A visit to the Bedruthan steps is one to add to your Cornwall bucket list.
The constant pounding of the sea on the coastline has created huge wave swept stacks stretching out across the beach which continue to change as the softer rock erodes over time resulting in a dramatic and spectacular seascape that shows off natures power at it’s best.
Whats In A Name?
Each of the stacks has a name and they are Queen Bess, Samaritan Island, Redcove Island, Pendarves Island and Carnewas Island. Samaritan Island is named after a ship called “the Good Samaritan” which was wrecked there in October 1846 with the loss of nine lives. Queen Bess was named because of it’s likeness to Elizabeth I, before part of the head eroded into the sea during a storm in 1982.
As the legend goes, the name comes from the mythical Cornish giant Bedruthan who used the beach stacks as stepping stones to take a short cut across the bay. The name, now used for the general area and beach, was in reality first dreamt up in a local newspaper during Victorian times, and is thought to refer to one of the two original cliff staircases used by miners to access the mine workings or for removing washed up cargo from the many shipwrecks in the area before Trevose lighthouse was built.
In keeping with this stretch of coastline, Carnewas mines operated here in the 1800’s and the evidence of mine shafts remains today, with the National Trust cafe and shop both being housed in former mine buildings. As nearby Newquay developed into a holiday resort during Victorian times, the Bedruthan steps grew into a popular visitor attraction and has remained a firm favourite for visitors to Cornwall ever since.
The power of the sea and strong currents make the sea here treacherous but the beach can be accessed at low tide via the steep cliff side steps. The steps have had to be re-built several times due to the power of natures force on the wild coastline and the current steps were built by the National Trust in the 1990’s. Cliff erosion is held back by netting and the lowest few steps get covered at hight tide.
Whilst the views from the top of the cliff at Carnewas Point are completely breathtaking, if you are up for negotiating the 142 or so steep zig-zagging steps down the cliff (and more importantly back up again!) visit at low tide and get down onto the beach, it is well worth the effort. It is only standing on the beach that you can truly appreciate natures majestic power and the size of the stacks rising out of an expanse of golden sand. “There is something of the marvelous in all things of nature” Aristotle
For a different kind of wow factor, you need to visit at sunset – the area has designated dark sky status where you can see the milky way with the naked eye. The National Trust has put in a sky glade with benches where you can lie back and view the vast cloudscapes and do some star gazing at Carnewas Point. There are regular free astronomy events held by the local group during the year.
You can park at Pentire Farm or Park Head and do a great circular coast walk past the steps: http://www.iwalkcornwall.co.uk/walk/bedruthan_steps or there is a car park providing nearby access at Carnewas Point, and there is a National Trust cafe here if you need a refuel after making it back up the steps!