Cornwall’s largest, most diverse dune system, Penhale Dunes, dates back 5000 years. As well as the wealth of rare flora and fauna the dunes are home to important spiritual relics. St Piran, patron saint of tinners, is said to have ‘floated to Cornwall from Ireland on a millstone’ in the 6th century, and established an oratory, now buried under the shifting sands. An inspirational focus for a bracing winter walk!
Turn right from the car park, passing the pub. Cross the stream (public toilets ahead) and turn right on a tarmac drive. This ends at a gate and camping area; bear half right signed Cubert/Ellenglaze on a hedged path. Eventually pass through a kissing gate, and continue; later follow a rough track left, past houses at Ellenglaze.
1. ONE AND A QUARTER MILES
Where the track bears left keep ahead through a gate signed Trebisken. The fenced path leads through another gate; after 50m turn right through the hedgebank. Cross the field diagonally, then climb a Cornish stile, keep ahead over the next field. Pass through a gate between hedgebanks.
At the path junction turn right through a gate, signed Treamble. Descend a hedged path and cross a stream via a footbridge. Continue through bamboo/willow on boardwalks, and go through a kissing gate. Follow the left edge of a grassy area; in the far corner a big gate leads to a lane.
2. TWO AND A QUARTER MILES
Turn right uphill. Eventually you will reach a lay-by right and a lane left; turn right into Penhale Sands (beware adders). Immediately fork right; descend gently through gorse, soon with a wire fence right. Where that ends continue downhill. At the bottom meet a grassy path; bear right towards the dunes.
When level with a stone cross on your left turn right towards
St Piran’s Cross, which is possibly pre-11th century and one of only four similar in Cornwall.
Turn left to reach the Norman ‘lost’ church, abandoned in the early 19th century, partially excavated in 1917–20 and again in 2005.
3. FOUR AND A QUARTER MILES
From the information board take a path left, bearing left along a fence marking the MOD area (Penhale Camp dates from 1939). At a gully turn left, then right over a footbridge. Keep ahead then bear right to descend to the Oratory, engulfed in the Middle Ages, visible in the 18th century, excavated in 1835, now buried again; St Piran may be buried nearby. Continue, with the fence right. Pass a footpath post; follow the fence towards the sea.
4. FIVE MILES
Meet the coast path then turn right through a gate and follow dark green arrows. Wander through the dunes, with Ligger Point ahead, eventually meeting a track to the beach. Keep ahead on a narrow path to meet the coast path.
5. FIVE AND THREE QUARTER MILES
The path runs high above the beach, crossing a stile. Round Ligger Point, then walk towards Penhale Camp; note the caves in Hoblyn’s Cove below. The fenced path rounds the back of the cove, then Penhale Point, with lovely views over Holywell Bay. Follow the path inland through a gate and continue to the lane by
St Piran’s Inn. The car park is opposite.
Level fields and tracks, narrow undulating paths through sand dunes, coast path. Not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs, but section from road southwest of Mount to St Piran’s Church possible for all-terrain pushchairs.
HOW TO GET THERE
Holywell Bay National Trust car park is signed left off the road towards the beach (fee-paying, members free); Holywell is signed off the A3075 3 miles (4.8km) south of Newquay.
By public transport:
Buses from Newquay and Truro.
St Piran’s Inn, Holywell Bay TR8 5PP
Tel: 01637 830205
Treguth Inn, Holywell Bay
Tel: 01637 830248
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 104.
Grid ref: SW 766 587
The Cornish Cyder Farm, Penhallow, Truro TR4 9LW
Tel: 01872 573356
Open all year, 9am–6pm Mon–Fri; 10am–6pm Sun; to 8pm July/Aug. Free to site: guided tours adult £6.50, concs £5.50, child £4.50
Newquay Tourist Information Centre, Marcus Hill TR7 1BD
Tel: 01637 854020