St Anthony Head

St Anthony Head

A walk along the Roseland coast and creeks opposite St Mawes, passing the preserved fort and Fraggle Rock lighthouse on St Anthony Head and the golden sandy beaches of Molunan.

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The walk starts along the Roseland coast from Towan Beach to Zone Point. The route then passes around St Anthony Head - the tip of the Roseland peninsula, passing the fort and lighthouse featured in Fraggle Rock. The route follows the coast into Carrick Roads past the sandy beaches of Molunan to Carricknath Point. The walk then follows the creeks of the Percuil River opposite St Mawes to complete the circular route.


  • The descent from one stile involves some stone footholds (there is no ascent as the stile starts from high ground).
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 105
  • Distance: 5.9 miles/9.5 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking shoes or trainers in summer; waterproof walking boots in winter

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 Nare Head
  • Views across Carrick Roads to Falmouth and Pendennis Castle
  • Views across The Percuil River to St Mawes Castle and St Mawes
  • Fort on St Anthony Head
  • St Anthony (aka Fraggle Rock) lighthouse
  • Sandy beaches at Towan and Molunan

Adjoining walks


  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the road past Porth Cottage to reach a bridleway signposted to the right.

    In December 1963, the oil tanker Allegrity ran aground on Greeb Point between Portscatho and Towan Beach on St Anthony Head. As the tide rose, the ship re-floated and drifted along the Roseland, finally running aground on Veryan Beach. Just over a week later, it capsized and was declared a total loss. Her 14 crew were saved by the Falmouth lifeboat. The ship was scrapped on the beach with material being brought ashore using metal cables. 800 tonnes of crude oil were spilled in the incident.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the bridleway towards the beach, stopping short when you reach the coast path crossing the path.

    Towan beach faces southeast into Gerrans Bay so it is exposed in easterly winds which also cause seaweed to be thrown up onto the beach. When the wind is coming from the west or north, it is nicely sheltered. At high tide, the beach is sand and shingle but as the tide goes out, areas of rocks are revealed with some rockpools.

  3. When you reach the crossing, turn right up the step and follow the path until you reach a gate.

    The wooden stump on the left is the remains of a wreck post which stood here until 2022.

    Wreck posts, resembling a telegraph pole with wooden steps, were used for Coastguard practice exercises. The post emulated the mast of a sinking ship. A "shore" team would fire a rocket carrying a light line known as a whip to a man on the post. Once he caught this, it was secured to the post and a heavier line known as a hawser was pulled out using the light line and secured to the post. This was then used to haul out the Breeches Buoy (a lifebelt with an attached pair of shorts) that the crew member could be rescued with.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the path to a bench and a National Trust sign for Killigerran Head. Just past this, keep right along the main path and follow this until you reach a gate.

    The Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust gather information about the numbers of seals in each location to study migration behaviour. Each seal has a unique pattern of spots which is like a fingerprint, allowing individuals to be identified so photos are also very useful.

    If you see one or more seals, take a photo if possible but never approach the seals to take a photo - use a zoom from a clifftop. Send the location, date, number of seals and photos if you have them to

    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.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to reach a gate on the far side.

    Look (and listen) out for choughs which are being sighted increasingly frequently around the Roseland peninsula. The birds can range over a long distance within a day and the headland here is well within range of their stronghold around The Lizard.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall. In recent years, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing. Choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the path along the bottom of the field to a gap on the far side. Go through this and follow along the bottom of the field to reach a bench beside a Coast Path signpost.

    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.
  7. From the bench, continue following the path along the edge of the field to reach a stile.

    The beach is called Porthbeor - Cornish for "large cove". Mutation of the initial consonant happened a lot in Cornish words and the word for "large" consequently crops up in names as "meor", "veor" and "beor". Thus Porthmeor at St Ives means the same thing. A landslide occurred in 2014 and the collapsed cliff has continued slipping which has made the path to Porthbeor beach unsafe.

