Port Isaac Bay scenic drive

The route takes you through Delabole to Port Gaverne where slate was once shipped out from England's largest slate quarry. The route follows the coast south through the pretty fishing villages of Port Isaac and Port Quin to the goldy sandy beaches of Lundy Bay and Polzeath. At this point you can either head back on the main roads or opt for a longer return route which heads round into the Camel Estuary to Daymer Bay and Rock and then inland through the villages of St Minver and St Kew and returns along the verdant Allen Valley.

  • Longer route:40 miles round trip (2-2.5 hours driving time)
  • Shorter route:35 miles round trip (1-1.5 hours driving time)

Map of the route


The outbound route is in blue, the shorter return route is shown in red and the longer return route is in yellow. You can double-click to zoom in and drag to scroll the map, and click on any of the icons for more information. You can also view a larger map in a new tab/window.

Directions

Engine house at the Prince of Wales slate quarry in Trewarmett, near Tintagel
Engine house
Delabole slate quarry in Cornwall
Delabole slate quarry
Slate transported from Delabole to Port Gaverne (ca 1900)
Slate taken to the coast
Port Gaverne in North Cornwall
Port Gaverne
Slate being loaded at Port Gaverne in North Cornwall (ca 1900)
Slate being loaded
Boats in Port Isaac harbour
Port Isaac harbour
The narrow streets in Port Isaac - a Cornish fishing village
Port Isaac streets
Port Quin - a tiny fishing village in North Cornwall
Port Quin
Old pichard sheds at Port Quin in North Cornwall
Pilchard Sheds at Port Quin
Blackthorn blossom at Lundy Bay
View of Lundy Bay from the path
Coastline near Lundy Bay in North Cornwall
Coastline at Lundy Bay
The beach at Polzeath in North Cornwall
Polzeath
Daymer Bay near Polzeath in North Cornwall
Daymer bay at low tide
Dunes at Daymer Bay in North Cornwall
Path to Rock
Boats beached low tide at Rock in the Camel Estuary in North Cornwall
Rock at low tide
Sharp's beer
Sharp's beer from Rock
Pious bird carving at St Minver church in Cornwall
Pious bird at St Minver
St Kew's church
St Kew's church
The restored medieval window of St Kew
The restored medieval window
  • Turn right onto the B3263 and drive down Trewarmett Hill and up the valley passing slate quarries on either side. At the top of the road is a sharp bend to the left of which is Condolden Barrow (access is up a lane to the left).
  • The location, overlooking Tintagel, and massive proportions of Condolden Barrow suggests that a figure of considerable importance is buried here. Thomas Hardy presented it as the final resting place of Queen Isolde in his play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, about a pair of doomed lovers, Tristan and Isolde, who were much like Lancelot and Guinevere.

    Many scholars believe that the barrow is the burial place of Cador, the sixth century king of Cornwall. In the 12th century poem The Dream of Rhonabwy, Cador is described as one of Arthur's knights and is said to have led the British warriors in their rout of the West Saxon army at the Siege of Mount Badon. Cador is also mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain as Arthur's sword bearer at his coronation and a caretaker of Guinevere.

  • Follow the main road round the sharp bend to the right and to a T-junction. At the T-junction turn right on the B3314 to Delabole.
  • Delabole Quarry is over a mile in circumferance and was once the deepest man-made pit in the world. It is England's oldest slate quarry; the first written records of a slate order date from 1314 and slate almost certainly from Delabole has been found in prehistoric settlements on Bodmin Moor. Delabole slate is noted for its uniform colour, durability and imperviousness to rain, making it ideal for roofing. There is a visitor centre (open Mon to Fri 8am - 4:30pm) with some interesting historical photos including the Duke of Windsor (then Prince of Wales), plummeting down the tram line into the quarry! Guided tours of the quarry are available at 2pm daily, Mon-Fri from the start of May to the end of August.

  • Follow the B3314 out of Delabole passing some left turns to St Teath. Take a right turn to Port Gaverne.
  • Port Gaverne, the tiny settlement and inlet neighbouring Port Isaac, was more prominent than Port Isaac in the past. In fact, the settlement at Port Gaverne dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded in the 1300s. The sheltered inlet made it a good place to launch boats and it is still a popular place to launch small craft today.

    The name was previously recorded as Port Kerne and on maps from the 1800s as Port Keverne. One of the quirks of the Cornish language is that "k" often transforms into "g" when placed after another word, which might have resulted in Porthgeverne (which is not far from how some of the locals still pronounce it).

  • Follow the road up the hill to Port Isaac. Park in the car park at the top of the hill and walk if you want to explore Port Isaac (the roads are extremely narrow).
  • Port Isaac is a pretty fishing village with narrow winding alleys running down the steep hillside to the harbour. Particularly noteworthy is the number of 18th and 19th century white-washed cottages and granite, slate-fronted houses, many officially listed as of architectural or historic importance. Port Isaac was a busy coastal port from the Middle Ages to the mid 19th century, where cargoes like slate, coal and timber were shipped in and out. The stone pier was built in Tudor times, and the rest of the harbour in the 19th century. The economy was also heavily based around the pilchard trade.

