Portholland to Portloe

Portholland to Portloe

A circular walk with lovely views of Veryan Bay to the pretty fishing village of Portloe from West Portholland where one of the last of Cornwall's mediaeval coastal farmsteads has survived.

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The walk starts at West Portholland and follows the coast path to the top of Perbagus Point, overlooking Portholland. The route then continues around Veryan Bay, passing small coves, some of which are accessible from the path and others only by sea. The walk descends from the cliffs to reach the tiny natural harbour of Portloe. The return route is on easier terrain via lanes, tracks and footpaths across the fields to reach Perbargus Point before the final descent via the coast path to return to Portholland.


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

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes, or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 105 OS Explorer 105 (laminated version)

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


  • Views across Veryan Bay to Dodman Point
  • Unspoilt fishing villages of Portloe and Portholland
  • Sandy beach at Portholland
  • Coastal wildlife including birds and reptiles

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Ship Inn

Adjoining walks


  1. Cross the footbridge from the car park and follow the path up the steps via a pedestrian gate. Continue following the path to reach a signpost at a junction of paths.

    The lime kiln in West Portholland was originally built in 1805 and consisted of the part nearest the road, with two alcoves to access the bottom of the kiln. This was later extended twice in the seaward direction, with each extension containing a new alcove.

    Internally, a lime kiln consisted of a conical stone or brick-lined chamber which was loaded from the top with alternating layers of limestone and carbon-rich fuel such as charcoal, peat or coal. At the side of the kiln was an alcove known as an "eye" which was used to access the kiln and remove the quicklime from a hole at the bottom of the chamber. The kiln was often run continuously with more layers of fuel and limestone added to the top as the previous layers worked their way down through the kiln. Air was drawn in through the bottom of the kiln and heated up as it passed through the quicklime (also cooling the quicklime) before it reached the level where combustion was taking place.

  2. Turn left, signposted to Portloe, and follow the path to reach a footbridge.

    Up until the 19th century, when Portland Cement became popular, lime was used for mortar to cement together stones in buildings. Quicklime generated from a lime kiln was first "slaked", by adding water, to create a slurry which was then mixed with sand. Further inland, building sand was often the waste from china clay pits, with the larger pieces of quartz sieved out. The mortar hardens because the slaked lime reacts with carbon dioxide in the air and turns into calcium carbonate (limestone).

  3. Cross the bridge and follow the path via a stile and two pedestrian gates to eventually reach another footbridge.

    In December 1830, a hurricane drove three ships (from France, Denmark and Russia) onto the rocks at East Portholland. Five local fishermen "stripped to their drawers" and salvaging one of the boats washed off the Russian vessel, rowed out with a line to one of the three ships, allowing the crews of all three ships to get ashore. Over the course of 48 hours, around 20 ships were wrecked off the Cornish coast.

  4. Cross the bridge and follow the path to reach a shack beside the path.

    The rock off the point 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.

  5. Keep right along the path and follow it down the steps into Portloe.

    The derelict building was a coastguard lookout, built in the 20th Century.

    The walled area on the point was a signal station. This is shown on the 1880s OS maps so is likely to date from earlier in the 19th Century. A flagstaff here also dates from the same period.

  6. At the bottom of the steps, follow the path ahead in front of two cottages until it forks. Turn left at the fork and follow the path to emerge onto a tarmac path at the bottom of the slope. Turn right onto this and follow it to a driveway. Turn left onto the driveway and follow it past a waymark until it ends on a lane.

    The name Portloe is thought to be derived from the Cornish Porth Logh, meaning something along the lines of "inlet cove". Due to its natural harbour, it developed as a fishing village, although whereas most fishing villages were thriving in mediaeval times, Portloe's development was not until the 17th and 18th Centuries. Due to the road access being along narrow, winding lanes, Portloe also missed the 20th Century commercialisation that happened to many other seaside towns. Consequently it has been used as a filming location in a number of productions and was cast as the hamlet of St Gweep for the BBC comedy series "Wild West", which starred Dawn French and Catherine Tate.

  7. At the lane, the walk continues uphill to the right, past the ship's figurehead. First you may want to explore Portloe to the left then return here to resume the walk. Follow the lane for about half a mile up the hill, past the car park and 30mph signs until you reach a bend in the lane at Trenisson Vean with a kissing gate between two gates on the right.

    Before leaving Portloe, you may want to turn left at the duck to have a look around or visit the pub which is a bit further along this road to the left.

    The RNLI stationed a lifeboat at Portloe in 1870. It was kept at first in a boat house built at the end of the road above the beach but proved difficult to launch (one attempt to launch the boat resulted in the demolition of a shop) and manoeuvre across the beach. In 1877, a new boathouse was built nearer the water, and the original one became the church. However it was found that whenever a strong wind blew from any southerly compass point, it was impossible to launch the lifeboat, which was exactly when one was needed. It was finally withdrawn from service in 1887, without ever having performed a rescue. The second boathouse was used as a school for a while but has since become a private house.

  8. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate and follow along the wall on the left. Then bear left slightly to a gate in the corner of the field, just to the left of the barns on the skyline.

    The barns belong to a farm called Cruggan which is most likely from the Cornish word krugynn meaning "small mound", reflecting the elevated position of the barns.

  9. Cross the stile or go through the gate and follow the track past a barn to reach a gate just before a farmyard.

    Ivy has two types of roots. The "normal" roots extend in to the soil and collect nutrients. At intervals along the climbing stems there are also aerial roots which attach the plant to a surface. As they come into contact with a surface, the roots change shape to anchor the plant. They then produce hairs that wedge into any crevices. The roots also exude a chemical compound which acts as a glue.

  10. Go through the gate and keep the barns on your right to reach the yard. Bear right across the yard to the concrete track leaving the yard via a metal gate. Go through the gate and follow the track around a bend to the left. Continue until it ends in a T-junction with a lane.

    The farm have a herd of South Devonshire cattle.

    The cattle breeds known as Devon were also the traditional breeds used in Cornwall until recent years. The South Devon breed, affectionately known as "Orange Elephant" or "Gentle Giant", is the largest of the British native breeds: the largest recorded bull weighed 2 tonnes. They are thought to have descended from the large red cattle of Normandy, which were imported during the Norman invasion of England. The other breed, known as "Devon Ruby" or "Red Ruby" (due to their less orange colouration), is one of the oldest breeds in existence, with origins thought to be from pre-Roman Celtic Britain.

  11. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past the entrance to Tregenna Farm to reach another junction.

    The name Tregenna is from a Cornish word genna which means "wedge-shaped". It's possible that this is a reference to the V-shaped valley that the farm sits at the top of.

  12. Turn right down the bridleway and follow this, ignoring any entrances to properties either side, until the track ends and a grassy path continues from the end.

    The Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Tortoiseshell butterflies are all quite closely related and specialised for overwinter hibernation. Their wings, when closed, have a jagged outline and camouflaged colours that allows them to blend in with dead leaves. Their feet contain chemoreceptors (taste buds) which allows them to detect nectar-bearing flowers when they land.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

  13. Join the grassy path and follow it to emerge at the signpost on the coast path that you encountered near the start of the walk.

    The hamlets of East and West Portholland are owned by the Caerhays Estate and conservative management by the landowner has preserved many historic buildings and prevented commercialisation of the beaches.

  14. At the signpost, turn left onto the coast path to return to West Portholland.

    Pengelly Farm, overlooking West Portholland beach, dates back to 1465 and is one of the last remaining examples of coastal farmsteads which were once often found beside beaches in Cornwall. The name contains the Cornish words pen (meaning top) and kelli (meaning copse).

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