A visit to Cornwall would not be complete without some coastal walking. The Cornish coast is now regularly broadcast into people’s homes as the setting for ‘Poldark’, the BBC’s hugely popular Sunday evening drama. The tourism trade has been quick to capitalise on this. Gift shops sell ‘Poldark’ merchandise and there are websites dedicated to ‘Poldark’ walks. I must admit, as a fan of the show, I was drawn in and keen to follow in Poldark’s footsteps.
We stayed in The Cornwall Hotel, Spa and Estate just outside St. Austell which was an ideal base to be close to our chosen section of the South West Coast Path. The walk would take us from Mevagissey to Charlestown ending in the harbour used as a filming location for ‘Poldark’.
Depending on which website you look at, this walk is described as moderate to strenuous although it is my opinion that it is more towards the challenging end of the scale. If you are tempted to try this walk, allow plenty of time. Even though it is possible to cover this number of miles in a few hours, this is some of the most difficult coastal terrain I have ever tackled so it inevitably slows the pace.
We caught the bus from Tregorrick to take us to Mevagissey. This picturesque, harbour town is the epitome of the typical image of Cornwall. The main tourist season was over so most of the cafés and gift shops were closed. Apart from a few people strolling along the waterfront, the only activity came from the unloading of fishing vessels with their catch of the day. The sun was breaking through and the frosty start was giving way to the late warmth of a bright, autumn day.
The walk started by taking us up a steep path by the museum which led to some stone steps. This is part of the official South West Coast Path so there are clear signs throughout the route. It was the first of many demanding ascents.
The route follows the edge of the coastline along the clifftops but there are fences and hedges which disguise just how close to the edge the path actually is in some places. It is very deceptive but it felt safe and it is clear that a lot of work has been done to ensure that the path is well maintained. There was only one small section where I had to take a deep breath and just go for it without looking down (I’m not the bravest where steep edges are concerned!) I felt a momentary sense of pride at overcoming my temporary terror.
We soon reached Pentewan Village which provided a welcome break from the headlands and clifftops but it was not long before it was back onto the coastal path. We passed signs warning trespassers to avoid the surrounding farmland and cliffs but it was a very easy route to follow so it would be difficult to inadvertently go wrong.
As the walk continued, the ascending and descending became like second nature and my confidence at dealing with steep descents and edges began to grow. I could not take my eyes off my feet as any small lapse in concentration meant tripping over and losing my footing. One headland and valley looked much the same as any other until it felt like we were stuck in a strange time warp scenario that kept sending us back to the beginning. It was a relief to reach a footbridge, stile or any other type of landmark just to prove that we were actually making progress.
The miles were slowly mounting up and the hours were passing but there just seemed to be no end in sight.
Eventually, we reached Porthpean beach and a coastal path sign announcing that there was only one mile to go to reach Charlestown. It was a relief to get to this point because we were mindful that the clocks had gone back and the nights draw in far quicker in the autumn. It was already starting to feel like dusk was fast approaching. We persevered past the observation tower at Carrickowel Point to reach Crinnis Cliff Battery and then we had our first view of our final destination.
We descended for the last time to reach the harbour at Charlestown where we were able to buy a well-earned takeaway cup of tea just before the kiosk closed. We then went to find the bus stop for the return journey to the hotel.
This route provided some of the most challenging walking I have ever done. We covered 9.45 miles in total. It is true to say that I slept well that night after what felt like an epic adventure.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and I recommend this route for anyone wanting to experience ‘Poldark’ country. It is coastal walking at its best!
- Please note that this is the route I followed. I am an experienced walker. You should take care and use your own judgement for your safety when planning where to walk.
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