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Portreath to Hell’s Mouth and back

Half a day’s walk - about 11 miles.

Portreath (means sandy cove according to Wikipedea) isn’t quaint, though it does have an attractive narrow harbour. Expensive new housing on the hills either side look down on a lot of low-cost and dull sixties and seventies (at a guess) housing on the flat expanse behind the beach. Actually, not directly behind the beach, that’s taken up by a large car park. If you like concrete, you’d be impressed. It seems the only effort at prettifying this area is the colourful and cute toilets. Very nice, too, but nowhere near large enough for the numbers of tourists that descend on the place. Expect to queue.

Expect to wait for a cup of tea, as well. I called at The Atlantic Café in the corner of the car park for a cup and waited twenty minutes for it. Lots of waitresses to take your order and, it seemed, just the one young lad trying to fulfil them. The tables were full of people waiting, probably getting nostalgic about their last queue at the public toilets.

On the plus side, Portreath has a fabulous sandy beach and—despite its efforts to disguise itself as urban sprawl—an eccentric charm.

Walking west around a headland, the first obstacle is finding the coastal path through upmarket second homes and holiday lets. Royal Rest one was called and, with its magnificent glass gable ends, it looked a likely place for a prince or two.

You need to be alert here because just past the Royal West you turn left into the drive of one of these villas to pick up the coastal path. I felt a little guilty staining an expensive brick patterned drive with my dirty boots, but needs must. Maybe Mr or Mrs Rich tried to block the coastal path but were stopped by the National Trust, in which case, fuck ‘em—or maybe they voluntarily allow people to use their drive, in which case, bless ‘em.

This is a lovely heather and gorse covered countryside over high cliffs overlooking lo

vely beaches and offshore rocks with names like Gull and Samphire. The weirdest name is Ralph’s Cupboard for a steep sided cove.

According to a quick internet search, the name comes from the legend of a giant called Wrath (Ralph). The cove was actually a cave until its roof collapse. Before that, old Ralph would pass the time wrecking passing ships and sticking his booty in it (his cupboard). Maybe when we get tired of Poldark on the telly they could make a series on Ralph—I’d watch. Imagine at work asking ‘Did you see Ralph’s Cupboard on Sunday?’ Get in there BBC before Pixar beats you to it.

Apart from two steep drops and climbs, it was comparatively easy and delightful with the gorse and heather in colour and wild ponies grazing the grassy stretches (I did it on the 10th of August 2017). All that and the pounding Atlantic down at your right doing its endless stuff, what more could you want?

Actually, I wanted another cup of tea and at Hell’s Mouth there’s a café at the side of the road (close by) with the same name. Queuing, I saw what reminded me of the Café in Portreath: lots of order taking and lots of waiting around (for a simple cup of tea!!!!). I gave up. My advice is take a flask. My advice to café owners is stick a tea bag in some hot water at the point of service and let customers do their own milk and sugar (at least when they’re busy).

If you’d prefer a shorter walk, the path is quite close to the coast road and there are lots of parking places along the way.

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Location: Exeter, Devon.

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