Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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A wooden kissing gate and fence with a National Trust sign 'Holywell Bay' leads along the South West Coast Path. Out in the bay are the twin peaks of Carter's Rocks. It's a bright winter's day in February.

Newquay To Perranporth And On To St Agnes – A Stunning Coastal Hike

Newquay to Perranporth and on to St Agnes is one of the most dramatic and varied sections of the South West Coast Path in north Cornwall.

It’s mostly easy cliff-top walking with some absolutely stunning beaches along the way, but there are one or two moderate sections that include some stiff climbs

However, if you’re a long-distance walker or backpacker you’ll take them in your stride!

I hope the story of my walk (and of course all the gorgeous photos!) will inspire you to get out there and hike it yourself. And whether you’re planning a day walk or a multi-day adventure (check out More Info For Backpackers) you’ll find everything you need to know for the section from Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes below.

Contents

 

This walk from near Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes, starts with fantastic cliff views at Crantock. This view looks down over rugged cliffs to stormy-looking seas and big waves. There's a steep set of steps up the cliff ahead on the coast path towards Polly Joke

Good waves at Crantock

Distances

My latest walk (described below) was from Crantock (just outside Newquay) to Chapel Porth (St Agnes), which is approximately 14 miles along the coast path (add about 2.5 miles if you’re walking to/from the nearby villages).

The Newquay to Perranporth stretch of the South West Coast Path is 7.5 miles, and continuing on to Chapel Porth adds another 6.5 miles (14 miles total). See More Info For Backpackers for a longer day’s hike.

Planning Your Own Hike/Walk From Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes On The South West Coast Path

Links to amenities in this post are generally to places I’ve used and would recommend. However, there are also links to local transport services at the end of each section, as well as a few notes as to what might be available in villages and towns along the way. You can also find suggestions for longer day hikes as part of a thru-hike/backpacking trip at the end of the post, including wild camping.

Hiking From Newquay To Perranporth And On To St Agnes

Experience The North Cornwall Coast

I love this part of the coast because t’s so wild and elemental!

And by ‘elemental’ I mean that incredible feeling you get when you’re being battered by a harsh wind, or the waves are so huge that your brain’s overwhelmed trying to imagine the power of it. It’s that feeling, knowing really, that you’re in control of absolutely nothing. The wind doesn’t care about you, the waves don’t care…nature will carry on just as it always has done.

Being part of that really makes me feel connected to the landscape, to see the beauty of it no matter the weather or how difficult it feels at the time.

It’s the challenge, finding the strength of mind to finish what you started. And that can be in intense heat too, or the distance you choose to hike, the difficulty of the route – anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone, even a little.

I walk fairly long distances and usually 17 miles on the coast isn’t much of a challenge (unless I’m carrying half a tonne on my back!), but this is the longest walk I’ve done since I had Covid. So the distance was my challenge for the day: could I do it without ducking out at Perranporth? Could I do it without being so slow I couldn’t make it back to St Agnes before dark? That one would be a test – an ‘early’ start to get to Crantock wasn’t something I was looking forward to…

Newquay To Perranporth

Section 1 Of The Hike

7.5 Miles (+ 1/2 mile from Crantock village centre)

Starting At The Chocolate Box Village Of Crantock (SW Of Newquay)

So. I ran for the bus, which is literally a 3-minute walk from home: it was ten past nine. When I got to Crantock (which is famous for its stunning poppy fields in June), almost an hour later, the first thing I did was put on my waterproofs: it was pouring and the winds were still strong after the storms of the previous week.

From the centre of the village (with thatched cottages everywhere), it’s just half a mile walk down a muddy track to the coast. And when I got there the smell and taste of the salt, sinking ankle-deep into the dunes – it was going to be a good day.

 

Grey skies give a subdued atmosphere to the large sandy beach at Crantock. The high dunes are covered in ochre coloured maram grass and the tide is lapping the edge of the beach on this wintry day.

