Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

South West Coast Path - Port Isaac to Polzeath

Port Isaac Haven

An 9 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Port Isaac and Polzeath

A stunning walk that is not too challenging. It starts at the picturesque village of Port Isaac before winding its way past Port Quin and around the Rumps headland and Pentire Point before descending to the surfing Mecca of Polzeath. The scenery takes ones breath away and every turn there is something new to see.

Port Isaac to Polzeath Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Port IsaacView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
PolzeathView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
9.0 miles
Walk difficulty
Moderate
Terrain
Cliff top paths
Obstacles
There is a steep valley to cross near Port Isaac but the rest is not particularly difficult

Accommodation:

Valley Camping and Caravan Park, PolzeathView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
A friendly and welcoming family owned camp and caravan site close to the beach at polzeath

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
96 - First Group 96 service linking Wadebridge and Camelford via Polzeath, Port Isaac, Delabole
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2016-06-26
Walk Time
10:00 to 16:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Warm, overcast with drizzle at the end of the walk

Walk Notes

Despite the dampness and the drizzle as experienced on this occasion, this part of the South West Coast Path is a true delight. Not too strenuous but enough of a challenge to provide a sense of achievement. Either direction can be taken and the preference of the east to west in this case was due to the base camp being set up at Polzeath's Valley Park site, thus providing no specific schedule in which to complete the walk. A regular bus service runs between the two villages which is a short 20 minute journey and includes some Sunday services. At the time of writing this was operated by First Kernow.

Port Isaac, these days, is renowned as the location of the TV series Doc Marten. But that should be its only mention. The village does not need advertising. It is beautiful, charming and exquisite in its own right without the need of fictional TV doctor.

So the walk. The bus drops one off at the top of the village, where New Road turns a sharp right to continue up the coast to Port Gaverne. The Ruby Tuesday's Cafe is just along the road and advertises itself with the catch-line a meeting place, hub in the community, so come in, have a coffee, lunch, read the newspapers, peruse our menu and enjoy our cakes and cream teas which very much describes this friendly little place. So why not? A cup of tea before one starts walking. A time to adjust the rucksack, to get the maps ready and to converse in anticipation of another great walk along this fantastic coastline.

Following the road towards Port Gaverne soon brings one to a cliff-top car park and the coast path runs along the perimeter of this and then continues around the coastline into the cove where the stereotypical Cornish village of Port Isaac nestles at the head of the Haven. One could spend a long time here exploring the narrow alleys and steep lanes and taking in the daily life and the comings and goings of its people. But for us walkers it is a sight to behold and then move onwards along the coast path. Another time and another day will be dedicated to exploring Port Isaac.

The route leads up and out of the village along Roscarrock Road, and the higher one climbs the less tourists one passes. A series of steps then leads onto a footpath across the grassy top of Lobber Point where solitude is found. No sooner than one is up, than the path descends down into Pine Haven. A descent down some 50m followed by a steep climb back up via a series of rough steps. The going then becomes a lot easier as it passes Varley Head, Greengarden Cove and to Scarnor Point. Here the path drops down by Reedy Cliff and follows a more winding route along the sometimes craggy landscape before rising back to the cliff top and out to Kellan Head. At this point the path turns and then descends down to what is left of the village of Port Quin, or as it used to be known, Port Guin, once a bustling fishing village but now just a handful of houses hunched up at the head of the cove. Quite what happened to this once thriving 19th century port is open to conjecture and hearsay with the usual tale being a storm which devastated both its fishing fleet and the village.

Today, there is a car park. And there is Fiona's Cafe. When I say cafe, it is not a cafe in the traditional sense of the word but an old Citroen van with a serving hatch that oozes character and a few benches on the grass for its customers to sit down. But that is all one needs. However, on this occasion the cafe was closed. Fiona was nowhere to be seen. Her van was there but her presence distinctly absent. The drizzle had thoroughly wetted the benches and we took shelter down by the concrete boat launch at the head of the bay. Well, when I say shelter, if one calls hiding under a waterproof jacket hood a shelter then that is all it was, sitting there on the damp stone wall watching a couple of surfers packing up in a car whilst we munched on a pastie delicately garnished with the freshest of Cornish drizzle. Now, no matter how depressing this may seem to the reader I can assure you it is far from such a state of mind. It was warm. It was tranquil. Who cares about the drizzle when the scenery is a sight to behold. Getting wet is all a part of it and quite frankly I could think of no better place to be on this damp day.

