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Padstow is an ancient town dating back to around 2500 BC but it was not until the arrival of St Petroc in the 6th Century that the town began to develop. Situated at the mouth of the River Camel and sheltered from the prevailing wind, the town is centred around the harbour with cottages, small narrow streets, quays, cafes, restaurants and small shops of every description. The main attraction of Padstow is undoubtedly its natural beauty, from its tiny streets to its magnificent walks along the golden sands.
What to do:
Just relax or walk on one of the many beaches
Fishing trips either in the estuary for mackerel or deep sea wreck or shark. Or just from the beach or rocks
Speed boat trips
Local golf course
Bicycle hire: Follow the old Camel trail to Wadebridge and beyond. An excellent day out.
Summary: Padstow is surrounded by some of the best beaches in Cornwall, lovely area to spend a holiday. A very popular resort where visitors return on a regular basis.
Nestling in a sheltered position on the western side of the River Camel Estuary, Padstow has been a welcome haven for vessels for centuries. It is the only safe harbour on this part of the Cornish north coast.
The town has been a settlement for different people including the prehistoric 'Breaker Folk', Romans, and marauding Vikings.
The silting up at the mouth of the River Camel in the 19th century created an additional hazard and is perhaps aptly named 'Doom Bar'. At certain stages of the tide the Atlantic rollers hit the bar and an un-passable barrier is created.
Padstow was originally called 'Petrocstow', after the missionary, St Petroc landed here in the 6th century. St Petroc Major Parish Church still bears his name.
Today, the harbour and nearby streets are a favourite destination for thousands of visitors throughout the summer, and now to a lesser degree for the whole of the year. What is interesting is the narrow streets and tightly packed slate hung buildings in the old quarter, this has managed to retain much of its medieval character.
The sea is never far away in Padstow, and now made even more popular with the coming of the famous chef and restaurateur Rick Stein.
To explore Padstow one should begin at its focal point, the harbour, home to the fishing fleet and a host of pleasure boats. The rise and fall of the tide is resisted by means of a sluice gate. Also found here are some of Padstow's oldest buildings including, on the south quay, 'Raleigh's Cottage'. Sir Walter Raleigh once loved here when he was Warden of Cornwall. Also is the 'Harbour Cottage', Raleigh's count house, where he collected the taxes.
Padstow May Day: The village continues to celebrate May Day in a traditional way that has its origins back in Pagon times. It begins at midnight on the eve of May Day and lasts throughout the 1st May. The locals sing in the new morning and then follow the 'Obby-Oss' (a man in a black frame wearing a mask) around the narrow streets until late eveing. Needless to say, the pubs are very busy and everyone has a good time.
Charles Dickens visited Padstow in 1842 and inspired by the ancient port wrote the famous novel, 'A Christmas Carol'.
Padstow has an enviable position, set back as it is from the mouth of the River Camel. At low tide it is just a long stretch of open sand which is of excellent quality as are the local beaches which abound around the area.
Immediately across the estuary is the extremely popular small resort of 'Rock'. A passenger ferry connects the two. More of Rock can be seen on the Rock page.
Padstow Tourist Attractions: The attractions in Padstow are quite low key compared to some, it does not have such major attractions such as:
The Eden Project, this is about a 45 minute drive
The Lost Gardens of Heligan, just over an hours drive
The Tate Gallery and Barbara Hepworth Museum at St Ives, just over an hour away
The National Maritime Museum at Falmouth, just over an hour
It does have:
Prideaux Place: On the north side of Padstow off the B3276, a magnificent Elizabethan Mansion that for over 400 years has been the home of the Prideaux-Brune family, an ancient Cornish family that goes back to the 11th century and the 26 times removed grandfather, William the Conqueror. The house was built in 1592 with later additions. The house has 81 rooms, 44 of which are bedrooms. Visitors to the house can see a wealth of family and royal portraits, fine furniture, exquisite porcelain and a splendid 16th century plaster ceiling in the great chamber. The house is complimented by fantastic gardens and parklands including one of the oldest deer parks in England.
There is much more information available on this great house, a visit is highly recommended.
Shires Family Adventure Park: Enough to keep the whole family happy for hours. Numerous farm animals, woodland walks, adventure playground and indoor play area. Refreshments in the Camelot Café.
Boat Trips: A host of boat/fishing trips are available from the harbour. An unusual one and very popular when the tides permit are the high speed boat rides in the estuary.
National Lobster Hatchery: Visitors can see Lobsters developing from eggs into juveniles ready to be released into the wild.
