Polruan to Lantic Bay circular walk

Polruan to Lantic Bay

A circular walk along the coast from Polruan to the white sandy beaches of Lantic Bay, returning via Lanteglos Church and along the creek with panoramic views of Fowey.

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The walk follows a fairly demanding stretch of the coast path to reach the spectacular white crescent of Lantic Bay, which makes it all worth it. After a final climb from the coast, the majority of the walk is downhill, passing Lanteglos Church where Daphne Du Maurier was married. The walk then joins the final section of the famous Hall Walk route, through the woods along Pont Pill creek. The final part of the walk is through Polruan, passing the quay, blockhouse and battery.

Considerations

  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or shoes in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Spectacular views over Lantic Bay
  • White sandy beach at Lantic Bay
  • Historic fishing village of Polruan
  • Wildlife along the creeks

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Lugger Inn
  • The Russell Inn

Directions

  1. Make your way to the wooden gate in the corner of the car park near the coast. Follow the surfaced path past the coastguard lookout until the path ends at a gate on a lane.

    The ruin next to the NCI lookout at Polruan is of St Saviour's chapel, originally built in the 8th or 9th Centuries. The chapel, originally quite small, was enlarged, possibly by Sir Richard Edgcumbe in 1488, to a building with a nave, three large windows and a tower. The chapel had become an important navigational marker, and a beacon was lit on the tower during the night. The tower also served as a lookout to spot enemy ships approaching to attack the port of Fowey. After 1572 the chapel fell into ruin following the dissolution of the monasteries.

  2. Bear right onto the lane and follow it until you reach Furze Park where there is a driveway on the right with a Coast Path sign.

    The coastguard lookout is run by the National Coastwatch Institution.

    The National Coastwatch Institution was set up to restore visual watches along the UK coastline after two Cornish fishermen lost their lives within sight of an empty Coastguard lookout in 1994. The first station - at Bass Point on The Lizard, where the fishermen had died - opened in December 1994. The organisation, staffed by volunteers, now runs 50 lookout stations around England and Wales.

  3. Turn right onto the driveway indicated by the Coast Path sign and follow this to a pedestrian gate on the left. Go through this and follow the outermost path to reach a pedestrian gate on the far side of the field. Go through this and follow the path a short distance further to reach another gate leading into another field.

    Furze Park takes its name from the gorse growing along the coast.

    Common gorse flowers have a coconut-like scent but rather than fresh coconut, it is reminiscent of desiccated coconut or the popular brand of surf wax, Mr Zoggs. However, not everyone experiences the smell in the same way: for some people it's very strong and for others it quite weak. One complicating factor is that Western Gorse flowers don't have any scent, so you need to be sniffing a tall gorse plant to test yourself.

    Flower scents are volatile organic compounds which drift though the air and has evolved as an advertisement to pollinating insects that nectar is available. Squeezing the flowers releases these compounds onto the surface where they can evaporate and therefore intensifies the smell. Similarly the warming effect of sunlight helps the compounds to evaporate faster and so the smell is more intense on sunny days.

    Gorse is also known (particularly in the Westcountry) as furze from the Middle English word furs. This itself is from the Old English word fyres, closely related to the Old English word for fire.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path along the fence on the right to reach another pedestrian gate.
  5. Go through the gate and follow the path around the point, through one pedestrian gate to another at the top of the hill where the path passes through a wall.

    The hawthorn trees along the path have been shaped by the wind and consequently point northeast, away from the prevailing southwesterlies.

    As well as its thorns, another thing that makes hawthorn good for hedging is its very rapid rate of growth of around half a metre per year. Consequently one of the alternative common names for it is "quickthorn".

  6. Go through the gate and continue on the coast path to reach another gate.

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

    Almost all European countries have reported a rapid decline in lark numbers over recent years. In Britain, two-thirds of the population has disappeared in 30 years. This is thought mainly to be due to intensive agriculture and particularly the autumn sowing of cereals. When cereals were sown in the spring, the fields of stubble that remained after harvest provided an environment where larks could nest during the winter.

  7. Go through the gate and follow the path to a post with an NT collection box where a path leaves to the left.

    To make sloe gin, wash your sloes and prick each one with a fork. Put your pricked sloes into a container with a lid and a suitably large neck so you can pour them out later - 4 litre milk containers, washed out very thoroughly, are ideal. Fill about 80% of the way to the top with the cheapest gin you can find (don't waste your money on expensive gin as you are about to transform it into something altogether different). Fill the remaining 20% with white sugar (it looks a lot but sloes are incredibly bitter and this offsets it) and leave to infuse for a few months; agitate gently occasionally to help the sugar dissolve without mashing the sloes which would make your drink cloudy. Drain the beautiful red liquid into a decanter to admire before consumption.

