in other words, it changes at its most slowly at high tide where it can spend a bit more time bashing the living daylights out of the cliff face.

    Nevertheless, the platform does slowly erode. At Porthleven it is estimated that the platform is eroding at a rate of 1mm every 5 years.

  10. The walk continues on the path leading directly ahead and the rightmost path along the hedge leads to the beach via a gate which you may want to explore first. To continue the walk, follow the path ahead to reach a kissing gate.

    The access to Trevean Cove is down a gully that was once a slipway used to haul small fishing boats off the beach, as at high tide, there is little or no beach depending on neap vs spring tides. At low water, the beach is a mixture of sand and shingle between the rock outcrops. As with many of the South Coast beaches, periods of calm weather during the summer tend to settle out the finer sand onto the surface and bury the coarser shingle, whereas winter storms mix everything up again.

  11. Go through the gate and cross the bridge over the stream. Follow the path to reach a stile overlooking Stackhouse Cove.

    The large building on the skyline is Acton Castle.

    The four storey castellated mansion known as Acton Castle was built in the 1770s by the botanist John Stackhouse so that he could study marine algae on the nearby beaches. The house was extended in the 20th Century by adding two matching wings either side of the original central structure, with a turret on each end.

  12. Cross the stile and descend from the wall via the protruding steps. Then follow the path to a pair of wooden stiles behind the cove.

    Stackhouse Cove consists mostly of flat rocks with some rockpools, however there is a sandy inlet which makes it easy to get into the sea for swimming or snorkelling. The cove is named after John Stackhouse who lived at Acton Castle during the 18th Century and carried out his studies of marine algae on the beach, publishing his illustrated work, known as Nereis Britannica, in 1797. At low tide it's possible to walk along the rocks to Porth Samson.

    The path to the beach is on the far side of the cove.

  13. Cross the stiles and follow along the right hedge to reach another stile leading out of the field.

    After several decades of extinction, a pair of choughs settled in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula. Since then, the birds have successfully bred and been joined by a few more incoming birds, and the population has steadily grown and spread further across Cornwall. Each Cornish chough is fitted with one leg ring in the colours of St Piran's flag and two other colours on the opposite leg to identify them.

  14. Cross the stile and continue to a bend in the path where a small path departs through the ivy to the right to the cove. Keep left to follow the coast path. Follow this until you reach a gap in the wall with some steps.

    If you take a detour down to the cove via the path through the ivy, the last section is quite steep but there is a rope to hold onto. Beyond this is a rock platform. In winter particularly, water trickling over the rocks can make them slippery with algae and too unsafe to descend to the beach.

    During the 18th Century, cold water bathing became popular amongst the upper classes. John Stackhouse had two baths cut into the rock at Stackhouse Cove, one on the beach and another hidden inside a cave where a flow of springwater keeps the bath constantly topped-up. The cave can be identified by a narrow oval opening with green algae below this where the springwater trickles out.

  15. Climb the steps and follow the path to reach a wooden footbridge.

    Because bluebells spread very slowly, they're considered to be an indicator of ancient woodland sites. In areas where trees are not very old, the fact there are bluebells around can indicate that there has been a wood on a site for a very long time. Even if there are no trees there at all, bluebells tell us that there was woodland there some time in the past. The bluebells along the coast are a relic of the gnarled oak woodland that used to grow here before it was cleared for grazing. There is still a patch of the ancient oak woodland left along the coast at Dizzard.

    Research by the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust has found that the majority of seals in Cornwall are tourists, stopping over on their way to somewhere else. Very few seals spend the whole year in one place and some of those visiting Cornwall have been identified in Wales and others in France.

  16. Cross the footbridge follow the path to reach a junction of paths on the point.

    The inlets either side of Cudden Point are named Zawn Susan and Zawn Harry.

    According to "The Z to Z of Great Britain", there are just over 40 place names in Britain that begin with the letter Z; over three-quarters of them are in Cornwall. One of the main reasons for this is that the Cornish word for "coastal inlet" is zawn, and coastline is something that Cornwall has rather a lot of.

