If you’ve yet to visit and discover Porthgwarra, I’d highly recommend it. You’ll find quiet coastal views and a taste of how Cornwall used to be.
Tucked away in west Cornwall is Porthgwarra, about 3 miles from Land’s End. Many know it as the beach from that famous Poldark scene. You know the one, when Demelza sees Ross swimming, as naked as a jaybird, and things are never quite the same again.
For many of us though, Porthgwarra has different connotations. For me it will always be a traditional, sleepy Cornish hamlet that offers an escape; a wonderful place to explore. It also was the first place where I learnt to paint.
Porthgwarra is known for its narrow approach and single track road, a few miles from Polgigga. Lots of websites describe driving down as “hard”, especially when it comes to meeting another car. I think this is now sorted, with several designated passing places now in situ. However, if you’re holidaying in Cornwall or not used to our roads, definitely practice reversing before you get here. It’s a skill you’ll need wherever you visit!
Thanks to Ross Poldark and co, I’d imagine Porthgwarra gets quite busy in the summer. Parking is easy, there’s a pay and display car park just opposite the beach.
There’s no denying Porthgwarra’s beauty. Visiting in winter meant that I had the beach all to myself. Personally, I love Cornwall when it’s like this. It feels totally unspoilt and I tend to feel like I’ve discovered somewhere new, even when I haven’t.
Unsurprisingly, Porthgwarra used to be known for fishing, with a small community forming here in the mid 1800s. Sadly, the last working fisherman retired here in the 1960s; I swear Cornish fishing is a dying trade and skill (but I don’t know for sure). Lord St Levan, who happens to live on St Michaels Mount, privately owns Porthgwarra but the public are welcome to visit.
I timed my visit to Porthgwarra right with the tide. Thankfully it wasn’t high so I could explore the two small tunnels to the left of the beach. These tunnels were made before the steep slipway was constructed. The bottom tunnel, heading towards the sea, was partly used to navigate boats down to the water. It also housed storage for shellfish which was kept in hulleys, which were built into the rocks. The top tunnel gave farmers access to the beach to collect seaweed for their land.
Porthgwarra is a rocky and bouldery cove making it great for rock pooling at low tide. Taking in the cliffs and stacked rocks that make up the coastline, their precarious positioning left me wondering when they would fall into the sea.
Walks from Porthgwarra
On the day of my visit to Porthgwarra, I planned to walk the south west coast path to Lands End. I’d already completed the Parkrun there the same day. Unfortunately the weather was a bit crazy. There were high winds and it was a challenge to stay upright. I made it to the coastguard lookout, at Gwennap Head, before deciding to be sensible and head back to my car.
Even so, I still enjoyed the views and seascape before me. Am I the only one who could look out to sea for hours? (You may want to check out this Instagram Reel, below, if you’re as captivated as me!)
On another day, I definitely want to run along the coast path to Lands End. This is about 3.5 miles (one way), and totally worth it for the views.
Moving in the same direction, I’ve a looped route I’d like to do, passing Porthcurno and the Minack Theatre. It’s about 5.5 miles but will probably take forever due to all the photo opportunities. You can’t put a price on the views though.
Feel free to download this map if you’d like to give it a try (and let me know what you think).
In the other direction you’ll find Lamorna Cove, which has similarities with Porthgwarra (there’s lots of rocks). I’ve a blog post about Lamorna Cove, detailing a running or walking route from Mousehole.
Porthgwarra Q & A
Is there anywhere to buy food and drink?
You’re in luck, here you’ll find the Porthgwarra Cove Cafe. It’s a small, cute place to relax with a cup of tea and slice of cake. They offer daily specials and are open 7 days a week. Do check for opening times, especially at low season. It was closed when I visited in February.
Does Porthgwarra have any facilities?
There are public toilets at Porthgwarra, take the path to the right of the Porthgwarra Cove Cafe. There’s a phone box but it’s no longer in operation (the phone isn’t there anymore).
Is Porthgwarra Cove dog friendly?
Like many beaches in Cornwall, there’s a seasonal dog ban here. Dogs are welcome except from July 1 and August 31, between 10am and 6pm.
Can you swim at Porthgwarra?
There is no lifeguard in operation at Porthgwarra. Do take care and read the relevant information before you visit, if you plan to have a sea swim. The general consensus is that swimming is safe within the confines of the cove. Further out strong currents are common.