  8. Cross the stile and continue along the coast to reach another stile at the far end of the field.

    The headland that you can see in the distance is Manacle Point on The Lizard beside Porthoustock.

    The Manacles reef stretches for a mile and a half out to sea and has numerous submerged rocks just below the surface which are all covered at high tide apart from one. The reef has been named "the grave of 1000 ships"; over 100 have certainly been lost here, which is more wrecks than any other comparable reef on the south coast of England. The name "Manacles" is thought to be a garbling of Meyn Eglos meaning "church stones" and may either refer to St Keverne church or the gravestones of over 1000 people who have drowned here.

    The proverbial silver lining is that the shipwrecks and surrounding reefs provide a good habitat for marine life and consequently the reef has some of the best diving in Britain. In 2013, The Manacles was designated a Marine Conservation Zone as the wide range of habitats it provides support species such as spiny lobsters and sea fan anemones.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the path up the other side of the valley. Continue all the way along the side of the large field until you reach a gate in the far hedge.

    In October 1940, the coaster Jersey Queen suffered an aerial attack with machine gun and cannon fire, and incendiary bombs on its way though the Irish Sea. Two of the crew were injured but the incendiary bombs slipped off the hull into the sea preventing any major damage. Two days later, she struck an acoustic mine in Cornish waters and sank in Falmouth Bay with the loss of two crew. When the mine detonated, the captain was knocked unconscious but was pulled from the water by one of the crew. Despite suffering attacks on two subsequent ships he captained, he survived the war and was awarded an MBE for his service.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path around the headland until you reach a short signpost with a pink National Trust sign and a pedestrian gate to the left marked with an acorn.

    The HMS Comet was a steam-driven trawler built in 1924 originally used for fishing and commissioned as a minesweeping trawler in 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War. In September 1940 whilst escorting a convoy, the vessel struck a mine and sank off St Anthony Head. The identity of the wreck was discovered from the ship's bell. The wreck is still surrounded by the depth charges that it carried onboard.

  11. Go through the gate (the latch pulls upwards) and follow the path to a similar gate on the other side of the meadow. Go through this and continue a few paces further to a gap through the wall.

    St Anthony Head forms the southernmost tip of Roseland peninsula and entrance to Falmouth harbour. It was purchased by the National Trust in 1959.

  12. Continue through the gap in the wall and follow the main path ahead. As you approach the fort, keep left (the route to the left has nicer views and at the next direction point you can also visit the fort). Continue around the gun emplacements until the path meets the one that leads to the fort.

    The battery on St Anthony Head was constructed in 1885 and was armed throughout both World Wars and finally retired in 1952. During the Second World War, the guns were fitted with overhead covers to act as protection against strafing by enemy aircraft. These were removed when the National Trust bought the site in 1959, bringing it more closely to its original form. It is now possibly the best surviving early breech-loading artillery fortress in the United Kingdom.

    Below the guns were storage magazines for the shells, and separate cartridges which contained the gunpowder propellant. These were stored in different locations and passed through separate lifts to the gun, only being combined at the last minute. The cartridge store required the use of special shoes and clothes, and a search before entering, to reduce the risk of a spark causing an explosion. The battery was protected against invasion by a ditch surrounding the seaward side with an unclimbed fence inside of this.

  13. Turn left onto the path and follow it a short distance to reach a footpath signpost beside an information board, just before the car park.

    Falmouth harbour is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and the deepest in Western Europe. The large waterway of Carrick Roads, forming the junction of seven estuaries, was created after the Ice Age from an ancient valley which flooded with the rising sea levels as the ice caps melted.

  14. Turn left at the footpath sign and descend the steps signposted "Coast Path", keeping left. At the bottom of the steps, continue downhill a few paces further to where the path splits to go to the Ramparts and Battery.

