Circular walk at Stepper Point, Padstow

Stepper Point and the Doom Bar

A circular walk overlooking the infamous Doom Bar - from which the internationally popular beer is named - on which hundreds of vessels were wrecked when attempting to navigate into Padstow harbour and many still lie beneath the sands

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.
The walk starts by descending to the coast at Harbour Cove and then joins the coast path towards the quarry on the end of Stepper Point. The walk then rounds the headland, passing the daymark tower to reach the collapsed cave of Pepper Hole, returning via Lellizzick Farm.

Considerations

  • 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: 106
  • Distance: 2.5 miles/4 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

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

Highlights

  • Coastal wildlife and wildflowers
  • Rich coastal scenery with arches, islands and collapsed caves
  • Panoramic views from the daymark on Stepper Point
  • Sheltered sandy beaches at Hawker's Cove and Harbour Cove

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the telegraph pole at the bottom of the car park to reach a low stile next to the gate with a path leading down towards the beach. Cross the stile and follow the path downhill to emerge at a junction of paths.

    The River Camel runs for 30 miles from Bodmin Moor to Padstow Bay, making it the longest river in Cornwall after the Tamar.

    The Camel Estuary is a geological ria - a deep valley flooded by rising sea levels after the last ice age, stretching from the headlands of Pentire Point and Stepper Point all the way to Wadebridge. The estuary is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a Marine Conservation Zone.

  2. At the junction, turn left and go up the steps to the waymarked coast path. Follow this to where a path departs to the right just before some iron railings on the main path.

    Harbour Cove is the beach on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary from Daymer Bay. There is a beach at all states of the tide at Harbour Cove although at low tide, the vast beach stretches out towards Doom Bar and merges with the other beaches, making it possible to walk around Gun Point to St George's Cove across the sand.

    During Victorian times and even during the early 20th Century, the main river channel ran alongside Stepper Point and so there were no sand dunes or sand bars here and the cove was surrounded by rock platforms below the edges of the field. Harbour Cove itself was a tiny beach at the mouth of the inlet in the area which is now marshland with an old double wooden walkway.

    Harbour Cove is also known locally as Tregirls beach, named after Tregirls Farm. In 1600, the name was originally "grylls" but was corrupted into "girls" over the years. It's possible the name of the farm arises from the Grylls family who were part of the Cornish gentry.

  3. Follow the path alongside the railings and continue to reach a stone stile.

    The path to the right leads to Harbour Cove and is easier than the paths further along the route that descend over the rocks. In all cases this involves crossing the stream to reach the main area of the beach but the stream is normally quite shallow where it spreads out across the sand.

  4. Cross the stile and continue on the coast path to reach a gate.

    A cordial can be made from blackthorn blossom by dissolving 100g of sugar in 1 litre of warm water mixing one large handful of blossom, scaled up to produce the quantity you require.

    Lichens obtain nearly all their nutrients from the atmosphere and therefore can be very sensitive to air pollution. As a general rule of thumb, healthy lichens means clean air, but more specifically, different species have been found to be sensitive to different pollutants. By identifying common species that exhibits change for a particular pollutant, lichens can be used as an early warning dashboard showing not only how much air pollution there is but also what kind.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path until it ends on a lane.

    In 1899, a second lifeboat station was built at Padstow, a short distance upriver of Hawker's Cove, for a new steam lifeboat.

    In a rescue in April 1900, as she was leaving the harbour, the steam lifeboat was caught by a heavy swell, capsized and wrecked, killing eight of her crew of eleven. Padstow's first motor lifeboat was commissioned in 1929, operating from this station. Due to river silting, in October 1967, the lifeboat was relocated to Mother Ivy's Bay on Trevose Head.

  6. Turn right onto the lane and follow it a short distance until you reach a path departing to the right marked with a coast path sign for Trevone Bay.

    The first Padstow lifeboat was built by the Padstow Harbour Association in 1827 and kept at Hawkers Cove. The RNLI took over the station in 1856. In 1931, the original boathouse in Hawker's Cove was replaced with a new boat house and roller slipway for a second motor lifeboat to join the one already running from the second station to the south of Hawker's Cove. The station closed in 1962, due to Hawker's Cove being filled by sand as the river channel moved across the estuary. This left only the station to the south operating for a few more years, before it also became blocked with silt.

