3. Cornwall Coastal: *Chapel Porth to Portreath - 6.5 miles there and back - OS Landranger 203
A few steep climbs but generally easy going. Cafés at start and along the way at Porthtowan and Portreath. Parking either free up the hill or paid at the NT car park by the beach. Links to Polzeath to Hell's Bay walk.
This was copper and tin mining country; now its uranium. Mining's been going on industrially since the 13th century, and at some sort of level since prehistoric times. The evidence is everywhere, from abandoned buildings such as Wheal Tye with its tall chimney pointing up and its 183 meter shaft pointing down (no you can’t get in), to the loose rock under your feet and the numerous steel-wire cones protecting unwary walkers from skydiving down old air shafts.
Chapel Porth is a small or large sandy beach, depending on the state of the tide when you arrive, between high hills on either side. There’s a café and car park (National Trust) by the beach and a few cottages just inland—and that’s it. A place for quiet and beach lovers.
Climbing west, you’ll see what remains of the Wheal Charlotte mine in the heathland this area’s famous for. Bear in mind gorse, heather and particularly ferns are adept at hiding old mine shafts, and not all are protected by cone cages. Stick to the paths.
Apart from heathland, impressive cliffs, the wide Atlantic and atmospheric old mine buildings, you’ll have the pleasure of Porthtowan halfway along the way. A Celtic name, this landing place (porth) at sand dunes (tewynn) is popular with surfers and a good place to take a break and have an ice cream or beer—or maybe surf. it's all on hand.
Near Porthtowan are the extensive ruins of Wheal Tye mine. There’s been a mine here for centuries but these are not the romantic stone ruins you usually find. They’re concrete, built in the 1920’s to test the viability of reopening the mine. Interesting nevertheless.
Approaching Portreath, you’ll find a wire fence cordoning off the land to your left. It’s Ministry of Defence so—KEEP OUT! Those sci-fi white globes that hide the radar or listening devices remind me of old Quatermass films (man comes out of one covered in slime sounding poorly before collapsing in a smoking heap).
The path now starts dropping toward Portreath, a place once connected to Hayle by tramway to carry goods when it served as a working port. Now the beach as a tourist draw is its main income. It's got a fancy public loo too, although the tourists would have been served better with something bigger.
On the return trip after Porthtowan there's a slightly more inland path if you fancy a change of scene. I stuck to the coast path for the fantastic views.