South of Newquay is a genuine ‘Sand Country’, where vast swathes of sand sprawl across the beaches at Crantock, Holywell Beach and especially at Penhale and Perran Beach. This is truly ‘golden’ sand and it makes the beaches of this part of North Cornwall a holidaymaker’s heaven and a surfer’s paradise.
These vast acres of sand have brought their own legends, and none more enduring than the story of Langarrow, a fantastical city of great wealth and loose living that once occupied a green and pleasant land on this coast. There is a flavour of biblical wrath, here as Langarrow is said to have been so decadent that the hand of God raised huge wind storms that buried the city and its inhabitants under tons of sand.
On Perranporth beach and on the dunes to the south there is certainly historical evidence of a dramatic shifting of sandn. It was here that Cornwall’s patron saint, Piran, is said to have drifted ashore on a miraculous millstone that carried him across the sea from Ireland, sometime in the 5th or 6th century. Successive chapels dedicated to the saint are said to have been buried under drifts of sand at Perran and Penhale.
This circuit takes you round the isolated headland of Pentire Point West, overlooking the splendid Crantock Beach to the east. Midway on the walk is the charming bonus of Porth Joke, or Polly Joke, a deep inlet that culminates at a lovely beach – take your swimming kit, but be aware that the tide advances quickly here. The name ‘Joke’ may be a corruption of the Cornish word gwic, which means a creek or inlet. Some claim it derives from the word ‘chough’, although the Cornish name for jackdaw has a stronger claim. The slopes to either side of Porth Joke are a mass of colourful wild flowers in spring and summer.
The last section of the walk leads past an area of sand-dusted grasslands and fields known as The Kelseys, a historic area of land enclosures that date from medieval times and which have fascinating names, such as Beef Park and Jawbone Pitt Park. These grasslands are naturally fertilised by the windblown sand and are noted for their good grazing. Today The Kelseys are in the care of the National Trust and are still grazed at times.
Leave the car park by its entrance and walk directly down the approach road. In 20yds (18m) turn left, signed ‘To Polly Joke’, go through a kissing gate and continue along the track ahead.
Keep straight ahead at a fork, and in 20yds (18m) take the narrow path to the right, just before a wooden gate, and soon join the coast path.
Turn left and immediately go through a kissing gate. Keep left at the fork and follow a grassy track round the headland of Pentire Point West, keeping to the main path. Follow the cliff edge along the side of Porth Joke.
Go through a kissing gate and soon join another path. Keep right, and go through a kissing gate and cross a plank bridge at the head of the beach.
Turn left off the coast path, signed ‘Cubert Common’. Follow a sandy path and go through a gate. Continue to another gate into a car park. Keep straight ahead and leave the car park via a wooden stile next to the car park entrance.
Keep left on a stony track, and in about 50yds (45m) go through a wooden kissing gate on the left and onto a fenced path.
Cross a wooden bridge and soon meet a surfaced road. Turn left and follow the road back to the start point car park.
Clearly defined coastal footpaths and surfaced lanes
Green and grassy clifftops above sandy beaches
Lead required around livestock
OS Explorer 104 Redruth & St Agnes
None on route; nearest at Crantock village
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.