The coastline of Port Isaac Bay, which we are lucky enough to call our “office”, is stunning whichever way you choose to enjoy it. At this time of year, getting out on the water isn’t always possible or everyone’s first choice for fun thanks to it being pretty cold and sometimes a bit rough and windy. Luckily though, the South West Coast Path offers the chance to enjoy this stretch of coast from a different perspective – although be warned that this section is nicknamed “The Rollercoaster” by many due to the steep ups and downs!
This 5 mile walk sets off from the beach outside our base at Port Gaverne, following the coast path to Port Quin before looping back to Port Isaac inland. The first part of the walk follows the route that many of our guided sea kayaking trips take, past Port Isaac to the east side of Varley Head; this therefore is the sea kayakers version of walking the course.
Looking west towards The Rumps and Mouls Island
From the beach at Port Gaverne, walk up the hill towards Port Isaac. At the top of the hill keep the hedge on your right and walk along the lower level of the public car park to join the coast path. This path meets the top of Fore Street, which you need to follow down hill to the harbour and the old centre of Port Isaac. The road up Roscarrock hill on the other side of the harbour is behind the fish cellars (the Port Isaac Pottery and public toilets will be signposted). Walk up here (past the cottage that features as the surgery in the TV series Doc Martin) and join the coast path at the top. This leads in front of three large houses and up to the top of Lobber, offering a great view back over Port Isaac.
The Pine Haven steps
Follow the coast path around Lobber Point and down into a rocky cove called Pine Haven. There is then a long and very steep flight of steps up the other side before the path continues on towards Varley Head.
Half way between Varley Head and the next headland, named Kellan Head the path becomes more challenging, with lots of steps and uneven sections. Upon rounding Kellan Head you will have a great view across towards The Rumps and Mouls Island, before Doyden Point and the small folly castle that marks the entrance to the narrow inlet at Port Quin. Follow the path into the hamlet of Port Quin.
National Trust cottages in Port Quin
From Port Quin there are several options for making this a circular walk back to Port Isaac and Port Gaverne; if it has been raining lots then walking up the lane (heading back up the valley) to just past the Longcross Hotel and taking the footpath across the fields to pick up the lane that drops down Church Hill into Port Isaac harbour will be a less muddy option! The alternative route, that requires less walking on tarmac, is the footpath that leaves the road behind Varley Cottage at the back of Port Quin. This path follows the hedgeline through several fields before cutting slightly across one to a stile in the opposite hedge. Keeping the boundary hedge on your right, follow the path through more fields as it slowly bends around to the right towards historic Roscarrock Farm. Here, the path turns left and goes over another stile before crossing a small valley. The path climbs the hill; the post on top of the hill is the Breeches Buoy Post that was originally sited on The Main at Port Gaverne and used for coastguard rescue training (more on that in a later article!). Follow the hedge down into Port Isaac, and then retrace your steps back up Fore Street, around the coast path to the car park, and back down the hill to Port Gaverne.