This was my winter
2009 project, which I had hoped to walk with friend and neighbour Richard.
Unfortunately Richard got an injury and I ended up doing the walk solo.
The Smugglers Way is the creation of Frank Squibb of Falmouth, who walked
it in 1994 and published three editions of his guide booklet (see below),
the latest version in 2002. If you are competive (I'm not) you could
go for Richard Harvey's record of 6 hours and 48 minutes one way (he must
have been running) or Dave and Anne Carrivick's there-and-back time
of 21 hours and 37 minutes. Frank's booklet describes the route in
both directions with sketch maps. Route descriptions are clear and
easy to follow, maps are detailed enough. Frank divides the route
into 8 short stages, the longest 7.2 miles. From north to south -
the way I walked it - the trail runs from Boscastle harbour to Davidstow
Moor, over the summit of Brown Willy, on to Jamaica Inn, by Dozmary Pool
and over Brown Gelly to Dobwalls, on to Herodsfoot, and along the West
Looe River to the Banjo Pier at Looe. There is camping at New
Park Farm on the edge of Davidstow Moor and at Lower Trenant near Draynes.
I divided my walk into four sections averaging around nine miles each.
I used Ordnance Survey Explorer maps 111, 109 and 107 to help supplement
Frank's directions and maps.
start of the Smugglers Way
Use OS Explorer 111,109,107
Sadly, Frank Squibb died in January 2013. Shame thatt no one has kept his excellent Smugglers Way web site
Harbour to Davidstow Moor - about 8.5 miles
I did this first stage
at the end of February 2009. Unfortunately my friend and neighbour
Richard was injured and unable to walk but he generously helped with my
transport. Although Frank's first stage terminates at the BT mast
at the start of Davidstow Moor, I chose to continue to the end of Davidstow
Forest, from where you can see Roughtor and Brown Willy. I had thought
the next stage, to Jamaica Inn, to be the one to involve the greatest ascent
but I was wrong. This stage climbs 1000 feet but also has two descents
so the total climb is more like 2000 feet. The early part of the
walk follows the delightful valley of the River Valency. Where a
footpath sign sends you right down towards Lesnewth you could continue
for a little way to visit St. Juliot's church (pictured). Thereafter
there are two steep climbs, first up to Lesnewth, then up to Halwill Barton.
When I got to Lesnewth, County Council signs told me that the path to Tregrylls
was closed for bridge rebuilding. I ignored the sign and it wasn't
closed, the new duckboard bridges in Tregrylls were already in place.
The last 3 miles or so from Halwill Barton were sadly boring, road all
the way and no views until Davidstow Airfield. When you pass Davidstow
Creamery, do look out for their paranoid 'everything forbidden'
Ample parking in
Boscastle (pay) and Davidstow Moor (free)
Church, well worth the short detour
THE WAY Boscastle is worth lingering in if you have the
time. St. Juliot Church isworth the small detour for
Thomas Hardy connections, for the Simon Whistler engraved glass window
and the Cornish crosses in the churchyard. Lesnewth Church
for the Cornish Cross near the porch and for the superb lych gate with
its built in coffen stiles. Tregrylls Wood for the rushing
stream and an ancient simple Cornish wayside cross. Davidstow
Airfield for the Airfield and Cornwall at War Museum, and for
the many relics of its wartime role. Amazingly the airfield
was a venue for motor racing from 1952 to 1955 and hosted three Formula
Moor to Jamaica Inn, Bolventor - 8 miles + detours
I have little doubt
that this will be my favourite part of the Smugglers Way. I love
the high ground of Bodmin Moor and this section includes some of the very
best, the peaks of Roughtor and Brown Willy, the very first Bodmin Moor
tors that I ever visited. Richard was still injured so I did this
section, at the beginning of March 2009, as two solo out-and-backs to Brown
Willy, the first from Davidstow Moor, the second from Jamaica Inn.
This is a glorious walk with panoramic views from Roughtor and Brown Willy.
To get the best out of those views, I suggest you make a couple of detours.
Instead of heading straight down to the De Lank River crossing from Showery
Tor, I suggest you first continue along the ridge to the southern end of
Roughtor. And instead of heading down from the trig point on Brown
Willy, I suggest you first continue to the southern end of the Brown Willy
ridge. The route the whole way is entirely clear. Just be careful,
at the beginning., not to cut a corner and get into Crowdy Marsh, which
extends further east than shown on OS109. And after Brown Willy,
where the route is between the hedge and the wire fence, you will find
that, for much of the way to the gate leading to Tolborough Downs,
there is easier walking on Codda Downs, on the east side of the hedge.