  17. Follow the middle path to bear left around the point. Continue to a gap in the wall marked by a pair of wooden posts.

    There are panoramic views across Mounts Bay from Cudden Point. To the right there are views of St Michael's Mount and Penzance, and to the left, the Loe Bar and the Lizard in the distance.

    In December 1911, the Saluto was on its way to Barbados from the Thames with a cargo of sand as ballast. It was caught in a succession of gales and the storm waves both damaged the hull and stirred up mud and fine sand which clogged the pumps. The captain turned back for Falmouth but was driven into Mounts Bay by the wind. The crew managed to successfully anchor a mile off Cudden Point and were rescued by the lifeboat before the anchor failed and the ship went ashore at Perran Boat Cove and was wrecked.

  18. Go through the gap and follow the path over the next headland and around the back of the cove to reach a fork in the path on the far side of the cove.

    Ahead lie the beaches that make up Prussia Cove.

    Prussia Cove is a collective name for the four small coves of Piskies (known locally as Pixies) Cove, Bessy's Cove, King's Cove and Coules' Cove. The name Prussia Cove is from the famous 18th Century smuggler John Carter who was also known as "The King of Prussia", after the role he had always played in childhood war games. John and his brother Harry conducted trade with Brittany, with Harry doing the sailing and John running the operation from their headquarters at Prussia Cove.

    More about John Carter.

  19. At the fork, take the path on the right and keep right at the next fork to reach a large post on the headland.

    Piskies Cove is the only sandy beach amongst those that make up Prussia Cove, but there is no beach at high tide. It faces southwest towards Little Cudden point and is therefore quite sheltered and well positioned to catch the afternoon sun.

  20. At the post, turn left and follow the path along the coast until it meets another path at a waymark.

    The Pisky was a figure of folklore associated with mischief. Piskies were also known under the name "Jack-o-lantern" and this is thought to have similar origins as will-o'-the-wisp - the mythical marsh gas flares that were mistaken for the lights of settlements. Consequently the local dialect for becoming lost was "pisky-led".

    It was believed that milk was turned sour by piskies dancing on the roofs of barns. As a preventative measure, farmers would nail lumps of lead known as "piskie paws" to trip up the pesky piskies.

  21. Bear right at the junction of paths and follow the path to the remains of some old dwellings. Keep left through these and continue along the path to reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    Bessie's Cove is a shingle beach with a large area of flat rocks on the western side, and is thought to have been the principal landing location for smuggled goods at Prussia Cove, although King's Cove and Pisky's Cove are also thought to have been used to a lesser extent. A harbour has been cut into the rocks and the remains of a carriageway is visible which was partially cut and partially worn by cartwheels As well as landing contraband, it's likely that the cartway was used to collect seaweed from the beach for use as fertiliser.

  22. The walk continues via the steps to the left, and the path to the right leads to the cove. To continue the walk, go up the steps to reach a track, then turn right onto the track and follow it past the postbox to a fork.

    In 1947, the HMS Warspite was under tow to the breakers yard by two tugs but the cable from one broke in the severe south-west gale. The tugs spent a day fighting against the storm but eventually had to abandon the ship which was driven ashore at Prussia Cove. It was partially salvaged here before being moved to St. Michael's Mount, where the salvage operation took several years. There is still a fair amount wreckage left on the seabed in the centre of Prussia Cove and interesting artefacts are still sometimes discovered by divers.

  23. Bear left at the fork and left again to join the track. Follow the track until a path departs from the left with two granite posts. Follow the path to reach the lane at a car park entrance.

    Bessie's Cove is named after Bessie Burrow, the keeper of the Kiddlywink on the cliff.

