Circular walk from Tregardock to Dannonchapel

Tregardock to Dannonchapel

A circular walk from Tregardock, passing the long, remote sandy beach, to the ruins of the mediaeval manor of Dannonchapel, and includes one of the steepest and most spectacular sections of the North Cornish Coast path with vibrant wildflowers in spring and summer.

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The walk begins by descending the valley from Tregardock towards Tregardock Beach to reach the Coast Path. The route then follows the coastal path behind Trerubies Cove to the steep gorge at Dannonchapel. After climbing out of the valley to reach Crookmoyle Rock, the route turns inland to the abandoned hamlet of Dannonchapel now owned by the National Trust. The return to Tregardock is over the fields of the West Downs.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.4 km
  • Steepness grade: Strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots or trainers in summer

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

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


  • Caves, rockpools and waterfalls and a huge expanse of golden sand at Tregardock Beach at low tide
  • Panoramic views over Port Isaac Bay from the coast path
  • Birds of prey hunting along the deep gorge at Dannonchapel
  • Eerie 1000-year old ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel
  • Wildflowers along the cliff tops in spring and summer


  1. Walk down the road to the barn on the right and turn right down a track marked with a "To the Coastpath" sign. Follow the track (through a kissing gate to the right of the gate if closed) until you reach a waymark on the corner of a field.

    Over 160,000 species of butterfly and moth have been described and nearly 19,000 of these have been found in the UK. Butterflies are effectively a sub-group of moths that fly during the day. They have adaptations for this such as wings that fold flat against each other with a camouflaged underside to help them hide from predators when landed but a patterned upper surface to attract mates during flight. Whilst moths' feathery antennae are highly optimised for an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, butterflies can make use of vision so their antennae are more streamlined and are also used to measure air temperature.

    Many flowers have patterns not visible to the human eye because they require ultraviolet wavelengths to distinguish them. Humans only have 3 colour receptors (red, green and blue) whereas many pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies have more receptors that span into the ultraviolet. They perceive colour quite differently from us and the ultraviolet patterns often point to the location of the nectar within the flower, much like a coloured arrow used to indicate where to open a food package.

  2. At the waymark, bear left to follow the path down the valley, through another kissing gate until you reach a waymark to Tregardock Beach.

    Due to blackthorn wood's toughness, it was used to make tool handles, walking sticks and as a traditional Celtic weapon for clubbing people to death! It is still regarded as the ultimate wood for making walking sticks. Once cut and trimmed, the wood needs to be dried for at least a year (often several) which allows moisture to escape and the wood to shrink and harden.

  3. At the waymark, turn left uphill and follow the coast path in the direction indicated to Dannonchapel via some pedestrian gates along the way until you eventually cross a wooden footbridge and reach a waymark to Tregragon.

    When you reach the waymark, you can continue ahead to visit the beach before resuming the walk. When you've finished visiting the beach, follow the path back up to the waymark.

    Tregardock beach is about a mile along the coast from Trebarwith Strand, in the direction of Port Isaac and is reached via a public footpath that crosses the coast path to reach the farm at Tregardock. There is no beach at high tide at Tregardock. As the tide goes out, several small beaches merge into a long stretch of sand. A waterfall plummets from the cliffs at the back of the beach and there are some caves within the cliffs. The largest part of the beach is on the left and this gets cut off as the tide rises, so check the tide times carefully and don't get stranded when the tide comes in!

  4. At the Tregragon waymark, keep right and follow the coast path into a deep valley to reach a footbridge over the stream.

    In the past, when the cliffs were grazed regularly, this provided habitat for wild thyme and red ants on which the large blue butterfly depends. As farming became more intensified and cliff-top grazing stopped, the cliffs became overgrown and there was too much shade. Consequently the large blue became extinct in the UK in 1979. Now the cliffs are once more being grazed and the conditions are suitable, work is underway to reintroduce the large blue to Cornwall after highly successful reintroductions in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

  5. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate, then keep right to follow the cliff-edge path alongside the barbed wire fence to reach a stubby waymark post about half-way up the side of the valley. Keep left here to follow the main path with steps up the zig-zags and continue to reach a gate.

    In 2000, a pilot project was run at Dannonchapel for the re-introduction of the large blue butterfly in Cornwall. 12 adults and 300 larvae were released into the valley. The colony survived for seven generations before finally dying out. This showed that all the ingredients (wild thyme and red ants) are present to support all stages of the butterfly's lifecycle. A much larger population could recover from setbacks such as predation or bad weather.

  6. Go through the gate and follow the coast path a short distance until you reach a waymark for Port Isaac with kissing gate to the left.

    There are more than 20 breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons along the coast from Bude to Padstow.

    The peregrine falcon can reach over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its hunting stoop (high speed dive) making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom. In 2005, a peregrine was measured at a top speed of 389 km/h (242 mph). The air pressure at this speed could damage a bird's lungs. However small bony tubercles on a falcon's nostrils guide the powerful airflow away, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving. In Cornish dialect, these falcons are known as "winnards" and local expressions include "shrammed as a winnard" (meaning chilled) and "rumped up like a winnard" (meaning huddled).

