Last week the Kiwi and I decided to head out to our usual Saturday morning haunt – Porthcurno. I was a little worse for wear after a leaving do from the night before and, following a brief stint of recovery (face down) in the sand, we decided that even the relatively small crowds at Porthcurno were too large for this headache and decided to head out for the smaller and less busier cove of Porthgwarra nearby.
Not having visited before, we headed over on the recommendation of a friend who’d visited a few weeks ago on a coastal walk through the area. With a small beach and the majority of the entry into the water over rocks – this sounded like a perfectly anti-social place to curl up in the sunshine following a nice, quiet dip.
The drive down to the cove was daunting enough without the effects of last night taking it’s toll on this passenger. Small, winding roads barely the width of one car were only broken up by small passing spaces and would be enough to put off most drivers in anything bigger than a KA (so every car). So, even though the car park of Porthcurno had been overflowing at midday when we left – we were able to pull up into the car park at Porthgwarra without queue or overflow field.
As this area was new to us, we decided to take a look around and first headed up on to the small cliff overhanging the water in the centre of the bay. It was high tide and so the water lapped around the bottom of the protruding outcrop and thanks to a cloudless, sunny day, a next to no breeze whipping up the water and a heightened sense of emotion from the gin of the night before – the scene we were met with below was absolutely breathtaking.
The colours and clearness of the Porthgwarra cove resembled something much closer to the Caribbean rather than that of the Cornish coast. Or the ‘Coribbean’ as I’ve begun referring to it as in our weekly Instachart. The beautiful blues and aqua were broken up only by the yellows and oranges of the submerged rocks but, as the waters swirled around them, it soon became apparent that they haven’t been the only objects in this water to cause quite a stir recently.
It was clear from the outset as you paid for your car parking at the cafe till, with a happy snap of Aidan Turner looming over you, that this was indeed Poldark country. Images of Porthgwarra have probably been beamed into most of the living rooms of this country in the past 6 months but gone unnoticed thanks to a plague of hormone-induced backside-blindness in the young and old alike. Porthgwarra was the backside background of choice in the scene where Demelza spies Ross taking a naked dip.
Despite the beautiful day and the calmness of the water in the cove, for much of the time the Kiwi and I had the water to ourselves. Much to the irritation of the Poldark fans I’m sure, who wanted that perfect shot from the ‘Demelza spot’ and, instead of Ross Poldark, got wetsuit girl with last night’s makeup on.
Although the cove is often sheltered and the water extremely tranquil, I advise you, should you wish to take a dip, to stay within the confines of the bay. From the shore line, the silvery trail of a rip current was clearly visible and the water around Gwennap Head is notoriously unpredictable. This stretch of coast between Gunnard’s Head and Gwennap Head, where the English Channel from the east collides with the St George’s Channel from the west, is nicknamed ‘the Throes’ and has claimed over 130 ships, now wrecked on the ocean floor.
As with much of Cornwall, it’s working history has left a mark on the landscape and an intriguing feature of Porthgwarra cove are it’s two man made caves. Although highly likely that part of their history was engaged in smuggling, their original functions were on the less exciting side of the law.
The cave at the bottom of the slipway was cut by tin miners from St Just and provided horse and cart access for the farmers to collect seaweed for fertilising. The second, seaward facing cave provided access for the fishermen to the ‘hulleys’. The hulleys are still visible in the rock just down from the cliff. Big stone tanks in appearance, these were once covered by a wooden floor and cover and were used to hold shellfish until they were transported to market. The area is still prolific for shellfish and the Kiwi and I both watched a snorkeler who, after only 5 minutes of combing the sides of the clear channel, produced a crab of eating size which he had just plucked from one of the rocks. We caught up with him on dry land later on and he told us all about his fishing exploits in the cove, most notably his impressive hauls of sea bass which were of a size to feed 6. Or 1 hungover Beth.
After some unsuccessful searching for the resident seal, the Kiwi and I finally dragged ourselves up the coastal path to see the view from a higher vantage point before heading to the cafe and then heading home. Now we have the kayak, I’m certain that we will be back to explore the fishing potential of the cove (well we’ll have to since the kayak has financially set us back to eating Pot Noodles for a while – fish might be a nice change) so this post is merely an introduction to Porthgwarra for what is hopefully more to come. (We’ve since been back – armed with kayak, rod and snorkel! Check our guide to fishing in Porthgwarra here.)
It is true to say we were – are – hooked by the beauty and charm of this little fishing cove. Since moving down to Cornwall, the Kiwi and I have always maintained that Porthcurno was our favourite beach in Cornwall – if such a thing, to pick just one – is possible. But on this day, the mighty fell, nay – were nudged a little – and Porthgwarra became our favourite little ‘Coribbean’ spot.
Visited Porthgwarra? Or want to? We’d love to hear your feedback, it makes the Kiwi feel loved and it helps us write our future articles! You can get in touch with us using the comments section below, our Twitter and Facebook page or you can email us from our Contact page.
Live, laugh and always – eat Fish and Ch’u’ps!
Car Park: Yes, with overflow
Dogs: Allowed apart from between Easter Day and 30th September
Lifeguards: Not present but surf rescue equipment is available
Food & Drink: A small cafe with outdoor area