A grey, wet morning at Crantock – first views of the day

The dunes lead onto the cliffs of Pentire Point West, a rough, rocky ‘edgeland’ that falls away into the foaming surf and swelling waves. Spume. Strong, cold winds spitting it in your face: I can’t hide my joy. There’s no one to share it with, but I love that – just me, feeling a bit giddy with life. Today anyway. (I can’t deny that I’ve not stood on cliff edges and felt that it’s more than a precipice between land and sea.)

I noticed two women coming over a hill towards me, cameras in hand, which was my cue to get walking again – sometimes I don’t want to share these moments with anyone.

 

The view is across an intense aqua coloured sea and high waves are rolling into a bay just out of the picture on the right. A gull and 2 crow-like birds are hanging in the air with a headland behind. It's bright, sunny and clear, but it looks very windy.

Kelsey Head from Pentire Point, with the waves heading down the narrow inlet to Polly Joke beach

As you make your way around the point The Kelseys come into view on the other side of Polly Joke beach, where the birds were heading wherever the wind took them.

Polly Joke Beach And The Kelseys

Polly Joke Beach is long and relatively narrow and can be virtually covered when the tide’s in. Low tide’s a good time for rock-pooling but I didn’t spend more than a few minutes here today before heading up onto Kelsey Head. And,

Kelsey Head is where a real treat was in store…

A view down the long, narrow beach at Polly Joke. It's low tide and you can only see the sea in the distance between two headlands, under a blue sky with a few hazy clouds. A shallow stream runs towards the sea with with wet sand either side.

Low tide at Polly Joke

 

Photographed from a low angle, this photo shows a distinctive blue-black, but strange-looking 'mermaid's purse' caught in loose sand, with a low green plant behind it.

I spotted a mermaid’s purse washed up on Polly Joke Beach (egg case of a Spotted Ray)

 

Looking down from the cliffs to a rocky, wet sandy beach with a headland just beyond. The tide rolls into between the headland and cliffs in the foreground on a bright wintry day.

Polly Joke

Seals: Treat Of The Day!

There’s a temporary fence at the edge of the cliff and signs telling you it’s a sensitive wildlife area and to keep your dogs on leads – and stay as quiet as possible so as not to disturb the seals below. I peered down at the waves not expecting to see anything as they rolled onto a tiny beach – it looked too rough to me. But,

Further out, away from the rocks, there they were: three sleek grey seals bobbing up and down, disappearing under rising crests

Giddy with life? I was elated! And I’m sorry seals, but squeals of delight fell out of my mouth!

Waves breaking over rocks with Polly Joke beach in the background. The sun's breaking though, but it still looks rough and windy

Wave watching – and looking for seals (I saw 3)

Grey seals, larger than the common seal, and often seen around the coast here, are known to haul up in large groups on particular beaches, which is what the sign suggested here. But even if you don’t experience that, it’s hard not to watch for them out in the waves for a while. And if you do spot them, it’s even harder not to conceal the excitement.

Whether you see them or not though, don’t worry because

The wildlife and landscape are stunning on this hike and the joys just keep coming

From The Kelseys I walked on to Holywell Bay, which is probably one of the most iconic views along this part of the coast (but definitely not the only one).

Amenities In Crantock

  • Convenience store, post office, pub, public toilets. Bus no. 85 between Truro and Newquay: Go Cornwall
  • Fernpit Ferry to Newquay (summer only)

Iconic Holywell Bay

Holywell is like taking a deep breath of air that fills you with a calm lightness. The view is big, expansive, and Carter’s Rocks (aka Gull Rocks), small islands really, rise out of the sea close to Penhale Point, like twin peaks.

The South West Coast Path winds its way through big dunes here with views down to the enormous swathe of sandy beach below, but it’s the colours that blow me away. Green, grey-blue, ochres and the russet shades of marram grass – intense under grey winter clouds. It’s hard to believe it’s February. (I’m going back with paints (again), I promise myself.)

