There are no shortage of beautiful coastal walks in Cornwall. The South West Coast Path, for example, is one of the most picturesque walking trails in England. But if you’re looking for something a little more manageable, that you can complete in less than a day, yet will still take you through a diverse range of landscapes and along some varying (but manageable) terrain then I’ve got the perfect little walk for you!
The Hall Walk and Lantic Bay trail from Fowey includes two ferry rides and will take you through the ancient fishing village of Polruan, to its 14th century blockhouse, and along part of the stunning South West Coast Path to Lantic Bay.
You’ll then walk down quiet country lanes shaded by trees and through dense woodland until you reach the tiny hamlet of Pont Pill.
You’ll cross Pont Quay and climb steeply up towards the top of the valley, along which you’ll walk as far as the Arthur Quiller-Couch memorial. You’ll get some amazing views of Fowey harbour from here before descending into the riverside village of Bodinnick.
On the way down to the ferry port you’ll pass Bodinnick’s 13th century pub, the Old Ferry Inn and ‘Ferryside’ – the old family home of author Daphne du Maurier. You’ll then catch the car ferry back across to Fowey, where the trail ends.
As far as walks in Cornwall go, it’s a really nice one – even in the middle of winter.
Walks in Cornwall | The Hall Walk and Lantic Bay trail from Fowey
Stage 1 | Catch the ferry from Fowey to Polruan
The passenger ferry between Fowey and Polruan runs regularly from the main harbour, even throughout the winter months. You can check the full Fowey to Polruan ferry timetable here, but because the boat just goes backwards and forwards across the estuary, you’ll never have to wait very long for the next one. A one-way ticket will cost you £2.30, so make sure you bring some loose change to pay the ferryman. You’ll need £2.50 for the car ferry back from Bodinnick.
The ferry ride only takes a few minutes, so before you know it you’ll be pulling in to Polruan Quay. You’ll find an information board on the quay. The Hall Walk is marked on the map on here so snap a quick photo of it on your phone before walking up the short hill at the back of the Quay. You may be able to pick up a proper trail map from the Tourist Information Office in Fowey (5 South Street, PL23 1AR), but all we had was a photo of the map from the information board at Polruan harbour, along with Google Maps and it worked out just fine for us.
At the top of the hill take a right on to West Street and follow it all the way to the blockhouse – also known as Polruan Castle.
Stage 2 | Explore Polruan Blockhouse
Both Polruan’s blockhouse and the one on the Fowey side of the estuary were fortifications commissioned by Henry the Eighth to protect Fowey Harbour from French invasion. 14 examples of these blockhouses (also known as chain towers) were recorded nationally but only five are still in existence, and the one at Polruan is one of the most complete examples remaining, having been altered very little since its initial construction between 1461 and 1483.
Polruan’s rectangular-shaped blockhouse once had two storeys and you can still climb part the way up the remaining stone steps inside.
If you walk through the blockhouse to the rocky promontory that juts out into the River Fowey, you’ll be treated to some fantastic views across to the town from which you started this trail, and also to an alternative perspective of St. Catherine’s Castle, on the edge of the headland.
Stage 3 | Pick up the South West Coast Path to Lantic Bay
Retrace your steps to the junction with Battery Lane and you’ll see a sign pointing uphill to the South West Coast Path. Turn up Battery Lane to follow the sign. The South West Coast Path leads off the corner of Battery Lane as it turns into Battery Park. From here you’ll follow the South West Coast Path all the way to Lantic Bay.
The trail is reasonably well marked all along, but there is one point where the path splits and subsequently continues at either side of a wire fence. We’d taken the upper track and ended up almost wading through a very muddy bog when we realised that there was in fact another track the other side of the fence – a proper track with wooden decking boards underfoot.
Stu was feeling brave and climbed over the spiky wire fence; I anticipated it all going horribly wrong if I tried, and walked back to the point at which the wire fence ceased to exist, in order to re-join the original track.