  7. Bear right onto the path in front of the cottages and follow this along the fence. Continue to re-emerge onto the lane via some steps marked with a coast path sign.

    As the tide goes out, Hawker's Cove merges with Harbour Cove into a huge sandy beach, stretching out to the Doom Bar. At low tide, these merge with St George's Cove so it's possible to walk most of the way to Padstow on the sand.

  8. Bear right and follow the lane to where a path continues from a kissing gate.

    The row of six cottages at Hawker's Cove were built in 1874 for the crews of pilot gig boats allowing them quick access to reach ships entering the mouth of the estuary before they foundered on the Doom Bar. During the 19th Century, the deep river channel ran along this side of the estuary so launching at lower states of the tide would have been much easier than it is today. A pilot's lookout was situated on the edge of Iron Cove, facing out into the mouth of the estuary.

  9. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path until you eventually reach a crossing of paths, after which the path ahead climbs more steeply.

    The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

  10. Continue ahead at the crossing and follow the path to a kissing gate.

    The beaches on the opposite side of the estuary from left to right are Pentireglaze Haven and Polzeath (which merge at high tide), Greenaway (in the middle, sandy at high tide with a rock platform at low tide) and Daymer Bay (by the hill).

  11. Go through the gate and follow the path to another kissing gate.

    The middle of the three islands around the Camel Estuary, which is almost exactly 1km offshore from Pentire Point, is called Newland and is home to seabirds such as cormorants and shags. The reef which surrounds the island contains some large gullies over 10 metres deep and some Pink Sea Fans several metres in height.

  12. Go through the gate and immediately turn left. Follow the path uphill alongside the wall to the coastguard lookout.

    The Stepper Point coastguard lookout, facing out from the mouth of the Camel Estuary, re-opened in 2000 and is now manned by volunteers from the National Coastwatch Institution. It is electrically self-sufficient from its solar panels and wind turbine.

  13. Follow the path around the lookout and continue following the path alongside the wall until it emerges from the gorse in an open area of field.

    The National Coastwatch Institution was set up to restore visual watches along the UK coastline after two Cornish fishermen lost their lives within sight of an empty Coastguard lookout in 1994. The first station - at Bass Point on The Lizard, where the fishermen had died - opened in December 1994. The organisation, staffed by volunteers, now runs 50 lookout stations around England and Wales.

  14. As you emerge from the gorse, take the path to the right leading towards the daymark tower and follow this to the gap in the wall in front of the tower.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    The phrase "to lark about" may have its origins in the aerobatics of the skylark. At the start of the 19th Century, young boys who played about in the rigging of ships were known as "skylarks". The use of "to lark" as a verb can be traced back as far as the early 19th Century. By the middle of the century, it had reach America where "larking about" is first recorded.

  15. Go through the gap and turn left. Follow along the seaward side of the wall until the path passes between a patch of gorse and the wall and then bends away from the wall.

    The 40ft stone tower on Stepper Point, affectionately known as "The Pepper Pot", was built as a daymark - a navigation beacon for seafarers during daylight. At 240 feet above sea level, it is visible from 30 miles away. When it was built in 1830, the daymark cost the sum of £29. The money was raised by giving donors voting rights in the Harbour Association: one guinea would buy one vote.

  16. Where it departs from the wall, follow the path towards the waymark post on the skyline.

    The rocks off the end of the Trevose Head (ahead with the lighthouse) are known as The Quies and their surrounding reefs have wrecked many ships. On a map of Cornwall, Trevose Head sticks out a long way into the sea so shipping following parallel to the rest of the coast would find themselves passing quite close. During the Second World War, German submarines would lurk off the reefs to torpedo ships as they passed around the headland.

  17. At the waymark post (inscribed Pepper Hole) bear left to follow along the wall to stay away from the sheer drop into the collapsed cave. Continue along the wall to a waymark at a gap in the wall.

