Newquay is Cornwall’s most popular holiday resort, a “fun” centre as well as a centre for bucket-and-spade and family holidays. It is also renowned as Britain’s foremost surfing centre. Yet despite all these attractions it provides opportunities for marvellously scenic walks, surrounded as it is by magnificent beaches, superb headlands and its almost forgotten resource, the River Gannel and its estuary. This route samples all of these, and because it is always in or close to the town can be cut short almost anywhere should the wish arise.
- The walk is described as starting and finishing at Newquay Railway Station. This is just off Cliff Road, the main road running east out of the town centre. From the station go to Cliff Road, turn left and cross the road. Almost at once bear right into a pedestrian lane called the Tram Track.
As the name suggests, this lane follows the line of an old tramway. It was built in 1849 as a horse-drawn tramway to carry ore mined inland to Newquay Harbour, and to bring in coal and other supplies landed at the Harbour. It was last used in 1926. There is more information on a plaque next to the start of the track.
- You are already on the line of the Coast Path, which uses the Tram Track to pass through this part of Newquay. At the overbridge climb the steps on the right and go down to Trebarwith Crescent. Go left here then right into Island Crescent. Follow this then bear right along the footpath above Towan Beach, with its distinctive island, passing the do-it-yourself millennium sundial.
Towan Beach gets its name from the original settlement here, called Towan Blistra or Towan Pleustra, the Cornish for “dunes by the boat cove”. On the opposite side of the beach can be seen Newquay Harbour. This is the site of the “new quay” that gave the modern settlement its name. This is recorded as having permission granted for its building by the Bishop of Exeter in 1439, though the existing quays are much later.
- Climb a couple of steps and continue along the cliff top, above the Aquarium. At the corner, go down the steps on the right then from the car park cross Beach Road and follow the tarmac path ahead.
- At the end follow the steps on the left and go on past a bowling green and public toilets to Fore Street. Turn right here and keep on to a five-way junction at the Red Inn. Turn right here.
On the right here is Newquay Harbour. The “new quay” built here in 1439 was primarily for the fishing industry, and the town quickly became important as a centre for pilchard fishing. In the
19th century it became a port trading tin, lead and china clay, served by the tramway seen earlier, which reached the harbour via a tunnel.
- Walk down the lane above the harbour (North Quay Hill), bear left just before the bottom then fork left up the steps. These lead to the cliffs and the Huer’s Hut.
This distinctive white-painted building was manned by the “huer”, who would look out for the shoals of pilchards and alert the fishing fleet when the shoals were seen. However, it may be that the building pre-dates this use and is a medieval hermitage in origin. For more information check the plaque at the front of the building.
- Follow the lane from the Huer’s Hut, forking right onto the tarmac path which leads down towards Towan Head. At the road at the end turn right.
The Coast Path does not go out onto the headland itself, but the short walk out there makes a pleasant diversion. This passes the old lifeboat house, used between 1899 and 1934 – there is more information on the boathouse wall. From the Lookout Hut on the end of Towan Head there are superb views north as far as Trevose Head and its lighthouse and south over Fistral Beach.
- From the Headland Car Park bear right along the tarmac path towards the great sweep of Fistral Beach. At Fistral descend to the wooden building and pass along the rear of this building. (There are toilets and seasonal refreshments on the balcony at the front.)
Fistral Beach is the surfing mecca of Britain and the headquarters of the British Surfing Association. Numerous championship events are held here.
- Go through the car park and up the path at the far end, initially into the dunes. Continue ahead behind Fistral Beach and its dunes. At the end of the beach bear round to the right (seasonal toilets on the left, cafe down the steps to the right), and then on along the road ahead, which in time becomes an unsurfaced track.
This stretch gives superb views over the length of Fistral Beach to Towan Head and way beyond to Trevose.
- The track climbs gently to reach a car park – there are seasonal toilets and refreshments here. This is the inner neck of the headland of Pentire Point East.
This is another headland the formal Coast Path omits; however, the walk out and the views from the end are good enough to include it in this circular walk.
- Arriving at the car park turn right along the lane. Pass the Lewinnick Lodge pub and restaurant and from the far end of its car park continue along the grassy path ahead and on to the little knoll at the end of the headland.
The little knoll is the site of a prehistoric tumulus. The headland was the site of the finding of an Iron Age ring in 1996, dated to the 1st century BC. From here can now be seen the expanse of Crantock Beach on the south side of the headland at the mouth of the River Gannel, flowing out to sea at the foot of the headland. Crantock village and its church can be seen just across the river and beach, nestling above the dunes. The headland’s twin, Pentire Point West, encloses the beach on the far side.
- Return from the end of the headland by the obvious path just on the Gannel side of the ridge, though any of the alternative paths will do. Aim for the bottom of the car park on the Gannel side. From here turn right along the track from the car park and follow it down until it turns left onto a suburban road. Continue along here, passing the Fern Pit Cafe. Where the road sweeps left fork right down a narrower road, Riverside Avenue.
From here there are good views between the houses over the Gannel below. For the size of its estuary, the Gannel is a relatively short river, rising in the Newlyn Downs little more than 10 miles/16 km inland.
- Keep ahead at the next junction. At a T-junction further on turn right. Ignore the public footpath on the right immediately after the junction, keeping to the road ahead instead. When the road then goes left turn right into Penmere Drive, again ignoring the footpath on the right. Go along Penmere Drive and take the next close on the right, bearing left down the footpath between gardens. This path descends to the side of the Gannel.
The tidal bridge crossing the Gannel near the bottom of the path takes the Coast Path across the river if the tide is right. If the tide is too high, the Coast Path has to follow the estuary inland to the road bridge.
- From the estuary side return up the last few steps to the grassy area and follow the path parallel to the Gannel and a little above it. Cross an access path and continue along the grassy path between houses and the hedge above the river. Keep ahead when the path meets a tarmac path.
There are good views over the Gannel, a quiet and secretive estuary greatly contrasting with the wide open beaches of the other side of Newquay.
- The path leads to a riverside road – continue ahead past an information board at a small parking area. Follow the road to meet the A392. Turn right here, cross carefully at the refuge and continue along the road. Turn left just before the roundabout, along Trenance Lane.
The lane passes alongside boating lakes and a pleasant park area, including a rose garden, at Trenance Park. There are toilets and seasonal refreshments. The park and lakes are built on the site of a natural watercourse, a tributary of the Gannel.
- At the end turn left, uphill. After climbing steeply the road descends to a junction. Bear right, downhill, and at the bottom bear right again along Cliff Road to return to the station.
Newquay Harbour, Fistral and Crantock are beaches which are dog-friendly throughout the year.