Even on an overcast day, you’ll be rewarded with some stunning views on route. For the most part, the South West Coast Path follows the contours of the cliff edge so you’ll never be far from the edge (well, far enough, but you catch my drift!).
Viewpoints are normally marked by a simple wooden bench or clearing (or both).
When you reach the steps down to the wooden gate pictured below, you have the option of heading down to Lantic Bay, continuing further along the South West Coast Path (the next point of interest is Parson’s Cove or the next town is Polperro, 8 kilometres/5 miles away) or turning inland towards Lanteglos and Pont Pill.
If you luck out with some decent weather, I would totally recommend heading down to Lantic Bay. We were informed by a couple we met who’d just done exactly that, that it’s definitely worth the tough climb back up.
Stage 4 | Lantic Bay to Pont Pill
Walk a little further along from where the photo above is taken until you reach a wooden bench overlooking the bay. Google maps doesn’t actually show the track heading inland from here, but there is in fact a public footpath which cuts across the field (you’ll be able to see the style at the other end).
Follow the footpath and you’ll reach the road the other side. The quickest route (and the one we took) is to turn left here and then to take the first right you come to, where – part the way along the road – you’ll be able to join the Hall Walk to Pont Pill.
However, if you turn right instead of left and then take the first left and subsequently follow the road as it bends around to the left, you’ll pass Lanteglos-by-Fowey parish church. After the church, take the first right and you’ll be back on the same route. Keep an eye out for signs on your left indicating a footpath to Bodinnick. This is Hall Walk.
Hall Walk is a lovely shaded trail through woodland, high above the River Fowey. I’m sure that, in the spring or summer months, the path is lined with wild flowers, but even in the middle of winter we spotted the odd splash of colour at the side of the trail.
The trail emerges from woodland at the point where the River Fowey begins to narrow. Don’t forget to look back for a great view out towards the estuary, with the town of Fowey in the distance.
You’ll then begin your descent, through woodland, to the tiny Hamlet of Pont Pill. And what an absolutely gorgeous little place it is!
It is believed that Pont Pill was initially established as a small settlement when the parish’s first Celtic saint, St. Wyllow settled in a cave here around 596. The quay subsequently developed as an important area of trade between farms in the area and other nearby coastal communities. Roadstone, bricks, coal, manure and flour were imported and grain and logs were exported. In 1814, a granary, limekilns, malt houses and a warehouse were set up, and then later on a corn mill and sawmill, a beer house and blacksmith shop were added.
The two limekilns are still recognisable (you can even wander inside them), and the original 1894 notice regarding shipping dues can be seen on the exterior wall of the attached building. Pont Quay is Grade II listed and is now owned by the National Trust.
Fun fact: It is thought that Pont Pill provided the inspiration for ‘The Wind in the Willows‘ because author Kenneth Grahame holidayed in nearby Lerryn.
Stage 5 | Pont Pill to the Arthur Quiller-Couch memorial
Spend a few moments exploring the limekilns, photographing the historic buildings, and generally enjoying the picturesque setting that Pont Quay affords before beginning the steep climb up the opposite side of the valley. And it is a steep climb, so be prepared to give those calves a bit of a work out!
You will, however, be rewarded with some stunning views of Fowey Estuary as you near the top of the climb.
When you arrive at the headland you’ll find a memorial to Arthur Quiller-Couch and a small shelter containing information about the Hall Walk trail.
Born in nearby Bodmin, Arthur Quiller-Couch was a Cornish writer who published using the pseudonym Q. Although he wrote numerous novels, he is most well known for compiling The Oxford Book Of English Verse 1250–1900.
Stage 6 | Descent to Bodinnick Quay via the Old Ferry Inn
From the Arthur Quiller-Couch memorial, we assumed we’d got a bit of a killer descent coming up following our steep climb up out of the valley. Fortunately though, the incline was a lot tamer than we’d anticipated and before we knew it we were joining the ‘main’ road down to the harbour at Bodinnick.
