Bedruthan Steps: Cornwall’s Twelve Apostles

Let’s head to Cornwall’s north coast and take in the wondrous sight that is Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps.

A woman with dark hair looking out to sea

Well, here’s a confession for you. Bedruthan Steps is probably my favourite spot in Cornwall. I totally love this stretch of coast path. It never fails to amaze me with its colour palette which shifts with the seasons, and the spectacular view of stacks and rocks that make Bedruthan and Carnewas so unique.

On a rather unseasonal sunny day in November, I decided to take a detour to Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps during one of my usual Sunday drives to Exeter.

Despite the title of this post, I’ve never been to Australia. Even so, when I look out at Bedruthan Steps, I always think of Australia’s Twelve Apostles. I’ve seen photos and think they’re quite similar.

Landscape at Bedruthan Steps in Cornwall

Finding Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps

Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps are areas on the south west coast path in the parish of St Eval, between popular Newquay and Trevose Head. The steps mentioned in the name are the tall rock stacks that dot along Bedruthan beach, making it most distinctive and rather gorgeous.

Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps now belongs to the National Trust. This means parking is free for National Trust members. There’s also Carnewas tea room and toilets on the parking site.

The Tale of Bedruthan and Local History

Bedruthan, or Bodruthyn as it was originally spelt, goes back to the 14th century. According to Craig Weatherill’s book on Cornish place names, it means, “Ruthyn’s dwelling”. There’s the legend of a giant called Bedruthan who used the stacks as steps, hence the name.

But (spoiler alert) there was no giant. Rather, those pesky Victorians cooked up the story to lure more visitors to the area. At least the marketing department for Cornwall Tourism has since calmed down 😂. I think out of all the places to visit in Cornwall, Bedruthan Steps probably advertises itself.

Rocks and the beach at Bedruthan and Carnewas
Bedruthan beach at low tide in the winter sun
A single rock stack with coastal flowers on the cliff edge at Bedruthan Steps

Carnewas used to be home to a clifftop mine, producing mainly silver and copper. There are no remains left of the mine but one of the stacks bares its name.

I like that the stacks and rocks at Bedruthan have names. Looking at the map, there’s Queen Bess rock, said to be named after Queen Elizabeth I. She’s eroded away a bit now and isn’t quite what she used to be. The other stacks are called Pendarves Island, Redcove Island and Samaritan Island.

There was also a castle, called Redcliff, about 500m south west of Bedruthan Steps. There are little, if any, detectable remains, to be honest. From reading what I can find about it, Redcliff castle eroded away, along with some of the headland it was built on.

Bedruthan beach in winter sunshine taken from the south west coast path
Bedruthan Steps in North Cornwall in the sunshine

Is it Worth the Visit?

My goodness, it’s totally worth visiting Bedruthan Steps! The views are nothing short of spectacular. For me, it has the wow factor and is jaw droppingly good looking. It certainly makes for an exhilarating day out.

I must admit, I’m quite drawn to the coastal colours found on the north coast of Cornwall. The cliffs have a golden hue and seem more chiselled compared to those found along the Cornish south coast. The sand’s a different colour too; more tropical looking with a hint of yellow, or ochre. It’s quite compelling to look at, especially when the sea is a bright azure blue, almost minty in colour.

The sea and breaking waves onto sand
yellow sand and bright blue sea in Cornwall

Considering how stunning Bedruthan Steps is, it’s no wonder it’s up there with other beautiful places in Cornwall, like Kynance Cove, as one of the top places to visit. Thankfully, I’ve been here many times, mostly running with my friend, Rach and I enjoy it every time.

I know it’s hard to believe but all the photos here were taken in early November. I totally lucked out with the weather – the sun was out and it turned out to be a belter of a morning. It was windy though and my hair was flying all over the place while I was trying to take photos.

Needless to say, Bedruthan Steps is worth a visit all year round and looks amazing when misty! I’d also recommend a visit at high tide, preferably when it’s a bit choppy. You experience a totally different vibe to what you see here.

end of season coastal flowers overlooking Bedruthan Steps Cornwall

Can You Access Bedruthan Beach?

Sadly, you can’t get onto the beach. You may know that Bedruthan Beach used be accessible up until a few years ago. The steep narrow steps that led to the beach were damaged in a rock fall in 2019 and as yet, haven’t been replaced.

Should the stairs down to the beach ever be replaced, people have been known to get cut off by the tide. It comes in quite quickly, just so you know.

While the beach is wonderful to walk on, I think there’s something about looking at the virgin sand below. As a result Bedruthan beach is untouched and unspoilt which just adds to it’s wild and uncultivated characteristics.

Rocks at Beduthan in Cornwall

Fancy exploring another of Cornwall’s beautiful beaches? You can find all you need to know about Pedn Vounder beach, in my comprehensive guide. (Seriously, don’t visit without doing your homework first!)

Walks near Bedruthan Steps

It’s no surprise that Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps is a popular place on Cornwall’s coast path. It’s favoured by many for walking (or running if you’re that way inclined).

There are several walks that incorporate Carnewas and Bedruthan Steps. There’s plenty of coastal beauty to soak up, and it definitely makes for a refreshing experience. Heading north east on the Cornish coast path, walking to Porthcothan Beach is certainly doable. I’d estimate this to be about 3 miles, one way. If you’re full of beans, you could continue on to Trevose Head (about 7 miles one way).

Bedruthan Steps rock stacks

In the other direction, the walk from Bedruthan Steps to Mawgan Porth is only about 2-3 miles. Another Cornish beach that’s worth a visit.

Just a note on accessibility at Bedruthan Steps. Leaving the car park there is a designated path signposted for people who use a wheelchair. It’s not completely smooth but is a lot better than the original south west coast path. Obviously it’ll only take you so far, but you should be able to enjoy the view.

While I’ve yet to write up running routes for this part of the south west coast path, you can find lots of short coastal walking and running routes here.

Pinterest pin showing blue sky and stacks at Bedruthan Steps in Cornwall with text

Author: plbedford

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