Circular walk from Sandymouth Beach to the Coombe Valley

Sandymouth to Coombe Valley

A circular walk from Sandymouth beach, via the Landmark Trust's historic buildings of Coombe and a derelict mill which is one of the largest bat colonies in England, to the remains of the once great manor of Stowe Barton, the interior furnishings of which can be seen in Prideaux Place at Padstow.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you to the start of the walk via satnav.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app guides you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
The walk route is described with detailed, regularly-updated, hand-written directions.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are at all times and even which way you are facing.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk is packed with information about the history and nature along the route, from over a decade of research than spans more than 3,000 topics.
Person looking at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need wifi or a phone signal during the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
Starting at Sandymouth, the route follows the coast to Duckpool where a quiet, sandy beach is exposed at low tide. The walk then heads inland via the hamlet of Coombe where the buildings are owned by the Landmark Trust. The walk continues through the woods of the Coombe Valley, before returning through the site of the manor at Stowe Barton and then following bridleways back to Sandymouth.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Buy walk

Sign in to buy this walk.

This walk is in your basket. Proceed to your basket to complete your purchase.

My Basket Remove from basket

You own this walk.

An error occurred while checking the availability of this walk:

Please retry reloading the page. If this problem persists, please contact us for assistance.

Reload page

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 126
  • Distance: 4.4 miles/7.1 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 126 OS Explorer 126 (laminated version)

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


  • Huge sandy beach at Sandymouth
  • Panoramic coastal views between Sandymouth and Duckpool
  • Pebbles, sand and rockpools at Duckpool beach
  • Pretty hamlet of Coombe
  • Woodland nature reserve in Coombe Valley
  • Historic site of Stowe Barton manor

Adjoining walks


  1. From the car park, follow the track towards the beach, past Sandymouth Café to a signpost.

    Sandymouth lies between two headlands - Steeple Point and Menachurch Point - and is the longest beach in the Bude area, measuring over a mile long at low tide. At low spring tides, it joins with Northcott Mouth and Crooklets Beach to the south, creating an expanse of sand all the way to Bude. The seabed slopes sharply away from the beach, producing strong surf which makes it dangerous for swimming but a popular surfing spot.

  2. At the signpost, take the track on the right through the kissing gate signposted to Duckpool. Continue parallel to the coast to reach a footbridge and cross this to a bench.

    Before doing so, you may want to make a short diversion to visit Sandymouth beach: follow the track straight ahead down to the sea, then return to this point to resume the walk.

  3. From the bench, follow the waymarked coast path to reach a waymark near the brow of the hill.

    Whilst much of the rock along the Tintagel and Boscastle coast is slate, the rocks around Bude are sandstones and shales. Where the softer upended rock layers have been eroded by the sea, a series of ridges has been formed such as at the sides of the beaches at Widemouth, Northcott Mouth and Sandymouth, creating many rockpools.

  4. Bear left over the brow of the hill until a kissing gate with a signpost comes into view and then head for this.
  5. Go through the kissing gate and follow the coast path, signposted to Duckpool, to a gate at the top of Warren Gutter.

    This is a nice example of a hanging valley. These are common along the North Cornish coast where there are many small streams meeting the sea.

    Hanging valleys are common on the North Cornish coast and are created due to erosion of the relatively hard cliffs by the Atlantic waves being faster than erosion of the valley by a small river. In many cases, this results in a waterfall where the small river meets the sea cliff, though many of these are little more than a trickle in dry weather. When there is a strong onshore gale, the waterfalls sometimes run backwards!

  6. Go through the gate and descend into the valley to reach a tiny footbridge crossing the stream.

    The satellite dishes that you can see ahead are part of the array at GCHQ Bude.

    C.S.O.S. Morwenstow is a satellite ground station, comprised of 21 satellite antennas which are thought to span the full range of communication frequencies. It is staffed by GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), the British signals intelligence service, and the United States NSA (National Security Agency). The activities remain classified but it's thought that these relate to the interception and decryption of electronic communications. Prior to the satellite station, the site was the location of RAF Cleave, a World War 2 airfield used by Fighter Command. Some of the concrete foundations of the airfield buildings are visible near the coast path.

  7. Cross the stream and keep left, following the path up the other side of Warren Gutter and across some footbridges. Continue along the coast until you eventually reach a waymarked wooden baton across the old worn path, with a new path branching to the right.

    The yellow water iris (also known as yellow flag) is a native plant but can become invasive and have a negative effect on biodiversity due to its ability to out-compete many other water plants. It is thought by some to be the original plant on which the "fleur-de-lis" heraldic symbol is based.

    If heavy metals are present in the soil, the plant is quite effective at absorbing these. This together with its aptitude for growing in pools of shallow water makes it potentially useful for detoxifying mine drainage.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round.

    During the summer months, stonechats eat invertebrates. As temperatures drop and there are not so many of these about, they make do with seeds and fruit such as blackberries. Quite a few die in cold winters but this is offset by their fast breeding rate during the warmer months.

