Polperro to Lansallos

A circular walk along the rugged coast from Polperro where a bell buoy rings out across the waves from the treacherous reef known as Udder Rock.

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The walk descends through Polperro to the harbour and then joins the Coast Path via Chapel Cliff, passing the Net Loft and Chapel Pool. After leaving Polperro, the path climbs and dips into hanging valleys carved by the streams into the rugged slate coast. The coastal section ends in Lantivet Bay at two small coves at Lansallos then the walk turns inland through the woods of West Coombe to reach the church. The return route to Polperro is quite easy going, on small lanes.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 7.1 miles/11.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Views of Polperro Harbour and surrounding coastline
  • Tidal swimming pool (on calm summer days)
  • Birds-eye views over the village from above
  • Sandy beach at Lansallos Cove
  • Panoramic views over Lantivet Bay
  • Pretty wooded path through West Coombe from Lansallos to the coast

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Blue Peter Inn
  • The Old Millhouse Inn
  • The Ship Inn
  • The Three Pilchards

Directions

  1. From the car park, make your way to the roundabout then follow the road down the hill between Crumplehorn Inn and Millys. Continue all the way to the bottom of the hill until you reach a junction marked "Access Only".

    The group of buildings making up the Crumplehorn Inn originally consisted of Killigarth Mill and Crumplehorn Farm (which is thought to have originally been Tremelhorn).

    The mill dates back to at least the 13th Century where documents regarding a mill were witnessed by Richard de Kylgat (hence Killigarth). Much later the mill was home to Zephaniah Job, known as the Smugglers Banker. He issued his own banknotes and one of these is displayed in the Truro Museum.

    The Inn was formerly a Counting House, used in Elizabethan times for dividing up goods with The Crown that had been legally plundered from French and Spanish ships by Privateers.

  2. When you reach the junction, keep left to reach a fork. Follow the narrow lane to the right signposted to the harbour to reach a bridge on the right. Cross the bridge to the other side of the harbour.

    Despite the name, the Roman Bridge was built in the latter half of the 19th Century replacing an earlier version with a flat timber lintel that was photographed in 1854. Given Polperro's history of flooding and the proximity of the bridge to the sea, it's more than likely that the bridge, like Boscastle's, has been rebuilt a number of times over its history after damage from floods or storms.

  3. On the other side of the bridge, bear left up the alleyway past the Three Pilchards until it ends beside the Blue Peter, then bear right around the Blue Peter to reach a flight of steps marked "To The Cliff".

    Records show that by the 14th Century, Polperro was already a busy port and that the main occupation of the men and boys was fishing. The pilchard fishing boom came much later, with the first export of pilchards from Polperro reported as being made in 1783. During Victorian Times, Polperro had three pilchard factories, two of which were owned by Italians, reflecting one of the main export markets.

  4. When you reach the steps marked "To The Cliff", climb these and follow the arrows to reach a wooden coast path signpost at the top of the steps. Bear left onto the path and follow it to a rock outcrop on the end of a headland with a bench on it.

    Polperro harbour is unusual because it is a private harbour owned by the Council Tax payers of the village. This came about because in 1894, an Act of Parliament sanctioned by Queen Victoria formed the Trustees of Polperro Harbour - originally fifteen prominent men of Polperro - who bought the harbour rights. The Trust has continued down the generations to the current residents and the deeds for the harbour are on display in the museum.

  5. Turn right at the rock outcrop and follow the path a short distance past the information board. Continue past the National Trust Chapel Cliff sign to reach a waymark where the path forks.

    The path to the left from the information board leads to the Net Loft on Peak Rock, from which there are nice views of the harbour, and Chapel Pool at the base of Chapel Cliff.

    The Net Loft on Peak Rock is thought to be on the site of Polperro's 19th Century chapel. The lower part of the building was used for boat building and the upper floor was used to store sails and nets - hence the name. It fell into disuse during the late 20th Century and was restored in 2015-16 by the National Trust.

    Chapel Pool is a tidal bathing pool built in the 1940s. Its south-facing aspect means that the sun warms it up beyond the temperature of the sea once waves stop flooding it. By the 21st Century, the steps cut into the cliff leading down to the pool had deteriorated to the point of being impassable due to the constant battering of the sea. In 2001 they were restored by the National Trust with help from The Royal Engineers. The pool is accessible from about half tide, but note that it is a steep climb down the steps (with no handrails) to reach it.

