Cornwall’s South West Coastal Path
April 4, 2017
If you like walking, beautiful scenery, amazing plants, flowers and wildlife then you will definitely like a walk – long or short along the Cornish stretches of the South West Coastal Path.
Running a guesthouse can leave little free time in the warmer months for getting out and about in Falmouth and Cornwall. So before we opened for the 2017 season, Mike & I donned the waterproofs, walking shoes and in my case – dubious ear warmers and set off to walk 40 miles of the Cornish coastline – in bite sized pieces I might add!
Being very efficient, Mike had the correct maps and had also printed out information from the SW Coast Path website which told us what to look out for on the stretches we were walking.
We started at the Lizard and on day one we walked to Cadgwith and back. Now, if like me, you don’t have a head for heights, there are a few stretches along this stretch of path that do take your breath away and turn your knees to jelly. The cliffs and rugged coastline were unbelievably beautiful – but I could only look properly if I stood still and looked – which is probably why all our walks took 3 times longer than they should! If I’m walking, I’m looking at my feet to ensure I don’t fall over, as I have an uncanny ability to fall over even when walking on a flat level surface! I know, I’m a muppet! Anyway, so much to see and Cadgwith is lovely. We stopped at the Cafe opposite the beach and I had a fantastic tuna salad – a proper one – not one of those things that just have lettuce & cucumber! It was absolutely delicious. Mike had the best ever cheesy chips. Hmm.
On every walk we had our eyes turned upwards looking for the legendary and rare bird called the Chough. With all the crows, rooks and ravens, there were a lot of false alarms!
The next day we started from Lizard again and walked to Mullion. There are some pretty darn steep hills to climb up and for someone that doesn’t do any walking, it was challenging. Lots of stops and lots of water! We walked along cliff tops and through a very marshy nature reserve – which amazingly had lots of frogs spawn in the puddles! Very odd. Another absolutely beautiful walk – yes the weather was grey and overcast, but in a way I was glad – or we would have boiled walking up those cliffs! So many beautiful flowers.
We were on the look out for a rare plant called the Hairy Greenweed – which looks a lot like Gorse – but isn’t Gorse! Again, lots of false alarms, but we did eventually find it once we got our eye in!
There were lots of kestrels majestically hovering in the wind and a great site was a marsh harrier swooping down on some poor unsuspecting vole and carrying off his prize for lunch. By the time we got to within site of Mullion I did feel that the legs were in need of a rest. On the approach to Mullion it was good to see the Shetland Ponies busy roaming and grazing away. It is wonderful to see that the National Trust are returning to these methods to manage the countryside and keep the weeds down! They also use other cattle too. At Mullion – after a brief stop at the Chocolate factory for a coffee, we took the bus back. I was done for the day!
The third day we relocated our base to Porthleven (famous for the massive waves over the church in the 2014 storms). We got the bus back to Mullion and then did the walk back to Porthleven. Stunning scenery, lovely wild beaches, lots of interesting coves and cliffs.
As we crossed Loe Bar – a naturally formed sand bank – that holds back the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall – the rain came down. Up went the hoods – we already had the waterproof trousers on – which were totally covered in mud! It wasn’t too bad as the wind was behind us and it soon dried up. Coming back into Porthleven, I was pleased to have a hot shower and put my feet up. We have guests that come to us and walk miles and miles every day – goodness knows how they do it! But RESPECT!
On the last day, we started at Porthleven and headed for Praa Sands. Unfortunately I read all the literature before we went and read about Rinsey Head. I wish I hadn’t! The SW Coastal path website describes this climb as ‘challenging to strenuous’. Already I was finding most of the climbs strenuous – but those were just referred to as moderate! Yikes. One minute you are on the top of a cliff then down to the beach and then back up the cliff – actually this is common on the coastal path – but I found Rinsey Head extremely tough – maybe I had used up my energy reserves on the previous three days? Mike seemed to spring up it like a mountain goat. I was somewhat slower! Don’t you just hate it when the person in the lead gets to the top first, has a rest whilst waiting for you, then you get there and off they go again! I had to keep telling Mike to wait! (Mind you – he does swim over a mile most days, so he is pretty fit). Anyway we did get to the top in the end.
What really made this stretch of walking the best, was that the amazing and rare Chough came to say hello. He – or she – we couldn’t tell – swooped down in front of us and landed on a fence – just 10 foot away. It then proceeded to talk to us so we heard the unique call. We also had an opportunity to study the whopping great red bill and his red legs. It is such an interesting story of this bird, that I will write a separate little article on it! We really were thrilled to bits to see this bird – our first ever siting.
We got to Praa Sands and then Mike convinced me to walk back too – I was happy to get a bus – but being the last day, I decided I was tough enough to try that Rinsey head a second time! Ha! Low on energy – we stopped for a couple of strategic biscuit breaks and made it back – exhausted but with a massive sense of achievement.
We can totally see why people come and stay with us at the Rathgowry B&B in Falmouth and use us as their base for walking the coastal path. The buses are a great way to leapfrog from one starting / end point to another too. Walking the coastal path is just amazing, the views, the history, the wildlife and the amazing sense of achievement you feel when you make it back and take that first sip of the well earned G&T down at the beach cafe! (or is that just me?!) Anyway, book your room with us at the Rathgowry guesthouse and don’t forget your walking boots!