A kissing gate across a sandy path with a national trust 'Holywell Bay' sign. In the distance twin Islands 'Carters Rocks' rise from a greenish sea

Into Holywell Bay

 

Looking through marram grass on the dunes to the 2 iconic triangular shaped Carter's Rocks protruding from the sea in the background.

The enormous dune system at Holywell

 

The twin peaks of Carter's Rocks rise like island from a green sea on a sunny winter's day

Carter’s Rocks (aka Gull Rocks)

In fact, it’s hard to believe there are so many big, sandy beaches along this 15-mile stretch, but once you come out of Holywell, on a path close to the cliff edge, impressive arched rocks below and the old MOD Nissan huts that hint at a more anxious past, there it is, another one: Perran Beach.

A group of old arched corrugated roofed Nissan Huts with grass in the foreground and sand dunes behind, on Penhale Sands between Perranporth to St Agnes on the South West Coast Path

The old MOD Nissan huts. The land is leased to Cornwall Wildlife Trust who manage it for a rare plant that grows here

Amenities In Holywell

  • Convenience store, pubs/cafe, public toilets
  • Bus service no. 85 between Truro and Newquay: Go Cornwall

Perranporth

Perran Beach To Perranporth Village

Perran Beach stretches for miles down to Perranporth village at low tide and makes a fantastic alternative to walking through the dunes.

Perranporth Beach stretching for miles into the distance at low tide.

Low tide reveals miles of sand between Perran and Perranporth

You get to watch the birds at the tide’s edge, the reflections and ripples in the sand, and to cool your feet on a hot summer’s day. (Not on a day like this though, with the biting wind!)

Once I got down to Perranporth I popped into a favourite cafe for a coffee (cappuccino addict here!) and some people-watching, smiling to myself as they ducked from the opportunistic gulls that stalk the entrance to the beach. And then, the light changed dramatically as the sun came out.

More From This Section Of The South West Coast Path

A vast beach is largely empty except for a small family group in the distance. The tide is a long way out and the distant headlands are hazy under a blanket of grey cloud.

Perran Beach

 

Beach treasure found on a walk from Perranporth to St Agnes: A small transparent blue Portuguese Man Of War lies on a sandy beach with the sea a way off in the distance

Portuguese Man Of War washed up on Perran Beach (it’s not actually a jellyfish, but “an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together” National Geographic)

 

Beach treasure found on a walk from Perranporth to St Agnes: A close up of small transparent blue Portuguese Man Of War lying on a sandy beach.

The Portuguese Man Of War might be venomous even when it’s dead, but I love the lapis lazuli colours!

I was lucky to have the sun accompany me most of the way to Chapel Porth – and hopeful for a good sunset at the end of a very familiar stretch.

Perranporth To St Agnes (Chapel Porth)

Section 2 Of The Hike

Approximately 6.5 Miles (+ 2 miles to St Agnes Village Centre)

This final section of the walk from Perranporth to St Agnes is my stomping ground and I absolutely love it!

Hanafore Cove

The geology is phenomenal. Red stained cliffs pockmarked with mine adits, a huge protrusion of greisen rock on Cligga Head, but best of all, the rocks of Hanafore Cove. They’re like something you’d expect to see in Thailand or somewhere exotic. Knife sharp, serrated, rising so unexpectedly.

 

Looking across white jagged rocks to the sea beyond at Hanafore Cove, between Perranporth and St Agnes

It genuinely frustrates me that I can never capture the magnificence of these rocks! (I’ll be back again with a sketchbook when the weather’s warmer.)

And at the bottom, somewhere only really accessible to experienced kayakers (not me!), there’s a true, magical wonder that I’d love to see. Google The Prison, Hanafore Cove and be prepared to be blown away (it’s seriously awe-inspiring!).

Just knowing this treasure is down there is thrilling and sends shivers down my spine. But even if I don’t get to see it, there’s still more breathtaking scenery to come.

Mine workings between Perranporth to St Agnes on the South West Coast Path. This is an open mine shaft with a conical cage protecting the opening. In front of a surrounding fence is a sign that reads 'no walkers beyond this point'. The sea is behind and a red stained cliff is on the right of the image.