    Waves pounding into a cave compress the air inside. This can often be seen venting quite explosively from a cave as a blowhole. Inside the cave, the force from the air being rapidly compressed and decompressed gradually fractures the rock. Eventually this is unable to support the weight of the roof of the cave. Once this collapses, the sea washes away the soil and smaller stones leaving just the largest boulders which are slowly smoothed by the wave action.

  18. Go through the gap and follow the path around the inlet then bear left (before the waymark post on the far side) to the field gate in the corner of the wall with a pedestrian gate alongside (not the gate to the right near the sea).

    The inlet has been known since at least Victorian times as Butter Hole, and is said to be due to the yellow colour of the sand. Some of the inlets a little further down the coast near Porthcothan have names like Wine Cove and Pepper Cove which are based on what was being smuggled there.

  19. Go through the pedestrian gate and bear right onto the stony track. Follow the track uphill and then continue to reach a gate across it, just before it ends on a lane.
  20. Go through the gate and bear right onto the lane. Follow this back to the car park to complete the circular walk.

    The Devonshire method for preparing a cream tea is to saw a scone in half, paint each half with clotted cream, and then shovel strawberry jam on top. In Cornwall, things are done a little differently!

    • No scone: in Cornwall, a cream tea is traditionally served with a "Cornish split", a slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone.
    • Butter: a warm split is first buttered.
    • Jam before cream: the buttered split is then spread with strawberry jam, although raspberry jam is also traditional.
    • No spreading of cream: the jam is finally topped with a spoonful of clotted cream.

    Many commercial cream teas in Cornwall resemble Devonshire cream teas, using scones and no butter, with a token reversal of jam and cream. Fortunately, armed with a few splits from a traditional bakery or by baking your own, you can prepare your own cream teas to exacting standards.

    Dissolve 10g fresh yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 350ml of warm milk. Whizz together 500g flour (roughly 50:50 mix of strong bread flour and plain flour), 10g salt and 80g butter in a food processor. Combine dry and wet ingredients and make into a dough. Kneed, prove in a warm place until doubled in size, shape into golf-ball-sized balls and return to a warm place to rise. Bake at 180°C (160°C fan) for around 15 minutes until golden.

    Pop a few strawberries, some sugar and some lemon juice in a bowl large enough that it won't froth over when it boils madly. Microwave for 5 minute intervals until jammy.

    Cornish clotted cream is described as having a "nutty, cooked milk" flavour and now has a Protected Designation of Origin (it must be made with milk from Cornwall). The unique, slightly yellow colour is due to the high carotene levels in the grass in Cornwall.

    Traditionally, clotted cream was created by straining fresh cow's milk and letting it stand in a shallow pan in a cool place for several hours to allow the cream to rise to the surface. It was then heated, either over hot cinders or in a water bath, before a slow cooling. The clots that had formed on the top were then skimmed off with a long-handled cream-skimmer.

    Clotted cream is similar to Kaymak (or Kajmak), a delicacy that is made throughout the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Turkey. It is possible that it was introduced to Cornwall by Phoenician traders who ventured to the area in search of tin.

    The Camel Estuary is a nursery ground for bass and is a designated conservation area. Young bass spend their first 3-4 years in estuaries and then move into inshore waters. At 6-7 years the bass are sexually mature and migrate out into the Atlantic into deeper water to breed during the winter, returning each summer to coastal waters. Fishing for bass is illegal in the estuary during the summer and autumn to help protect the breeding population.

    The sea fish known traditionally in the UK as bass, but internationally as the "European seabass" (to distinguish from river species particularly in North America), is a member of the perch family. Given they are normally found in the sea, bass are surprisingly tolerant of freshwater and sometimes venture quite a long way upriver. Bass is very nice to eat but is a slow-growing species and therefore threatened by overfishing. Since 2010, two-thirds of the population has been wiped out in what has been described as "an unfolding environmental disaster" and although there are emergency EU measures in place to restrict both commercial and recreational catches, there is evidence that commercial catches are still well above sustainable levels.

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.