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Cornwall Coast Path: Hell’s Mouth to Hayle -14 miles there and back - O/S Explorer 102

Parking in lay-by on B3301 just west of Hell’s Mouth café.

Along the B3301, from Hayle with Hell’s Mouth café coming into view, the taxi driver nodded toward it and told me: ‘Recently, a man wandered in there with a dog, handed the waitress the lead and asked her to look after it while he went back to his car for his wallet. The dog whining, she watched him pass the car park, cross the road to the coast path and cliff edge, step over the two-foot barrier, and leap.’ When I suggested it must have been a shock for the waitress, she shook her head: ‘Happens all the time.’ Now there's a clue in that story that I didn't walk to Hayle and back. If you decide One way's far enough for you, there at taxi's at Hayle railway station.

Hell’s Mouth cove is steep sided and high, which is more than can be said for the wooden barrier. Sat above it on a grassy bank enjoying an ice cream, watching crows and gulls circling below, I wondered what came first—the name or the jumpers.

The road is only yards from the coast path at this point but soon left behind as the path heads a heather and gorse filled north to Navax point. There you turn west toward Godrevy Island and the lighthouse that stands on it. Built in 1859 after yet another ship, this time the steamer Nile, was wrecked on the shallow reefs close by, it’s one of the prettiest lighthouses in Cornwall.

Just before you get to Godrevy point there’s another impressive and larger cove (or is it a small bay?), too steep to access but with easy viewing down to the seals that inhabit, play and feed there. They entertained me for ten minutes before I dragged myself away. (Why do gulls make me think of WW11 fighter planes? Why are crows creepy? Why are seals not?)

Once past the point, the cliffs’ fall away. In their place a succession of small and rocky sandy beaches leading to a larger and long one backed by dunes. These are fine golden beaches with views across to the more popular and populated beaches of St. Ives and Carbis Bay. If you pine for a quiet stretch of beach at the height of the holiday season, you’ll find it here if you’re prepared for a sandy walk, like Robert Mitchum in Ryan’s Daughter.

Hayle is an ugly end to the walk but the quay had some photogenic hulks rotting away. Picking up a taxi at the railway station to take me back to my car, I pointed at a queue outside a white utilitarian building and asked why. Great pasties she said. She was right. I've a soft spot for Hayle. It's ugliness hides its beauty. Great if you're looking for beach space too.