Crantock Beach is beautiful, all wide sweeping sands, backed with towering dunes – and dog friendly all year. But if you visit at low tide, there’s so much more to explore up river.
The River Gannel rises at Indian Queens, flows north to the coast and enters the sea at Crantock. And the estuary, just back from the beach, draws a very firm line between the sprawl of Newquay and the wilds of the north coast. The retreating waters of a low tide reveal huge sand banks, a winding channel and a veritable haven for bird life. The river is also known for the legend of the Gannel Crake, an errie ‘cry’ sent out over the water – in the 19th Century it was described as “a thousand voices pent up in misery, with one long wail dying away in the distance”. Don’t let this put you off – it’s actually very peaceful, with lots of chattering birds and wildfowl.
We like to head here bang on low tide – when the water’s slack. Park up in the beach car park (National Trust), head onto the beach and then around to the right, following the amble of the channel up stream. You’ll pass the tiny Fern Pit Cafe and Ferry house on the opposite side of the water, and huge houses strung out on the banks of Pentire Point, their gardens clambering down the steep headland. Most of the walk is over sand, there are however a couple of rocky stacks to clamber over as the river bends to head eastwards again.
Further upstream and the sand really opens up, with huge water pools, a footbridge over to the east side, and the tranquil Penpol Creek – which is where we head in land. There’s a lovely little ford with a river rushing through – follow the tarmac road uphill – past clumps of snowdrops and daffs in spring – and then take the footpath to the right, just before the first house. This goes back around the headland on the Coastal Path, delivering you right back to where you started.
This takes us about an hour – we don’t particularly hurry.
For food and drink locally we’d recommend the Smuggler’s Den Inn just outside Cubert, but there is also the Bowgie just up on headland overlooking the beach.
Lots more pictures below the map.