Looking back over the cliffs towards the Gribbin Daymark

Walking the South Cornish Coast, Dreaming of Manderley

Breathtaking views of South Cornwall on this 4.5 mile circular walk from Menabilly, to the Gribbin Headland Daymark, and down to Polkerris Beach.

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

The opening line of ‘Rebecca‘ by Daphne du Maurier

If you have read the Gothic novel Rebecca, you will know how haunting Manderley is. The house where Maxim de Winter brings his new bride to live, watched over by the vengeful and sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who is jealous of the young Mrs de Winter on behalf of Max’s first wife, the deceased Rebecca.

Aerial map of walking route

Manderley is inspired by a real house: Menabilly, the house Daphne du Maurier lived in when she was in Cornwall. Whilst you cannot access Menabilly itself (it’s privately owned), this walk takes you through the countryside of Menabilly Barton and up onto the clifftops. Expect dramatic coastal and country views as you ascend to the Gribbin Headland Daymark, a tower marking the approach to the narrow, rocky entrance of Fowey harbour, and then along the South West Coast Path down to Polkerris Beach. If you’re lucky, on a clear day you may be able to glimpse the rooftop chimneys of Menabilly.

In terms of difficulty, we have classified the walk as ‘moderate’ as the climb up to Gribbin Head definitely works your legs! Suitable footwear is essential! The rest of the walk, however, is fairly gentle as you descend to Polkerris. We have tagged it as ‘Family Friendly‘ as we did this walk whilst carrying our 3-month old daughter in a baby carrier (it is not pushchair friendly). We saw lots of people exercising their dogs on the trail and it’s suitable for young children with energy and strong legs.

If you like this and you want to know more about what to do in Cornwall you MUST read our article ‘A Guide to the Perfect Week in Cornwall‘.

The Menabilly-Gribbin Head-Polkerris Walk

Start: Menabilly Barton End: Menabilly Barton Distance: 4.5 miles Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours Difficulty: Moderate

Start at the car park at Hambland, close to the farm at Menabilly Barton (take some change with you as there is an honesty box for parking here, 50p per car at the time of writing). As you come out of the car park turn left towards the sea and follow the path down to Polridmouth Cove.

Walking path from Menabilly Barton
The path at the start (and end) of the walk

On your left is the land forming part of the Menabilly House estate. It’s fun seeing if you can catch a glimpse of the house through the hedges and trees. As you are walking you’ll catch sight of the Gribbin Headland Daymaker and the path you’ll follow to get up to it. As you can see from the photo below, it’s an arresting sight.

The Gribben Daymark has stood on the headland since 1832. Standing at 26 metres tall, it was erected to mark the narrow entrance to Fowey Harbour and help sailors navigate ships into Falmouth Harbour, avoiding the shallow rocky waters of St Austell. The tower is owned by the National Trust and is open every Sunday from July until early September. Having the opportunity to climb the tower will be a special bonus if you can time doing this walk to coincide with these events.

Looking ahead to the Gribbin Headland Daymark
Looking ahead to the Gribbin Headland Daymark

Polridmouth Cove Beach lies at the end of this section of the walk. As a result of sheer good fortune we arrived at low tide when it is possible to see a lot of the beach. The sea reclaims the beach at high tide.

If you’re interested in visiting Daphne du Maurier related sights you can take a detour here. If you turn left, away from the Gribbin Daymark, and follow the path around the beach you will eventually see the cottage that is said to have been the inspiration for the boathouse which plays a pivotal part in the novel (we won’t tell you how as we don’t want to spoil the plot for you if you haven’t yet read the book).

Looking across Polridmouth Cove and beach
Looking across Polridmouth Cove

Continue along the walking route by heading on the path up to the Gribbin Daymark. This is the most strenuous part of the walk, but that’s not to say it’s overly difficult. It’s a steady climb to the top and the views along the way are astounding. First mile completed!

Looking at the ascent towards Gribben Head
Looking at the ascent towards Gribben Head

See what we mean about the views! That’s Polridmouth in the foreground, then the entrance to Fowey harbour with Polruan on the clifftop.

