Day Trip – Our Guide to Porthleven
Exuding Cornish charm and tradition, Porthleven is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Although it's a sleepy traditional fishing village, there's a real vibrant sense of community with bustling pubs and foodie hot spots. It's only a twenty minute drive from St Michaels Hotel, and is the ideal in-between base for exploring the Lizard Peninsula and Land's End. From walking and eating to beach days and art, here's our guide to spending the perfect day in Porthleven...
As you walk along the road to Porthleven beach which runs along the left-hand side of the harbour, you’ll conveniently stumble upon Nauti But Ice. This relaxed little cafe serves the most indulgent local ice-creams from Roskilly’s farm – ponder over sweet treats from banoffee or apple crumble to honeycomb or salt caramel. Continue past the colourful houses on Bay View Terrace, until you reach the iconic clock tower. Once round the corner, you’ll find steps down to the beach.
This large arc of golden sand promises panoramic views of Mount’s Bay and beyond. Although popular in the summer, its large expanse means that it’s never crowded. Bustling with rock pools and small coves lining the edge to provide shelter, the beach is a gorgeous swimming spot at high tide.
If you’re bringing your dog for a day of exploring the coast path, the majority of the beach is also dog friendly (apart from a small section closest to the harbour.) When the tide is out, you can walk east along the beach for three miles, past Loe Bar and then hit Penrose Estate – a wooded retreat full of secret paths around Cornwall’s largest natural lake.
With the likes of Rick Stein setting up shop and Antony Worrall Thompson being patron of Porthleven’s annual food festival, the town is getting recognised by Cornwall’s growing foodie circuit. Small fishing boats land their daily catch in Porthleven harbour, which then find themselves on the menus of Porthleven’s pubs, restaurants and fishmongers. Here’s a few of our favourites…
THE SHIP INN – Head here to this eighteenth century smugglers’ pub which its atop a stack of stone steps looking out to the mouth of the harbour. A true Cornish pub with home-made hearty food on the menu, expect to soak up the atmosphere of bygone days with a tankard of local ale in your hand as you sit in the company of old local characters.
HORSE AND JOCKEY BAKERY – One to pop into if you’re on the go, as it’s ideal to slip some moreish pastry treats into your rucksack if you’re strolling the coast path. With proper pasties filled with big chunks of meat and veg (and lots of lovely sweet options too), this well-known Cornish spot is a hit with Porthleven’s pasty connoisseurs.
KOTA KAI BAR AND KITCHEN – Sister to the more formal Kota, this establishment is an award-winning family restaurant ran by chef Jude Kereama and his wife Jane. It occupies the whole of the top floor of Celtic House and has unbeatable views across Porthleven harbour and beyond. Kota is Maori for shellfish (Jude is half Maori, quarter Chinese and quarter Malaysian) and the restaurant is renowned for its stunning seafood with a signature Asian twist.
SEADRIFT – With ample brunch options and desserts to drool over, this tiny kitchen also offers a whole bevy of daily fish specials. Head here on a Tuesday night for their steak deal for two (and bottle of wine) for £28.
AMELIES AT THE SMOKEHOUSE – Gaze out at boats bobbing in the harbour, through the large glass doors or on the terrace. Dine on lobster caught fresh just in front of you, or dive into one of their infamous burgers. When the sun sets, the tealights are lit and Amélies is transformed into an intimate restaurant on the waterfront.
OUR TOP PORTHLEVEN ACTIVITIES
1. A combination of net lofts, white painted houses and palm trees add to the ambient atmosphere of Porthleven. Spend an hour or two chilling in the sun on the grassy lawn as you first drive into the village (above view). Look out across the picture-perfect harbour, constructed in Napoleonic times with the aid of French prisoners of war. Porthleven is the most southerly port of mainland Great Britain, and every summer’s day you’ll see brave local children leaping from the harbour into the water below.
2. The town attracts many top level surfers, so if you’re experienced, it’s definitely worth packing the board and venturing out to sea. The ground swell can produce waves of up to 5 meters and is regarded as one of the best places for expert surfing in Cornwall due to the small reef to the right of the harbour. If you’re not an adrenaline-seeker, it still makes for some fantastic surf watching and camera snapping.
3. There’s plenty of independent shops to browse in. With trading days on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday each week from March to October, Porthleven Harbour Market is a good place to start for local crafts, clothes and tasty Cornish morsels. Whilst there, continue along the right-hand side of the harbour where you can wander down the steps to the Lifeboat Art Studio to scout out some local artists’ work on display. The salt cellar workshops are famous for their woven willow baskets (as well as home-made hats and glasswork) and Bijou Box sells beautiful jewellery.
4. Porthleven draws in many talented artists and craftspeople. There are several galleries dotted around, including the Four Crows Gallery, Bumbles, and the historic Custom House Gallery.
5. Visit Penrose Estate – a mixture of rich farmland and woodland around Loe Pool, through which there are many paths to explore. Take some time to visit the church of St Winwalloe, which huddles low against the wind in the lee of a rocky headland at Church Cove. Either side of this headland are two sandy coves and the Gunwalloe valley reedbed provides a haven for a wide variety of birdlife.
Walking the coast path from Porthleven harbour will quickly reveal spectacular views with swooping seagulls. Head east to wander above sandy beaches or west above rocky coves and beside farmland. Disused mines, hidden shipwrecks and other memorials to past times in Cornwall can be found along each way.
Head past the Ship Inn out of the village towards Penzance and Lands End to spot rare Cornish choughs and disused engine houses near Rinsey. You’ll eventually hit the wide sandy beach at Praa Sands.
If you head south east out of Porthleven, the path will take you towards the Lizard Point. Follow Cliff Road to Loe Bar – formed in the 12th century, this sandbank was created by storms which cut off the Cober Valley from the sea. The sea is dangerous here and many ships have been lost near Loe Bar, but it’s a great spot for a picnic, kite surf or fishing trip. Here you can take a detour around Loe Pool into the Penrose Estate for woodland walks. Or, you can continue on the Cornwall coast path to Church Cove, Mullion Cove and the Lizard Peninsula.