The deal had always been that we’d pop into the Old Ferry Inn for a drink at the end of the hike. It’s the only way I’d been able to persuade Stu to come along in the first place! So, we quickly checked the Bodinnick to Fowey ferry timetable down at the quay before making a pit-stop at the pub.
At first we couldn’t even get in to the pub, because both doors we tried appeared to be locked. It was just gone 4 p.m on a Sunday. Feeling somewhat puzzled by this, we began walking down to the quay to wait for the car ferry. We’d seen a few pubs in Fowey; we were sure one of those was probably just as good a place to grab a drink at the end of our hike.
But, as we were walking away, the landlord unlocked the door, apologised and – in a somewhat flustered state – informed us that actually his pub was indeed open.
Inside was an incredibly inebriated local woman who was slumped over her glass of wine at the bar. The poor landlord was trying to persuade her that it may be time to head home, and that no, it probably wasn’t a good idea to attempt to cook a Sunday roast when she got there. He ended up walking her the 25 yards back to her house (as he pointed out, he has a duty of care towards his customers), and when he returned he informed us that she’d been in the pub since midday, and had drunk her way through a couple of bottles of red wine.
Aside from another gentleman who arrived just after us and sat in the corner by the fire keeping himself to himself, we were the only people in the Old Ferry Inn that Sunday afternoon.
It’s a lovely cosy little establishment, with all sorts of historical photographs and artefacts hung all over the walls, but without the comforting murmur of voices in the background and with a distinct lack of music playing, it was painfully silent in those moments when we didn’t necessarily want to engage in conversation.
Stage 7 | Catching the car ferry back to Fowey
As soon as we’d finished our beers, we hit the road again. We had, as it turned out, timed our departure from the pub perfectly, because the car ferry back to Fowey was just leaving as we arrived down at the quay.
Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, no there isn’t a passenger ferry running between Bodinnick and Fowey, only a car ferry. However, pedestrians can travel on the car ferry for a one-way fee of £2.50.
The car ferry docks at the back of Caffa Mill Car Park, which is only around a five-minute walk from the centre of Fowey.
Accommodation options for walks in Cornwall | Staying in Fowey
We stayed at Havener’s Bar and Grill, right on the harbour front in Fowey. We booked our two-night stay via Travelzoo. The rooms at Havener’s were clean, modern and cosy, the staff were welcoming and the whole place had a lovely relaxed atmosphere. We also ate in the attached restaurant (twice) and really liked the food, too.
Walks in Cornwall | The Hall Walk and Lantic Bay trail from Fowey: Practical Info
- The Hall Walk trail on its own is 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) in length, but with the diversion to Lantic Bay (and especially if you take the trail down to the bay itself), you’ll probably be adding an extra two or three miles on top of that. It’s still a very easily doable distance in a morning or afternoon, even with stops.
- The trail is graded as ‘moderate’ on the National Trust website, due to a few steep climbs and descents.
- Wear some sturdy footwear with good grip, especially if you’re walking the trail in winter. I didn’t have hiking-specific boots, but I was wearing my Keen Fremont waterproof boots and they’ve got some pretty good grip on them. It’s really difficult to find Fremonts online now (unless you have really small or really large feet, or you’re a half size) but these Keen boots are similar.
- Between leaving Polruan and arriving in Bodinnick, you won’t pass anywhere that you can buy drinks or snacks from, so pack whatever supplies you may need.
- If you’re walking the trail in winter, you’ll need a warm coat that’s also waterproof, as it’s pretty exposed up on those cliff edges!
- A hat is a necessity too! (although, if you’ve got your eye on my red one, it’s a one-off that was made for me by a girl I work with)
- If you want to explore more of the Cornwall on foot then there are a number of publications available to purchase on Amazon by AA 50 Walks Series, Pathfinder Guides and Pocket Mountains. Alternatively I love using both the Bradt guidebook to Cornwall and the Lonely Planet guidebook to Devon and Cornwall for reference.
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