  7. Go through the kissing gate and the gap in the wall beyond this. Follow the wall on the left to a gateway in the far hedge.

    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.
  8. Go through the gateway and follow the left hedge to a waymarked gateway in the far hedge with a wooden field gate.

    The ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, near Tregardock, is over 1000 years old and included a manor house first recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086 when it was known as Duuenant. Its Domesday entry notes that it had "land for 3 ploughs" and 40 acres of pasture. The name comes from the Cornish downans which means "deep valley". The suffix "chapel" was added later in the 1300s.

  9. Go through the gate and follow the track between the ruined farm buildings and away from the farm to where the track goes through a gateway with a waymarked kissing gate alongside.

    The farmhouse garden at Dannonchapel included four bee boles - external wall recesses in which woven straw beehives (known as bee skeps) were placed. The woven basket structure provided some insulation for the bees in colder weather. Examples of bee boles and bee skeps can be seen at Godolphin House near Mount's Bay.

  10. Go through the kissing gate (or gate if open) and continue along the track until you reach a gate at a bend with a signpost above.

    Tynes Quarry at the bottom of the valley has been worked since the 1800s and provided the slate for Truro Cathedral.

    The word "quarry" (for stone) comes from the Latin word for a square -quadrum. Rather than the initial extraction of the raw material, the name is based on the masonry work that took place afterwards to shape it into neat blocks.

    Although the same word in English was used for a hunted animal, this has completely different origins. It is from a mediaeval word for entrails (fed to the hounds) from an Old French word cuiree which came from the Latin word cor, meaning "heart".

  11. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge (in the direction signposted West Downs) to a stile just past the gateway at the far end.

    Since relatively few people come out here, particularly early in the morning, this is a good place to see wildlife including deer and foxes.

    The Red Fox has been present in Britain since the last Ice Age and is our most widespread and numerous predator. Foxes are omnivores: as well as hunting small mammals and birds, they will eat fruit and anything else they can scavenge, in fact a major component of their diet is earthworms. This flexibility has allowed them to adapt to farmed and urban environments but also varied natural environments including the coast. In the wild, a lucky fox can live to an age of about 8 but the lifespan of most foxes is typically only 1.5 - 2 years. One reason for this is that around 100,000 foxes are killed on roads every year.

  12. Cross the stile and follow the fence on the left to a gateway with a stile.

    Barbed wire was first used in Victorian times with several different people independently inventing and patenting different designs. Modern barbed wire is made from steel which is then galvanised to prevent it rusting (at least until the zinc coating dissolves away). The barbed wire used for fencing is often made of high-tensile (springy) steel which is suited to being laid in long, continuous lengths. As it is forbidden by the Highways Act of 1980 for barbed wire to block a Public Right of Way, one practical solution used by farmers is to put a plastic sheath over the barbed wire where it passes over a stile. In the rare circumstance that you encounter exposed barbed wire on a stile, the most likely cause for this is mischievous cattle pulling off the plastic sheaths; let the Countryside Team know and they can alert the landowner.

  13. Cross the stile (or go through the gate if open) and follow the fence on the left to reach a gate and stile across a track. Cross the stile and follow the track down to the bottom of the valley to reach a pair of gates across the track next to a waymarked stile.

    As well as the occasional peregrine, other birds of prey such as buzzards and kestrels can often be seen over the valley.

    Buzzards were once thought to be a threat to game birds and were actively shot. During the 1950s-60s, the combination of myxomatosis nearly wiping out one of their main food sources and use of pesticides such as DDT caused further decline in the buzzard population. Since then the population has gradually recovered and buzzards are now the commonest and most widespread bird of prey in the UK.

  14. Go through the gates and follow the track left around the bend and uphill to a junction beside some barns.

    Kestrels are easily spotted when hovering, watching their prey. Whilst hovering, kestrels have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds.

  15. Turn right and follow the track away from the farm until you eventually reach a stile on the left.

    Tregragon was first recorded in 1327 as Talcragon. The name is based on the Cornish word tal for "front" or "brow" and krak which is also the basis of the name Crackington where it refers to a large rocky headland. It is thought that in this case it's a reference to the high slate cliffs.

  16. Cross the stone and the wooden stile and bear left across the field slightly to a stile in the opposite hedge (which looks more like a post in a gateway from a distance).

    As you cross the field, the wall behind you is a nice example of herringbone walling.

    The "herringbone" style of walling built with tightly packed alternating diagonal slate courses, is unique to Cornwall's heritage.

    It is known locally as "Curzy Way" or "Kersey Wave", based on the Cornish word kersy which means "reeds", perhaps referring to a square weave pattern. It is also sometimes known as "Jack and Jill" which is likely to be based on the falling down part of the nursery rhyme.

  17. Cross the stile and bear right slightly in the direction of the headland ahead (if there's a crop in the field you may need to follow around the edge) to reach a gate in the far hedge 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.

  18. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane to complete the circular walk.

    The manor of Tregardock was recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 with "land for 3 ploughs. Pasture, 10 acres". The place name is thought to be based on a personal name from the early mediaeval period.

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