Cornwall Walk Of The Month: Gorran Haven to Caerhays

A picturesque circular for the whole family

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
11 May 2022

This moderately challenging walk starts in the ancient fishing village of Gorran Haven and takes you to the historic Caerhays Castle. It takes around four hours to complete as a circular walk and is a great trail for hiking, trail running and walking.

Choosing your route

The first half of the circular walk takes you along the coastal path. It includes some steep inclines but the views reward you. The second half from Caerhays is through farmland and country lanes where the wildflowers, bird life and hedgerows provide ample interest.

If you are visiting in the spring, a shorter, non-circular but potentially more interesting route would involve two cars. One left at the starting point in Gorran Haven and another at Caerhays Castle. Both cars would drive to Caerhays, one would park there and then you’d all drive the 11 minute journey to Gorran Haven in the other car.

Fishing history

Gorran Haven is a small sheltered village that lies in a sandy cove nestled between two nudist beaches. Fresh water streams run down into the bay where fishing is good, particularly for lobster and crab. Back in the 13th Century Gorran Haven was a more important fishing centre than Mevigissey and the first record of ‘seining’ in Cornwall, the catching of pilchards with long nets, occurred in there.

When you start your walk you can park in the main car park. This can get quite busy in season so the alternative is to park at Vault Beach car park and walk to the coastal path from there. The coastal path will take you along the luscious green cliffs overlooking Vault Beach and around the headland at Dodman Point. Dodman Point is the highest headland on the south coast of Cornwall at roughly 353ft above sea level.

Break for the beach

You will arrive at the Watch House that was set up by the Royal Navy in response to the war with France in 1795. The stations would communicate through a series of marks on a flagpole or smoke and blue light at night time.

The watch tower is still in remarkably good condition given its exposed location and is now a resting point for walking wanting to escape the elements. Follow the headland back around and Hemmick Beach will come into view.

Heading for the castle

Continue on the coastal path all the way to Porthluney Bay where you can stop for refreshments at the cafe or unpack your picnic at the beach.

From there you can choose to veer off the coastal path and onto the country lanes that take you through the wooded countryside all the way back to Gorran Haven. Alternatively you can walk up to Caerhays Castle that is only open during the spring months.

Impressive displays

The 140 acre woodland gardens of Caerhays Castle are English Heritage Listed Grade 2. They are home to a historically important collection of Chinese plants that can be traced back to the work of the great plant hunters in the Victorian era. Many of the trees are classed as Nationally Champion Trees by the Tree Register.

The gardens are truly exceptional in the spring time and the scents that are carried down the paths on the breeze are amazing enough to cement this day in your mind for a lifetime. The castle also has a small cafe with basic snack time offerings.

Back to the beginning

If you choose to skip Caerhays Castle or you are coming out of season you can follow the road up to Treveor Farm. Follow the road and go through the fields to St Gorran Church.

Once you’re at the church you can simply follow the signs for Gorran Haven.