Seaton to Millendreath circular walk

Seaton to Millendreath

A circular walk in an area of Cornwall so off the beaten track that No Man's Land is a real place name and a breeding colony of monkeys live in the woodland, in a sanctuary set up by father of the classical guitarist, John Williams.

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The walk follows the coast path from Seaton, initially up Looe Hill and then up the coastal slope to a join a lane to the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary. After this the route joins a path to the Bodigga cliff picnic area and then descends via a bridleway to Millendreath. The return route climbs out of the Millendreath valley on the small lane towards No Man's Land and then more small lanes and tracks to join the bridleway from Keveral Farm through the woods of the Seaton Valley.


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

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 107,108
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 107 OS Explorer 108 OS Explorer 107 (laminated version) OS Explorer 108 (laminated version)

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


  • Wildflowers in spring in the Seaton Valley woods
  • Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary
  • Sandy beaches at Seaton and Millendreath

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Smugglers Inn


  1. Make your way to the bridge by the beach and follow Looe Hill past the beach café. Continue following the lane uphill for roughly a quarter of a mile until you reach a wooden coast path signpost on the left, just after the national speed limit signs.

    Seaton might sound like an Old English name for a settlement by the sea but is thought to take its name from the river which had a Cornish name. The river was recorded in 1302 as Sethyn which is likely to be from the Cornish word seth, meaning "arrow" and a contraction of vean, meaning "small".

  2. Turn left up the steps and follow the path. Continue up some more steps and along a fence, to reach the coast.

    Wild arum lilies grow alongside the path.

    In order to attract pollinating insects, the plant heats the flower spike up to 15°C above that of the surroundings. The plant exudes a smell of decaying flesh which attracts flies and the flower is designed to trap these. Within the flower, the female organs mature first and insects carrying pollen from other plants (together with any unlucky enough not to be) are imprisoned behind a row a spines within the flower. Once the plant is pollinated, the male organs quickly mature and the plant's own pollen is dusted over the trapped flies. The spines then wither away enough for the flies to escape.

    All members of the lily family, including wild arum, are poisonous to dogs.

    When a tree is injured, it exudes resin - a thick, sticky liquid which hardens and seals up the wound. The resin also contains anti-fungal and insecticide chemicals to protect it from parasites and pathogens. Frankincense and myrrh are both examples of resins.

  3. When you reach the end of the fence, follow the path along the coast to reach a gate.

    The South West Coast Path stretches for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. It was created as a route between lighthouses for use by the Coastguard so they could overlook the bays and coves to catch smugglers.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach another gate.

    The seeds of common gorse are the source of the chemical used to identify people with the rare "hh" blood group. The red blood cells in the vast majority of people (in blood groups A, B, AB and O) have a material called "H substance" on their surface. It turns out that the chemical extracted from gorse binds remarkably specifically to this and cells from the "hh" blood group (that have no H substance) are left alone.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a waymark in a gap at the end of the left hedge.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

    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.

  6. Turn left at the waymark and follow the path along the top hedge of the field to a waymark at the end of the fence, then bear right to a waymarked gateway.

    Looe Island has been inhabited since the Iron Age. Roman coins, pieces of Amphora and stone boat anchors all point to continued habitation and possibly trade before the Dark Ages. From the 13th to the 16th Centuries, the island was known as St Michael's Island, and after 1584 it became known as St George's Island.

    Looe Island also had a history of smuggling, and the first cottage on Looe Island was built by smugglers. The second cottage on the island was built by the Revenue to clamp down on the smuggling!

    In 1965 the island was bought by two sisters who lived there for the rest of their lives. The island was left to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust who now manage it as a nature reserve.

  7. Go through the gateway and bear right up the field to reach a gate at the far end of the fence along the top of the 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.

  8. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to a waymark on the corner, then bear right across the field to a gate beside a wooden footpath sign.

    A large proportion of buzzards diet is earthworms and carrion and consequently they have a reputation for being lazy and scavengers. However, when they need to be, buzzards are formidable predators. Diving on rabbits and small mammals from a slow or hovering flight, or from a perch, they nearly always make the kill on the ground.