    Kiddlywinks were beer houses which outside of Cornwall were generally known as Tiddlywinks. These became popular after the 1830 Beer Act which provided a relatively low-cost license from the Customs and Excise to sell beer or cider, but not spirits which required a Magistrate's Licence. In Cornwall, many also sold smuggled spirits. The origin of the name is the matter of some debate: one possibility is that "tiddlywink" was rhyming slang for "drink" or, particularly in Cornwall, a "wink" may have been a signal that contraband brandy could be obtained. However, it is generally thought that the slang phase for drunkenness - "to be a bit tiddly" - stems from these establishments.

  24. Turn right onto the lane and follow it around a number of bends, past the bakery and past a waymark and public footpath sign on a bend, and further along the road to reach a second public footpath sign (high up) after a wooden gate.

    Despite the illegality of their "free trade", the Carters had a reputation for being honest and godly men. Swearing and vulgar conversation were banned on their ships and Harry Carter held church services for fellow smugglers and eventually retired to become a full-time preacher. John Carter's reputation is epitomised by a story of him breaking into the Penzance Custom House to liberate a confiscated consignment of tea which was due for delivery to his customer. The Customs officers are reported to have said "John Carter has been here, and we know it because he is an upright man, and has taken away nothing which was not his own."

  25. Turn left at the footpath sign and cross over the wooden pole to enter the field. Follow the left hedge then bear right to a stile just to the left of a pair of telegraph poles holding a transformer.

    Unlike many birds that just sing in spring, robins sing nearly all year round. In fact during winter if you hear birdsong, it's most likely to be a robin. Despite how cute robins look, they are actually very territorial and the chirp is an aggressive warning to any would-be intruders not to even think of trying it. When robins don't sing, this a sign that their body fat reserves are low and they are conserving what little they have left until food becomes more plentiful.

  26. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the hedge opposite, then turn right to stay within the field (don't exit onto the lane as this stretch is private) and keep the hedge on your left. Follow along the hedge until you reach a stile in the corner of the field.

    The trees along the bottom of the field are sculpted by the wind.

    The salt-laden breeze coming off the sea dries out leaf buds and inhibits growth so the plants end up growing most vigorously in the lee of the wind. In the direction facing the prevailing wind, the growth is therefore more compact and stunted whereas in the lee of the wind, the branches are much more straggly. The result is that the trees appear to point away from the prevailing wind. Where there are no obstacles interfering with the wind direction, the shape of the trees can be used as a compass. Prevailing winds come from the southwest, so in general, trees in Cornwall point northeast.

  27. Cross the stile and follow along the left hedge of the field to a stone stile directly opposite in the corner.

    Brassicas such as cabbage and cauliflower do best on soils which are well-drained and not acidic. For this reason they are often grown in sandy soils by the coast where fragments of seashell in the soil both improve drainage and act as a natural source of lime. Further inland, artificial sources of lime may be required to increase the pH of the soil. In the past, beach sand was transported inland for this purpose.

  28. Climb the stile onto the hedge and descend into the next field. Then continue following the left hedge of the field to reach a stile just under half-way along the hedge.

    Tamarisks, also known as salt cedars, are able to withstand drought, soil salinity, and salt-water spray and therefore thrive in mild coastal areas such as the Cornish coastline. Their ability to accumulate salt and then excrete this through glands in their leaves prevents less salt-tolerant plants from growing around their base.

  29. Cross the stile and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until you pass between two houses and reach a junction of tracks just in front of Bosvean.

    Bosvean is Cornish for "small dwelling" and Trevean is "small farm".

  30. Turn left onto the track for Trevean Farm and then after Trevean Barn, keep right along the track in the direction indicated by the public footpath sign to reach a fork in the track with a few wooden steps leading to a fenced path.

    Trevean farm was first recorded in 1310 as Trevighan and is Cornish for "small farm". A place name in the Cornish language is an indicator that the settlement was established during the early mediaeval (aka Dark Ages, before the Normal Conquest) period when Cornish was widely spoken.

  31. Go up the wooden steps and follow the path along the hedge to the far side of the field then bear right to reach a stile in the middle of the far hedge.

