Walking the four mile stretch of the South West Coast Path between Perranporth and St. Agnes is a great way to enjoy perfect beaches, stunning coastal scenery and remnants of Cornwall’s mining days.
When the tide is out, Perranporth beach, a few miles south of Newquay, is one of the biggest I have seen in Britain. It is popular with surfers and families, and makes for a relaxing place to do a bit of sunbathing and people-watching.
But I’ve got itchy feet, so after a leisurely beer at the Watering Hole pub in the middle of the sandy beach, I followed the South West Coast Path (SWCP), and headed in the direction of St. Agnes. I’m past staying in youth hostels, but there’s a YHA hostel on the cliffs overlooking Perranporth which would be an amazing place to stay at.
From here, the SWCP hugs the very edge of the un-fenced cliffs – one big gust of wind, and you’d be a goner. Fortunately, there was no wind and very few fellow walkers on Easter Bank Holiday Monday, although I did have to share the path with the occasional mountain biker and dog-walker.
The unseasonal British weather played its part, with plenty of sunshine and as there had been no rainfall for days the earth was quite arid – the scenery reminded me of the Greek Ionian islands with rocky headlands and islets jutting out into the true blue Atlantic.
The silence was occasionally broken by the noise of light aircraft landing and taking off from Perranporth Airfield, which backs onto the path. At one point I could see half a dozen pink parachutes descending from above me, as skydivers were coming in to land after jumping from a plane. What a view they must have enjoyed I thought, as skydiving onto Perranporth Airfield became a new entry on my bucket-list.
This was once one of Cornwall’s busiest mining areas, with remnants of the tin, copper and tungsten mining industries visible all around. A mile or so after leaving Perranporth, the cliffs became dotted with dozens of strange conical grilles looking like something from the Blair Witch Project. Known as “Bat Castles”, they have been put in place to block entrances to old mine shafts while allowing colonies of bats living inside to get in and out.
The cliffs nearby have been stained with minerals and are a vivid blood-red colour recalling images of Uluru, although there is a legend that they are that colour because a local giant used his blood to fill in a hole. I’m not sure which to believe, but the red cliffs of Perranporth should be just as famous as the White Cliffs of Dover in my book.
The path then descends to the valley where Trevellas beach is, backed with more remnants of the area’s mining history. Chimneys from tin mine engine houses remain, and there is a museum of mining history here, although this was closed when I visited.
St. Agnes itself is located just inland from the path, so I didn’t get chance to see the village but spent time near its beach. My Uncle Clive had recommended a pub to me called Schooners on the seafront, and I deserved a nice cold pint after my exertions. I read up about the history of St. Agnes while I sat drinking in the sun. It was once a shipbuilding centre, once had harbour walls and was once the epicentre of the mining industry.
There were chimneys in every direction I looked, one of which had been converted into an office. It is hard to imagine St. Agnes was once so industrious – now words like quaint and sleepy sum up the place.
My plan to get a bus back from St. Agnes to Perranporth backfired due to the Bank Holiday bus times (or lack of them), so I retraced my steps to enjoy more Bat Castles, blood-red cliffs and stunning views.
If you’ve got the energy left after returning to Perranporth, it’s well worth making the effort to get to the gorgeous dune-backed Holywell Bay, the next beach up the coast. Admittedly, I couldn’t face the five mile walk to get there so went by car the next day, when I took the photo below.