St Agnes Head Lookout Loop
Enjoy a short stretch of the South West coast path, wander through the heathland, hunt for signs of the old Army camp, and spot diving gannets out near the Bawden Rocks.
St Agnes Head car park, TR5 0ST
Starting with the information sign on your left head straight toward the sea. You will soon see the first way-marker, follow the pink arrow and turn right on to the coast path.
Follow the path, keep the sea on your left, and head toward the white Coast Watch lookout hut. You will see the Bawden Rocks out to sea, also known as Man and his Man, and Cow and Calf.
The wind-pruned heath
The cliffs stretching from St Agnes Head to Porthtowan form one of the largest remaining tracts of heathland in Cornwall, most of the rest having been lost to agricultural use. The heath survives because the soils have been contaminated by the mining that previously took place here. The combination of soil conditions and salty winds blowing off the Atlantic means few plants other than heathers can survive. Even these grow very slowly in the most exposed areas, where they develop a distinctive wave like form. A suite of specially adapted invertebrates live within this patchy heath, including a remarkable diversity of spiders.
You will reach a point where the path curves steeply up to the right, but stay on the path you are on. Enjoy the wide sea views, and on a flat calm day look out for diving gannets and dolphins, they are often spotted by the Coast Watch volunteers.
You walk past another right hand fork in the path that leads up to the Coast Watch hut. They welcome visitors here when it is open, so pop up for a chat, ask them what they have seen, and take a look inside. If you don’t want to detour you will walk back past the Coast Watch hut on your way back along the road.
National Coastwatch Institution lookout
The first lookout here was probably established at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The present building, rebuilt by us, opened in 2009 and is leased to the NCI. The NCI, which is a registered charity founded in Cornwall in 1994, now maintains over 40 stations and has more than 1,700 uniformed volunteer watchkeepers. They keep a visual watch, monitor maritime radio and radar signals and record sea and weather conditions. The watch here is kept from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week throughout the year.
Stay on the coast path, enjoy the scenery, look and listen out for singing skylarks and stonechats. You will reach a way-marker with a pink arrow indicating right. This path leads back up to the road that you drove in on. So either loop up or back to follow the road, or turn around and retrace your steps along the coast path.
The Army camp here in 1939
During Cameron Camp between 1939 and 1940, a light anti-aircraft training camp was built here within five fields, and named after a local landowner. The camp contained lots of buildings; the partial remains of a few can still be seen today. The area is also covered by slit trenches, which are likely to have been made by infantry men during field exercises as they prepared for the D-Day embarkation to Normandy. After the war, the camp was used as a housing estate. This was bulldozed by the early 1970s and the rubble was used to backfill several old mine shafts.
Back where you started at St Agnes Head car park
You made it
Following this trail on mobile or tablet? Share your experience.