In Cornwall you are spoiled for choice when it comes to mighty headlands above the glittering sea. This walk takes you onto one of the mightiest, at Pentire on the northern arm of Padstow Bay, the great estuary of the River Camel. The headland is ringed by towering black cliffs that rise to over 300ft (91m) in height. Volcanic activity has resulted in characteristic formations of pillow lava – layers of smooth dark rock caused by bubbling masses of red hot lava being extruded beneath the sea. The complexity of the area’s geology is reflected in the Old Lead Mine area, where cars now park. Here, lead and silver mining began during the Tudor period and lasted until the late 19th century
Pentire's most northerly point is dominated by the twin-lobed promontory of The Rumps, a rugged and sea-battered fist of land embellished with dramatic pinnacles and with an accompanying offshore island known as The Mouls. This was once the site of an Iron Age ‘cliff castle’ or ‘promontory fort’. The corrugated folds of three earth ramparts, with accompanying ditches, lie across the narrowest part of the neck and extend down either side to the very edge of the cliffs. The outermost rampart has a stone-flanked entrance, which would have been closed off with a massive wooden gate when the site was occupied during the period from about the second century bc until the first century ad. Excavations were carried out here during the 1970s, and late Iron Age pottery was found. There are also traces of Iron Age round houses at the site. Rather than being a defensive site, this type of ‘cliff castle’ may have been a commercial and cultural centre of local Iron Age communities as they developed a more settled and stable society.
The coast path skirts Pentire Point, an outstanding viewpoint. There are sweeping panoramas across Padstow Bay and the estuary of the River Camel, where the notorious sand bank known as Doom Bar has wrecked many vessels. Swathes of pink-flowered thrift and white bladderwort cover the slopes in spring and summer. The air is full of bird life, if you keep your eyes peeled. Look out for the noisy little stonechat and the musical skylark. Raptors include the brown-backed kestrel, typically hovering above the grass as it searches for food. You may catch sight of a peregrine falcon – bigger than the kestrel and with distinctive grey and white markings. The peregrine rarely hovers and is often seen high in the sky, wheeling and turning and at times dropping like a stone as it swoops down the cliffs. If you are very lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the Cornish chough, recognised by its sleek black feathers and distinctive red beak and legs. The chough is now beginning to re-colonise the Cornish cliffs after a long absence.
From the top corner of the car park take the footpath to the right of the National Trust map and information board. Soon cross a field and go through a gate to join the coastal footpath, signed 'Rumps'. Turn left along the Coast Path.
Go through a gate (dogs on lead here). Go up steps and continue steeply uphill and then downhill, and through another gate. Go through a gate and pass a side path to Pentire Farm. Reach a junction above The Rumps.
Take the right-hand branch downhill, and go through a gap in the wall to explore The Rumps. Returning from The Rumps, take the right-hand path from the gap in the wall and rejoin the Coast Path. Pass a signpost to Pentire Farm but keep to the Coast Path. Go through a gate and continue round Pentire Point, from where splendid views of Polzeath Beach and the Padstow Estuary open up.
Follow the Coast Path for the next mile (1.6km). Cross a small stream by the small sandy inlet of Pentire Haven. Ignore the path, signed 'Pentire Farm', that runs inland from this point. Follow the main path steeply uphill above the inlet of Pentireglaze Haven and then zig-zag downhill. Go through a gate and cross the head of the beach.
Turn left by houses at a T-junction with a track, and follow the track inland. Where the track bends sharply round to the right, keep straight ahead along a greenway. Go through a gate, signed 'National Trust Pentireglaze'. Keep straight ahead through fields and field gateways. Please keep dogs strictly under control here – cattle and sheep may be grazing.
Reach a surfaced lane and turn left to pass the Pentyr Café and car park. At a T-junction turn right along a lane. (Note the board on the left displaying pictures of local wildlife.) Where the lane bends sharply right by a house, keep straight ahead along a farm track, signed ‘To Coast Path’.
In 200yds (180m) turn sharply left down the edge of a field. Go through a kissing gate and turn left along the Coast Path above the rocky Downhedge Cove. Soon afterwards, pass through a kissing gate. Go through a gate and then turn immediately left through yet another gate. Head right across a small field to return to the car park.
Clearly identifiable and good underfoot; may be muddy after rain and in winter
A rugged flat-topped headland of very high cliffs backed by typical coastal heathland and close-cropped grass
Lead requiered in areas where livestock might be grazed
OS Explorer 106 Newquay & Padstow
National Trust car parks at Pentireglaze
Pentireglaze car park
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.