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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Walk 143 Gorran Haven to Portloe (Cornwall)

Walk 143 Gorran Haven to Portloe (Cornwall)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 204
Distance: 11 miles or 18 km approx
Difficulty: demanding in parts
Terrain: coastal and cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: Buses every half hour (no 24) from St Austell to Gorran. 51 bus serves Portloe every couple of hours and goes to Truro. These services seem to change and on one occasion did not turn up causing me to get an expensive taxi. Double check with Traveline before going and take taxi numbers as the mobile signal is dodgy.

Continue the walk out of Gorran Haven westwards to Bow or Vault Beach and on to Dodman Point, also known as The Dodman. The name may derive from a Cornish term for bank or dyke especially as there is evidence of Iron Age ramparts. However, a local man I met up here assured me it meant 'dead man' because of the number of lives lost in shipwrecks. The Spanish Armada are said to have had a council of war when anchored near here in 1588 and formed battle lines to attack Drake's fleet. More recently, in 1966, a pleasure cruiser sank off the coast with the loss of 31 lives. At the end of the point there is an impressive stone cross overlooking the sea. It was erected in 1896 by a Rev. G. Martin as a navigational aid and a spiritual reminder.

The walk back along the point provides some attractive views including that of Hemmick Beach – deserted when I visited.

A couple of miles further along is Porthluney Cove with the Grade 1 listed Caerhays Castle and gardens. The background of wooded land is unusual for this part of the coast. The castle was designed in 1808 by John Nash (Buckingham Palace and Brighton Pavilion). It is built on the site of a 13th century manor house and designed to appear like a Norman castle. The cost of the construction and landscaping ruined the owners and the fact that Nash used papier mache in the roof didn't help. A descendant of the original owners had his money so soaked up in maintaining the building that he shot the eyes out of the paintings of his ancestors hanging on the walls! If you have time to visit, and it is Spring, the gardens here have the largest national collection of magnolias.

Soon after Porthluney are signs stating that Portloe is 2 miles away – it felt much more than that. I asked a local if there was such a thing as a Cornish mile – 'course there is' was the reply – mmmm, I did not trust the twinkling eye and half grin.

Photos: Porthluney Cove with Caerhays Castle; Portloe.

The walk finishes at Portloe which is surrounded by spectacular scenery. Two fishing boats work out of here catching crab and lobster. The BBC 1 series 'Wild West' starring Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders as a gay couple running the village shop was filmed here and shown between 2002-2004. I don't recall it being repeated but quite enjoyed it at the time. If you fancy a drink to finish your walk go up the hill to The Ship Inn, known locally as The Drinking Kitchen.

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