  8. Bear right at the waymark and follow the waymarked path to reach a kissing gate in the fence. Go through the gate and follow the path down into the valley, to eventually reach a footbridge over a stream.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  9. Cross the bridge and turn left. Follow the waymarked path to a gate.

    The wheatear can often be seen on the coast during the summer month as it nests in rock crevices or rabbit burrows but returns to Sub-Saharan Africa every winter.

    For a long time, the wheatear was thought to be a member of the thrush family but genetic studies have revealed they are actually members of the (Old World) flycatcher family which also includes stonechats.

    The name "wheatear" is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of "white arse", referring to the bird's prominent white rump.

    Since modern birds don't have teeth to chew up their food, they swallow stones to do this for them. Gizzard stones have also been found in some dinosaur fossils (some herbivorous dinosaurs also had beak-like mouths) indicating that they used a similar approach.

  10. Go through the gate and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    Duckpool is the next bay north from Sandymouth near Bude. Duckpool is a pebble beach at high tide but as the tide goes out, sand and rock pools are revealed. Strong currents make swimming here unsafe but it's another popular spot for surfers. The beach gets its name from the pool of fresh water, contained behind a natural dam of pebbles and fed by the stream from the Coombe Valley.

    The waters around the bay contain submerged rocks and are treacherous for shipping. Numerous ships have been wrecked along this part of the coast, such as the Juantio, a Spanish brig that lost her way and hit the rocks at Duckpool on 15th January 1865, with the loss of one crew member.

  11. At the junction, turn left and follow the lane approximately 50m to a junction on the right.

    The holly tree on the left just before the junction has a nice example of some non-spiky holly leaves as well as the usual spiky ones.

    Anyone who has sat on a holly leaf will know how prickly they can be but the leaves particularly on larger holly bushes often vary considerably with less spiky leaves nearer the top.

    Holly is able to vary its leaf shape in response to its environment through a chemical process known as DNA methylation which can be used to switch genes on and off. If its leaves are eaten by grazing animals or trampled by walkers, the holly will crank up the methylation level to produce really spiky leaves on these stems. Conversely on the stems where the leaves are able to grow old in peace, the holly will produce versions that are flatter and therefore more efficient at catching the light. An individual leaf can last up to five years.

  12. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane to a ford in the hamlet of Coombe.

    The settlement of Coombe was recorded in 1439 as Combe and as Coombe in 1520. The name is from the Old English word for valley: cumb.

    Most houses in the hamlet of Coombe are owned by the Landmark Trust, a charity which rescues buildings of historic or architectural importance, and makes them available to the public as holiday accommodation.

  13. Cross the footbridge on the left side of the ford and walk in front of the cottage to where the lane bends sharply left. Then take the small path on the right signposted to Coombe Valley. At the top of the slope, keep left to stay on the main path and follow this until you eventually reach a pedestrian gate.

    At the start of the footpath, the derelict buildings you can see through the trees to your right, are part of Coombe Mill.

    Coombe Mill is situated next to the hamlet of Coombe beside the footpath leading up the valley. The disused four-level complex is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the five species of bat that now inhabit the mill's buildings. It is one of the largest breeding sites for lesser horseshoe bats in England.

  14. Go through the gate and continue to follow the path until you reach a fork.

    The woodland to the north (your left) of the river is known as Lee Wood after Lee Barton at the top of the hill. To the south of the river, the woodland is known as Stowe Wood and was once part of the estate of Stowe Manor.

    The paths through Lee Wood and Stowe Woods, adjacent to the hamlet of Coombe, were laid in 1970 by the Forestry Commission as part of the Coombe Valley Nature Trail, when many of the conifer plantations were created. Coombe is a Cornish word for "valley", so "Coombe Valley" is another of the tautologies which have arisen from appending an English word to an already fully descriptive Cornish name.

  15. Turn right at the fork and follow the path over the stream and up the other side of the valley until you reach a junction with a number of other paths.

    About half-way to the bridge, a small path leads off the the left to an area overlooking the stream with some rope swings.

  16. Turn right at the junction and cross a small stream to reach another fork in the path.

    On top of the elevated area to the left, beneath the trees, is a circular earth embankment which is thought to be the remains of an Iron Age settlement. The elevated position and nearby stream were probably factors in selecting the location.

  17. At the fork, bear left and follow the path slightly uphill to a kissing gate signposted to Stowe Barton.

    In spring and early summer, woodland here is carpeted in wild garlic.

    Unlike their more versatile narrow-leaved cousins the three-cornered leeks, ramsons grow mainly in shady places such as woodland. Their broad leaves are solar panels that have evolved to capture the weak winter light early in the year before the trees are in leaf. They are an indicator that woodland is ancient and has provided a shady environment over a long period to colonise.

