130 Padstow to Port Isaac

The weather forecast warns of rain this afternoon, and so I only plan a short walk, hoping to get at least as far as Polzeath, or Port Quin if I am lucky. I carry 1 small water bottle and no food.

My husband drops me off at the point where the Padstow ferry arrives on the sand at Rock. I couldn’t take a photograph of the ferry-boat yesterday because of the rain, so I am pleased to pull my camera out today and take a snap.

ferry from Padstow to Rock, Ruth's coastal walk

I walk along the shore, heading up the estuary towards the sea. The River Camel is flowing briskly and the incoming waves are creating a minor tidal bore. Across the water is the beach where I walked yesterday, before being forced to turn back by the tide. And above is the path across the cliffs  with the war memorial. The tide is lower today, and I see where I could have made it along the sand all the way from St George’s Cove to St Saviour’s Point.

view over to War Memorial, Padstow, Ruth on her coastal walk

On this side of the estuary, I am walking along a wide and gleaming beach, soft and wet underfoot, and I have to work hard against the suck of the sand.

wide sand, Padstow, Ruth walking the coast

The South West Coast Path runs through the dune system, somewhere over to my right. But I can’t resist being close to the water. Ahead I see where the estuary meets the sea, Padstow Bay, with Stepper Point to the left and Pentire point to the right. The little island in the middle is Newland.

across Doom Bar to Stepper Point, Ruth walking the coast in Cornwall

The coast veers round to the right, and I begin walking across the sands of Daymer Bay.

Padstow-Doom Bar - Tim Baynes painting for Ruth LivingstoneThe sand bank that straddles the mouth of estuary is called Doom Bar. It is not only a hazard for shipping, but it gives it’s name to a local Cornish beer.

And it is the subject of the painting by my wonderful artist in residence, Tim Baynes.

[To see a larger version of the painting, along with the photograph that inspired it, please look at my Artist in Residence page.]

A low sprawl of rocks – Trebetherick Point – lies straight ahead. In the sky the towering banks of cumulus clouds are beginning to develop ominous-looking dark bases.

across Daymer Bay, near Polzeath, Ruth's walk along the coastline of the UK

I follow the path up and onto the top of low cliffs. The rocks below are an enticing mix of browns and green, the water of the bay is a brilliant blue, and on the far shore I can see Hawker’s Cove and the green fields above.

across Doom Bar to Harbour Cove, Padstow, Ruth walkling the SWCP

People are strolling along this section of the path. The going is easy and I walk faster, making up for lost time because I spent far too long enjoying the sands and taking photographs.

The rocks below are marked as ‘Greenaway Beach’ on my map. A somewhat inappropriate name for this rocky shore. I wonder if there was once sand here and it has been washed away.

photo for sale, Trebetherick Point, Cornwall, Ruth on the SWCPI walk past a row of residential houses and come across a surreal sight. Someone has stuck a framed black-and-white photograph on an easel. The photograph was taken at this particular point on the cliff.

Of course I can’t resist taking a photograph of the photograph. Several in fact.

The photographer’s name is Michael Truelove and there is a card advertising a local exhibition of his work. I imagine a retired gentleman who wanders around taking photographs of the views around his home village.

[Later, I look up Michael Truelove on the internet and am surprised to find that he is a professional photographer, probably in his early forties, and he spends much of his time in the French Alps where he specialises in winter sports photography.]

A short distance further, and I arrive at the surfing beach of Hayle Bay. This is Polzeath, where David Cameron came for a holiday a few weeks ago.

Polzeath Beach, Cornwall, Ruth on SWCP

Today the beach is glowing with copper coloured reflections from the harvested fields above. It is a wonderful sight and I take plenty of photographs.

Polzeath beach car park and cafe, Ruth's coast walkThe time is just 12:00 midday and it is too early for lunch, but I can’t resist stopping at the beach-side café for a cold drink. (Later, I will really wish I had something to eat here.)

In front of the café is a car park. And I am surprised to realise the car park is actually on the beach itself. I wonder how often cars get stranded in the sand.