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

  32. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a kissing gate next to the gate in the corner of the far hedge in front of the buildings.

    The large settlement behind St Michael's Mount is Penzance, merging into Newlyn at the left-hand end. The small settlement separated off to the left of this is Mousehole.

  33. Go through the kissing gate and follow the track ahead between the buildings. Continue ahead into the gravel area then keep right across this to the footpath sign beside the gate opposite.

    Trebarvah was first recorded in 1342 as Treberveth and is Cornish for "middle farm". Trebarwith Strand near Tintagel is thought to have similar origins.

  34. Go through the gap to the right of the gate and follow the path along the right hedge and through an area of scrub to reach a waymark.

    The scrubby areas are part of the remains of the Trebarvah Mine.

    Trebarvah Mine was primarily a copper mine although some iron ore and a small amount of tin, lead and zinc were also extracted. The mine was worked from the late 18th Century as Wheal Jenny and sporadically throughout the 19th century under a few different names including Wheal Jane, Wheal Castle and Wheal Trebarvah. By the mid 19th century, the mine had engine houses and six shafts.

  35. Continue ahead at the waymark and cross the small field to a gap in the hedge opposite.

    As well as the pumping engine, adits were used to drain water from the mine tunnels. Two of these are visible in the cliffs on Perranuthnoe beach.

    An adit is a roughly horizontal tunnel going into a mine. In Cornwall these were important for drainage as many of the ore-bearing veins are close to vertical, through which water can easily seep. Drainage adits were sloped slightly upwards to meet the main shaft, so water trickling into the main shaft from above could be diverted out of the adit. Below the adit, engines powered by waterwheels or steam were needed to pump the water up to the level of the adit where it could then drain away.

  36. Go through the gap and keep the hedge on your right. Follow along the hedge and then in front of some houses to reach a gap in the wall at the end of the fence.

    The creeping plant growing along the fence is a member of the carpobrutus family.

    The Hottentot Fig (Carpabrotus edulis), was once classified as a Mesembryanthemum but as plant genetics were better understood, was found to be a close relative but in a different sub-family of the larger ice-plant family. They are called ice plants due to hairs on the leaves which refract sunlight and make them sparkle. The plant is native to South Africa and was originally grown ornamentally in gardens but has subsequently gone feral and settled on the coastline where it thrives in sandy soils, helped by its resistance to wind and salt. It forms a dense mat which crowds out other species and is therefore considered invasive.

    The irregularly-shaped fields are the remnant of a prehistoric field system. Some of the old field boundaries that were removed to enlarge the fields are still visible on aerial photos as low earth banks and cropmarks.

  37. Go through the gap and continue ahead across the field to join the path along the front of the houses. Follow this to reach a metal kissing gate.

    Cornwall has the mildest and sunniest climate in the United Kingdom, both due to its southerly latitude and the Gulf Stream carrying warm air from the Caribbean. The county has become even milder over the past decade, according to a report from Exeter University. Average temperatures in Cornwall stay above 10°C for more than seven months of the year and the southwestern part of the county is classed as subtropical.

  38. Go through the gate and follow the track ahead to the road.

    The building opposite is the Victoria Inn. The entrance is on the smaller road on the far side.

    The Victoria Inn is thought to date from the 12th Century, making it one of the oldest Inns in Cornwall. In that period, its original fabric would have been predominantly timber and it would have been rebuilt a number of times.

  39. Turn left onto the road and follow this back to the car park to complete the circular walk.

    The church can be reached by following the road that leads behind the Victoria Inn to a junction, turning right to reach another junction, and then left to the entrance to the churchyard.

    The church at Perranuthnoe dates from Norman times and a few elements from this period remain, including the font. The first record of the church is from 1348 which mentions it was dedicated to St Piran, and some remodelling of the original building had already been done by this point. In 1856 the church was also dedicated to St Nicolas but this has since been replaced by a dedication to St Michael.

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