Mine Workings just after Hannafore Cove on the coastal section from Perranporth to St Agnes

Amenities In Perranporth

St Agnes – Trevaunance Cove To Chapel Porth

Looking down at reflections in the wet sand from high cliffs at Trevaunance Cove, St Agnes

Low tide at Trevaunance Cove (where you’ll find The Driftwood Spars pub). You can make a shorter hike from here by taking one of the easy footpaths up to St Agnes village.

After Hannafore, and plenty of old mine workings, you come to the golden cliffs of Trevaunace Cove where there are paths inland to St Agnes village. However, the coast path carries on round to St Agnes Head before reaching Chapel Porth.

The ruggedness of St Agnes Head, as well as the far-reaching views to St Ives, brings me back here again and again. And if it’s the elemental you want, this is the place to come on a windy day. It can be absolutely brutal. (Stay away from cliff edges.)

Wind is blowing my hair upwards and across my face - and I'm still smiling! St Agnes Head

Enjoying the’ breeze’ at St Agnes Head!

 

Dramatic rocky cliffs in golden light at the end of the day. The sun is reflecting on a cool sea and in the foreground lichen and heather grow on the rocks

St Agnes Head (unfortunately this photo doesn’t give you a sense of the scale of the cliffs here, but you can see how rugged it is)

Finally, it’s on to the last section of the hike, and one last iconic view: Towanroath engine house (part of Wheal Coates). (I swear this engine house is on every Cornish calendar that’s ever been printed!)

This tenacious edifice is a testament to the value of the geology and minerals along this coast like nothing else.

 

An old engine house with a tall brick chimney stands firm beside the cliff path, close to the edge of the cliff at Chapel Porth. The light is low and golden at the end of the day.

Towanroath engine house, right on the edge of the South West Coast Path, is part of the Wheal Coates mining complex at Chapel Porth

But there’s something else worth knowing:

This short, final leg from Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes has got to be one of the best places to catch a sunset on the north Cornwall coast

A craggy rock stands above the horizon on the cliffs above Chapel Porth. The sun is sinking below the horizon in a golden glow.

There’s a distinctive tall rock as you come down into Chapel Porth and it’s always a good spot to watch the sunset over the sea

 

Watching the sunset from the cliffs above Chapel Porth Beach. It's low tide and the golden sun reflects in the wet sand and waves and the cliffs are in silhouette

Last photo of the day: sunset at Chapel Porth – how’s that for winter!

By the time I got to Chapel Porth, the sunset was spectacular. Who could ask for a better end to a perfect day?

Thanks for reading!

Amenities in St Agnes

  • Trevaunance Cove: The Driftwood Spars (pub) and Chapel Porth: Seasonal cafe. Public toilets at both beaches (Chapel Porth are seasonal)
  • Village Centre: Pubs, cafes, convenience stores, public toilets, etc
  • Bus service no. 85 between Truro and Newquay: Go Cornwall

I hope you feel excited to hike this section too? If it appeals to you but you want some more info check out the sections below. They include info for wild camping as well as 3 ways to make longer walks that are ideal for backpackers and thru-hikers.

More Info For Hikers And Backpackers

Newquay To Perranporth and St Agnes

Wild Camping Between Crantock and Chapel Porth

Wild camping isn’t permitted anywhere along the South West Coast Path without the landowner’s permission (but landowners aren’t always easy to find).

I have wild camped along the section from Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes myself, but it’s up to you whether you feel comfortable doing it or not.

If you decide it’s something you want to try please be responsible and respectful of the environment and the people that live and work here. I can’t stress that enough, so I highly recommend you read these two guides before you head off:

For more info on responsible wild camping read my guides to Leave No Trace and Wild Camping before go

Also check out my guide to Bivvy Camping For Beginners, which could be a more discreet way to camp along this section.

FYI: this section is really exposed to strong winds and there are a number of sensitive wildlife areas. There are narrow paths close to cliff edges and beaches are often covered at high tide. Plenty of mine workings

Swimming

If you fancy a dip mid-hike, make sure it’s at a life-guarded beach – check the RNLI website for details.