The Camel Trail: An old railway track is now the Camel Trail. A footpath/cycle way to Wadebridge and beyond. It enjoys some marvelous views over the River Camel estuary.
The Saints Way: An ancient route from Padstow to Fowey. (approx. 30 miles)
Rick Stein Restaurant: Although a very popular destination before the Rick Stein Restaurant came to Padstow, there is no doubt with all the television exposure that Rick Stein brings, visitors to Padstow have increased considerably. If wishing to eat in the restaurant, and I know from experience that the meals are excellent, it is very advisable to book.
Padstow Beach: Just to the north of the town and easily accessible via the coastal footpath is a lovely stretch of sand from St Georges Cove to Harbour Cove and Hawkers Cove. The walk from Padstow takes about 20 minutes with superb views over the River Camel Estuary.
Facilities: All facilities are available in Padstow.
Warning: There are no lifeguard services and there are strong estuary currents. For these reasons bathing is not recommended.
Dogs: Banned from Hawker Cove from Easter Day to October 1st. Allowed at Harbour Cove and Hawkers Cove.
Trevone Beach: Just a short drive from Padstow. A lovely sandy beach, ideal for families. Patrolled by lifeguards it provides safe bathing.
Facilities: Parking - toilets - café.
Dogs: No dogs during the summer months.
Just around the headland from Trevone Beach is:
Rocky Beach: Popular with children who love to explore rock pools. There is a semi natural swimming pool which is changed and filled at high tide.
Harlyn Bay Beach: Just to the east of Trevose Head is Harlyn Bay. The beach is just under a mile long of sand and pebbles backed by sand dunes which in turn are backed by cliffs. Access to the beach is through Harlyn Village.
Facilities: Car park - toilets - café - pub - life guard.
Good for surfing and walks.
Dogs: Seasonal dog ban
Constantine Bay: An excellent sandy beach backed by large sand dunes. To one side is Trevose Head to the other leading around the point to Treyarnon Bay there are numerous rock pools popular with children hunting crabs and small fish. Some of the pools are large enough to swim in.
Facilities: Parking - toilets - lifeguard.
Summary: A good bathing/surfing beach with excellent cliff top walks
Just around the point from Constantine Bay is:
Treyarnon Beach: A small sheltered beach, popular during the summer months. There is a large natural swimming pool in the rocks with the water changed every high tide. The beach can be approached by road or by a pleasant walk along the cliff path from Constantine.
Facilities: Parking - Toilets - Café - Life Guard.
Dogs: Seasonal ban
Summary: Good for bathing/surfing and walks
Porthcothan Beach: A lovely sandy bay sheltered by sand dunes and headlands with rock pools for children at low tide.
Porthcothan is part of the 'seven bays for seven days' group of beaches, these include, Constantine, Trevone, Harlyn and Treyarnon, all of which are close together.
The cliffs to the north of Porthcothan are owned and protected by the National Trust. This makes for plenty of wild life and a diverse flora and fauna. For the walker there are magnificent views towards Trevose Head and Lighthouse.
Facilities: Parking - Toilets - café - lifeguard
Dogs: Banned during the summer months
Summary: A premier family beach ideal for surfing and walks.
Trevose Head: A wild place carved out of hard volcanic rock. Excellent walks along the cliffs with a wide variety of wildlife and flowers. If you are really keen, excellent fishing can be enjoyed from the rocks to the right of the lighthouse. However extreme caution should be taken as the headland is wide open to the Atlantic rollers and conditions can be extreme.
The 'Southwest Coastal Path' goes through Trevose Head on its 600 mile journey from South Dorset to North Somerset.
The Victorian lighthouse on the head was erected in 1845 and is open to visitors on weekdays.
Padstow Accommodation: The accommodation in Padstowis mostly close to the town centre and comprise of:
Padstow guesthouses - Considering the popularity of Padstow these are not numerous, there are a limited number in the town area but as the whole area around Padstow consists of small resorts other guest houses are found throughout the region.
Padstow self catering - these are split into two categories:
Cottages in Padstow, these are quite numerous, many are basically second homes being let out when not in use by the owners. Unfortunately, like most popular places in Cornwall this tends to increase the cost of property putting it out of reach of the local population.
The hotels in Padstow are not numerous but they tend to be of excellent quality.
Many of the hotels in Padstow like the guest houses are to be found in surrounding other small resorts although there are a limited number of hotels in Padstow itself.
The Padstow camp sites and caravan parks are all on the outskirts in the surrounding countryside. The size and geography of Padstow does not lend itself to this type of accommodation.