Readymoney Cove to Polridmouth walk

Readymoney Cove to Polridmouth

A circular walk in Du Maurier country from Readymoney Cove - where she lived in the 1940s - to Polridmouth where the shipwreck inspired her book Rebecca.

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The route follows St Catherine's Parade to Readymoney Cove and then joins the coast path to St Catherine's Castle. The walk continues along the rocky coast to Polridmouth via some small coves. Footpaths and tracks lead via Coombe Farm to return on the final stretch of the Saint's Way to Readymoney Cove.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107
  • Distance: 3.3 miles/5.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers 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)


Adjoining walks


  1. Follow the Readymoney Beach sign from the bottom-left of the car park to emerge on a wider path. Turn left onto the path and follow it down the valley until it ends on a lane.

    St. Catherine's Parade was originally created in the mid 19th Century as a private carriageway from the main road to Neptune House, overlooking Readymoney Cove. A photo from 1908 shows a majestic, neatly maintained track with a footpath running alongside which a guidebook of 1892 describes "the use of which Mr Rashleigh and his lady have generously and opportunely presented to the respectable inhabitants of Fowey of all classes". In 1949, the carriageway was leased to the council by the Hanson Estate for 50 years as a public walk. In 1970, it was donated permanently as a public footpath by the Hanson family in memory of their ancestors; there are granite dedication stones at either end. Sadly, the Council was not clear if the verges had been donated as well as the footpath, and the confusion over ownership led to them becoming overgrown and swallowing the carriageway. Fowey Town Council have worked hard to sort the situation out and the state of the path is now being steadily improved.

  2. Turn right onto the lane and follow it downhill, past a Saints Way signpost and around the back of the cove to reach another footpath signpost by the overhanging cottage.

    The limekiln at Readymoney Cove was built in 1819 which was able to produce a more potent fertiliser than the beach sand which had been formerly used for raising the pH of the acidic local soils. After Point Neptune was sold in 1935, the limekiln was converted into a store room with a garden on top which includes ornamental turrets. A public shelter and toilets have also subsequently been added.

  3. Follow the path signposted as the Coast Path past the cottages and up the valley until you reach a junction of paths by a wooden fence.

    The cottage set back behind the beach is Readymoney Cottage.

    In the late 1930s, the stables and carriage house of Point Neptune were converted into Point Neptune Cottage, now generally known as Readymoney Cottage, and made available for rent. Daphne Du Maurier moved to Readymoney Cottage in Fowey in April 1942. Whilst she was living there, she wrote Hungry Hill, based on the stories of her wartime lover Christopher Puxley who used to stay in a hotel in Fowey to spend time with her. In 1943, her husband was hurt in a glider crash and Du Maurier brought him to Readymoney to nurse him. But after he rejoined his colleagues in north Africa, it is said that she grew tired of life in the cottage and moved to Menabilly in September 1943.

  4. At the junction by the fence, turn left and follow the path towards the headland until the path splits.

    Wild garlic has been found in settlements dating as far back as the neolithic period which given its springtime abundance and aroma is not that surprising. Its culinary use was eventually overtaken by domesticated garlic which first arrived with Mediterranean traders and had the advantage that the bulbs could be stored for relatively long periods.

    The growing conditions for trees varies from year to year (e.g. there might be a drought one summer). The "bad years" and "good years" are reflected in the widths of the rings. The pattern of good and bad summers is the same (more-or-less, depending of the location) for every tree so this forms a calendar - the known sequence of wide and narrow rings can be used to assign an exact year to each ring. This can also be done with dead and even fossil trees both to date them and get an idea of what the climate was doing at the time.

  5. At the junction, bear left to reach a small signpost for St Catherine's Castle opposite the information board for St Catherine's Point.

    Despite several other paths leading to the left, the path with the signpost is the only one of the paths which reaches the castle so you may wish to have a look and return to the information board to continue the walk.

