Cornwall: Holywell to Perranporth - 10 mile round trip - O/S Landranger 200
Dandruff, sex and a sad demise.
Parking at St. Pirans Inn or NT car park just beyond (going west). Both paying. Some free on-street parking in residential area above beach but you’ll be lucky to find a space (and be considerate).
This walk starts with a crowd of Saints (if two’s a crowd). The Inn by the beach at Holywell is named after St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall and tin, its most famous product. But step out on the beach at low tide and at the north east end you’ll find a cave and, inside, St. Cubert’s well. Unfortunately, I mistimed so missed it but, from what I read, with its colourful mineral deposits, it’s worth a view (I’ll be going back).
St Cubert was apparently washed up here in a storm and blessed the well—and another at a nearby holiday camp—bestowing on it fabulous powers like curing dandruff. You might sniff at dandruff (similar but safer than cocaine) but this is surfer country and I imagine all that salt and constant shampooing causes a great deal of head snow. Cubert was being farsighted and thoughtful. Say no to dandruff!
From Holywell beach, head southwest, climbing the cliff path toward Penhale point. Enjoy the ocean and more caves to your right and the nissen huts (invented, if that’s the right word, by Major Nissen in the first world war) of Penhale army camp to your left. They're delightfully dated, looking like a nightmare version of 1950s Butlins. Get there quick because it’s up sale and soon to be another victim of bungalow disease. (I'm just updating this post and suspect those nissen huts have gone by now).
The next prominent headland is Ligger Point. At its tip, through the wild (but not very) ponies that roam there, you'll catch sight of Perran Beach, stretching its two fine and wide sandy miles to Perranporth. It was at Ligger Point I caught sight of what persuaded me to come for this particular walk at this particular time (July 2016): a beached sperm whale. It looked small on that huge beach until the swarming flies that morphed into people gave it context.
In truth, there were not that many people because it was at the northern end of the beach, a long long walk from either Perranporth or Holywell. And those that did make the effort were respectful in the presence of one of nature’s more spectacular creations. The only other congregation wishing it farewell were thousands of jelly fish carpeting a strip the full length of the beach
I worried that stink may be equal to mass but fortunately a sea breeze blew the worst away. But the breeze couldn't hide the gory progress of death. A prize hunter had sawn-off off its bottom jaw, and its guts were exposed to stop its belly exploding - a major headache with beached whales I heard on the news. The forces that make these things go bang were still evident in the one eye I could see, bubbling like a Yellowstone Park mud pool. A hideous sight from some angles, but the beast was awesome and elegant from others. Close up these creatures don’t seem possible.
You can choose dunes or beach for the onward slog. I’d suggest a bit of both. The hilly and soft dunes are hard work but a fun maze. And they have there own wildlife among the flora that thrives here. Wandering through dunes, I'm always a little worried (or is that a little hopeful) I'll come across a couple having sex, and sure enough, two moths were at it. I've no idea what species, so, let me know if you do and I'll pass it on.
Tiring of the dunes, I took to the beach and followed the Jellyfish road. What awaits is Perranporth, a typical (large car park, flat roofed stucco rendered takeaways, gift and surf shops) Cornish holiday resort (very different from Cornish fishing villages). But unusually, there’s a pub on the beach. Make your way through its picnic tables semi-submerged in the sand and try one of its surprisingly good selection of real ales. I recommend the Cornish brewed Proper Job. Zesty, hoppy and the perfect strength (4.5ish) before heading back and joining St. Cubert at St. Piran’s for another one (If you're not driving).
Ps.. take an apple for the horses.