St Endellion to Port Isaac

A figure-of-8 walk from St Endellion to Port Isaac, via the estate of the ancient family of Roscarrock, who survived torture on the rack during Tudor times for being Catholic sympathisers, returning to the parish church, dedicated to the daughter of a Celtic king, on the ancient route which itself influenced the fervent adoption of Methodism in Port Isaac.

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From St Endellion church, the walk follows tracks and lanes through Trelights and across Roscarrock Hill to reach the coast. It then follows the coast path around Lobber Point to Port Isaac, with magnificent views of the harbour. The return route is that taken by generations of Port Isaac villagers, each Sunday, on their way to the parish church.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.8 miles/6.1 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: St Endellion church
  • Parking: Church car park or lay-by opposite church PL293TP. Follow the B3314 to St Endellion. The entrance to the church car park is from the lane beside the churchyard, signposted to Portquin.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

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Highlights

  • Vibrant classical music scene and festivals at St Endellion church
  • Wildflowers along the coast path in spring and summer
  • Spectacular views over Port Isaac harbour from Lobber Point
  • Historic fishing village of Port Isaac
  • Local food in Port Isaac and St Endellion farm shop

Directions

  1. Make your way from the car park to the church entrance and continue past this to join a grassy path through the churchyard. Follow this to where it passes through a gap in a wall beneath a large tree.

    St Endellion lies on the B3267 just past the turning to Port Isaac. There is a music festival in St Endellion every Easter and summer and the church is a popular venue for classical music concerts.

  2. Go through the gap and turn immediately left through the gap there. Then follow along the right hedge to a wooden gate in the hedge opposite.
  3. Go through the gate, turn right down the track and follow it until it ends in a junction onto a lane.

    The church at St Endellion is 15th Century and named after Endelienta - one of the children of the Welsh king Brychan. It is built in the Perpendicular gothic style and contains some fine carvings in both stone and wood.

  4. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane until it ends at a T-junction.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales and was viewed as the father of the Celtic saints.

    Several mediaeval manuscripts state that he was married three times but the numbers of children vary from 12 to 63 with 24 being the most commonly reported number. There is also little agreement in the lists of names between Cornish and Welsh manuscripts. It is through that the list of his children may have grown over time as more people claimed themselves or their local saint to be descended from what was seen as the holy family.

  5. At the junction bear right to carry on in the same direction until you reach the parish council notice board next to a junction on the right.
  6. Turn right at the parish council notice board and head up hill, keeping left at the junction to The Barton. Continue until you reach a grassy track with a Public Footpath sign leading from the right side of the lane.
  7. Turn right onto the track indicated by the Public Footpath sign. Follow it through a gate to a second gate leading into a field.

    The buddleia bushes along the track provide large numbers of nectar-bearing flowers - their common name of "butterfly bush" indicates the outcome.

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

  8. Go through the gate then follow the left hedge of the field to a stile at the top left corner.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  9. Cross the stile and follow the path between the hedge and fence to reach a stile onto the road.

    A short diversion to the left along the lane, is Long Cross where there are Victorian gardens and a restaurant (The Long Cross Hotel).

    The Long Cross is an ancient cross shaft from the 6th-8th century, located at a crossroads on the Port Quin road near Trelights. It is inscribed with Broegan hic jacet, which is thought might be a reference to King Brychan.

  10. Cross the road and the stile opposite and head initially towards the buildings in the distance, then bear right slightly to a stile about 50m to the right of the gates in front of the buildings.

    Barley is a fundamental part of the rural culture - the word "barn" literally means "barley house". During mediaeval times, only the ruling classes had bread made from wheat; the peasants' bread was made from barley and rye.

  11. Cross over the stile onto the lane and turn left, then immediately right, crossing the patch of grass to a stile next to the gate.
  12. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to the top left corner of the field where there is a stile.
  13. Cross both stiles and turn left onto the lane. Follow the lane, bending round to the right, until you reach the big white house.
  14. As you reach the white house, turn left down a grassy track with a metal gate. Go through this and follow the track until you reach a gate into a field.

    Roscarrock,on a hill near Port Isaac, is named after a prominent Cornish family who owned the Manor which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. During Tudor times, Nicholas Roscarrock was imprisoned for being a Catholic activist and tortured on the rack, which he miraculously survived, only to be imprisoned again 8 years later. After finally being released, he wrote his only surviving work, "The Lives of the Saints".

  15. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a pair of gateways in the corner of the field.

    The wooden pole in the field is probably a "wreck post".

    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.

  16. Go through the gateway on the left and bear left in line with the end of the headland, until you cross the brow of the hill; then head for a gap in the right hedge.

