This is a stunning clifftop walk. However, there is a fair bit of climbing as it drops down to sea level at Northcott Mouth, Sandymouth and Duckpool. Certainly, it is one of the most scenic and dramatic stretches of coastline in Cornwall, if not the UK. There is no shortage of interest and the views are excellent all the way along to Duckpool. Above Duckpool is a short, steep climb up to Steeple Point, from here the views both North and South are extensive. I must admit I found the path up to the point slightly vertiginous, but then I have little head for heights.
As mentioned, the walk does drop down to sea level in several places so there are also 3 great beaches to explore (5 if you count Summerleaze and Crooklets Beaches in Bude).
The walk is covered by Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 190 – Bude & Clovelly, Boscastle & Holsworthy With this map you also get a code for use on your tablet, iOS or Android smartphone. Landranger maps are available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
There are Pay and Display car parks in Bude (Crooklets EX23 8NF or Summerleaze EX23 8HJ) and smaller ones at Northcott Mouth, Sandymouth and Duckpool, owned by the National Trust (free to members).
The walk follows the South-West Coast Path and is part of the longer section running from Hartland Quay south to Bude. It returns by the same route unless you opt for the beach option. The distance from Bude to Duckpool is nearly four miles, making a circular walk of about 8 miles.
Alternative Beach Walk
If the tide is out it’s possible to walk along the beach area between Crooklets Beach and Sandymouth. Low tide exposes a continuous stretch of sand. Be sure to check the tides though so you don’t get cut off. The sandy beaches at Northcott and Sandymouth all but disappear at high tide.
Summerleaze and Crooklets beaches have restrictions on dogs during the summer months. At Northcott, Sandymouth and Duckpool beaches, there are no restrictions on dogs.
Walk from Bude to Duckpool
Bude to Northcott Mouth
The stretch of coast between here and Northcott Mouth (and along to Duckpool) has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The cliffs here are part of the Bude Formation which formed on the ocean floor over 300 million years ago. Various earth movements since that time have compressed and contorted the rocks into the dramatic patterns you see today. Fossils including small fish, ammonites and other crustaceans have been found in the shales.
Small mounds dot the landscape here, these date from the Bronze Age. That makes the tumuli or burial mounds about 3000 to 5000 years old.
Brightly coloured wildflowers carpet the cliffs in spring and summer.
The walk starts at the quieter, north end of Bude. The route is well signposted as it is part of the South-West Coast Path. From wherever you have parked, walk north along the coast to Crooklets beach where there is a row of beach huts. Walk along the promenade in front of the beach huts and past a beachside cafe. Cross the footbridge over the stream that flows out across the beach.
Turn left along a short lane which leads to a gate. The National Trust own the land here (Maer Cliff). The well-worn and obvious path now follows the line of the cliffs. There are excellent views across the rocky reefs and beach below (if there is a low tide). The path joins a quiet road which runs around Northcott Beach House on the clifftop (this is available to hire). Then rejoin the grass path which runs down to the back of the beach at Northcott Mouth.
Northcott Mouth to Sandymouth
To regain the height you’ve just lost there is a long and rather steep flight of steps back up onto the next stretch of the clifftop. The path runs along the edge of a large meadow with a Bronze-Age barrow very close to the path. This is clearly visible on the aerial map. The path then continues along the edge of two more large fields to reach Sandymouth, also under the ownership of the National Trust.
At low tide, there is a mile-long stretch of sand at Sandymouth and rockpools full of wildlife.
Sandymouth to Duckpool
The Coast Path crosses Sandymouth just below the National Trust café and car park. Follow the footpath through a kissing gate. The path runs over a field and across a wooden footbridge. At this point, it takes a sloping route up the valley to eventually emerge on top of Stowe Cliffs.
As you walk along the cliff path, birds you might see include ravens, hovering kestrels and buzzards. This stretch of coast is also home to Peregrine Falcons.
Continue along the Coast Path, various wooden finger posts point out the way. After passing through a gate the path then descends to a footbridge crossing the wide combe at Warren Gutter. Cross the stream and climb the slope to Warren Point. Soon you pass through another gate and you are then looking down at Duckpool and the freshwater pond which sits behind the pebble bank. This might have given the beach its name.
Duckpool is a wild and romantic cove with a small beach. In contrast to Sandymouth, the beach here is much smaller, quite rugged and rocky. It tends to be relatively quiet compared to other nearby beaches. The spectacular cliffs of Steeple Point dominate the beach. The sandy beach is exposed at low tide and can only be accessed across an expanse of large pebbles.
If you don’t mind another climb the path continues from the car park at Duckpool up to Steeple Point. From the clifftop which is over 100 metres high, there are extensive views along the coast in both directions. There are also views inland along the picturesque Coombe Valley. The large radio installation to the North which has been visible for a while is GCHQ Bude.
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