    St Catherine's Castle is named after the headland (St Catherine's Point) and was initially constructed in Tudor times as part of Henry VIII's south coast defences. It was maintained during the Tudor period and manned by Royalists during the early part of the English Civil war. By 1684 it was described as ruinous, although it was used during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1855 it was refurbished and two 64-pounder guns were mounted below the blockhouse but it was abandoned again by the end of the 19th Century. During WW2, concrete defences were added (most of which have since been removed) and two naval guns were installed; the gun emplacements below the castle are the remains of these, adapted from the Victorian cannon emplacements.

  6. After the St Catherine's Point sign, keep right, ignoring any paths to the left, to reach a fork in the path where a path to the right leads uphill to a shelter. Take the middle path ahead (ignoring the upper path to the shelter, and a lower path) and follow it to a junction of paths with a gate to the left.

    English Heritage began in 1983 as a government department responsible for the national system of heritage protection and managing a range of historic properties. In 1999 it was merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record. In 2015 a charity was formed called English Heritage Trust which was split off from the government to manage the National Heritage Collection (which is still owned by the state). The "English Heritage" name is now associated with this charity. The remaining government body is known as Historic England and is responsible for the statutory and protection functions that were part of the old organisation.

  7. At the junction, turn left (signposted Gribbin Head) and go through the gate. Then keep left to follow the path along the coast. Continue all the way across the field to reach a gate, just after the path enters the bushes.

    In 1902 land on St Catherine's Point was leased for 100 years from the Rashleigh Estate to build a lighthouse and it was completed in 1905. Shipping fees were increased by a farthing to cover the cost. It was originally powered by gas and was converted to electricity after the Second World War. In 2002, the lease was due to run out so the Fowey Harbour Commissioners purchased the land (permanently this time) from the Rashleigh Estate.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path down the steps to reach a waymark and signpost at the back of the cove.

    During the late mediaeval period, piracy became a big problem and so merchant fleets began to include some heavily armed ships who were licensed to attack any pirate ships. This evolved into "privateering", where shipowners could obtain Letters of Marque from the Crown which allowed them to attack enemy shipping in a certain area and sell the cargo for profit. It was essentially legalised piracy but allowed the Crown to bolster its navy very cheaply. Partly due to the rapidly shifting allegiances of mediaeval wars and partly due to over-enthusiasm, some privateers were accused of piracy, i.e. attacking shipping without a licence.

  9. Continue ahead towards Gribbin Head to reach a stone stile. Climb the stile and follow the path up the side of the valley to a pedestrian gate.

    Primrose seeds are quite large and therefore, due to their weight, don't travel far from the plant. This causes a clump of primroses to spread out very slowly over time and means it takes a long time for primroses to colonise new areas. This makes large carpets of primroses a very good indicator of ancient woodland where they would have had many hundreds of years to spread out.

    Some of the most notorious privateers, and allegedly pirates, in Fowey were the family known as either Michaelstow or Mixstow. The first record of the family is in 1357 when Richard de Michaelstow hired his ship to the Black Prince for £20. The family gained their notoriety in the 14th and 15th Centuries when privateering was a major part of the port's commerce. The settlement of Mixtow, just upriver from Bodinnick, is thought to have been their family home.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the field to a pedestrian gate out of the field where the path descends into a gully.

    Smuggling was also a major part of the economy from Tudor times until the 19th Century.

    In 1828, customs officers seized the Fowey sloop Lucy when they discovered that her sleek hull was not purely for hydrodynamic reasons. In a hidden compartment either side of a false keel, 100 small barrels were concealed below the waterline, each filled with spirits.

  11. Go through the gate and cross the gully to reach a gate into another field. Go through the gate and follow the path along the edge of the field to reach a gate in the far hedge.

    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.

