Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Tintagel to Port Isaac- a real challenge!

The 23 mile stretch of the North Cornwall coastal path between Boscastle and the Camel Estuary provides some of Cornwall's most dramatic and beautiful coastal scenery. It is also very demanding, particularly the 9 miles between Tintagel and Port Isaac, said to be the most gruelling section of the whole 630 mile South West Way.
Tintagel to Port Isaac
Elsevier's Dean Eastbury, publishing manager for Minerals Engineering, IJMP and Hydrometallurgy, and others, is holidaying in Cornwall this week. He is a keen and regular hiker, who has accompanied me, Jon and Amanda on many hard hikes in Cape Town, notably Table Mountain via Jan Smuts' track and Chapman's Peak. Yesterday we set out to assess the degree of difficulty of this walk, which appears in all the guide books with a health warning and a grading of "exceptionally strenuous".

We set off from the centre of Tintagel (see also Boscastle to Tintagel 2nd September 2012) and the first couple of miles, down to Trebarwith Strand, was fairly easy going. However from the beach we encountered an almost vertical climb to the top of the cliff, followed by an immediate descent, the first of many stiff ascents and descents en route to distant Port Isaac.
Above Trebarwith Strand
This is real slate country, close to the famous Delabole Quarries, and all along the coast there is evidence of old quarrying activities, most notably the rock pinnacle shown below, which was deliberately left by the quarrymen as being of inferior quality. The loose scree formed by the eroded slate made the steep descents slow and hazardous and thighs were already screaming when we started the unrelenting ascents.

Quarry pinnacle with Gull Rock offshore

After 4 and a half hours we stopped for refreshments in the pub at tiny picturesque Port Gaverne, before the final short walk into Port Isaac, more famous as the fictional Portwenn of Doc Martin fame (see also Around Port Isaac 21 August 2011).

The contour map for our hike says it all. We had experienced an elevation gain of 2285 ft, very similar to the MEI Conferences walk with delegates up Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge (see postings of 23 November 2013 and 11 April 2014), but this was a much harder hike, due to the elevation loss of 2511 ft, which I personally found more demanding than the gain.

Tintagel to Port Isaac contours
I consider this to be the hardest walk that I have ever undertaken, and would seriously not recommend it to anyone who is not a strong hiker. I will be sticking to the 'gentle' gradients along the south Cornwall coast over the next few days!

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  1. So many comments to be made Dean.... I'm overwhelmed!

  2. Some of the best scenery on the entire South West Coastal Path is between Crackington Haven and Polzeath in North Cornwall. However, most of the coastal walks in this area are quite tough with this section from Tintagel to Port Isaac being the hardest. It was a great day out and we were blessed with fabulously sunny and warm weather. I must say, it took less than a nanosecond to decide to stop at the Port Gaverne Hotel when we spotted it! For me though, I still maintain that my hardest ever hike was when I went with Barry, Jon, Amanda and Kathryn up Table Mountain's Skeleton Gorge for the first time in 2010. I was so tired when we got to the cable car that I couldn't actually speak. which some might say was a blessing!

  3. I seem to remember it took only about a nanosecond to down the 2 pints of beer (each) that we ordered as soon as we got in the pub. Reminiscent of that famous scene in 'Ice Cold in Alex'.

  4. I did this walk many years ago,probably 1999 or 2000.It was very challenging then.Im now 66 and am just getting back into strenuous walking after a left knee replacement and wanted to do it again so may need to give it a miss but for those who can manage it it is an achievement with stunning views.

    1. Yes, very challenging! I was 68 when I did it


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