  • Take the main road out of Port Isaac (B3267) to a T-junction. Turn right onto the B3314 to St Endellion.
  • St Endellion lies on the B3267 just past the turning to Port Isaac. There is a music festival in St Endellion every Easter and summer and the church is a popular venue for classical music concerts.

  • In St Endellion turn right just before the church (signpost to Port Quin) and follow the road to Port Quin.
  • Port Quin is a tiny cluster of fisherman's cottages around a sheltered inlet in Port Isaac Bay. In the early 19th century, the settlement of Port Quin had upwards of 20 houses but was then suddenly deserted. There is a local legend that one night, a violent gale sank the entire fishing fleet, leaving 32 women widowed. The name is a corruption of the Cornish "Porth Gwynn" which means "white cove". Portwenn - the Anglicised version of this - is used as the name of the fictional village in the ITV Comedy Drama series "Doc Martin". The harbour itself was used for filming the 1970s Poldark series.

  • Follow the lane south up the hill from Port Quin which ends in a T-junction at a staggered crossroads. Turn right and follow the road past the Portreath Bee centre. Just past here the road forks. Take the right fork signposted to Lundy Bay.
  • Lundy Bayis situated on the east side of The Rumps headland and consists of 3 small beaches. The leftmost two are sometimes known as Lundy Beach and between them there is a collapsed cave, forming an arch opening onto the beach. At high tide, the beaches are rocky, but at low tide, beautiful golden sand is revealed.

    Due to the north-facing bay and steep cliffs, it's quite sheltered from a southwesterly wind. The result is that when there is a good size swell, there can be some quite clean surf here near low tide when the westerly-facing beaches are blown out. The beach slopes more steeply than many of the west-facing surf beaches, so rides tend to be short.

  • Follow the road past Lundy Bay and turn left at the crossroads, through the caravan park to a T-junction. Turn right at the T-junction to Polzeath.
  • The name Polzeath comes from the Cornish words for "dry" and for "pool/harbour", perhaps because there is a beach at all stages of the tide. Down the left side of the beach, there are some good rockpools at low tide. The rest of the beach is very flat and sandy, which can make for some long rides (and paddles!) if you are surfing. This also means that in the shallows, the waves are small which makes it safer for small children to paddle or surf than some of the steeper beaches further north. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards and there is usually a separately flagged malibu area to avoid surfers mowing down swimmers.

    The tide goes out and comes in a long way so bear that in mind to avoid floating picnics. In the event of such a catastrophe or for those more inclined, there are a number of cafés around the beach and even a grocery shop. There is often an ice cream van on the beach in the summer, so parents may want to be armed with change to avoid diplomatic incidents.

At this point you can opt for a shorter route by doubling back at Polzeath and following the main road back onto the B3314, turning left back through St Endellion to Delabole. Alternatively you can follow the instructions below for the longer route:

  • Follow the road at Polzeath past the beach and up the hill to Trebetherick where a lane runs from the Post Office to the car park at Daymer Bay.
  • Daymer bay is situated around the corner from Polzeath, facing into the Camel Estuary. The beach lies directly in front of the car park, down a short flight of steps. The sheltered estuary means that Daymer Bay is popular for windsurfing, kitesurfing etc. There is a beach at all states of the tide and the waves are never very big so it's a safe place to take young children paddling, though in deeper water the tidal river currents can be strong so swimming out into the estuary is not advised.

  • As you come out of Trebetherick, take the right turn to Rock just before the road bends sharply to the left. The road comes out at a crossroads - right leads to the beach which you may want to explore.
  • Due to its sheltered position in the Camel Estuary, Rock has been popular for sailing for decades. There is a car park with toilets and a slipway to launch boats into the estuary. Rock is also home to Sharp's brewery. There is a pub, next to the car park, which serves food, and a café. A passenger ferry to Padstow runs frequently and, if it's not too busy, will let you take bikes across.

  • Then head away from the beach through Splatt and Tredizzick to a T-junction. Turn right into St Minver.
  • The parish name St Minver (Sen Menvre in Cornish) is named after the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Menfre was one of the 24 children of the 5th Century Celtic king Brychan.

  • Carry on through St Minver and cross the B3314. Follow the lane until your reach St Kew.
  • St Kew is mentioned earlier in history than any other place in Cornwall since it appears in the 6th century work: "The Life of St Samson". The parish is named after the sister of the Welsh saint who founded a monastery in or near the village.

  • Pass the St Kew Inn and the church and follow the road until it comes out on the A39. Turn left on the A39 through St Kew Highway and down into the Allen valley.
  • When you reach Knights' Mill take the B3267 to St Teath. Follow the road through St Teath until it comes out at a T junction onto the B3314. Turn right into Delabole and follow the road through Delabole.

The shortened route resumes here:

  • If your appetite for "proper" Cornish lanes hasn't been exhausted take turning left onto Trebarwith Road just past Lugg's garage; the route involves a steep hill with a hairpin bend - it you don't fancy this then just head straight through Delabole and back the way you originally set out.
  • If you opted for the Trebarwith Road route then take the first lane to the right from Trebarwith Road. This ends in a steep hill and near the bottom of the hill is a steep bend.
  • At the bottom of the hill, turn left and drive up Trewarmett Hill to Park Farm.