    Whilst ships were returning to England, often on a voyage of several months, merchants would explore the markets to find the best port to land the goods. They had no means of communicating with the ships whilst at sea, so ships were often told to sail for "Falmouth for Orders". Falmouth, being the first large port on The Channel, provided a "holding pen" for ships with incoming cargoes whilst their final destination was being decided and communicated. The ships were often badly in need of repair and supplies from their journey across the Atlantic so during the wait they could be restocked and patched up. It is thought the practice and possibly also the phrase originated in the late 17th century, soon after the Royal Mail Packet Station was established at Falmouth which involved relatively fast communications with London. Falmouth is still a major refuelling port. Ships are required to use low-sulphur oil in the English Channel to reduce emissions.

  15. At junction of paths by the signpost, keep right along the railing and follow the coast path downhill to reach a waymark.

    St Anthony's Lighthouse was built out of granite in 1835 on the eastern entrance to Falmouth Harbour to guide vessels clear of the Manacles rocks. In most directions, the light is white but a sector close to The Manacles rocks is coloured red, warning vessels to steer offshore. The lighthouse was featured in the UK version of the TV series "Fraggle Rock" as "Fraggle Rock Lighthouse". Until 1954, the lighthouse possessed a huge bell which hung outside the tower and was used as a fog signal. This was later replaced with a foghorn.

  16. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path until you reach a gate across the path.

    The small building was the paraffin store for the lighthouse when it was oil-fired.

    Until electric lighting was introduced, the light for a lighthouse was produced by burning a thin oil such as paraffin. However this wasn't burnt on a wick like domestic lighting. Instead, a pressurised system was used, typically powered by a hand pump, to force the oil through a nozzle to create fine mist which instantly vaporised in the heat from combustion. This mixture of paraffin gas and air burnt rapidly, generating a bright light. As well as header tanks in the lighthouse itself, larger storage tanks were needed nearby.

  17. Climb the steps to pass the gate and follow the path to reach a Coast Path sign at a junction with another path.

    Just before the footbridge, it's possible to climb down the rocks onto the small beach of Little Molunan. At high tide the beach almost disappears but on a low spring tide it joins with Great Molunan beach. The beaches are sheltered so are ideal for swimming and there is good snorkelling along the rocks. However if you venture into the water, keep a look out for boats as the beaches are very popular places to sail to.

  18. Turn left and cross the footbridge to a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path parallel to the coast to reach a few stone steps.

    The paths to the left lead to Great Molunan beach.

    Great Molunan lies in the mouth of the Carrick Roads estuary and is consequently sheltered from westerly winds by Pendennis Head opposite, although still exposed to southwesterlies. It's a sandy beach and on calm summer days is a fairly popular place for small boats to anchor or beach when pottering around in the estuary. At the bottom of the path to the beach there is a knotted rope to assist with the climb down the rocks.

    Rock Samphire grows along the cliff at the back of the beach.

    Rock samphire has been a popular wild food since Celtic times. It has a strong, characteristic, slightly lemony flavour and recently has become more well-known as a flavouring for gin. It was very popular as a pickle in 16th century Britain until it almost died out from over-picking in the 19th Century. Consequently, it's currently a protected plant but is now making a good comeback. In Shakespeare's time, a rope was tied to a child's ankles and he was dangled over the cliff to pick the rock samphire that grew in crevices and clefts in the rocks.

    The completely unrelated but similar-looking golden samphire also grows around the North Cornish coast. The leaves look almost identical, but the daisy-like yellow flowers in summer are a giveaway, as rock samphire has tiny green-white flowers that look more like budding cow parsley. Golden samphire is edible, but is inferior in flavour to rock samphire; it is also nationally quite rare in Britain.

    Also completely unrelated is marsh samphire (also known as glasswort) which looks more like micro-asparagus. This is what typically appears on restaurant menus or in supermarkets as "samphire".

  19. Climb the steps and follow the path to reach a waymark at the bottom of a flight of wooden steps. Climb the steps and continue on the path to reach a kissing gate into a field.

    The castle to the left on the far side of Carrick Roads is Pendennis Castle.

    Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to defend the coast against a possible French attack and was reinforced during the reign of Elizabeth I. During the English Civil War, more reinforcement took place and the castle withstood five months of siege from Parliamentary forces before it was captured. The castle was adapted for the World Wars of the 20th Century and the guardhouse has been restored to how it might have looked in the First World War. During the Second World War, underground tunnels and magazines were added which can now be visited.

  20. Go through the kissing gate and follow along the left hedge of the field and then as you approach the far side, follow the path up the bank to a kissing gate between the field gate and a bench.

    The castle on the headland opposite is St Mawes Castle.

    St Mawes Castle is part of the chain of coastal defences built during the reign of King Henry VIII to protect against an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain after establishing the Church of England. St Mawes' clover-leaf shape was designed so that heavy "ship-sinking" guns could be mounted to face in three directions and together with Pendennis Castle could protect the important anchorage of Carrick Roads. Whereas Pendennis was further developed after Tudor times, St Mawes was not. Thus it is one of the best preserved of these fortresses and is also the most elaborately decorated of them all.

  21. Go through the kissing gate and follow the left hedge to reach a gateway in the bottom corner of the field.

    During the Second World War, four anti-aircraft sites were built to protect Falmouth Harbour and the shipyard. As well as re-fitting the fort at St Anthony Head, the complex included pillboxes near Carricknath Point and gun batteries which now just remain as low earth mounds and cropmarks in the fields near Amsterdam Point.

  22. Bear right through the gateway onto a track and follow this until you reach a coast path signpost pointing towards a path to the right.

    The tree cover provides a habitat for squirrels.

    Compared to red squirrels, grey squirrels are able to eat a wider diet (including acorns), are larger so can survive colder winters, and are better able to survive in the fragmented habitats created by urbanisation. They are also thought to be carriers of a squirrel pox virus which they usually recover from but has been fatal to red squirrels, although red squirrels are now also developing some immunity.

  23. Bear right up the path and follow this until you reach a waymark.

    Rhododendron is a member of the Ericaceae family to which heathers also belong and like its cousins, it is tolerant of acid soils. The word rhododendron is from the Ancient Greek for "rose tree" due to their spectacular flowers. As a result of these, rhododendrons have been popular ornamental plants for over two centuries and the species that we now call the common rhododendron was introduced in 1763. The plants thrive in the UK climate and were once native but were wiped out by the last Ice Age. Being a vigorous plant, common rhododendron was often used as a root stock onto which more fragile but exotically-coloured hybrids were grafted.

  24. Turn left at the waymark and keep left at the gateway in the direction signposted to the church and ferry. Follow the path until it emerges beside the church.

    Some of the earliest bee hives were made of wicker and covered in mud. During the Middle Ages, woven domes were made from grass known as skeps and the bee colony was kept in this. These provided no internal structure so bees would create their own honeycomb. Also since there was only one chamber, the bees were usually killed to harvest the honey and wax. In the 18th Century, multi-tier structures were developed where the honey could be harvested from one tier whilst the colony could live on in another tier. Also in the 18th Century, the first internal frames began to appear, allowing honey to be harvested more easily. During the 19th Century, the modern style of bee hive was developed.

  25. Continue ahead to pass the church on your left and follow the path out of the churchyard to a gate and stile.

    The parish church of St Anthony was established by the Augustinian Priory of Plympton and was built in 1150 and included a priory alongside, where Place house is now located. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, part of the priory was used as a residence and other parts were pulled down and the stone was used to build St Mawes Castle. Despite being extensively restored in the 19th century, the church still retains its original mediaeval plan.

    After the church, there is a mediaeval stone coffin beside the path out of the churchyard.

  26. Cross the stile, or go through the gate if open, onto the lane. Turn left and follow the lane towards Place Quay until the fence ends in front of a slipway and there is a footpath signpost on the right.

    A few parts of Place House date from Tudor times when it was built on the site of the Augustinian priory. The house was fairly extensively rebuilt in Victorian times to remodel it on a French chateau in what was somewhat harshly described as "neo-gothic style at its least attractive".

