It was only supposed to be a wee donner along a coastal path. What could be hard about that? After all we’d been on the Fife Coastal Path and that was a dawdle. Today’s short stretch of Cornwall’s South West Coastal Path from Port Isaac to Port Quin should therefore have been a piece of cake. As usual things are never quite how you imagine them to be.
Our B&B was close enough to both Port Isaac and Port Quin to allow us a triangular (as opposed to circular) walk from there thus allowing the “Tank” a day’s rest. We could have taken the narrow winding lane (I refuse to call it a road) down to Port Isaac but the absence of a death wish found us following a series of rights of way through the neighbouring fields. The thermometer was rising fit to burst as we set off and it was only midmorning.
J stormed off in front, thundering down the right of way from Trelights to Port Isaac like a rhinoceros on speed. Our fellow guests at “Westaway” had seen an episode of Doc Martin being filmed the previous day and J was now heading off at breakneck pace in the hope of catching some of the action. Me, being me, couldn’t have cared less and I trundled along in her wake at my usual flat footed shuffle.
Our right of way ended…not with a road or a gate but with a large herd of cows. J did an impressive handbrake turn and without breaking stride shot straight past me – back up the right of way to the “safety” of the narrow high hedged lane. Personally I reckoned the cows were a safer bet. Anyone who drove the lane to Port Isaac was by definition insane which shortened the odds against our completing the journey on foot without losing a random selection of body parts.
The “lane” proved to be worth the risk as its steep descent into Port Isaac was as unexpected as it was Mediterranean. I thought I was somewhere south of Naples. There was the deep blue cloudless sky, the old narrow streets plummeting downwards towards the tiny harbour…and there was the heat. Especially the heat!
From the harbour we slogged up the hill to pay homage at the door of Doc Martin’s cottage before taking a quick tour of the old fishing village. The narrow street up to the Doc’s TV abode was filled with fanatical pilgrims all standing in line to be photographed at the Holy of Holies. I waited patiently dreaming of deserted coastal cliffs with nothing but the shrill call of the gulls breaking the silence. Reluctantly I forced my mind to return to the land of the screeching harpie, as the believers jostled for position on the steps of the temple. Pilgrimage complete, we headed back into town…and the shops!
J happily scrutinised the contents of each window in turn. I groaned once too often and found an ice cream stuffed into my gob to keep me quiet. This was fortuitous because if it had been put into my hand it would have melted before reaching my gob. J finally accepted that she would see no filming today, there being a distinctive absence of anything vaguely resembling a TV crew in the village, so now we could get down to the serious stuff. And so it was back up the hill, straight past the Doc’s cottage and onward to the cliff top beyond.
What we hadn’t reckoned on was the amount of ascent on this section of the coastal path…and the large number of steps. Some 600 plus steps between Port Isaac and Port Quin, we were reliably formed. And again, there was the heat…all 27 degrees of it. I hate walking in the heat and during the summer tend to limit my efforts to a few flattish, slow(ish) walks, in the shade if possible.
As we crawled up the path past the limits of Port Isaac the steps cut through high grass and shrubs. We were now sheltered from any possibility of a cooling sea breeze and so the temperature moved up a notch to furnace- like. My kata pack was welding itself to my back, my wafer thin Columbia blue checked shirt now a mere soggy irrelevance. Still, I looked supercool in my Bloc sunglasses and the smell of bubbling sun tan lotion told me summer was most definitely here. J was beginning to wilt. She likes the heat but hates uphill in any shape or form and this was uphill with knobs on as seemingly endless steps led ever upwards. Our water supply was taking a fair hammering.
It was with no small sense of relief we reached the plateau of the sea cliff at Lobber Point which gave some straight forward walking…for a short while!
The next mile or so found us continually charging up and down steps and steep paths as we headed around the various headlands to Port Quin. There was a steep drop then rise up to Varley Head, a tremendous viewpoint at Scarnor Point and after rounding Kellan Head (with a quick stop off for a geocache), we caught our first glimpse of Port Quin nestling at the end of a long narrow inlet.
Apparently Port Quin became deserted almost overnight. It is thought the men folk were killed in a storm at sea so the women were left with no alternative but to leave. That seems to be the current theory anyway. A handy outside tap allowed us to top up the almost empty water bottles before we completed our triangular walk by following the “lane” from Port Quin back up to Trelights.
Our first contact with the South West Coastal Path had been more demanding than anticipated and a bit short on views. Yes there had been a couple of cracking viewpoints but on the whole it had been a bit more of a slog than a stroll. But enough of the walk, let’s get onto the good bit. We were now off to Padstow for something to munch…