Beacon Cottage is a neat and compact site on a working farm, utilising a cottage and outhouses,…
The breathtaking sea cliffs of St Agnes Head are well hidden from above. There is no easy view of them, unless you are a very skilled rock climber. On St Agnes Head and on Carn Gowla, the cliff that runs south from the headland, vast 300ft (90m) high walls of rock soar from an restless sea. They do not end at clear-cut edges, however. Instead they merge with steep slopes of grass and heather that in turn rise steeply to the cliff top.
This walk takes you along the flat clifftop tracks past the little promontory of Tubby's Head, once an Iron Age settlement fortified by an earth embankment across its neck. From here you pass through what was once an industrial landscape, where the ruins of mine buildings evoke Cornwall's great era of mineral mining. One such building is the impressive Towanroath engine house, a lofty granite edifice that has been restored by the National Trust. Built in 1872, this was the pumping house for the Wheal Coates mine whose buildings, you can see when walking along the coast path. Flooding of the deeper Cornish mines was always a problem, and pumping houses were built to draw up water and eject it through tunnels, known as adits, in the cliff face below.
Beyond Towanroath the path descends into Chapel Porth where you can enjoy the delights of a typical Cornish beach, although it is diminished at high tide and attention should be paid to safety warnings. During the 19th century the entire valley floor that leads down to the cove was given over to the processing of the mineral ore that came from the numerous tin and copper mines, scattered across the surrounding landscape. As you walk up the valley, you pick your way through a landscape now overgrown, but that was once subdued by industry. From the valley floor the route follows a smaller valley that is protected from the harsh onshore weather by high ground. Soon you climb on to the bare, rounded summit of St Agnes Beacon, 629ft (192m) high and a superb viewpoint. As the name makes clear, this prominent hilltop was used traditionally for the lighting of signal fires and for celebratory bonfires. From the Beacon's airy heights you drop down to the coast once more.
Join the coastal footpath from your clifftop parking place. Follow the stony track across Tubby's Head. Branch off right on to a narrower path (acorn signpost) about 100yds (91m) before old mine buildings (Wheal Coates mine). Cross a stone stile and continue to Towanroath mine engine house.
About 80yds (71m) beyond Towanroath, branch off right at a junction and continue to Chapel Porth Beach.
Cross the stream at the back corner of the car park and follow a path up Chapel Combe. Keep straight ahead when the main path bends sharply right. Pass below a mine building and where the path forks among trees, go left and over a short footbridge.
Turn right along a track and where it bends left beyond Chapel Porth Farm gate, go right along another track. In 50yds (45m) keep ahead at a junction. After passing some houses the track becomes a path. Keep ahead at a fork. Go through a gateway, follow the field-edge, then turn left through a kissing gate on to a wide track.
At a junction, turn left and then right at Willow Cottage and go up to a public road. Turn right and keep ahead at the next junction. In 300yds (274m), next to the entrance of the Beacon Country House Hotel, go up a stony track on the left, signed 'The Beacon'. After 75yds (69m), at a junction, turn left. The track becomes a path just past a cottage. At a staggered junction keep straight uphill to the summit of St Agnes Beacon.
From the summit of the Beacon take the left of two tracks then shortly afterwards follow the left-hand track of two again, heading northwest down to a road. Turn right along the road to reach a seat.
Go down the track opposite the seat. Where the track bends right, keep straight on down a path directly to the edge of the cliffs, then turn left at a junction with the coast path and return to the car park.
Good coastal footpaths and inland tracks
Dramatic coastal cliffs and a high heath-covered hill
Dogs on lead through grazed areas. No dogs on Chapel Porth beach
OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes
St Agnes Head. Several parking spaces along the clifftop track - start the walk from any of these
Chapel Porth Beach
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
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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.
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