    A few different factors all combine to vary the colour of the sea:

    A glass in your hand might lure you into thinking otherwise, but pure water is faintly blue. The main wavelengths that the chemical bonds in water absorb are either in the infra-red or ultra-violet, and not in the visible spectrum, which is why a glass of pure water does not look coloured. However one fairly obscure harmonic of the vibrations in the water molecule corresponds to the wavelength of red light and so water very weakly absorbs the red from white light, giving it a very slightly blue tinge. If there is enough water, both the blue tinge and reflection of blue light by any suspended particles make it look blue.

    Another factor is that the surface of the ocean acts as a mirror and reflects the colour of the sky and this is why it may appear grey under a cloudy sky. Under a blue sky, this intensifies the blueness.

    In shallow water, the sand which is golden in Cornwall due to fragments of seashell, reflects yellow light and this combines with the blue from seawater to generate colours from green to turquoise. The ocean also sometimes appears green due to the presence of planktonic plant life.

    The Cornish language has a word glas (often appearing in place names as "glaze") which is the Swiss Army Knife of sea colour descriptions. It means blue, or green, or grey.

    Some of the tourism literature used to say that the green colour of the sea in Cornwall was due to copper dissolved in the water. This is total nonsense. In order to be visible, the concentration of copper salts have to be incredibly high which would never happen with an entire Atlantic Ocean to dilute it. The highest copper levels are found in estuaries fed by rivers into which mines drain. There are at most in the order of micrograms per litre and are carefully monitored by the Environment Agency.

  8. Keep right at the post to go down the steps and through the gate. Follow the path through a second gate and keep right to reach a third gate in a hedge, leading into a steeply-sloping field.

    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.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the path along the coast, up the steep incline, to reach a gate on the right with a path also leading ahead.

    The crescent shape of Lantic Bay shelters it from the wind and its white, sandy beaches face south towards the sun. Within the bay, the main beach - Great Lantic Beach - is accessible via a flight of steps. At low tide, this joins to the other beaches in the bay - Little Lantic Beach on one side and some small coves on the other. As the tide comes in, these are cut off and there is no path up from them, so care should be taken in exploring them.

  10. Go up the steps next to the gate and follow the path along the right hedge to reach another gate at the top of the field.

    Sea Kale grows in the shingle along the top of Great Lantic Beach.

    Sea Kale is a member of the cabbage family which can be seen growing near the top of a few shingle beaches in Cornwall. It is now a protected plant.

    In the past, the plant sea kale was harvested by burying the emerging leaves in shingle during the spring. The pale stems are then steamed and eaten like asparagus. The reason for burying them is that when the stems are exposed to sunlight, the plant releases signalling molecules which not only trigger development of the green chlorophyll but also bitter chemicals to discourage herbivores from eating them.

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

  11. Turn left and follow the path along the right hedge, signposted to Lantic Bay Car Park, until you reach a pedestrian gate on the right, just before the field gate ahead.

    The hills in the distance are the Cornish Alps.

    The china clay area around St Austell is affectionately known as the "Cornish Alps" due to the peaks formed by the sky tips. The lakes created by the settling ponds also add to the alpine appearance. During the early 1970s there was even an English China Clay ski club using the sandy slopes!

  12. Turn right through the pedestrian gate and follow the path until it ends at another gate.
  13. Go through the gate and carefully cross the lane to the small lane opposite with a car park sign. Follow the lane past the church until it ends at a junction.

    The church is dedicated to St Wyllow who according to legend was born in Ireland in the 6th Century, lived as a hermit in Cornwall and was beheaded by the locals. The current church was built in the 14th Century and altered in the 15th. The brass of Thomas de Mohun within the church dates from this period and the brasses depicting John Mohun and his wife date from the start of the 16th Century. The bench ends were also carved in the 16th Century and carefully preserved during an 18th Century restoration. Daphne Du Maurier featured the church as "Lanoc Church" in her first novel, "The Loving Spirit" and she was married here herself in 1932.

  14. Bear left from the junction for a few paces to reach a pedestrian gate on the right, just past the signpost. Go through the gate and turn left. Follow the path parallel to the lane (signposted to Polruan) to reach a bench.

    Daphne Du Maurier was born in London in 1907 and began writing from an early age. Her parents were in the theatre, which helped her to launch her literary career. The family visited Cornwall for holidays and bought a second home at Bodinnick in 1926. In 1943 Daphne moved to Cornwall full-time where she spent the majority of her life.

  15. At the bench, turn right down the steep path. Follow this until it ends in a junction with another path.

    Bluebells grow in the woodland which is an indicator that the woodland is ancient.

    Bluebells are extremely poisonous, containing a number of biologically-active compounds and were used (probably with varying success) in mediaeval medicine. The sap was used as a glue for book-binding as its toxicity repelled insects. It was also used to attach the fletchings onto arrows.

