There are parts of the Cornish coast that seem especially remote, where main roads have been kept at arms' length and where human development has not gone beyond farming and small-scale sea going. The lonely stretch of south Cornish coast between Gerrans Bay and Veryan Bay, with Nare Head at its centre, is one such place, a landscape where people seem to have lived always at a healthy distance from too much intrusion.
The walk begins at the seasonally popular Carne Beach. A steady hike along the coast path from here soon brings you to a steep descent into the narrow Paradoe, pronounced 'Perada', Cove. On a spur of land above the sea is the ruin of a small cottage. This was the home of a 19th-century fisherman called Mallet, who lived during the week in this lonely spot, fishing from 'Mallet's Cove' below, then returning at weekends to his wife at the village of Veryan, just a few miles inland. Eventually Mallet emigrated to Australia – without his wife. Weekends had become non-negotiable, perhaps. The little ruined cottage above the restless sea still speaks of a life of extraordinary detachment.
From Paradoe it is a long, punishing climb to the flat top of Nare Head. Beyond the Head a pleasant ramble takes you along the coast past the steep Rosen Cliff and by lonely coves. Offshore lies the formidable Gull Rock, a busy seabird colony. The route leads to Portloe, a fishing village that seems to have survived without imposed 'quaintness' and without too much intrusion. Here, a steep-sided valley has left only enough room at its seaward end for fishing boats and a pleasant veneer of houses and cottages to either side. You head inland from this reassuring place into a lost world of little fields and meadows that straggle across country to Veryan (see While You're There).
From Veryan the route wanders back towards the sea, past the ancient landmark of Carne Beacon, a Bronze Age burial site that saw later service as a signal station, a triangulation point and as a World War II observation post. Before these latter uses the bones beneath had been disturbed by curious Victorians. A few fields away lies Veryan Castle, known also as The Ringarounds, the site of a late Iron Age farming settlement. These ancient sites prove that this absorbing landscape has given refuge to people for thousands of years. From the high ground the route leads down to the coast once more.
Turn left out of the car park and walk up the road, with care. Just past the steep bend, turn off right and go up some steps and on to the coast path. Keep right where a path leads off uphill to the left, and follow the coast path to Paradoe Cove and then continue past scenic Nare Head.
Above Kiberick Cove, go through a gap in a wall. Keep ahead through a dip to reach a kissing gate. After a National Trust sign for 'Broom Parc' bear right at a junction. Keep right at two further junctions and descend into Portloe. Go left up the road from the cove, past the Ship Inn.
Just after a sharp left-hand bend, and where the road narrows, go over a high step stile on the right. Cross a field to a stile, then follow the right field-edge. Pass a gate, then, in a few paces, go right and over a stile. Bear half left across the next field, heading towards a white house, to reach a stile into a lane.
Go right along the road for 200yds (183m) past Camels Farm, then go left over a stile and immediately through a gate. Follow the right field-edge to another stile. Follow the next field-edge, then just before the field corner, go right over a stile. Turn left through a gap, then go diagonally half right across the next field to an overgrown stile. Head across the next field, aiming for further right of a pair of telegraph poles and exit onto a road via a stile so overgrown and neglected it is barely discernible. Turn left to a road junction. Continue along the road, signposted 'Carne and Pendower'.
Just past Tregamenna Manor Farm, on a bend, go over a stile by a gate on the right. Cut across the corner of the field, then go right over a stile. Cross the next field to a gate and then continue past a house on the left to a T-junction with a lane. (Turn right to visit Veryan.)
If you're not visiting Veryan village, turn left, then, just past Churchtown Farm, go left again over a stile. Turn left and follow the edge of the field to a stile into a lane. Go immediately left over a stile, then follow a path, past Carne Beacon, to a lane. If you're not visiting Veryan Castle, head straight on.
At a corner junction keep ahead down the lane, signposted 'Carne Village Only'. Bear right down a driveway past Beacon Cottage. Go downhill between houses. Follow the track round to the right between a garage and house, then follow a grassy track, keeping ahead at a junction.
Go through a gate (put dogs on leads here, please), and bear away right and then steeply downhill on a faint path to join the coast path back to Carne Beach and the car park at the start of the walk.
Good coastal footpath, field paths and quiet lanes. Field stiles are often overgrown, many stiles
Vegetated coast with some cliffs. Mainly flat fields on inland section
Dogs on lead through grazed areas
OS Explorer 105 Falmouth & Mevagissey
Carne Beach car park. Large National Trust car park behind beach
Carne Beach; Portloe; Veryan
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.