Looking back towards Polridmouth with Polruan in the distance
Looking back towards Polridmouth with Polruan in the distance

If you’d like to explore more of the South Cornwall coast on foot you will enjoy doing a 5-mile circular walk from the pretty harbour town of Fowey. This walk takes you across the harbour to Polruan, along the coastal cliffs, and back to Fowey through the countryside via Bodinnick. Our article ‘A Great Walk in South Cornwall from Fowey‘ will be your guide for this stunning walk.

Up close to the Gribben Headland Daymark
Finally up close and personal to the Gribben Headland Daymark

When you get to the top of Gribbin Head…

The clifftop path towards Polkerris
The clifftop path towards Polkerris

The path continues round the Headland and away from the Daymark towards Polkerris. It’s a fairly gentle descent although the path is narrow in some places and there are a few stairs along the way.

Looking back over the cliffs towards the Gribbin Daymark
Looking back over the cliffs towards the Gribbin Daymark

Continue following the path for a couple of miles. As always in Cornwall, the views are gorgeous. In front of you you’ll see Par Sands and, as you get closer to Polkerris, secluded coves will come into sight. Behind you you can see the exposed rugged cliffs and the Daymark gradually disappearing from view. To your left, you’ll see the southwestern coast of Cornwall stretching for miles and miles into the distance. We’ve said this a lot about Cornwall but, it really is breathtaking!

Looking towards the coves and Par Sands beach
Looking towards Polkerris and Par Sands beach

At the end of the descent from the cliff top you need to turn back on yourself to take the path through the woods down to Polkerris Beach. The way ahead is a complete contrast to the panoramic coastal views. The woods have a fairytale-like quality to them, especially as the path winds and loops its way downwards. We almost expected to see a witch’s house made from sweets at the bottom (and we’d have been grateful for the sugar-rush!).

Path through the woods down to Polkerris Beach
Path through the woods down to Polkerris Beach

Finally the glorious sands of Polkerris Beach come into view.

Polkerris Beach is described as one of Cornwall’s best family beaches and so it can get fairly busy in peak season. It’s great for watersports (e.g. sailing, SUP, windsurfing) and, of course, swimming in the sea! Especially refreshing after a long walk!

There is a beach shop and The Hungry Sailor Café takeaway hut, as well as two places sit in to dine. The Rashleigh Inn is a traditional country pub in a non-traditional setting…the beach! It serves traditional pub food and Cornish cask ales and ciders. Our personal favourite is Sam’s on the Beach, housed in a building that was once an RNLI lifeboat station. The restaurant serves delicious seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes, all made with locally sourced ingredients. However, it’s the artisan pizzas which steal the show here. Eating a speciality pizza on the outdoor seating overlooking the beach and listening to the sound of the water is the stuff of holiday dreams!

Polkerris Beach
Polkerris Beach

Once you’re able to tear yourself away from Polkerris Beach it’s time to finish the last leg of the walk. Although refreshing yourself at Polkerris Beach will mean you’re not on your last legs (see what we did there?).

Head back through the woods to return to where you left the coastal path. This time, rather than continuing on the path, follow another through fields (passing the cars parked for Polkerris Beach) to reach the road for the Menabilly Barton car park. Turn right and follow this road all the way back to the car.

Along the way you’ll pass Tregaminion Chapel. On rare occasions, depending on the surrounding trees, it’s possible to see Manderley/Menabilly from the churchyard. We were delighted to get a tantalising glimpse of the rooftop and chimneys of the house.

A sighting of 'Manderley' in the distance
A sighting of ‘Manderley’ in the distance

We loved this walk for the fresh sea air, glorious views, and varying landscape. It’s a great distance for a walk that makes you feel fit and healthy, without being too arduous. We highly recommend it.

Now we’re back home, we’re dreaming of going to Manderley again!

For ideas on how to use your annual leave to get even more time off for work for experiences like this read How To Maximise Your Annual Leave.

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Walking in South Cornwall | Cornwall Coast Walks | Circular Walks in Cornwall | Circular South West Coast Path Walks | Following Daphne du Maurier | Rebecca | Menabilly | Gribbin Head | Gribben Headland Daymark | Polkerris Beach  | Beach Eats | UK Walks | National Trails
Walking in South Cornwall | Cornwall Coast Walks | Circular Walks in Cornwall | Circular South West Coast Path Walks | Following Daphne du Maurier | Rebecca | Menabilly | Gribbin Head | Gribben Headland Daymark | Polkerris Beach | Beach Eats | UK Walks | National Trails

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