If you prefer the less hedonistic attractions of North Cornwall that lie outside of Newquay, then you may be thinking of giving the town a miss altogether, but this short trail out to Towan Head will at least give you an understanding of how and why the town developed.
I’m starting the trail at Killacourt which is the grassy area overlooking Towan Beach, and which can be reached from East Street. Ahead of you is Jago’s Island, one of the town’s most photographed images. There’s been a house on the island since the turn of the 20th century when it was probably somewhere nice and peaceful. Previous residents include Alexander Lodge, who has been credited with inventing the spark plug, but not at Newquay I hasten to add.
The area around Towan Beach was more used to seeing a different type of industry such as boat building and processing pilchards that were landed at the nearby harbour. To get to the harbour, walk up Beach Rd and turn right into Fore St. Hopefully you’ve chosen to do this trail at a time when people who prefer a pub crawl are still in bed because this is the centre of Newquay’s nightlife.
The harbour was used for exporting mineral ores and china clay as well as landing fish, and perhaps it’s also interesting to note that wagons were used to haul the minerals from Joseph Treffrey’s railway to the harbour via tunnels that are now used to house the boats of Newquay Gig Rowing Club.
Gig Rowing is a popular sport in Cornwall and the world championships are held every year on the Isles of Scilly. Gigs were used as far back as the 17thc, but their main purpose became carrying pilots out to incoming ships in order to steer them safely to shore. Needless to say, the quickest boat out there got the money for doing the job.
At the far end of the harbour, North Quay Hill leads to the S.W. Coast Path and the Huer’s Hut. This was obviously a good vantage point for a lookout post where shoals of pilchards could be spotted. These shoals of fish would cause an effect known locally as ‘shirming’ and the huer would use a long trumpet-like megaphone to let the fishermen know of the lucrative incoming catch. Unfortunately, there’s no need for a huer these days, but the hut is a picturesque reminder of days gone by.
Continue to walk along the coast path and make your way up to Towan Head where there’s another lookout point, but this one wasn’t built for keeping an eye out for fish, but for smugglers who used the holes in the cliffs below for hiding their illicit goods. For us law-abiders it’s a good place to finish our walk and take in Newquay’s beaches.
Down below to the left is Fistral Beach, a mecca for surfers, and then looking north the town’s Great Western, Tolcarne, Lusty Glaze and Porth beaches sweep towards Trevelgue Head, beyond which are even more expanses of sand at Watergate Bay.
From Towan Head it’s easy to understand why so many beach lovers and surfers are attracted here. Throw in some good nightlife as well and it’s obvious why youngsters have found Newquay very much to their liking.
To return to the town centre you can follow the path around to Fistral Beach past the Headland Hotel, and then turn left up Headland Rd, and then right into Beacon Rd and Fore St.