  9. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane until it ends in a junction.

    The process of placing trig points on top of prominent hills and mountains began in 1935 to assist in the retriangulation of Great Britain - a project to improve the accuracy of maps which took three decades.

    A plate (known as a "flush bracket" and marked with an ID code) on the side of each trig point marked a known measured height above sea level. The brass plate on the top with three arms and central depression (known as a "spider") was used to mount a theodolite which was used to measure the angles between neighbouring trig points very accurately. These angles allowed the construction of a system of triangles which covered the entire country and provided a measurement system accurate to around 20 metres.

  10. Continue ahead at the junction, signposted to Windsworth. Follow the lane until you reach a wooden coast path sign beside a gate on the left.

    The Monkey Sanctuary was founded in 1964 by Len Williams, father of the famous classical guitarist John Williams. The sanctuary was created as a cooperative to care for woolly monkeys rescued from the pet trade, and has won Green tourism awards. It was the first place in the world where the monkeys bred successfully outside of their native habitat and the woolly monkeys there today are descendants of the rescued pets.

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a gate onto a track.

    Baby blackbirds usually leave the nest before they can actually fly then hop and scramble through the bushes. Their parents watch over them so don't attempt to rescue them.

  12. Go through the gate and the one directly opposite, then follow the waymarked path into a grassy area with picnic benches and around an arc to the right to re-emerge on the lane.

    In March 1944, the crew of a battle-damaged B17 Flying Fortress long-range bomber aircraft bailed out over the land, leaving just the pilot who took it out over the sea to avoid civilian casualties before he himself bailed out. The plane crashed into the sea a short distance offshore of Millendreath beach and the pilot was rescued by a local man who rowed out in a leaking boat whilst a local woman bailed out the water. The engines and propellers from the plane were recovered by divers and are now in museums at Looe and St Mawgan, respectively.

  13. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a waymark and footpath sign. Follow the bridleway ahead from the sign until it eventually opens out into a lane and ends at the beach.

    Millendreath beach faces south and the high cliffs either side shelter it from the wind, making it a sun-trap. The pier along the left-hand side of the beach was constructed to trap seawater, forming a bathing pool. At low tide, it's possible to walk along the foreshore to the neighbouring beaches. To the west, it's possible to reach Plaidy and East Looe beaches, and to the east it's possible to reach Bodigga and Keveral beaches and even Seaton. Care must be taken not to be cut-off by the incoming tide, however.

  14. When you reach the beach, turn right onto the lane and follow this inland until you reach a junction on the right.

    Millendreath was established as a Holiday Village in the 1940s and was developed in the 1960s, which is evident from the box-shaped apartments tiered up the valley. The Holiday Village declined in the 1980s and 1990s, eventually closed and became derelict, gaining the name "Disturbia" amongst locals. Since 2012, the remains have been regenerated under the name Black Rock Resort, with the some of the larger buildings removed and the original apartments refurbished as holiday villas.

  15. Turn right and follow the lane uphill until you reach a junction, signposted to Windsworth.

    During early spring, primroses flower along the lane.

    Although primroses flower most intensely in March and April, some primroses can begin flowering in late December. The name "primrose" from the Latin for "first" (as in "primary"), alluding to their early flowering.

    The ferns with solid leaves are appropriately called hart's tongue as the leaf resembles the tongue of a deer. It's an evergreen so leaves can be seen all year round but there's usually a flurry of new growth in mid March when new leaves can be seen gradually unfurling over a number of days. The Latin name for the species means "centipede" as the underside of the leaves have rows of brown spore cases that form a pattern resembling centipede legs. The plants thrive in shady places and are tolerant of the lime used in mortar so are sometimes found growing in old walls.

  16. Turn right towards Windsworth and follow the lane to a crossroads.

    The bushes in the hedgerows provide perches for robins and tits.

