The Gribbin Head & Polkerris Circular

After 10 days in self-isolation, I couldn’t think of anything better than embarking on one of my long forgotten running routes, from Menabilly Barton to Polkerris.

St Austell Bay from the south west coast path near Polkerris

This is a superb and strenuous hiking or running route in South Cornwall, Starting on the south west coast path, near Fowey, there’s hills, plenty of mud (especially this time of year), and outstanding views of St Austell Bay. Not forgetting of course, Gribbin Head and Polkerris.

The start of this trail running route is at Menabilly Barton, just past the turning for Polkerris. While you can park in Polkerris, I opted to park at Menabilly Barton, in the small car park, costing 50p for the day. You just pop your parking fee in the milk urn at Menabilly Farm, on your way to the coast path.

Menabilly Barton Farm in Cornwall


I feel Menabilly needs no introduction. Famed for being the home of Daphne du Maurier for 20 years, her house, Menabilly, was the inspiration for Manderley in her book, Rebecca. Menabilly’s not visible from the road or coast path. Sadly, it’s not open to the public either but least we can admire the surroundings.

After parking at Menabilly Barton. I follow the coast path that naturally extends from the road. For about half a mile, I’m sheltered by trees as I make my way to closer to the Cornish coastline.

Polridmouth Beach near Fowey, Cornwall
Polridmouth Beach and Gribbin Head Daymark

Polridmouth Cove

I’m a fan of any coast path running route that leads to a quiet beach, or secluded cove. This run, to Polkerris, does just that. The first beach is Polridmouth Cove (pronounced “Pridmouth” but also referred to as Menabilly Beach).

Thankfully, it was low tide and I was able to appreciate the vastness of this pretty spot. As getting to Polridmouth Cove involves a bit of a walk, it tends to be quiet, which is a blessing in peak season. It’s also noted to be Daphne du Maurier’s favourite swimming spot. Hardly surprising as she lived so close by.

Polridmouth Cove, Cornwall
the sand and rocks on Polridmouth Cove, near Menabilly
The breakwater on Polridmouth Cove, Menabilly

At high tide, Polridmouth Cove is 2 small beaches, but at low tide it opens up to a wide expanse of sand once past the rocks. With clear sea water and with golden sand underneath, it’s Cornish postcard perfection.

There’s a concrete breakwater at the back of the beach, and the most idyllic holiday cottage, Polridmouth Cottage, with a simply priceless view.

Polridmouth Cottage and beach, Cornwall
A shed and garden with a wall

Gribbin Head

Moving away from Fowey (a great place for an afternoon stroll, btw), and not far from Polridmouth Cove, is Gribbin Head, home to the Gribbin Daymark Tower.

Proudly showcasing its red and white stripes, Gribbin Daymark is often mistaken for a lighthouse but it has no light. Standing at 84 feet tall, it was built in 1832 by Trinity House. Its sole purpose was for daytime navigation, helping sailors to identify Gribbin Head more readily from other neighbouring headlands.

The Gribbin Head Daymark
The Gribbin Head Daymark

Now owned and maintained by the National Trust, Gribbin Head Daymark is usually open on a Sunday, in summer months. You could climb the 109 steps to the top, and relish the breathtaking view.

Gribbin Head Daymark and hidden cove on the south west coast path
A beach on the south west coast path between Gribbin Head and Polkerris

On To Polkerris

Leaving Gribbin Head, a fair stretch of coast path lies ahead, leading to the hamlet of Polkerris.

Yellow gorse and hedgerow
a small cove and view of St Austell Bay
The south west coast path and St Austell Bay
St Austell Bay

On a clear day, there’s stunning views of St Austell Bay and beyond. I feel so fortunate I’m able to appreciate it again on such a bright, sunlit winter’s day. So many beaches are visible from this part of the south west coast path. I can see Booley Bay, Par beach, Carlyon Bay, Charlestown, Porthpean beach, and even Trenarren Head. It’s an excellent photo opportunity.

Polkerris beach and Harbour
Polkerris beach, Cornwall
Polkerris Beach, Cornwall

The south west coast path from Gribbin Head towards Polkerris eventually becomes a zig zag woodland path that ends at Polkerris beach. This small cove is a favourite with families, and is also the base for some of the Mad Hatter Swimming Events in the summer.

Despite being a small hamlet, there’s places to stop for coffee and food in Polkerris. Both the Rashleigh Inn and Sam’s on the Beach are excellent options – I’ve eaten at both!

From Polkerris to Menabilly

The remainder of this 4.5 mile running route’s by road. It’s a steep climb out of Polkerris before meeting the turning, which forms part of the Saints Way.

A driveway and house at Menabilly Cornwall

From here’s it’s a short walk along the road to the car park at Menabilly Barton. What a stunning walk on a clear winter day.

I totally recommend it!

There’s lots of walking and running routes here, at The Great Cornish Outdoors. If you’re looking for another run, of a similar distance, this circular run from Mousehole to Lamorna Cove is great fun and challenging. Alternatively, we have some awesome flat trails in Cornwall, which are suitable for running, cycling and walking.

Author: plbedford

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