I don’t always love the hiking adventures I write about, as noted in my journal after my most challenging day on a recent southwest Cornwall coast path:
For today’s hike to Portwrinkle we had to do a slow climb up out of Looe on a tarmac path. As we reached the top to look back at the harbor area, a gull pooped on Mary’s hat! It splattered onto her backpack, too. So, we spent a few minutes cleaning all that up with wet wipes I had in my pack. At the time, we didn’t think of this poop interlude as a sign of things to come.
(seconds before the gull attack)
After Looe, we clipped along easily, reaching Millendreath Beach and the Black Rock Resort in about 30 minutes. Based on that, we assumed we’d keep a steady pace of 2 miles/hour. Then we began a brutal uphill climb on the tarmac road, past Bay View Farm to a ‘sunken’ path.
There was a cliff diversion that led us to my favorite type of hiking— pine needles on a dirt trail, with shade overhead. It was peaceful, cool and provided views to the left across the patchwork countryside of precise fields and crops, with horses straining their necks over the fence to grab the grass on the roadside.
Coming out of the woods, we walked along the road, which was a slow manageable climb. Eventually the path took us through a sloping wide-open meadow full of yellow, purple and white flowers and to another long downhill on tarmac into Seaton, where we ate lunch on the beach. We left about 1:00 thinking we’d easily be in Portwrinkle by 3.
Boy, were we wrong!
As directed, we climbed our way up to the crumbling overgrown wall holding back the path from Battern Cliffs. We occasionally got views that made us realize we were VERY high and the cliff was a sheer drop to the ocean.
By about 2:30, we were doing an increasing number of steep uphills and downhill’s and it had grown quite warm. We could see a village far in the distance that I was afraid was Portwrinkle.
Carol said, “it can’t be that far away!” By 3:00, it was clear that the far off village was indeed our destination.
My knees had begun to shake as we made our way down a treacherous slope that appeared to drop us straight down into the ocean. Fortunately, the trail took a sharp left turn by a bench on which I flopped, too tired to even take off my pack. We all 3 sat there for at least 15 minutes, eating an energy bar, trying to recover a bit of juice to do our final slog into town.
I did this with minor grumbling and a surge of angry energy, thinking “I want this damn hike over with, so I’m jetting on.”
Once we reached the edge of Portwrinkle, Mary asked a man who knew exactly where the Liscawn Inn was. He explained that it was in another small village, Crafthole, on the other side of Portwrinkle. “You’ve probably got another two miles.”
Are you kidding me!!!
So, we sucked it up, walked through the village and climbed another agonizing hill to reach the highway, where a woman working in her garden encouraged us to carry on, we would be there soon.
We walked through Crafthole and were suddenly again walking on tarmac in the countryside. I was raging mad at the hiking gods for not telling us that we still had more than an hour’s hike once we reached the edge of Portwrinkle.
We finally spotted a Liscawn Inn sign with a grown-over footpath that we could “take at your own risk.” That didn’t seem promising this late in the day. We spotted a second gray Liscawn Inn sign several hundred feet further. We staggered up the road to reach the entrance to the Inn property. We could tell immediately that this was our heavenly reward for the end of an incredibly rough day.
The Liscawn Inn is a classic country inn, parts of which date from the 14th century. There are spacious well-tended grounds and lots of lovely outdoor seating with beautiful views of the countryside. It’s the kind of place where people book weddings and special events.
Here’s what greeted us:
You bet we have! It was 4:30 when we finally shed our backpacks. 7.5 hours for 7.5 miles. Our Fitbits said we walked 12 miles.
Our host told us that about 80% of the hikers who reach Liscawn quit for the rest of the coast path—done, finito. I could sympathize.
But we’re not quitters. On our last day, we walked into Plymouth, our final destination.