    Unlike many birds that just sing in spring, robins sing nearly all year round. In fact during winter if you hear birdsong, it's most likely to be a robin. Despite how cute robins look, they are actually very territorial and the chirp is an aggressive warning to any would-be intruders not to even think of trying it. When robins don't sing, this a sign that their body fat reserves are low and they are conserving what little they have left until food becomes more plentiful.

  17. Continue ahead at the crossroads and follow the lane until it ends at a junction.

    The hamlet of No Man's Land is located on the boundary of the Lostwithiel and Lanlivery parishes.

    Sometimes a small area of common land with unclaimed or disputed ownership occurred close to or between parish boundaries, often ignored due to relatively poor agricultural value. The name nonesmanneslond was recorded in 1320 for such areas. This has also given rise to place name of Nowhere (in Norfolk).

  18. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane until you reach a bend with a track leading ahead beside the sign for Keveral Farm.
  19. Follow the bridleway ahead to Keveral Farm to reach some farm buildings, just after a track departs to the left.

    Keveral was recorded in 1299 as Keverel. Cornish place names expert Craig Weatherhill suggests that the meaning is "place of joint-tillage". Since the name is based on the Cornish language, it's likely that the settlement dates from the Early Medieval period before the Norman Conquest.

  20. Continue ahead on the main track between the buildings to reach a post with a blue waymark where a path departs ahead.

    When we were checking this walk one winter, we were surprised to see a Sainsbury's delivery van located a considerable distance along the path from the waymark. A shell-shocked driver struggled out from the tiny gap between the van and the wall and informed us that as he applied the brakes, the van began to slide down the footpath and continued sliding for several hundred metres until it eventually reached a narrow point where it wedged between the walls. I probably wouldn't be here to write this if we'd arrived at the top of the path a few minutes earlier.

  21. Follow the path ahead and keep left to pass the gateway on the right. Continue on the path ahead, alongside the wall, until you reach a bend where paths depart to the left and the main path bends to the right.

    The bridleway is lined with wild garlic in spring.

    Despite the pungent smell, the leaves of wild garlic are quite delicate in flavour so can be used quite large quantities in cooking or more sparingly within salads. They are at their most fiery early in the season.

    Trees grow from a microscopically thin layer of cells that sits between the bark and the wood. On the outside it produces the inner bark (phloem) and on the inside it produces the outer section of wood (xylem).

  22. Keep right at the corner to stay on the main path and follow this through the woods until it eventually opens out into a lane.

    Bluebells flower along the bridleway in late April and throughout May.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

    The formation of most of the world's coal deposits from wood occurred during a single geological period suitably-named the Carboniferous. It was postulated that this might be because white rot hadn't evolved by then so dead wood just accumulated. However, it's now thought more likely to be due to the formation of particularly deep swamps from the crust-buckling collisions of tectonic plates in this period which allowed wood both to accumulate in a low-oxygen environment and then be compressed into coal.

  23. Follow the lane down the hill and around a bend to the left to where it ends in a junction with the main road.

    The source of the River Seaton is in Minions near the Cheesewring Hotel and it connects with two tributary streams running through St Cleer. Due to the copper mining activity around Caradon Hill, the tributary streams contain dissolved copper salts where the groundwater drains from old mines or percolates through waste tips. The level of copper in the main river is not high enough to prevent fish living in it but it does restrict the invertebrate species that are able to live in the river and so the fish population is lower than surrounding rivers as there is less for them to eat. The river runs for just over 10 miles before reaching the sea at Seaton beach.

  24. Turn right onto the road and follow it back towards the beach to reach the car parks.

    The beach at Seaton is composed of grey sand which becomes coarser and more pebbly towards the high tide line. At low tide, the beach stretches all the way to Downderry. A sea wall runs along the top of the beach for its full length. It is possible, although not recommended, to walk along the top of the sea wall all the way to Downderry. The Council signs advising against this may seem overly risk-averse as the top of the wall is no more uneven than many footpaths, and benches along the top of the wall would seem to contradict the signs. However, at high tide when there is a big swell, waves can break over the top of the wall and have the potential to sweep people into the sea.

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