    In the late spring and throughout the summer, look out for purple betony flowers along the coast path.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onwards, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

  17. Go through the gap in the hedge and follow the scrub on your left until you reach the coast path.

    In September 1918, the British collier "Milly" was on its return to South Wales from France, when it was torpedoed by a German submarine, two and a quarter miles west of Tintagel Head. Two men died but the remainder of the crew were saved by another passing ship. The wreck is in 46 metres of water and is slowly sinking into the sand front-first. However, a good deal of it is still discernible and it is a fairly popular spot for divers. The stern gun was salvaged and is outside the Golden Lion pub in Port Isaac.

  18. Turn right and follow the coast path towards Port Isaac until you reach a gap in the hedge next to a waymark.

    In 1833, Frederick Trevan recorded the foundering vessel - Sloop Theodore of Yaughall - being rescued at Port Isaac in 1821: "Captain Timothy Daisy from Yaughall for Plymouth with potatoes. Vessel seen dismasted. Boarded with difficulty by boat from Port Isaac. Saw no one on deck but heard violin below. The Pats were enjoying themselves it being St. Patrick's Day to whose guidance, of course, they entrusted the vessel. They had entrusted the helm to a boy the day before and he had jibbed her and carried away the mast. The boat people with difficulty got her into Port Isaac after being at it all night. The potatoes were sold at Port Isaac and Padstow and off they went for dear Ireland. Crew exceedingly dirty - great quantity of lice. The Captain would put his hand into his bosom, take one out and address it saying 'Ach, dear honey, I wish you and I were in Dublin' and then replace it."

  19. From the waymark, follow the path down into Port Isaac to where it emerges onto a lane.

    Port Isaac is a pretty fishing village with narrow winding alleys running down the steep hillside to the harbour. Particularly noteworthy is the number of 18th and 19th century white-washed cottages and granite, slate-fronted houses, many officially listed as of architectural or historic importance. Port Isaac was a busy coastal port from the Middle Ages to the mid 19th century, where cargoes like slate, coal and timber were shipped in and out. The stone pier was built in Tudor times, and the rest of the harbour in the 19th century. The economy was also heavily based around the pilchard trade.

    By 1500, Port Isaac had a flourishing pilchard industry and was considered one of the most important fishing harbours on the north coast. Salted pilchards and pilchard oil were exported to Italy. A number of fish cellars were built in Tudor times and their remnants were uncovered when the foundations were dug in the 1820s for the Victorian fish cellars which now occupy the same sites. The sheds where the women cleaned and salted the pilchards now house the fish merchant and tiny aquarium. It's still an active fishing port with locally landed fish available for sale at the fish merchants.

  20. Bear left onto the lane and follow it downhill (past Doc Martin's house) to a junction at the bottom of the hill.

    Following the construction of the pier, a busy period of development began within Port Isaac which lasted until the beginning of the seventeenth century, though by the end of the Tudor period, most of the present day streets were already laid out.

    The village of Port Isaac was originally centred around a flat open space at the southern end of the harbour known as The Platt. This was used as a workplace by the fishermen, a venue for the weekly markets, and as a safe place to draw up the boats during spring tides.

  21. From here you can explorer the village. Once you have finished, return to this point and facing the Slipway Hotel, bear right up the lane. Follow this until it eventually reaches a junction with a triangular island of grass at a bend.
  22. Follow the main road and the bend to the left and continue to reach a track for Port Isaac Mill. Continue a few paces further on the lane past a wooden gate to a stile on the left.

    Port Isaac was traditionally part of St Endellion parish, so villagers would follow the return route of this walk, each Sunday, on their way to church. When Methodism became popular in Port Isaac, the Anglican church built the chapel of St Peter's in Port Isaac, to compete with the convenience of attending the Methodist chapels, which did not involve climbing this hill!

  23. Cross the stile and head straight ahead into the field. Once you can see the small copse on the far side, head initially towards it and then to a stile, about 50m to the right of the gates.

    Across the valley to your left, was the Wheal Boys antimony mine, near Trewetha, which was worked on and off from the 18th Century until the early 20th Century.

    Endellionite, also known as Bournonite, is a grey or black metallic crystalline mineral (a sulphide of antimony, lead and copper). It was discovered at the Wheal Boys antimony mine near St Endellion and often contains crystal structures that resemble the teeth of a cog wheel. It forms from minerals dissolved in hot water circulating through cracks in the rock which crystallised out as the water cooled; the cogwheel structures are the result of a process called "twinning" where 2 crystals become joined like siamese twins, due to a flaw in the crystal structure.

  24. Cross the stile and turn left onto the road. Follow this for just over half a mile back to the church at St Endellion.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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