Refreshments at Jamaica Inn.
from a prehistoric settlement to S
Ample free parking on
Davidstow Moor and at Jamaica Inn
THE WAY: Lanlavery: before the rocks, look
out for the grassy humps of the lost village and for two standing stones
(one fallen). Roughtor: logan stones on Showery
Tor and Roughtor itself and the Wessex Regiment memorial on Roughtor.
Willy: the massive bronze age burial cairn at the southern end
of the ridge. Views: from Brown Willy include both coasts,
GCHQ Steeple Point near Bude, clay country and Dartmoor.
I had expected this
to be a relatively easy section with only one climb of any note, that up
Brown Gelly. I had reckoned without the results of months of rain.
The road bit to Dozmary Pool was obviously no problem. It is worth
noting, though, that it should be possible to get off-road, using Dozmary
Downs, Open Access land. Difficult ground started at Dozmary Pool
Farm: boggy round the pool - where a gate was wrongly padlocked
- deep slurry in Redmoor Farm's lane to Brown Gelly - the gate here was
also padlocked - and heavily waterlogged going up Brown Gelly. The
Driftway, running alongside Park Pit was also pretty soggy.
From there, walking was easier. Draynes Common offered moderate views
east to the high moor. The road to Lower Trenant was steeply downhill
but a little boring. Walking was easy through Treverbyn Woods, above
the Fowey River.
Unfortunately, the last two miles from Treverbyn Bridge was, unavoidably,
all on roads. Refreshment opportunities are all at Dobwalls.
First Southern Gallery Coffee Shop just before the theme park, then Dobwalls
Theme Park itself, and finally the Highwayman Inn (open all day) by the
car park in Dobwalls itself. This was an enjoyable walk, marred only
by the final road section into Dobwalls.
Parking at Jamaica
Inn and in Dobwalls
looking towards Dozmary Pool Farm
In 2012, thanks to a farmer withdrawing his permission to use his land,
the official route after Brown Gelly no longer uses the Driftway and Draynes
Common. The new route uses road from the entrance to Park Pit to
the Two Valleys Walk. I can offer a not very legitimate alternative
from Brown Gelly to the Two Valleys Walk. You will find it in the
course of my Bodmin Moor Round Walk Colliford
THE WAY Dozmary Pool; legend has it as the
lake into which Sir Bedivere threw Excalibur; The Loe
near Helston makes a better candidate. Brown Gelly;
only 1100 feet but great long views and five impressive bronze age burial
cairns at the summit; there is also a massive hedge dividing
Brown Gelly Downs north to south. The Driftway is an
impressive remnant of an old drove road from Brown Gelly towards Draynes
Common. Draynes Common disappoints; no antiquities.
Woods is a lovely walk along the River Fowey in beech and bluebell
woods. Old Treverbyn Bridge is a handsome packhorse bridge
to the Banjo Pier at East Looe - 11 miles
Although there is
a little road in this section, it is not much and is mostly at the start
and finish. Although there is not a great deal of interest along
the way, this is well made up for by a delightful woodland and river section.
Pleasant small hamlets along the way include Scawn, Herodsfoot and Churchbridge.
After Scawn Mill the route follows the West Looe River, much of the time
with it in view. Then, after Herodsfoot you are soon into the first
stretch of woodland. Unfortunately this is commercial coniferous
woodland and, like all such, is essentially boring. This continues
for a couple of miles with, surprisingly since you might expect to be going
downhill all the way to the coast, a couple of longish uphill sections
in it. Happily, once you are out of Gillhill Wood, you begin to get
into broadleaf woodland and at Watergate you enter Kilminorth Wood with
your first view of the tidal stretch of the West Looe River. This
makes a delightful walk and will be even better with trees are in leaf
and bluebells in bloom. Once in Looe
you have to negotiate the massive Millpool car park and cross the bridge
into East Looe. I suggest, however, particularly if the tide is in,
taking a waterside walk along the West Looe side of the river to enjoy
the views across the water to East Looe's working waterfront. The
detour need add only half-a-mile or so.
The old lifeboat
house near Looe's Banjo Pier
places to eat in Looe, incl. good fish and chips.
THE WAY Dobwalls: a simple wayside cross at
a crossroads half-a-mile south of Dobwalls. Herodsfoot:
an attractive hamlet with an interesting direction sign. Trelawne
Farm: just before Watergate, this was presumably once part of
the Trelawn estate, birthplace of Bishop Trelawney, imprisoned in the Tower
by James II and subject of Parson Hawker's Cornish anthem, Song of the
Western Men. Kilminorth Woods: approaching
Looe, a delightful walk through broadleaf woodland along the West Looe
River. East Looe: the town has a fish market and
Cornwall's third largest fishing fleet, despite a difficult tidal harbour.
There are some interesting buildings along and near the waterfront, and
some good places to eat, but the overall impression is of tourist tat.
Beware expensive parking though, if you don't mind the extra walk, you
could park for free along the front at Hannafore.