Day 1: Sunday 17th February 2019
I walked this section with my family and the rest of the way to John O’Groats on my own. It took me 62 days with 58 wild camps.
We arrived at Perranporth just before midday on Sunday 17th February, and arranged a taxi to take us to Land’s End (the wonderful Doreen from Dor to Dor taxis – highly recommended!) We left the car at the clifftop Droskyn Point car park, where parking charges don’t apply until April. Bonus.
After a very entertaining drive down, with Doreen even detouring a little to show the children St Michael’s Mount, we arrived safely at Land’s End. We grabbed the obligatory (free) signpost photograph and after eating the remains of our car picnic from the drive down, headed off.
The first part of the trail was easy walking along the cliff tops towards Sennen Cove. The path is well-walked here, as you can imagine, so it’s very straightforward. We all really appreciated the bracing sea air after such a long car journey – we had been driving since 5am.
The stroll down into Sennen Cove is lovely, with far-reaching views and crashing waves. We stopped for a look at the lifeboat, then treated ourselves to chips as we knew this was the last opportunity to buy food on the trail until St Ives. This is probably the slowest start to a walk we’ve ever had – stopping after only a couple of miles – but we loved sitting outside in the sunshine and watching the waves break over the harbour wall.
From Sennen Cove the trail continues along the cliff tops, heading towards St Just. It becomes more undulating and rocky as you head towards Cape Cornwall.
Wild camping in this part of the walk is tricky, as much of the land is owned by the National Trust. There’s also a lack of ground flat enough to sleep on! With the children, we had the additional safety concern of not wanting to camp anywhere near an exposed cliff. We managed to find a suitable spot (with permission) south of Cape Cornwall. The children were delighted with chocolate bars for tea and we bedded down for a comfortable but rather chilly night’s sleep. The wind had picked up considerably by this point.
Day 2: Monday 18th February 2019
We were up at first light and made some hot chocolate, which warmed everybody up nicely. After breaking camp and eating breakfast (dehydrated muesli and porridge) we headed off. I can’t have been thinking straight, though, as I started walking with my head torch still on my head. My wife didn’t notice either, even though she took this picture!
It wasn’t long before we reached Cape Cornwall and Priest’s Cove. This is such a beautiful spot, and we stopped at the picnic table here for a snack (there are public toilets, too).
The little harbour at Priest’s Cove feels timeless, and it is easy to imagine how it has looked through the centuries. We enjoyed spotting different birds here, which some local photographers helped us to identify as ravens, gannets and auks.
On leaving Cape Cornwall, we crossed a lovely little valley and then climbed again towards Botallack Head into the old mining country. The climb gave us some stunning views back towards the Cape and warmed us all up tremendously. We felt very lucky to be walking this path in February with just T-shirts and soft-shell jackets to stop the wind chill. The sunshine remained with us all day.
The next stretch of the trail around Pendeen was really interesting. There is evidence of mining history everywhere you look, with chimneys and mine shafts being the most obvious on the surface. We wanted to visit the Geevor Tin Mine at Pendeen, but it looked like it needed a full day to do the mine justice so we made a plan to come back and visit another time. The National Trust also own the Levant Mine and Beam Engine here, which sadly was closed today. It’s another reason to come back during the season, as this looked very interesting too!
Once through the mining area, we headed for Portheras Cove, where we stopped for lunch. Lunch consisted of very squished sandwiches leftover from Sunday, pasties and apples. The apples had been heavy to carry, so my wife was very happy to get rid of them from her pack! The sun was still shining strongly so we pulled out the tents and sleeping bags and gave them a bit of an airing. This was a gorgeous, secluded bay and the children enjoyed playing in the sand for a while.
From Portheras Cove we headed on towards Zennor. The trail was a mix of lovely grassy stretches with good going, and rough, rocky patches where we all needed to watch our step. We decided not to head into Zennor as we had enough food to get us to St Ives, and we were enjoying the seclusion of the trail. We made one more stop just past Zennor to filter some more water from the stream, and then were on the look-out for a camping spot.
