Woke up very sore and stiff after my first day’s walking, but after a liberal application of ibuprofen gel and a hot coffee I was ready to go. Arran and the kids dropped me off at Zennor, and it wasn’t until the first uphill slope just out of the village that I realised I had forgotten my pole – alas too late to get it, so there was nothing for it but to carry on without.
Day 2 was easier than the first, mainly because there weren’t so many ups and downs and the ground was much drier. The path round Zennor Head was lovely – completely deserted and very wild, with some scrambly bits and more amazing views over the sea. Not a sound except my boots, the wind and seabirds.
The book gives St Ives a hard time but I found it rather nice to come down over the hill and see it laid out all picturesque, especially with the prospect of a good lunch somewhere in the town!
I opted for a pasty from a shop facing the harbour (can’t remember the name but it was a fantastic pasty) and ate it on the beach watching the crowds. I was so busy watching I was taken unawares by a hungry seagull, which swooped down and took a bite of the pasty right out of my hand – I yelped and batted it away, feeling a bit foolish.
After St Ives the path heads uphill through woods to Carbis Bay and then onto Hayle. Hayle gets a damning writeup just about everywhere – in fact, a friend suggested that I just get a lift past the town and pick up the path on the other side (“it wouldn’t be cheating”). The town itself is fine, it just suffers by comparison with the chocolate-box prettiness of the other villages en route, but it is undeniably frustrating to have to trek all the way round the estuary only to emerge on the other side of the river, and unpleasant to walk on the busy road after the clifftop silence. I did manage to avoid the golf course by scrambling down to the beach.
Hayle beach at low tide, on the other hand, was glorious: as advertised, 3 miles of golden, unbroken sandy loveliness. I took my boots off and let my poor battered feet enjoy the packed sand – one of my favourite surfaces for walking. It being low tide, I was able to walk barefoot on the beach all the way to Gwithian, getting some amazing views of the Strap Rocks and the cliff underside towards the end. I climbed up to Gwithian Towans at the end tired but happy.
Highlights: Zennor Head in the early morning light; the mini-trail of information signs on the path about 2 miles from St Ives; surfers, sandcastles and a great pasty in St Ives itself; leaving a long trail of footprints in the pristine sand; barbecue for dinner.