Porthcurno to Pedn Vounder to Porthgwarra, this 4 mile ‘there and back’ walk explores some of Cornwall’s most south-westerly coves and headlands and is steeped with heritage and history along the way.
Starting from Porthcurno car park we head left up the footpath leading away from the beach. With some very ‘rustic’ and uneven steps to negotiate we carefully make our way to the top of the cliff and despite the overcast sky above us, are greeted with the most spectacular views of Logan’s Rock, jutting out into the sea in front of us. As we stand admiring the view and getting our breath back, we spot the Scillonian making its morning voyage over to the Isles of Scilly (don’t think I envy the passengers in those lumpy waters!)
We continue on, carefully picking our way through the heathland that blankets the clifftop and emerge at a clearing with a strangely placed white pyramid. After an interesting read we learnt that this monument replaces an old wooden lookout hut, marking the end of the transatlantic cable linking England with America via Brest, laid in 1880. There then ensued a lengthy conversation about how telecommunications have developed, and that texting is the new telegraph!
Moving on we head towards Pedn Vounder, reportedly being West Cornwall’s most instagrammable beach, with images being mistaken for the tropical waters of the Caribbean rather than in our very own Kernow. Arriving at the top of a very steep path we deliberate as to whether this is the way down and decide to ask a couple heading towards us (social distancing of course). This was indeed the way down, but we now notice a warning sign ‘Caution, the way ahead is dangerous – Narrow paths – Unguarded steep drops – Near vertical climb’, that was enough to make my mind up, but boys being boys, always after a challenge and something new to climb, insisted we should give it a go. Whilst stood atop this cliff debating the subject with my offspring, a very confident gentleman strode past us and headed down the path, only to emerge, a little while later, on the beach below with considerably less clothing from the last time we saw him. Wait … Has he? … Is he? … Yes, he was naked. Quick Google search later … ‘Pedn Vounder is an unofficial naturist beach’! Phew, on the spin of a heel and a chorus of ‘Nope, I’m ok’ from the boys we proceed on our original heading towards Treen Cliff and circle back on ourselves taking the slightly more inland path back down to Porthcurno.
Having replenished sugar levels with an epic ice-cream from Porthcurno Beach Café, we head out on the right-hand footpath towards the famous Minack Theatre, whose very first performance was Shakespeare’s The Tempest in 1932, just as the cloud breaks and the sun makes its first appearance of the day. We are then treated with our first seal sighting of the day, with this solitary little fella, bobbing his head up to say ‘hallo’! The steep walk up the steps is not for the faint hearted and certainly not for those who suffer with vertigo but if you can brave it, you will not be disappointed as the views from the top are breath-taking. Keeping to the footpath that crosses the Minack car park we wander along the coast looking down to Porthchapel Beach on our left and going up the ancient granite steps to explore St. Levan’s Holy Well on our right, apparently water from this ancient spring is still used for baptisms in the nearby Parish Church and in olden days was said to have healing powers, with people even sleeping in the well to increase their chances of cure.
We follow a line of huge boulders, examining them closely to see the white strips of felspar crystals which is a common characteristic of granite in this area of Penwith. Then, descending down a rocky path we reach the pretty little cove of Porthgwarra, part of the St. Aubyn’s Estate, recently famed for the setting of Ross’ nude swimming scene in Poldark! After grabbing our pasties from Porthgwarra Cove Café we head down to the beach via a tunnel through an outcrop of rocks. The tunnel was dug by miners from St. Just to give easier access to the beach for fishermen and to enable farmers to transport sand and seaweed off the beach by horse and cart, to fertilise their fields. We spend some time on the beach exploring the pools, rocks and caves, with more giant boulders that have found their way there making perfect climbing frames. Careful not to slip as we climb the steep cobbled slipway off the beach, we leave the charming cove and head back the way we came, looking out for those ever-elusive Cornish Choughs.