portreath to st ives



May has been cold, wet and windy but all of a sudden I have a decent weather forecast for the day. It looks like I'll have sun all day long and although the temperature won't break records at least it will be warm for a change and even the wind has died down a bit.

St Ives high tide 08:16

St Ives low tide 14:24

I start the day at the beach in Portreath. The beach at Portreath consists of soft, fine sand with shingle below the shoreline and there is a prominent stack out to sea. I wander out on to the beach for a bit before heading up Battery Hill.

overlooking portreath

I pass Battery House and climb up a track onto the headland here at Western Hill where there are fine views overlooking Portreath.

I head along Carvannel Downs where the scenery is stunning and I pass the inaccessible Ralph's Cupboard, a collapsed sea cave.

ralph's cupboard

Inaccessible that is unless you have a kayak.

Legends abound about Ralph's Cupboard with some linking the collapsed cave to smugglers. Others say it was the home of a giant, known as the Wrath of Portreath, who used to throw rocks at passing boats, steal their treasure and eat their crew.

The wild flowers around here are looking lovely.

I continue along Carvannel Downs to reach a waterfall and stream at Porthcadjack Cove. I pass Samphire Island and round Basset's Cove. The cove was once worked as a stone quarry, with the horse powered winding gear also being used to raise wreckage of the many ships that came to grief on this treacherous strip of coastline.

I walk past Crane Islands out to sea. Next up is Reskajeage Downs - which I have no idea how to pronounce - where I'm high up over sheer cliffs and below me are the tiny, sandy coves of Greenbank Cove and Deadman's Cove. Access to both coves is difficult so I don't make any attempt to reach them.

Noisy colonies of nesting seabirds spoil the peace on the way to Hell's Mouth.

Did I mention that the flowers are looking rather lovely at this time of year?

I see three hummingbird hawk moths flitting between the flowers but they are flying too fast for me to photograph them.

I walk above the dramatic, rocky inlet at Hell's Mouth where I spend some time watching the sea birds swooping and soaring around the cliffs and offshore rocks. The cliffs here are 290 feet tall and there is a sheer drop down to the sea. Several people have comitted suicide here.

hell's mouth

Just across the road is Hell's Mouth Cafe.  

hell's mouth cafe

The erosion of the cliffs at Hell's Mouth has resulted in some interesting caves on the east side. These make a loud booming noise as they fill with surging waves. The waves compress air into cracks and cavities in the rock, causing further erosion. The cove, cliffs and two isolated stacks out to sea are popular breeding grounds for guillemots and razorbills, fulmars and kittiwakes.

The cliffs around here seem pretty fragile so I stay well clear of the edge.

I continue along the cliffs to Fishing Cove and Smuggler's Cove where there are traces of North Cliff mine. Lead was extracted from here in the mid 19th century.

I continue along the coast path and walk around the gorse covered headland of The Knavocks. I come across a herd of cows blocking my way along the path.

Shetland ponies are grazing on the heathland here, but I don't see any, and the gorse here is spectacular.

I've now got decent views of Godrevy Island with its lighthouse built in 1859 following outcry at the loss of all hands aboard the SS Nile, a 700 ton steamer wrecked on the rocks here on the 30th of November 1854. The light was moved from the lighthouse tower to a new steel structure on the adjacent rock in 2012. The lighthouse was immortalized by Virginia Woolf in her novel 'To the Lighthouse'.

I pass a trig point at 249 feet with fine views looking over to St Ives in the distance.

trig point overlooking st ives

I have fine views overlooking the long sandy beach towards Hayle.

view to hayle

I know it's becoming a bit boring and repetitive but the wild flowers around here are amazing.

The sea thrift in particular is looking at its best.

I pass Mutton Cove with its colony of grey seals. There are a few seals on the beach and a few more swimming in the sea.

seals on a beach

The seals are vey popular and a crowd has gathered to watch them.

crowd watching seals

I round Godrevy Point passing by the lighthouse and pass below Godrevy Cafe at a car park.

godrevy lighthouse and sea thrift

I now have stunning views across the vast expanse of sandy beaches stretching around St Ives Bay. I drop down on to Godrevy Cove and amble across the beach.

godrevy cove

From here the official coast path meanders through the dune system behind the beach but the tide is out so there's no way I'm going to waste the opportunity of walking along the three mile stretch of sandy beach so I join the beach at Gwithian.