This took a while, as there is not much flat ground here, but we finally settled on a patch away from the cliffs where we could just squeeze our tents in. Darkness had fallen by this point, but luckily it was a bright full moon which really helped with pitching the tents and cooking dinner.
Day 3: Tuesday 19th February 2019
The main goal in everyone’s mind today was reaching St Ives, where a cooked breakfast awaited us! We packed up at first light and were off before 8am, and at first it looked like we might get a rain shower. We watched the rain go around us, and saw a lovely rainbow – but no rain!
We could tell as we were getting closer to St Ives, as the path got easier and easier. The view of the town and Porthmeor Beach as you round Clodgy Point is beautiful, and we could practically smell our breakfast! Scoff Troff Cafe is highly recommended – great service, really accommodating of scruffy walkers, and the food was delicious.
From St Ives the South West Coast Path changes and crosses much more populated areas. This makes the walking easier, but I did miss the sense of wildness that we experienced earlier in the walk. We headed to Carbis Bay and along Porth Kidney Sands, which is where you need to head inland to Lelant and Hayle to get around the estuary. I hadn’t been looking forward to this part as the guidebook gives it a bit of a slating, but it is interesting in its own way. It also gave us a chance to stop for a pint and the children could play in the play area. Hayle also has a brilliant ice cream parlour, which we indulged in!
OK, enough about the food. Back to the trail. From Hayle we re-joined the coast at The Towans and sat for a while watching seals in the water with some surfers. We then walked along the beach up to the dunes, and camped for the night near Gwithian.
Day 4: Wednesday 20th February 2019
Today we regained some of the sense of wildness that had been lacking in yesterday’s stretch of the trail. The weather had turned a little and we got our first rain of the trip, but it didn’t last long.
We got a lovely surprise after passing Godrevy Point and the lighthouse on Godrevy Island – a little secluded bay, packed with seals! we enjoyed watching them playing and swimming, and left them in peace when we felt that our presence on the clifftop was disturbing them.
The next stretch of the trail towards Portreath was quite hard going. The trail itself was good and easy to follow, but there is a great deal of up and down as you work your way across the downs.
Portreath was a welcome stop for some lunch, and the undulating trail continued to Porthtowan. We stopped briefly here for a drink (there’s a good children’s play area, too).
After Porthtowan, the path is stunning. Chapel Porth is a lovely bay, even with the tide in as it was when we passed. This is mining country again and we enjoyed exploring the atmospheric ruins along the trail towards St Agnes.
The trail is easy walking from Chapel Porth to Trevaunance Cove, and every step is gorgeous. I can imagine it can be bleak and windswept up at St Agnes Head, but in the balmy evening sunshine it was an idyllic spot. From here we followed the trail hugging the cliff edge all the way to Trevaunance Cove, and arrived in time for a great meal at the Driftwood Spars. We highly recommend the chocolate brownies!
Our camp that night at Trevaunance Cove was warm and comfortable, and we all slept extremely well.
Day 5: Thursday 21st February
We woke early with the knowledge that we only had four miles to walk to return to our car at Perranporth.
It was easy walking along the cliff tops and the sunshine was back, making this a very enjoyable part of the trail. The path hugged the side of the cliffs at times. The views across to Perran Beach were amazing.
We were back at the car at Droskyn Point by 9.30am, and it was good to get changed into clean clothes and trainers! I spent some time re-packing my pack for the walk onwards. It was a shock when I lifted it on to my back and realised the weight I would be carrying from this point on. I also found it difficult packing winter kit when I was standing in full warm sunshine. I hope I won’t regret my choices.
We walked into Perranporth and had a great breakfast at the Willow Cafe. Perran Beach is stunning and we had time for the children to play in the sea. At this point, I had run out of reasons to stay in Perranporth and it was time to head towards Newquay, saying goodbye to my family and leaving them to face the long drive back to Norfolk. What an incredible start to my LEJOG adventure – I wonder what awaits me next? The next stage of the adventure is here – Perranporth to Bude.
Read the next instalment here.