St Ives to Padstow - narrative
(2010, with additions 2013, Padstow to St Ives)

We have done several sections of the South West Coast Path, but this one was the most enjoyable. This may be a personal thing in that my family comes from St Ives and I spent the summer holidays of my childhood there; or it may have been that the weather at the end of May 2010 was generally good. Certainly walking a long beach is more fun if you can see the end of it, and we had sweeping views of an ever-diminishing St Ives as we walked away from it. But there was also the variety. Cornish villages are not always beautiful, but they seem so if they huddle in a beautiful cove. And St Ives has to be a stunning place even if you don't have relatives there. Padstow, too makes a great ending, though if you want to eat chez Rick Stein you will have to book in advance, well before you set off on the walk. [Two other possible Cornish Coast Path sections are summarized in More Suggestions.]

We started our holiday visiting my Auntie in St Ives, which explains why we walked it in this direction, while the National Trail Guide goes the other way. Certainly it would work with St Ives as the grand finale.

DAY 1. St Ives to Gwithian.
The route for the day is clear - around St Ives Bay, towards Godrevy Lighthouse, the distant one in the picture. The Trail Guide suggests a 17-mile day here, which is too much for us, so we stopped near Gwithian making 7 miles. This is a bit on the short side, but we started from the far side of St Ives, and this is thoroughly recommended. For example, if you go out left of the Porthmeor side and beyond Man's Head rock (called Carrick Du in the Guide), you get the view in the photo at the top of the page.

Walking out of St Ives on the Porthminster side is a joy, too, and much more sheltered. However the section round the Hayle Estuary is, frankly, tedious, unless you are very interested in birds.

Beyond Hayle we walked most of its 'three miles of golden sands' before finding our way up through the dunes to a B&B half a mile or so south of Gwithian. More walking to town for a (very nice) Pub and back. [2013: we used a footpath through the fields, and had a gorgeous view of the sun setting behing Godrevy lighthouse.] Although this area is not spectacular, it has a certain gentle charm and is different from any other part of the coast path.

DAY 2. Gwithian to Portreath.
The day started brilliantly; the tide was low, so we were able to complete Hayle's sands walking among spectacular rock outcrops and looking into caves (see the photo gallery).

Then we arrived at Godrevy lighthouse, marking the achievement of walking round the bay. The coastline after that was fine, but unremarkable, and at one point we went inland to Tehidy woods for a bit of a change. The weather was cloudy, making us wonder how much the sun is necessary to fully appreciate the coastal views.

Eventually we came to Portreath, with its prospect of food and relaxation.

DAY 3. Portreath to Perranporth.
Yes, the sun does make a difference! Coming out of Portreath, the bay was glowing, and so the coast continued all day. We recorded that there no dull bits, but it may just have been the famous Cornish light that gave everything a pure clarity that kept us hooked.

And if at any time the current stretch was less than fascinating, or the climb a little steep (there were a number of ups and downs), we had only to look back to Godrevy, and in the distance St Ives, to be entranced once again.

The day finished with an arrival at Perranporth, a village as interesting as Portreath.

DAY 4. Perranporth to Newquay.
Our B&B had a terrific view over Perran Sands, and by the time we were ready the tide was low enough to walk them, a lovely open way to start the day (and avoid the ups and downs).

There was a lot of beach walking today, with lunch on Holywell beach. The final one is Crantock Beach, and at the end of it you have to cross the river Gannel over a bridge as in the picture, and climb this picturesque cliff (at high tide there is a ferry). There is a cafe at the top to sit and watch the sleepy view.

Over the headland into Newquay, and suddenly the atmosphere changes. Surfing is big business here, and there are vans from all over the world lined up just beyond the parking restrictions. The cafes and other facilities of Newquay match the market!

DAY 5. Newquay to Treyarnon Bay.
Another day, another morning beach walk - this time along Watergate Bay, with surfers, very interestingly coloured rocks, and a bracing wind.

Scrambling back up the cliffs at the end of the bay, the bracing wind became a bit of a nuisance, and discouraged dawdling. This is perhaps why we took fewer photos this day. We are, however, nerdy enough to give marks out of ten for the quality of each days' walking, and this got 7½, which means it was pretty good. [2013: We still found the beaches more interesting than the cliffs; there is a National Trust cafe at Carnewas Point, though the walking there is easy rather than dramatic.]

DAY 6. Treyarnon Bay to Padstow.
This day scored eight, even though the weather deteriorated as it went on. The walking was easy, and there was a succession of lovely beaches, each a different, new, experience.

St Ives, the start of the walk, stands out proud, but Padstow is tucked away out of sight; you enter Padstow Bay and it is nowhere to be seen. Again, the tide was low enough for us to walk in on the sand rather than the path, and as you come round St Saviour's point, there it is.

Padstow and all its facilities makes for a satisfying end to the walk; not as special as St Ives of course, but then I'm biased.

I said at the top of this page that this was the most enjoyable stretch of Coast Path we have walked, and I am wondering why. Partly that it was easy - no very long days, or problems finding B&Bs. Partly that the weather was generally good. Partly that the tide was low during the day, allowing us to walk many of the the beaches (the sand is quite good for walking). Partly that the grand scale of St Ives Bay meant that we could see our progress towards Godrevy Lighthouse, and then watch it recede into the distance, giving us a sense of being like little ants crawling slowly across the map.

And I think it is also that there just is a lot of lovely coastline and beaches along this stretch. Personally, I find some quite famous bits of our UK coast quite boring, when you walk for miles without much happening. On this walk, whenever we came round a corner, there was always something new ahead.

In 2013 we did the same walk, the other way.

What we noticed:

1. It was a relief to read the Guidebook forwards rather than backwards.
2. Some bits we enjoyed more (Gwithian, Tehidy Woods), perhaps because we knew what to expect.
3. The Hayle Estuary is still boring.
4. Portreath and Perranporth seemed less beautiful, compared to what we had already seen further up.
5. Because we knew the route and the pubs, it wasn't quite the mini-adventure we had before. However, we managed to give ourselves a bit of a scare scrambling down some cliffs to get to Watergate beach, above Newquay.

© Jeremy Polmear 2011, revised 2013