  6. Keep right at the fork to follow the waymarked path uphill. Continue to reach a junction of paths at another waymark.

    In November 1926, a small Swedish schooner called the IM Nielsen was on its way from Sligo in Ireland to Fowey with a cargo of ballast. Due to bad weather, it was unable to enter the harbour at Fowey so it anchored off Polperro overnight. In the early hours, it broke free from its mooring and was driven onto the shore off Chapel Cliffs. The six crew were all rescued but the ship was a total wreck.

  7. Turn left and follow the coast path until the lower path rejoins at a wooden post.

    Three-cornered leeks grow alongside the path and can be seen flowering in March and April.

    During late winter or early spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    The plant spreads to form dense colonies, crowding-out native species. The onion-flavoured seeds are very attractive to ants who carry them quite large distances and forget some of them, allowing the plant to colonise new areas. In fact three-cornered leeks are so invasive that they are illegal to plant in the wild.

    The English Channel is thought to have been formed by two catastrophic floods from lakes that built up behind a dam of ice. The first was about 425,000 years ago and broke through a range of chalk mountains between the Weald and Artois. Then about 225,000 years ago, a second ice-dammed lake at the end of the Rhine broke through another weak barrier and created another massive flood channel. The waterfalls during these floods are thought to have created plunge pools around 100 metres deep and several kilometres across.

  8. Continue on the coast path to where a path ascends to the right at another wooden post.

    If the tide is low enough to expose them, the flat rocks a short distance out from where the path rejoins the Coast Path are known as the Bridges.

    On 11th December 1849, the cargo ship Shepherdess was close to the end of a 6 month voyage from Penang to Plymouth with a cargo of Teak logs. Battered from her long journey, the ship was leaking badly and the crew had to constantly pump out the water. As she approached Falmouth, the pilots there offered assistance but there was a fair wind so the captain decided to continue the short distance to Plymouth. She arrived that evening at Rame Head but no pilots were available to bring her into Plymouth. Whilst she waited off Rame Head, the wind strengthened to a gale force southeasterly and she was unable to make headway to enter Plymouth Sound and instead was driven towards Polperro. She struck the "Bridges" rocks to the west of Polperro and broke in two. The ship was carrying so much timber that passengers and most of the crew were able to walk ashore across the timber, although the two crew who instead attempted to swim to the shore both drowned. The harbour and surrounding coves were filled with timber and consequently many farm buildings were built from this, a surviving block of which is in Polperro Museum. Also on Talland Hill, the appropriately named Teak House has rafters, floor joists, stairs and doors all built from the cargo of the wreck.

  9. Keep left to stay on the coast path and follow it to another wooden post with a path ascending to the right.

    The south-facing cliffs are a sun trap which provides an ideal habitat for butterflies.

    When a caterpillar is still developing, it grows a small group of cells known as an imaginal disc for each of the adult body parts it will need as a mature butterfly. When a caterpillar pupates, it digests itself, releasing enzymes which dissolve all of its tissues into a soup leaving only the imaginal discs. These then act as seeds from which the adult butterfly is resurrected.

  10. Keep left when you reach the junction of paths and continue on the coast path to where a path joins from the left.

    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.

  11. Continue ahead to a junction at a wooden post with a waymark.

    Gorse seeds each contain a small body of ant food. The seeds also release a chemical which attracts ants from some distance away. The ants carry the seeds to their nests, eat the ant food and then discard the seeds, helping them to disperse.

  12. Keep left to follow the path along the coast to a crossing over a small stream.

    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.

  13. Cross the stream and climb the steps. Keep following the path to reach the bottom of a long flight of steps. Climb these to reach a rock outcrop at the top.

    From April to June, white flowers of Greater Stitchwort can be seen along hedgerows and paths. The petals are quite distinctive as each one is split almost all the way to create pairs - most of the flowers typically have 5 pairs. The name comes from alleged powers to cure an exercise-induced stitch. Other common names include Star-of-Bethlehem (due to the shape and perhaps Easter flowering time) and Poor Man's Buttonhole for budget weddings. It is also known as Wedding Cakes but that may be more due to the colour than anticipation of what a buttonhole might lead to. The seed capsules can sometimes be heard bursting open in the late spring sunshine which gives rise to another name: Popguns.

    The rocky coast here provides an ideal habitat for lobsters and crabs.

    Lobsters are among the planet's oldest inhabitants with fossil remains dating back more than 100 million years. They are also extremely long-lived with some individuals reaching ages in excess of 80 years. A specimen of over 50 years old was caught in Cornwall in 2012 and was given to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay; it was a metre long and weighed 4kg. The heaviest lobster recorded was caught in 1934 and weighed an immense 19kg!