[This area was very badly affected by the winter storms of 2013/14. Cars on the road were battered and the surf club on the opposite side of the bay was pretty much destroyed. Some images and video footage can be found on the Sea This World site.]

The rain has held off and I decide to walk onwards to Port Quin. I send a text message to my husband informing him of my intended destination.

As I continue along the South West Coast Path, I stop for a last look back at Polzeath and its  lovely bay.

walking out of Polzeath, Cornwall, Ruth on the South West Coast Path

From the high ground of Pentire Point there is a wonderful view over the spiky spine of Rumps Point. It looks like a lizard. Beyond this, I can see at least three other prominent headlands, all off the top of my current map.

looking ahead to Rumps Point, Ruth walking the coast, Cornwall

[Later, when I pull out the next map, I realise that one of the nearer promontories must be Tintagel and the furthermost point, blue with distance, is even beyond the scope of my next map, but I think it is Hartland Point – in Devon!]

Across the fields, inland, I see dark clouds dropping their rain over Padstow. I hurry onwards, hoping I will escape a drenching.

rain storm over Padstow, Ruth's coastal walking

I would have liked to wander around on Rumps Point where there are the remains of an ancient Iron Age fort. But I am worrying about the rain behind me, and so I stick to the South West Coast Path and miss out the peninsula.

The Rumps Fort, Ruth walking SWCP, Cornwall

From here there is a lovely walk over cliffs along the edge of Port Quin Bay.

path to Port Quin, Ruth's coastal walk, north Cornish coastCom Head, Carnweather Point, Doyden Point, running in a line. The farthest inlet leads into Port Quin, my destination for today. Beyond is Kellan Head, but that is tomorrow’s walk.

To my left, footpaths lead off to Pentire Farm and Pentire Glaze tin mine. I meet a few other walker, including a long train of ramblers on Com Head. I stand aside to let them pass on the narrow path.

“There are 14 of us,” says the leader. But I only count 12. The last one is an elderly gentleman, struggling to keep up. Now I remember why I prefer to walk alone!

The dark clouds are coming my way.

 here comes the rain, Ruth Livingstone

The rain catches up with me on Carnweather Point. It pours down and I manage to wrap my phone and camera in waterproof bags before I become soaked through. I put my head down, glasses streaming, and plod onwards. Now I remember why I hate walking in the rain!

The path becomes more challenging, with some steep ascents. When I reach Doyden point, I head for the solitary building standing at the end of a track, a rather modern-looking castle,  hoping it will offer some sort of shelter. Maybe it will be a café? But Doyden Castle turns out to be private property and is locked.

The rain turns to drizzle and I risk taking my camera out. Here is the view back towards Rumps Point and its attendant island, The Mouls.

 rain over Rump's Fort, Cornwall, Ruth's coastal walk

I begin walking up the inlet towards Port Quin. This walk would be beautiful in the sunshine, but it is hard to appreciate it today. I begin thinking of cups of tea.

into Port Quin, Ruth walking the coast, Cornwall SWCP

Port Quin turns out to be a tiny hamlet, consisting of a winding road, a car park, a slipway and a small collection of houses. My husband’s car is not here. There is no café. It is pouring with rain again.

Port Quin, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast, SWCP

I shelter in a barn that has been converted into a car port, where I find two other walkers finishing off their packed lunch. They prepare to continue their walk, pulling on waterproof trousers. (I make a mental note: must buy waterproof trousers.)

Luckily my phone is still dry. Hooray! I check on my husband’s progress. No reception. Boo! Then, suddenly, comes the ping of a text message. “See you in Port Isaac. 4 pm.”

What?! Who said anything about meeting at Port Isaac?

My phone still shows no reception I ask the other walkers if I can use their phones, but they have no reception either. I walk up and down the little road, in both directions. No signal. It is 3.30pm. I have spent 20 minutes trying to send a text. Port Isaac is 3 miles away. It is raining. I grind my teeth in frustration, but I have to continue walking.

Kellan Head is wild and rugged. The rain stops and I take a photograph of Doyden Point and its unwelcoming castle.

looking back at Doyden Castle, Ruth on SWCP

A man struggles up the path towards me. I note, with surprise, that he is wearing ordinary shoes. A few minutes later his companion, an overweight lady with a red face, rounds a corner.