    It is fairly well-known that conifer plantations support less biodiversity than native broadleaf woods but there are a number of different reasons for this. One is that many of the conifer species are introduced from abroad and the insects that normally accompany them in their native habitat are not present. Another factor is the commercial nature of plantations: some insect species which would live on the trees cause damage to the tree growth and are actively removed as pests. Similarly, plants that compete with the newly-planted trees are removed to allow the commercial crop to succeed. Also the harvesting process means that dead trees do not fall to the forest floor and provide the rotting wood that a range of insects and fungi require.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path into a field. Follow the grassy track across the field until you pass a long building on the right and reach a corner in the fence.

    The brick wall on your right is a surviving part of the original 17th Century Stowe Barton mansion.

    Stowe Barton manor, situated on the edge of the Coombe Valley, was a country house, built in 1679 for the first Earl of Bath, John Grenville. It was demolished, a mere 60 years later, by the Earl's daughter. When John Grenville died in 1701, the house passed to one of his daughters who had married and moved away. Faced with the expense of maintaining a house which was no longer the main residence, the daughter had the house demolished in 1739, with many of its internal fittings ending up in other country houses in Cornwall and Devon.

    An earlier Tudor mansion on the site was itself demolished to make way for the 17th century house. The current farmhouse is largely 19th century but its position and T-shape plan suggest it may originally have been built from part of the stable block belonging to the 17th century house.

  19. As you reach the corner in the fence, keep left and follow the fence past a house and along to a kissing gate in the corner of the field.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleating, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic.

    If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause a miscarriage. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.

    Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  20. Go through the kissing gate, then turn left onto the track. Go through the field gate and follow the track until you reach a waymarked rock on the left of the track, just before the track passes the large house on the right.
  21. At the waymarked rock, turn left and cross the field to the gate in the corner.

    Swallows have evolved a long slender body and pointed wings that makes their flight more than twice as efficient as other birds of a similar size. In flight, swallows can reach 35 mph which is particularly impressive given they weigh only 20 grams.

    Meat sold as lamb comes from sheep of around 1 year of age. Mutton is from a sheep typically of around 2-3 years of age and is much darker red in colour. Due to more muscle and fat, the flavour of mutton is stronger and the meat is tougher so it typically slow-cooked.

  22. Go through the gate and cross the lane to the bridleway opposite. Follow the bridleway until you reach a signpost at a junction.

    The land use here includes arable crops such as barley.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  23. At the signpost, go straight ahead in the direction of Sandymouth and follow the track until it ends at a number of gates.

    Crows are quite common on the farmland here.

    Crows have a vocabulary of different calls with specific meanings and these can be varied to convey emotion like a human tone of voice.

    The sounds that crows make have also been found to vary with location rather like regional accents in humans. When a crow moves into a new area, it mimics the calls of the most dominant flock members to fit in with its peer group.

  24. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left marked with a white arrow and the one immediately after. Follow the left hedge until you reach the corner. Turn left at the corner and follow the fence on the right until you reach a corner in the fence.

    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.

  25. At the corner, turn right and follow the fence on your right until you reach the next corner of the fence.

    The small ridges in steeply-sloping fields are known as terracettes and are caused by soil creep and their formation is accelerated by animals using them as tracks.

    When the soil gets wet, it expands and particles are lifted up at right angles to the slope. When the soil dries out, it contracts, but the particles fall vertically under gravity, landing a millimetre further downhill from where they started. Over a long period of time, the soil gradually creeps downhill.

  26. At the corner, bear left to a waymarked gap in the middle of the hedge ahead.
  27. Go through the gap in the hedge and bear right to meet the fence. Follow this to reach a signpost.

    At the end of the most distant headland is the island of Tintagel Castle. The nearer headland, about half-way along the coastline, is Cambeak at Crackington Haven.

  28. At the signpost, turn left away from the gate and follow the path downhill until you reach a pedestrian gate leading to a wooden walkway.
  29. Go through the gate, along the wooden walkway and up the steps into a field. Continue uphill to reach a waymark post marked with a flower.
  30. Turn right at the post and follow the waymarked path along the fence. Continue following the waymarks with a flower until you finally descend next to the gate where you started the walk.

    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 a legume, related to peas and like other members of the pea family it's able to get its nitrogen from the air. It's also tolerant to heavy metals in the soil and to salt. This makes it able to grow in Cornwall's harshest environments: moorland, coast and mine waste tips.

  31. Turn left at the bottom of the path and go through the gate to return to the café and car park at Sandymouth.

    There are remains of a shipwreck on the left side of Sandymouth.

    The shipwreck that can be seen at low tide at Northcott Mouth at the northern end near Menachurch Point is of the SS Belém. The ship ran aground on the 20th November 1917 and 33 men were rescued. The Belém was a steam-powered cargo ship, originally built in Germany in 1890, and had recently been bought by a Portuguese freight company. The visible remains include the propeller shaft and the boilers. Another section of the propeller shaft was used as the support for the barrel on Barrel Rock, on the end of Bude Breakwater.

either as a GPS-guided walk with our app (£2.99) or a PDF (£1.99)

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.