3 Ways To Make A Longer Day’s Hike

NB Distances are approximate

1. Start from Newquay (Train Station) And Finish At Chapel Porth, St Agnes – 19 Miles

(The distance excludes walking to the centre of St Agnes village which is about 2 miles from Chapel Porth)

Boats on the beach in Newquay Harbour at low tide

Newquay Harbour

Newquay is not only convenient for public transport, but also a gorgeous walk around the headlands from the train station. The town itself isn’t up to much, but it’s great for stocking up or a decent morning coffee before you head off.

Look out for the white Huer’s Hut as you leave the town, and the stunning views along the River Gannel where you cross over to Crantock.

The 'huer's hut' on the South West Coast Path between Newquay to Perranporth is a white stone, single story building overlooking the sea. It has a round wall like a castle and a tall chimney with outside steps up to the top.

The Huer’s Hut is a curious building on the walk from Newquay to Perranporth. It’s thought to date from the 14thc and was used as a lookout by ‘huers’, men that would signal to fisherman when pilchards were in the bay

Can You Walk Across The Gannel?

The River Gannel is a tidal estuary and if you’re coming to Crantock from Newquay it’s essential to know the tide times because,

Yes, you can walk across the Gannel!

This is handy because the small ferry from Pentire Head (on the Newquay side) across to Crantock only runs in summer.

If you fancy a walk rather than the ferry, or it’s out of season, there are 2 options to walk across the Gannel estuary. The first is to wait till low tide (3 hours either side of it) and use the long wooden footbridge (I love this!), and the second is to walk inland around the river – which adds about 3 miles. (Whichever route you choose, all 3 options count as part of walking the SWCP.)

Details of all 3 routes are clearly marked on OS Explorer Map 104 (Redruth and St Agnes).

Transport: There are lots of bus routes that service Newquay from around the county, search Go Cornwall and First Kernow. There’s also the train station that heads up to the mainline route between London Paddington and Penzance.

2. Start At Crantock And Finish At Porthtowan – 16.5 Miles

My long shadow across the shaly beach at Portreath. There's an ominous grey sky but the warm light adds a golden glow

Porthtowan

The extra mile and a half from Chapel Porth is an easy hike along the cliff tops with superb views to Godrevey Lighthouse and St Ives.

Bus service 304 between Truro and Porthtowan: Go Cornwall (also stops at Redruth Railway Station)

3. Start At Crantock And Finish At Portreath – 20 Miles

Continuing on from Porthtowan adds a number of stiff climbs that include plenty of steep uneven steps – but,

At least you get to collapse on a sandy beach at the end of the day!

A tough, near vertical set of step up the side of a cliff, seen from the opposite side of the combe.

Near vertical steps at Sally’s Bottom (Godrevy Lighthouse is in the distance)

 

Camping stove and enamel mug in the foreground on Portreath beach

Portreath Beach at low tide

Bus service from Portreath: no. 47 between Camborne and Truro (via Redruth train station): Go Cornwall

Before You Go

Have you found my guide to this hike from Newquay to Perranporth and St Agnes inspiring or helpful? I hope so! Why not come and support me to write more?

It’s easy, just pop over to my Ko-fi page and buy me a ‘coffee!’

A £3 donation will help me on my way to hike another one of our fabulous UK trails and I’ll share everything I learn with you. I also share quick updates over on Ko-fi, so even if you don’t fancy a coffee my page is worth a follow!

Which reminds me, another great way to help me out is with a simple click of a button – share this article with your friends! The more the merrier. Until next time,

A huge thank you and happy hiking!

Stephie x

Where Next?

Fancy a winter hike on the South West Coast Path? Why not try this short section: Porthtowan To Church Cove, Hiking The South West Coast Path or check out this superb 40-mile stretch – an absolutely stunning multi-day hike in glorious summer weather: West Penwith: My Favourite South West Coast Path Hike In Cornwall!

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