“Is it far to Port Quin?” she asks. I tell her it is just ahead and she says she is dying for a cup of tea. I tell her there is no café in Port Quin and she looks as if she might burst into tears.

Ahead is Downgate Cove. It is beautiful but there are plenty of steep climbs and I am too tired and grumpy to appreciate the views. Luckily the rain holds off, but I meet nobody else on the rest of the walk.

SWCP to Port Isaac, Ruth walking the coast, Cornwall

I am very relieved when I see Port Isaac below me. It is 5:30pm. Despite hurrying, it has taken me 2 hours to walk the 3 miles, due to the tough terrain.

Port Isaac, Ruth walking around the coast of the UK

Finally I pick up a signal on my mobile and I phone my husband. He tells me he is parked just on the other side of the bay. I can see a small car park. It’s not too far. Good. I feel better and even manage to appreciate that this is a beautiful place.

 Port Isacc, Ruth on the SWCP, Cornwall

The walk down into the village is steep, along a narrow, stepped street. I pass a little sign that says “Doc Martin’s house 3rd on left” and I assume this is a signpost to the local doctor’s surgery. Only later do I realise that Port Isaac is where the comedy series, Doc Martin, is filmed.

It is nearly 6pm. I have been walking without a break since noon and have not had anything to eat since 8am.

My husband is not parked in the little car park. I continue to climb the very steep hill and find him 300 yards farther up, on the far side of the village. Only the presence of his mother in the car prevents the outbreak of world war III.

Miles walked = 12
Total walked = 1,287


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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13 Responses to 130 Padstow to Port Isaac

  1. Sally Jordan says:

    Ah happy memories! We walked this section in reverse in 2009 (https://sites.google.com/site/jordanwalks/home/south-west-coast-path/westward-ho-to-padstow/port-isaac-to-padstow) and I remember that Port Isaac to Port Quin was tough. However we also had a delightful holiday cottage in Port Quin back in 1995 and walked a circuit to Port Isaac (out along the coast path; back inland) with an extremely determined 7-year old and her 9-year old brother in tow – see photo towards the bottom of https://sites.google.com/site/jordanwalks/home/south-west-coast-path. It was one of the nicest walks I’ve ever done.

    • Hi Sally, I very much enjoyed reading your account of the same walk (going the other way of course). Relieved to hear that you found the Port Isaac to Port Quin section tough going too. I thought I was just being a grumpy wimp at that stage! It is a lovely part of the coast.

  2. john harkness says:

    When we got to Port Isaac my friend took a postcard off the rack outside the chemist and went into pay to be shouted at by a woman in a yellow coat. Apparently the chemist’s was about to be filmed for Doc Martin he had wandered into the set.

  3. mariekeates says:

    Sometimes I think walking just leads me to even more places I must come back to to explore better. Your wet, hungry walk a d the misunderstanding reminds me of many of my own walks 🙂

  4. mariekeates says:

    By the way, waterproof trousers make you very hot!

  5. babsandnancy says:

    Really enjoying reading your adventures around the coast. We’ve only just started – 3 day walks west from Beachy Head with another planned for this weekend and the blog is I a foetal stage as I’m learning on the job having never been a blogger before, but the layout of yours provided inspiration as it is so clear. We as a pair and with fairly young children to boot may find it takes a lot longer than yours seems to be. However, our mantra is that it is the process not the product, so potentially the end need never arrive!

    • Thank you for your kind words and I hope you have fun in your family journey around the coast. The trick with blogging is to keep it simple. You can always add bells and whistles as you progress. When you get your blog up and running, please let me know and I’ll add you to my coastal walkers list!

      You might be interested in following Nik and his family: http://thecoastalpath.net

  6. paul sennett says:

    we loved this walk yesterday…. although Port Quinn to Port Isaac is very very up and down… .. one thing that might help other walkers.. there is a drinking water pipe by the path at Port Quinn

  7. Karen White says:

    Hayle Bay is absolutely glorious! I chuckled at your ‘World War III’ comment but can also understand your frustration – coming from exhaustion and hunger I should think.

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