The coast path from Port Quin can be found just up the road that winds out of the cove. A stile hides in the hedgerow and the footpath leads out across a grass meadow with a curious castellated structure at the far end. This is Doyden Castle. It looks like a castle. To all senses and recognition it is a castle but in reality it is not a castle. It is a Victorian folly. Although the coast path does not pass immediately by it, it is worth taking 10 minutes out to wander to the front of this building to realize it is not a castle but a small little domestic building. This three story structure with arched windows and surrounded by a simple dry stone wall was built in 1830 by a local businessman, Samuel Symons. It is reputed that the sole purpose for this remote retreat was to entertain his excessive partying and gambling activities. These days the building is owned by the National Trust which it rents out as holiday accommodation but there are still the original wine bins on the ground floor from the wilder days.

An interesting aside to this location is that it was once the site of the so called Long Stone, a standing stone which can currently be seen on the grass island at the junction on the road between St Endellion and Port Quin. This 6th Century 1.5m tall stone is said to contain an inscribed chi-rho cross, an early form of a Christogram, as well as the Latin inscription BROCAGNI IHC IACIT NADOTTI FILIUS, which translates to Brocagnus, son of Nadottus lies here although recent sightseers have reported that the inscription is no longer identifiable, obscured by the mass of lichen that covers the stone. In 1873 Samuel Symons moved this stone to Doyden Head for unspecified reasons and there it remained until the end of 1932 when it was returned to its original position. The OS map from 1888-1913 clearly depicts an inscribed stone at Doyden Point as well as the remains of an inscribed stone at its original position named Long Cross.

The path continues along the cliff-top, past Gilson's Cove and Pigeon Cove before dropping down to Epphaven Cove. A series of stone steps leads to the bottom, then it is a hop across the stream and back up the other side. The path soon passes Lundy Beach and then Lundy Hole, a collapsed cave that has left a tunnel through the cliff leading out to sea. Every passing walker has to stand and admire this marvel of nature and ponder over the local legend of how it formed which is presented in the feature to this walk. Briefly, the hole was formed when Saint Menefrida threw her comb at the devil to which he dug the hole in order to get away. Or so they say!

The path now climbs up to Carnweather Point and the first glimpses of The Rumps come into view. The going is fairly easy now all the way through to the Rumps and one can regularly meet dog walkers who take in the sights with a stroll out from Polzeath, a circular route which will be later covered on this website. The official coast path does not go out to the tip of the Rumps, but this is not easily determined from following the footpath as there are no waymarkers to point one around to Pentire Point. The path leads out to either side of the Rumps and presumably meets up on its far rocky front to the sea. However, if you don't know the track or the path it is always best to follow the general advice of the South West Coast Path of keeping to the main route. So follow the worn path that bends back round to the west side of the Rumps and continue on to Pentire point

Looking back from Pentire Point one can see the Rumps from the opposite side, sitting there like a dormant dragon, its spiny backbone going down into the sea. At this point, as the path turns to descend down to Polzeath, on a rock on the cliff edge is a plaque. This is not always easily seen. Indeed, I managed to walk past it several times on walks around this coast before having it pointed out to me. The plaque is dedicated to the war poet Laurence Binyon who is said to have written the poem For the Fallen whilst sitting at this point. The plaque is inscribed with the fourth stanza from that poem and is dated 1914.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Now the date is curious as one immediately feels that it should be at the end of the war rather than the year WWI broke out. A little research soon finds that Binyon was referencing the Battle of Mons on 23rd of August of that year when an Expeditionary British force encountered the Imperial German Army and suffered heavy losses

Polzeath has the excellent family run Valley Park camp site which is frequented by myriads of surfers. The village does tend to be expensive for food and drinks, and even a large portion of chips from the chippy is considerable more than the average chip shop emporium. The Valley Park site has its own reasonably priced bar where food is also available and the Oystercatcher pub can be found by going to the western side of the beach and following the road up the hill out of the village. It is only 10 minutes walk but is a steep hill and one deserves a pint by the time one gets to the top.

