Pentire Steps and Park Head

Hidden away just north of the more famous Bedruthan Steps is the small beach at Pentire Steps. Cornwall has many fabulous beaches, but this is definitely one of the most photogenic. A small bay with a sandy beach, backed by imposing cliffs and a large, towering rock stack, perfect!

I discovered this beach by accident. I was driving north from Mawgan Porth after a day out surfing and trying to think of somewhere to go for an evening’s walk. Then, I noticed a small lane with a National Trust sign. Curious, I turned off and followed the lane down to a small car park. Here was my evening walk, as this is just a short walk away from the cliffs and Pentire Beach.

OS Explorer 106 Map. The Explorer 106 Ordnance Survey map covers this area of Cornwall The map displays the area of Newquay, Padstow, and Port Issac, down to St Austel. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.

Park Head and Pentire Beach Directions

To find the National Trust car park yourself, follow the B3276 running north from Mawgan Porth. Pass both of the main car parks for Bedruthan and then lookout for a small track on the left-hand side. Follow this track to the car park (Postcode: PL27 7UU or map ref: SW853707) next to Pentire Farm. This is a pay and display car park.

From the other direction, the turning (on the right) is about one and a half kilometres south of Porthcothan.

From the car park, a sign points the way along a footpath to the clifftop. If you want to visit the beach, turn left at the signpost once you have reached the cliffs and look for a narrow, twisty, path that leads down to the rocks above the beach. The final part of the descent needs care as it is a bit of a scramble.

If you want to walk out along Park Head and admire the clifftop views, head in the other direction along the South West Coast Path. Where the path bends to the right look for a path on the left that runs out along Park Head.

Pentire Beach and Diggory’s Island

The beach here is very quiet as it is quite difficult to get to and the path is not for the faint-hearted. Please note there is no beach at high tide. At low tide is possible to walk between the large sea stack (Diggory’s Island) and the mainland to reach the beach at Bedruthan Steps.

Diggory’s Island has grass growing on the top and makes a doorway through to Bedruthan Steps and the rest of the bay. Be careful you don’t get cut off by the tide though. Check the tide times before you visit. Of course, you can also get to Pentire Beach from Bedruthan as well.

Don’t be tempted to go for a swim here (even though there may surfers), there are treacherous rip currents along this stretch of coast and there is no lifeguard service.

Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round, however, your dog might find the scramble to the beach at the bottom of the path quite difficult.

Bedruthan Steps

A local legend talks about a giant called Bedruthan who used the beach stacks as stepping stones for a shortcut across the bay. This story was probably thought up in the 19th-century and was designed to attract visitors to the area, which is famous for its amazing views.

In Victorian times, Bedruthan Steps was a popular destination for tourists staying in nearby Newquay. They would have visited this location by horse-drawn carriage.

The cliffs at Bedruthan have eroded over time, leaving the impressive rock stacks you can see today. These towers of separated cliff rise from the beach. They now form a series of columns stretching across the bay from Pendarves Island in the south to Diggory’s Island in the north.

One of the stacks is called the Samaritan and was named after a tragedy in 1846. A cargo vessel, the Good Samaritan was wrecked against the pillar. Sadly nine of the crew lost their lives. The locals, however, benefited from the tragedy by salvaging the ship’s cargo of beef and printed cloth.

Occasionally the strong currents in the bay, shift the sands from around the base of the Samaritan. This exposes the remnants of the wrecked ship’s rotting keel.

The name Bedruthan Steps describes both the beach and the stacks, but the name originally referred to the perilous steps leading down to the beach. These were carved out of the cliff face.

(See also my Mawgan Porth post)

Park Head

If a clifftop walk with stunning views sounds attractive, then a walk along the promontory of Park Head offers some unforgettable views of the North Cornwall coastline.

Wildflowers carpet the cliffs in the summertime. The views across to Pentire Steps and beyond to Bedruthan Steps are absolutely stunning and unforgettable. There are also excellent views northwards towards Trevose Point. As you walk out along the top of the promontory, it narrows giving a wonderful sense of exposure, as long as you have a head for heights.

This area is also known for its “Dark Sky” status. These sites are free from light pollution and have good views of stars and the Milky Way.

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