  27. Go through the gateway in the fence on the right and then immediately turn left to follow the path along the fence. Continue on the path to a kissing gate.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  28. Go through the gate and keep right to follow the path along the wooded creek edge. Continue on the path through the woods to reach a junction of paths at a signpost and keep left here to reach a pedestrian gate.

    A possible diversion from the ferry pontoon is to take the ferry across to St Mawes, walk roughly a half-mile round-trip to see the castle, then catch the ferry back and continue the walk.

    The settlement of St Mawes originally had a Cornish name which was first recorded as Lavada in 1284 and last recorded in 1502 as Lavousa, after which it died out and was replaced by St Mawes. The Cornish name is thought to have originally started with Lan, which implies it was a Dark Ages religious settlement.

  29. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge of the field to reach another pedestrian gate in the far hedge.

    The stile in the left hedge leads onto Lowlands Beach. There were once oyster beds on Lowlands Beach, first recorded on the 1880s Ordance Survey map and recorded again as still there in the early 1900s.

    There is evidence as far back as 8700 BC of Stone Age hunter-gatherers harvesting oysters. At Tintagel castle, oyster shells were found in a refuse tip from the "Dark Ages" (Celtic Early Mediaeval period in Cornwall) which have been dated to around the 6th Century. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, oyster beds were valuable enough to be recorded in the Domesday survey.

  30. Go through the gate and follow the path through the woods to a junction of paths at a signpost to Bohortha. Keep left towards Porth and follow the path parallel to the coast to emerge from the woods into a sloping field.

    Primroses prefer moist soils so they tend to grow either in semi-shady places which don't get dried out too much by the sun such as woodland clearings and the base of hedgerows, or in wet open ground such as near streams.

    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.

  31. Follow the path along the left hedge of the field to an opening into the next field.

    An impressively purple blackberry, pear and ginger chutney can be made with blackberries stashed in the freezer. Simmer 500g blackberries, a few chilli flakes, 4 chopped pears and a finely-chopped 8cm piece of fresh ginger until the liquid reduces. Add 150ml distilled or white wine vinegar, and sugar to taste (amount will depend on tartness of the blackberries). Reduce a bit longer until the desired "gloopy" consistency is achieved and finally season with a little salt to taste to balance the sweetness.

    As well as through pollen being transferred by insects from other plants, if there are not many insects around (e.g. in cold or wet weather), bramble flowers are able to produce seeds without being fertilised (the flower is able to use its own pollen).

  32. Follow the path through the opening and continue on the gravel path until it ends in a junction with a track.

    A small settlement on the opposite side of the creek is (now) known as Froe.

    The settlement of Froe is thought to be a corruption of a Cornish Language word and date from early mediaeval times. The first record is from 1809 as Frow but it was also recorded in 1811 as Porthcaith (cat cove).

    The creek was dammed with a causeway to create a pool for a tidal mill. This was used to produce both fine flour for baking and grist (de-chaffed grain) for animal feed.

    Grain for animal feed was ground using millstones made from readily-available Cornish granite which tended to shed pieces of grit that would make flour unfit for human consumption. Fine flour used for baking was milled using millstones made of imported French quartz or limestone.

  33. Turn left onto the track and follow it uphill to reach the road. Turn right to the car park to complete the circular route.

    Daffodils contain chemical compounds which are toxic to dogs, cats and humans and ingestion of any part of a daffodil is likely to cause a stomach upset e.g. when unsupervised children have eaten leaves. The bulbs have both higher concentrations and a broader range of toxins than the rest of the plant and can be mistaken for onions (although don't smell of onion).

    The "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was founded in 1895 when snappy names weren't in fashion. Their first coastal acquisition was Barras Nose at Tintagel in 1897. Five years later, Tintagel Old Post Office was their first house to be acquired in Cornwall. The National Trust now owns over 700 miles of British coastline.

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