Walkers along the path at Reedy Cliff Lundy Hole
On the left Walkers along the path at Reedy Cliff ; On the right Lundy Hole

Directions

The South West Coast Path is clearly marked with the usual acorn markers of a national trail

The start for this section is found on the eastern side of Port Isaac, by the car park before the road descends down to Port Gaverne. The path runs along the cliff side of the path and follows the cliff top around to Port Isaac village which is secreted in the cove.

Keep to the coastline and follow the road up the opposite side of the cove where a footpath then leads onwards across the grassy top of Lobber Point. The path keeps to the coastline and is easy to follow through to Port Quin.

The path out of Port Quin is a few yards on the right, up the road that leads out of the cove. This leads across a meadow andon the landward side of the Doyden Castle. From here the route is self evident once again, following the coastline through to the headland known as The Rumps. Do not continue out to the Rumps but take the path that turns back to head towards Pentire Point.Once again the path is self evident as it leads down the coastline to the broad sands of Polzeath beach. There are several places to access the beach but beware of the tide conditions and if in doubt keep to the path in front of the houses of New Polzeath.

Path down from Reedy Cliff
Path down from Reedy Cliff

Pubs

The Oystercatcher, Polzeath View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Dunders Hill, Polzeath
Website

This modern pub overlooks the stunning views of Polzeath beach Frequented by both visitors and locals it offers a busy atmosphere, good food, accommodation and plenty going on. This is a St Austells brewery house and there are always three St Austell ales available.

Review

spent many an evening at this pub during the stays at Polzeath whilst walking the coast path. This is a busy, clean pub and the ales are always excellent. During this stay the Proper Job was exceptional. A real blinder of a well hopped pale ale that soothed all aches and pains from the days exertions.

Doyden Castle, Doyden Point
Doyden Castle, Doyden Point

Features

The Folklore of Lundy HoleView in OS Map | View in Google Map

Lundy Hole is a collapsed cave above Lundy Beach, west of Port Quin. A viewing point on the Coast path allows one to peer through the hole in the cliff to the open sea beyond. This formation has a piece of local folklore attached to it, describing how it was formed, the tale which is often repeated in guide books and on websites dedicated to walking the coast path. There are various forms of the tale which involves Saint Menefrida (sometimes spelt Menfre) but they all follow the same common theme.

Menefrida was one of the daughters of King Brychan, the legendary 5th-century King of Brycheiniog in South Wales although some iterations put her as being the grand-daughter of the King. No matter whether daughter or granddaughter, she, along with many of her siblings (the number of the Kings children varies in different sources from 12 to 63), journeyed to Cornwall to spread the word of the gospel to Cornwall. Modern iterations of the story often use the Latinized form of her name, Saint Minver, the same name as the local parish that she was associated with.

A typical telling of the story states that Menefrida was sat on a rock combing her hair when the devil appeared before her with unsolicited intentions. The poor girl, in an act of defiance, threw her comb at him and he instantly retreated into the ground leaving nothing but the hole.

This simple tale sometimes has the devil digging the hole in a desperate bid to get away. What ever the cause, there is no enlargement as to why the devil was so appalled at the comb being thrown at him other than the force at which she launched the comb. One would have thought at the very least it was had some special holy powers but this is never related.

The earliest record of the story can be found in Nicholas Roscarrock's 1610 manuscript entitled Lives of the Saints which states:

The church is a half a mile distant from the place where [Menefrida] was said to live, and at a place called Tredresick, where in my time I remember there stode a chappell also dedicated to her, being less than two miles from the place where her sister, S. Endelient, lived, and there is also a well of her name where it is saide the Ghostlye adversarie coming to molest her, as she was combing her head by the said well, she flinging the combe at him enforced him to fly, who left a note behinde him in a place called at this daye Topalundy, where on the Topp of a rounde high Hill, there is a strange deepe Hoale (as men there have by tradition) there made by the devils in avoyding S. Menfre.

This places Menefrida at the well near the chapel in Tredresick. Although such a place cannot be located on modern maps, it is thought this could be Tredezzick just down the road from St Minver and which would also be in agreement with Saint Endelient whose parish is St Endellion and which is approx 2 miles distant. This would then infer that she was never at Lundy Hole and the actual encounter was some 2 miles inland of that location. The name of Topalundy in this extract is assumed to be Lundy Hole although no direct reference between the two can be found.

References
Epphaven Cove
Epphaven Cove

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-02-28

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