  14. Follow the path from the rock outcrop to reach a short wooden walkway over a stream.

    In Dec 1911 the SS White Rose set sail from France to Liverpool and disappeared. A report from The Telegraph said the ship was last seen "flying signals of distress and has not been reported since". Over the next few days, three boats from the ship washed up along the Cornish coast but with no-one onboard. Eventually the ship was found to have hit Udder Rock and then drifted and sunk with the loss of all hands. The ship's anchor and chain are still on the seawards side of the rock. It appears that the holed ship may have been driven inshore before finally sinking: broken-up remains lie in shallow water near Nealand Point.

  15. Continue on the path to reach a footbridge over a stream at the bottom of a valley.

    In Cornwall, cliffs erode at an average rate of between roughly 3cm - 30cm per year depending on the hardness of the rocks and location. In reality this often happens in infrequent sudden collapses rather than as a steady, gradual process. It was found that one massive storm in 2014 caused around 100 times the average amount of erosion. There are obvious implications from climate change leading to more frequent or more intense storms.

  16. Cross the bridge and climb the steps. Follow the coast path past the daymark to reach another footbridge at the bottom of the next large valley.

    The white obelisk on the coast path near Lansallos is a daymark indicating the position of Udder Rock, which is also marked by a large buoy with a bell which can be heard ringing when there is a swell. Udder Rock is a pinnacle reef which breaks the surface at low tide but is fully submerged at high tide, making it particularly hazardous to shipping. The reef consists of a number of ledges and these support an array of marine life, making it a fairly popular dive site.

  17. Cross the bridge and go through the gate. Follow the coast path in the direction signposted for Polruan to reach a wooden post with a waymark.

    Wild thyme grows along the coast and flowers from June to September with tiny pink flowers. During mediaeval times, the plant was a symbol of bravery, possibly due to derivation from the Greek word thumos, meaning anger or spiritedness. An embroidered motif of a bee on a sprig of thyme is said to have been given by mediaeval ladies to their favoured knight.

    Coastal land management including removal of excess gorse and grazing to keep taller plants in trim has allowed wild thyme to become more widespread as well as the Cornish chough. Wild thyme is a nectar source for many bees and butterflies and the food plant for young caterpillars of the large blue butterfly.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round. They can often be spotted perching on dead sticks or brambles protruding above gorse and heather. Their name comes from the sound of the call which sounds like stones being knocked together.

  18. Follow the coast path uphill from the waymark and continue past a second waymark. Keep following the path to reach a path descending from next to a stony bank on the left.

    If you're walking on a bright summer morning, you may see little orange 5-point star-shaped flowers of the scarlet pimpernel.

    On a sunny day, the flowers open in the morning and then close about 2 PM. The plant is also known as poor man’s weatherglass because if it’s dull or wet, the flowers close earlier or may never open at all that day.

    Another strange quirk of this plant is that in Spain, the flowers are bright blue, not orange!

    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.

  19. Continue on the coast path to reach a gate across the path.

    The path to the right after the gate leads down to Parson's Cove.

    At Parson's Cove there is little or no beach at high tide but as the tide goes out, a beach of sand and shingle is revealed with some patches of rock. The cove faces southwest and therefore gets the afternoon sun, and is quite sheltered, making it a good spot to access the water for snorkelling.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the coast path to a crossing of paths with a wooden post on the left and the path to the right leading uphill to a gate.
  21. Continue ahead on the coast path to reach a junction of paths with coast path signs on slates for Polruan and Polperro and a path leads inland through a gate on the right.

    Lansallos Cove is also known as West Coombe, after the valley. The sheltered beach is composed of sand and shingle and was used to launch small fishing boats. The same characteristics that made it a good launching spot also make it good for swimming, particularly at mid-high tide when the bottom is sandy (at low tide, rocks are exposed). The bowl shape of the cove also traps warm water as the tide rises over the rocks and sand exposed to the sun. Sand from the cove was used by local farmers to improve soil drainage and as a source of lime. Seaweed was sometimes also used as a fertiliser as it is rich in potassium and contains a number of trace elements needed by plants. The small waterfall on the side of the beach was once used to power a mill.

  22. Go through the gate on the right and the one ahead of it and follow the path to a waymark. Continue ahead at the waymark and follow the path alongside the stream until it ends on a track in front of the churchyard.

    Lesser celandines the common plants along woodland paths recognisable by their yellow star-shaped flowers. Despite their name, they are not closely related to the Greater Celandine. Lesser celandines are actually a member of the buttercup family and, like buttercups, they contain the poisonous chemical protoanemonin.