The tide briefly forces me to walk through the sand dunes before I make it back on to the beach, climbing down some ropey looking steps which are completely washed away at the bottom of the cliffs so I have to scramble down.

sand dunes

It has turned into a glorious day so I amble along the beach, passing kite surfers at the far end of the beach.

kite surfers

At the end of the beach the River Hayle presents an impenetrable barrier to continuing along the coast so it's time for a long detour inland around the tidal river. I climb ashore at Hayle Towans passing the lifeguard station and follow a fiddly path towards Hayle.

The River Hayle is known locally as the red river, a reference to its colour during the days of intensive mining when the waters were stained red by the washings of tin ore but those days are long over.

I can see over to St Uny's Church on the other side of the estuary but I won't get to it for another hour or so.

view to st uny's church

I've not been impressed with Hayle on previous visits. Let's face it, the place was a stinky dump and I've never been able to find the coast path through Hayle. But things change and development work has started on the various quaysides.

I walk along North Quay which has now been completely redeveloped and it's now a pleasant riverside walkway. Hayle is never going to win a beauty contest but it has been much improved.


 I follow the road through Hayle, passing a memorial to Rick Rescorla. I know nothing about him but he lost his life in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

memorial to rick rescorla

The path continues next to a railway viaduct and passes the new Asda superstore.

the new hayle asda superstore

I follow a stinky road out of Hayle where chaffinches are merrily singing away. Quite why they'd want to live here I do not know. The Causeway continues alongside the mud of the river estuary.

the causeway

At the end of The Causeway I detour slightly inland to visit a large roundabout on the busy A30 - tempted by the promise of orchids. Here I find southern marsh orchids, early purple orchids still in flower and pyramidal orchids just coming in to flower.

Best of all though there is a large colony of bee orchids, thought to have been brought in accidentally in topsoil when the roundabout was created. I only find two but two is better than none and I risked life and limb crossing the busy road to find them.

Postscript: We drove past the roundabout a couple of days later only to find that it had been mown to within an inch of its life, taking with it the majority of the flowering orchids, including the bee orchids. Quite why people treat road verges this way I do not know. Craziness.

I walk back down to the coast path at Griggs Quay where the Old Quay House (@margaret_oqh) can be found.

old quay house

I pass some gladioli on the Hayle estuary and then turn into a new estate heading towards the park and ride car park at Lelant Saltings.


new estate

 I follow the road towards Lelant, passing a lovely garden on the opposite side of the road to the houses.


I should pass The Badger Inn but if I did I completely missed it. I pass the railway station at Lelant where more chaffinches are singing. This is a much better location than stinky Hayle! I follow a minor road to reach St Uny's Church. At various stages of the walk now I hear the train passing me in both directions. The train runs every half hour between St Erth and St Ives.

lelant station

I wander into the grounds of St Uny's Church and then wander through the lovely, and deliberately overgrown churchyards.

st uny's church

overgrown churchyard

I pass by the West Cornwall Golf Course avoiding any stray golf balls and head under another railway bridge.

It's now a pleasant walk alongside the St Erth to St Ives railway line, considered to be one of the most scenic of railway lines.

I follow the path through the sand dunes next to the railway where I have lovely views over Porth Kidney Sands.

porth kidney sands

porth kidney sands

 I pass more orchids, this time common spotted orchids, on the way to the headland of Carrack Gladden which I round before dropping down to the beach again at Carbis Bay.

common spotted orchid

The Carbis Bay Hotel dominates the shore line here and the coast path has been diverted through the grounds of the hotel where a wedding is taking place..

carbis bay

The path continues to follow the railway line and passes The Baulking House, a lookout used to spot shoals of pilchards, 

the baulking house

I have lovely views towards St Ives.

view to st ives

The path drops me down on to my destination for the day, Porthminster Beach below the railway station at St Ives. The Porthminster Beach Cafe can be found here. It's been quite a day for beaches which will be in stark contrast to tomorrow's rugged coastline.

porthminster beach

It's way busier here than I'm used to! I head up to the railway station where I catch the train back to Lelant Saltings.


Flora and fauna encountered on the walk today includes :-

  • foxgloves
  • speckled wood butterflies
  • rock rose
  • stonechats
  • skylarks
  • cormorants
  • hummingbird hawk moths
  • cows
  • painted lady butterflies
  • cuckoo flower
  • canada geese
  • gladioli
  • echiums
  • chaffinches
  • a red admiral butterfly
  • southern marsh orchids
  • early purple orchids
  • pyramidal orchids
  • common spotted orchids
  • bee orchids


The podcast of today's walk is now available. You can subscribe via the iTunes store or listen using the player below.


According to my phone I've walked 18.3 miles today which amounts to 40161 steps. It has been magnificent walking in glorious weather and despite stinky Hayle it has to be ten out of ten!

bee orchid

sea thrift