    A mature tree can absorb tens of kilograms of carbon dioxide each year adding up to a tonne over a number of decades. However, burning one litre of petrol produces just over 2kg of carbon dioxide so it takes about half an acre of trees to absorb the average amount of carbon dioxide produced by one car in a year. When trees die and decompose, the majority of the carbon is gradually released back into the atmosphere depending on how fast the various bits of tree rot (the woody parts take longer).

  16. Bear left onto the path and follow it until it ends on a track.

    The path you have just joined that leads to Polruan is known as the Hall Walk.

    Hall Manor, just above Bodinnick, was built in the 13th century. An ornamental promenade was created which ran from the manor to Penleath Point and dates back to at least the 16th Century. It was described by Richard Carew in 1585 as:

    cut out in the side of a steepe hill….evenly levelled, to serve for bowling, floored with sand, for soaking up the rayne, closed with two thorne hedges, and banked with sweete senting flowers: It wideneth to a sufficient breadth, for the march of five or sixe in front, and extendeth, to not much lesse, then halfe a London mile …..and is converted on the foreside, into platformes, for the planting of Ordinance, and the walkers sitting; and on the back part, into summer houses, for their more private retrait and recreation.

    One of the summer houses remains on the point, containing a row of benches. Later, the path was extended to Polruan. The full length of this is now known as the "Hall Walk" but originally the name would have probably just referred to the promenade to Penleath Point.

    The land for the walk was given to the National Trust as a joint memorial to Sir Arthur Quiller Couch and the men of Fowey and Polruan who had died during the Second World War.

  17. Cross the track to the waymarked path opposite and follow this until it eventually emerges via a flight of steps onto a narrow alleyway in Polruan, next to a Hall Walk sign.

    The name of the River Fowey is from Fowydh, based on the Cornish word for tree, gwydh, and more specifically beech, fawen.

  18. Turn right onto the tarmacked path and follow this down the steps to reach another Hall Walk sign.

    Polruan is located in the lee of the prevailing winds within the Fowey estuary and is therefore a very sheltered natural harbour. The settlement originated as a small fishing village and later became a centre for boat building. The name is associated with St Ruan, who is said to have settled on the hill above Polruan during early mediaeval times.

  19. At the bottom of the steps, turn left and follow the path down more steps and along the narrow lane to reach a junction of lanes by the harbour.

    During the 6th century AD, an enclosed settlement was established at Fowey by a small religious community containing a small church and dwellings. Fowey developed its fishing and sea trading industries during the Middle Ages and by 1260, was the most important port in Cornwall, taking over from Lostwithiel when the river silted up as a result of streaming for tin in the river valleys. Fowey was a busy port even during the 20th Century with china clay taking over from the ore exports after the tin and copper prices collapsed in the late 19th century, and china clay exports continue although on a smaller scale than previously.

  20. Continue ahead onto the narrow lane signposted to the Coast Path and Blockhouse. Follow the lane past the Russell Inn and the church to a junction with a sign for the Blockhouse (ahead) and the Coast Path (left).

    The location of Fowey close to the mouth of the estuary made it vulnerable to attack by sea. The town was destroyed by fire during invasions by French, Spanish and other pirate ships in 1330, 1380 and 1457. Following the 1380 raid, blockhouses were built on either side of the estuary mouth. A chain spanned between them that could be raised to close the channel in times of need. The chain was later confiscated by the King after boats from Fowey and Polruan were convicted of Piracy.

  21. Turn left onto Battery Lane and follow this to a junction where there is a Battery Lane sign. Follow the path ahead past the Old Vicarage to a corner with a Coast Path sign. Continue on the path until you reach a small waymarked path leading ahead from Hoe Cottage.

    The white wooden cross that stands on the rocks at the entrance to Fowey harbour is known as Punches Cross and is thought to date from the mediaeval period (although the wood has obviously been replaced a few times over the years). Its original purpose was probably a boundary marker indicating the limit of the jurisdiction of the Prior of Tywardreath and it quickly proved useful to navigators. It was mentioned in 1525 and is marked in early navigational charts. It is now maintained by Fowey Harbour Commission and is still an important navigational aid as well as a handy perch for seagulls.

  22. At this point you have a choice to complete the circular route. You can either follow the gravel path ahead that leads straight back to the car park, or the grassy path to the right leads to the remains of a gun battery on Peak Point with spectacular views over the entrance to the harbour and another path leads back from this to the car park.

    On the seaward side of the wall on Peak Point is the base of a gun battery, which may have been in use as early as the 17th Century. By 1860 there were four guns installed here with a further two on the Fowey side of the estuary to cover the entrance to the harbour. The area was also used for naval training and a drill hut was located where Hoe Cottage is situated now. The wall behind the battery was originally three times its current height and was used as a firing range for rifle practice.

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