    In March 1937, the 3500 ton Kanteong, at the time the world's largest tin dredger, was on tow from the builders' yard in Holland to the Far East when she capsized in a storm off the Eddystone reef. She had to be abandoned, and drifted down the coast until she hit the rocks at Fowey, broke up and sank. At low tide, a huge iron gear wheel is visible above the surface of the water, and below the surface is the remains of the massive dredging arm, complete with buckets.

  12. Go through the gate and follow the path along the coast to another gate in the far hedge.

    The headland in the distance with the stripy tower is Gribbin Head.

    The 84ft tall tower on Gribbin Head was erected by Trinity House in 1832 as a daylight navigation aid for shipping, enabling ships to distinguish Gribbin Head more easily from other headlands along Cornwall’s south coast. It is now owned by the National Trust and can be climbed on some Sundays during summer; a flag is flown to show when it is open.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the path down the steps until you reach a waymark at the bottom of the valley next to a Coombe Farm sign.

    Polridmouth is pronounced locally as "pridmuth". The cottage behind the beach is thought to be the inspiration for the boathouse in Daphne Du Maurier's novel "Rebecca". The ornamental lakes by the cottage were created in the 1920s by the building of a dam. It was used as the basis of a decoy airfield in the Second World War to emulate Fowey harbour. Dams additional to the one remaining were built to create a fake harbour and lights were then placed around the lake, orchestrated to emulate those in Fowey. At least one bomb is known to have been drawn away from Fowey, and on average, it has been estimated that around 5% of German bombs were diverted by decoys, saving thousands of lives across the whole of Britain.

  14. At the waymark, turn right as indicated for Coombe Farm and follow the path through a gate. Continue on the path until it ends at a field gate with a pedestrian gate alongside.

    On the rocks on the right-hand side of the beach are the remains of the Romanie.

    In January 1930, The Romanie was on her way back from Fowey to Par when she was caught in a sudden storm. The three masted iron sailing ship of just over 100ft in length was pushed into Polridmouth Bay where she lost power and she drifted helplessly onto the rocks. Her captain and crew managed to escape without loss of life but the ship was a write-off. The rusting remains can still be seen at low tide and when Daphne Du Maurier walked along the beach during the mid 20th century, the wreck inspired her to make the beach the setting for the murder of her character "Rebecca", and the wreck of her boat.

  15. Go through the pedestrian gate and follow along the right hedge, past one field gate, to a second field gate with a path departing between two hedges.

    Due to blackthorn wood's toughness, it was used to make tool handles, walking sticks and as a traditional Celtic weapon for clubbing people to death! It is still regarded as the ultimate wood for making walking sticks. Once cut and trimmed, the wood needs to be dried for at least a year (often several) which allows moisture to escape and the wood to shrink and harden.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the path until it emerges at a junction of tracks and lanes.

    Alexanders are a member of the carrot family and grow along roadsides in places similar to cow parsley. The leaves are more solid than the lacy cow parsley leaves and the flowers are yellow rather than white. The name arises because the plant was introduced to the UK by the Romans and was known as the "pot herb of Alexandria". It is also sometimes known as horse parsley.

    The collared dove is a fairly easy member of the pigeon family to recognise. The clue is in the name: they are pale with a thin black ring at the back of their neck.

    Before 1930, there were no collared doves in Western Europe and the most easterly part of their range was Turkey and The Balkans. Within just 20 years they colonised most of continental Western Europe and in 1955 they bred for the first time in Britain. They have since become one of the top 10 most common birds in British surveys.

    Their rapid spread seems to be down to both their ability to make epic journeys of over 400 miles and their ability to breed all year round if the weather is mild. They will even start building a new nest whilst there are still chicks in the current one, and take breaks to from incubating eggs in the new nest to nip back to the old nest to feed the recently fledged young. They feed on seeds and grain so arable farming has provided a supply of food.

  17. Take the track on the right (but not far right), indicated by a footpath signpost for Readymoney. Follow the track until it ends in a small parking area with a gravel path continuing from the other side.

