108 Caerhays Castle to Nare Head

Porthluney Beach, Ruth walking the coast.The beach at Caerhays Castle is officially known as Porthluney Cove Beach. On a hot summer’s day, I can imagine crowds of people would come here – easy access because of the car park.

It is a chilly bank holiday Monday. The tide is out and the beach is empty apart from a few dog walkers.

A sign says that dogs must be kept on a lead. But who would begrudge these dogs their freedom as they run across the sand – racing each other towards the waves, full of joy and vitality?

entrance to Caerhays Castle, Ruth's coastal walkThe Castle entrance is still shut. It is just after 9:00 am and the gates don’t open until 10:00. That means I don’t have to fight the urge to look around the house and its gardens.

I spend some time taking photographs of the beach. Then I head westwards, following the road. If there was once a footpath over the cliffs, it has long since crumbled into the sea.

 footpath from Caerhays, Ruth on the SW Coast PathThe road climbs up steeply and my calves are aching by the time I reach the top. This long weekend of walking has left me stiff and sore.

Although I meet no traffic, I am glad to spot the South West Coast Path footpath sign, leading off to the left. I walk along beside green fields. A hedge of bushes and shrubs separates me from the steep drop to the sea below. 

I can see a haze developing on the horizon and wonder if this means it will be a hot day. I can make out a headland to the east and presume it is far in the distance – is it the tip of the Roseland Peninsula – Zone Point?

In fact, it turns out to be closer than it looks; Nare Head and my eventual destination today. The island just offshore is Gull Rock.

view across Veryan Bay, Ruth walking round the coast, Cornwall

This walk is stunningly beautiful – one of the most scenically attractive walks so far and one of the easiest along this section. The path is wide and flat and follows the line of the shore. There are gorse bushes in full bloom and wild flowers. The late spring means the trees are still bare of leaves and there is nothing to hinder the wonderful views across Veryan Bay.

 easy walking to Portholland, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

I meet a few other walkers, some with dogs.

Making rapid progress along the easy path, I reach Portholland in less than forty minutes. Portholland consists of two separate beaches, each with a small collection of houses – East and West Portholland. Most of the properties are owned by the Caerhays Estate, who also lay claim to the beaches, but seem happy to allow the public full access to the sands.

cloud over Dodman Point, Ruth on the South West Coast Path, South Cornwall

At low tide you can walk on the sand from East Portholland to West Portholland. Not knowing this, and unable to see around the curve of the cove, I walk along the road instead. After walking through West Portholland (blink and you’ll miss it), I find the coastal footpath and strike off, climbing up to the top of the low cliffs again.

The weather has changed dramatically. A low fog has rolled in from the sea and Dodman Point is lost in a grey shroud. What a change from yesterday, when I sat up there among the gorse and ate my lunch in brilliant sunshine.

cloud over Dodman Point, Ruth on the South West Coast Path, South Cornwall

The view ahead of me is similarly obscured by mist. Luckily, the immediate path is clear and I enjoy the walk, despite the fact I can only see a few hundred yards ahead.

Japanese Knotweed control sign, Ruth walking the coastJapanese Knotweed on Ruth's coastal walkAmong the grass, gorse and flowers I find evidence of that pesky invader – Japanese Knotweed. Sections of the landscape have been treated with some sort of herbicide. But among the flattened and deadened vegetation, one plant is putting out vigorous new shoots – red leaves, large and strong and healthy.

Like an awful triffid, the Japanese Knotweed refuses to die.

The landscape becomes wilder and the path narrower, while the fog continues to roll in from the sea. This is a great walk. I stride between the blue below and the grey above, no sign of humans – just me and the path and the rocks and the sea and the surrounding blanket of mist.

fog over Caragloose Point, Ruth walking on the SW Coast Path, Cornwall

Ahead is Caragloose Point and, as I make my way round the curve of the coast, the path involves some steep scrambles up and down rocks. I begin to meet other walkers, coming towards me from the direction of Portloe. Most of them look discomfited by the fog, having started out, I presume, from the sunny shelter of that fishing village.

Below me the land dips steeply into a valley, at the bottom of which the path runs across a wooden bridge and over a stream. On the bridge, I see my husband waiting for me. He has parked at Nare Head and walked along, past Portloe, to meet me.

hubby waiting, looking down from Caragloose Point, Ruth on her coastal walk

We walk together, through the mist, to Portloe. This village lies in a valley and has a small harbour with a narrow, rocky approach from the sea. The path takes us down through people’s gardens, so close to people’s homes that we feel like intruders.

 Portloe, Ruth walking round the coast, Cornwall

I wish we had decided to end the walk today in Portloe. Although it is only another couple of miles to Nare Head, I am tired from a weekend of walking and the grey mist is making this trek rather dull. The island of Gull Rock, off Nare Head, seems as distant as it was some hours ago – a trick of the light, maybe?

We climb out of Portloe and follow the South West Coast Path towards Nare Head. We pass a grey house set in gardens, overlooking Manare Point. This is the only building near the path as it runs from Portloe to Nare Head.  Despite the isolation and the mist, we meet a number of other walkers along what seems to be a popular route. It is a shame about the poor visibility, which makes photography difficult. 

I am tired and glad of my walking poles. My husband takes my rucksack and commandeers my camera, taking this photo of me as I navigate the steep slope down towards Kiberick Cove, nestling at the base of Nare Head. The path is lined with flowering gorse, glowing with colour despite the gloom. 

Kiberick Cove, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

A tiring climb out of Kiberick Cove and we are on the slopes of Nare Head. We walk across one last steep valley – this one full of grazing sheep – and up towards where we hope we will find a lane and our parked car, still invisible at the top of the slope.

After puffing our way to the top, we look back and see a couple of walkers on the other side of the valley, where we had been standing a few minutes before.

sheep and gorse, Ruth's coastal walk, Nare Head

We find the car park and the car. Another great day of walking, marred only by the poor visibility and my increasing tiredness.

Miles walked= 6 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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4 Responses to 108 Caerhays Castle to Nare Head

  1. mariekeates says:

    What a pity about the mist. Even so there were so beautiful views. I’d be the same as you with the castle, I’d have struggled to resist. So many things on my walks make me want to come back and explore later, I seem to have an ever growing list. 🙂

  2. Ruth says:

    I am waiting in anticipation of your walk from Penzance to Lands End. I have just spent a week at St Buryan and had a lovely walk from Lamorna to Treen, the smell of the wild honeysuckle was very special. The landscapes so different as well.

  3. Karen White says:

    IT would take me twice as long as I’d have to visit at least some of the interesting places along the way. I actually like misty days – as long as there’s enough visibility not to walk off the edge of a cliff!

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