    The footpath along the stream, known as Reed Water, is an ancient route from the village to the cove. It was cut out to form a cart track to serve both the cove and the mill, and ruts from the cartwheels are still visible. In March and April, celandines flower along the wooded path.

  23. Follow the track leading from the Rectory past the church to reach a lane.

    The church is on the site of an earlier Norman church and before that, Celtic missionary monks had an establishment here that the "Lan" in the name refers to. The present church building was dedicated to St Ildierna on 16th October 1321, was rebuilt in the 15th century, and contains a number of important architectural and historical features.

    In 2005, the church and many of its ancient artefacts were badly damaged in a fire which is thought was an act of arson. The now partly incinerated mediaeval chest gives an idea of the intensity of the blaze which also damaged both the roof and organ. Fortunately, the magnificent carved oak benches, made between 1490 and 1520, survived the fire.

  24. Turn right onto the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.

    The fields alongside of the main road are sometimes used for cereal crops.

    Wheat was formed by hybridisations between wild grasses which was then spread through domestication. The cultivation of wheat is thought to have begun nearly 12,000 years ago in southeast Turkey.

    Remains of wheat from 8000 years ago have been found in Britain which indicate trade with Europe. Until around 6500 BC, it was possible to walk between Britain and the rest of Europe via an area of low lying land known as Doggerland. As sea levels rose after the last Ice Age, the North Sea flooded this, making Britain an island.

    Because each of the hybridisations that formed wheat were rare events, and because there were multiple stages of hybridisation involved, domesticated bread wheat is all from a common ancestry and therefore there is very little genetic variety. This narrow gene pool makes the risk of a catastrophic disease quite high. Since the 20th Century, work has been underway to broaden the wheat gene pool to produce disease-resistant strains through a number of techniques including crossing wheat varieties from different parts of the world, hybridising with wild grasses, and more recently through direct genetic manipulation.

  25. Turn right at the junction (signposted for Polperro) and follow the road until you reach another junction signposted for Landaviddy and Raphael.

    Raphael was the home to Hywysch family - the lords of the district and the 14th Century. Remains of effigies of a knight and his lady in Lansallos church may be a depiction of family members. The fortified mediaeval house at Raphael was replaced in 17th-18th Century and little remains of the original apart from possibly a few carved stones.

  26. Bear right at the junction onto the no-through road to Polperro, signposted for Landaviddy and Raphael. Follow the road just just over a mile and into Polperro until you reach Mill Hill on the left (easily missed, so look out for it), opposite the gate for Landaviddy Cottage on the right and just before The Brig on the left.

    After you pass Landaviddy Manor, there is a yard on the left just after a property with a stone wall on the right. Opposite the yard in the hedge on the right is a small stony structure covered in water weed where water trickles out onto the road. This is the holy well.

    The chapel of "St. Peter of Porthpyre" was documented in 1392 and was located on Chapel Point, in a field on the Landaviddy Estate above the holy well. In the 19th Century, the chapel was moved onto Peak Rock.

    The holy well still exists as a small wet hole on the edge of Landaviddy Lane in the vicinity of Elm Cottage, although its water supply has likely been diminished by the road building immediately next to it. The well contains a carved slate inside it which confirms that you have found it but doesn't make it any easier to distinguish from any potholes along the edge of the road.

  27. Turn left and follow the narrow lane past the Model Village and over the bridge to emerge on Polperro's main street.

    The river in Polperro is known as the Pol which is a somewhat utilitarian name from the Cornish word for a pool or anchorage (i.e. most probably the harbour). It's also known as the Polperro River. The source of the river is near Pelynt and there are also tributary streams near Barcelona.

    The small Cornish hamlet of Barcelona is said to get its name due to the son of Lord Trelawny being saved from a wrecked ship during the early 18th Century by someone from Barcelona who was given the small triangle of land as a thank-you. There is also a Trelawny Street (Carrer de Trelawny) in Barcelona, Spain.

  28. The route ends up the hill to the left to return to the car park. You can optionally catch the tram to the car park from Fore Street to save walking back up the hill.

    In September 1760, John Wesley stayed in Old Market House on Big Green while preaching in Cornwall. Perhaps in part due to the very steep hills from Polperro to the churches of Lansallos or Talland, there was great enthusiasm for Methodism in Polperro. This was so much the case that each Methodist faction had its own chapel: one for The Wesleyan Methodists, another for the Wesleyan Association, one for the Independents, and a final one for the Bible Christians! Perhaps in response to the competition, an Anglican chapel of ease to Talland Parish Church was built in the 19th Century and dedicated to St John.

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