    It has been suggested that Readymoney Cove was a very early premediaeval trading place, which is consistent with the Saint's Way meeting the coast here. The name "Readymoney" is thought to be from redeman meaning "stony ford"; red was an Old Cornish word for ford (as in Redruth) and men means stone. The "stony" part is often assumed to mean "pebbly" but could alternatively be a reference to exposed bedrock such as that seen on the path down to the cove which may have originally continued across the river crossing before the area was developed.

  18. Cross the parking area to a gravel path opposite and follow this to where it ends in a gate.

    Cornwall has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  19. Go through the pedestrian gate next to the gate and follow the path across the field to the two gateways in the left corner of the field.

    The two fields alongside the valley of Coombe containing benches are known as Allday's Fields. This was previously a golf course, hence some of the lumps and a number of the benches are located on former tees. The course stretched down into the valley of Coombe where two of the greens were located. The Fowey Golf Club was founded in 1907 and the 9 hole cliff-top course was played until WW2 when the land was requisitioned. An attempt was made to resurrect the course and the club after the war but it only lasted a few years. The land was eventually bought by a wealthy businessman (James Allday) who gave the fields to the town in 1951.

  20. Go through the rightmost of the two gateways. Then turn left, signposted for Readymoney Beach, and follow the path along the left hedge to an iron kissing gate.

    Golf developed in The Netherlands during the Middle Ages and was introduced into Scotland towards the end of this period where it evolved to its present form. The word golf is thought to be a Scots alteration of Dutch colf meaning "club". Golf is first documented in Scotland in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, prohibiting the playing of the games of gowf and futball as these were a distraction from archery practice.

  21. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path downhill, keeping left at any forks, to emerge on a path opposite a small signpost.

    Extracts from ivy were used in herbal remedies and still form the basis of some modern-day cough medicines. It is said to have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. A study for English Heritage also found that roadside ivy absorbed particulates from the atmosphere which may lead to its use in improving air quality.

  22. Turn right at the junction, towards Readymoney beach, and follow the path to a waymark in front of a wooden fence at the junction of paths that you encountered earlier on the walk.

    The path that you are following down to Readymoney Cove is part of the Saint's Way.

    The Saints' Way runs for 30 miles from Padstow to Fowey, and follows one of the likely routes of early Christian travellers making their way from Wales and Ireland to the Continent during the Dark Ages. Rather than risk a premature martyring on the rocks around Land's End, they would disembark their ships on the North Devon and Cornish coast and cross the peninsula, on foot, to ports on the south coast such as Fowey. The Bush Inn at Morwenstow is thought to be one of the stopovers from the North Devon ports. The route from Padstow to Fowey was in use before the Dark Ages which is evident from Roman coins found along the route. However it is thought that it was likely to have been in use even earlier still, in the Iron Age.

  23. When you reach the fence, turn left and follow the path downhill to the lane at Readymoney Cove.

    At the end of the 18th century, record catches of pilchards were made in Cornwall. In 1792, one of the largest pilchard cellars in Cornwall, known as St Catherine’s Cellars, was constructed at Readymoney Cove on the site of a former gun emplacement by Philip Rashleigh. In one year alone, 60,000 hogshead barrels, each containing up to 3000 pilchards caught in St Austell Bay, were exported from Fowey.

  24. Follow the lane to retrace your steps back to the massive house (Point Neptune) where the footpath from the car park meets the lane. Turn left to follow the footpath back to the car park.

    Point Neptune, the house with the high walls and large gates on road to Readymoney Cove, was originally built in the mid 19th Century on the site of an old Napoleonic gun battery. The granite buttresses rising from the sea are the remains of this. It was remodelled by William Rashleigh of Menabilly in 1864 to create a 40 room house. For 15 years in the early 21st Century it was the home of actress Dawn French, which are two words that would have caused considerable excitement to the occupants of the original gun battery.

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