Monday, 29 August 2016


The ‘Perran’ part of Perranporth derives from St Piran, the Patron Saint of Cornwall.  Legend has it that he was washed up on Perranporth beach, having been unceremoniously ejected from Ireland by an Irish King suspicious of his powers.  On his arrival he decided to set up an oratory where, the story goes, he found himself preaching Christianity to a congregation consisting of a badger, a fox and a bear.  The oratory was swallowed up by the sand from the surrounding dunes, but it was later excavated, then in 1981 it was buried again to preserve the structure.  The site is now marked by a memorial stone.  Another religious building to succumb to the dunes was the parish church dating from around 1150 and abandoned in 1804.  Only the ruined walls remain plus an ancient cross from the 10th century or earlier.  St Piran also lends his name to Piran Round, an Iron Age hill camp to the north-east of the village.  

Several centuries after St Piran’s arrival, tin and copper mining became the main activity in and around the village.  Perhaps this provided inspiration for Winston Graham, the author of the Poldark novels, who wrote the first one while living there.  Of course, the mining activity has ceased, but there are still reminders in the form of the remains of engine houses dotted around the landscape.  The Perranzabuloe Folk Museum tells the story of the mining industry as well as other aspects of local life (Perranzabuloe means ‘Perran in the sands’).  During the Second World War, there was a Spitfire Station at Perranporth Airfield.  The control tower has a memorial to the pilots who flew from here, who came from many different countries.  Today the airfield has been given over to more leisurely pursuits such as gliding.

Nowadays, Perranporth is a popular small resort where, as well as the sandy beach with caves and interesting rock formations, there is a golf course and a boating lake.  The big event of the year here is the Tunes In The Dunes festival, which takes place around late June/early July.  Penwartha Coombe is a tranquil oasis just outside the village, with a stream running through it.  A walk along the South West Coast Path heading west from Perranporth takes you past Droskyn Point, home to the Perranzabuloe Millennium Sundial.  The sundial tells Cornish time, which is 20 minutes ahead of GMT, so best not to set your watch by it.

Map of the area. 

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Photo by Rod Allday, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 18 August 2016


Crantock lies just the other side of the Pentire Peninsula from Newquay, but it feels worlds away from its raucous neighbour.  The beach is at the mouth of the River Gannel on the south side of the peninsula.  A short walk from the village brings you out onto the South West Coastal Path, from where there is a lovely view of the bay, with Goose Island just offshore, presumably named for its shape, which resembles a goose’s head.  Crantock village is named after the 6th century Saint Carantoc, and the parish church also bears his name.  There are stained glass windows in the church telling the story of the saint, and there are also some particularly fine wood carvings.

The beach at Holywell Bay is a vast golden swathe backed by sand dunes, with a stream running down and rock pools.  The view out to sea from here takes in a distinctive pair of rocks called Gull Rocks, particularly lovely when silhouetted against a gorgeous sunset.  Holywell village has a range of facilities including parking, and for golfers there is an 18-hole golf course just outside the village.  Anyone who has seen the film Summer In February about a group of artists based in Lamorna near Penzance will remember the horseriding scenes, with the characters galloping along a fabulous beach.  The beach at Holywell Bay was the one used for the filming, even though the action was supposed to be be taking place much further west.  See my sister blog Britain On Page and Screen for more details on the filming locations.  Walkers making their way along the coastal path between Crantock and Holywell Bay will happen upon the oddly named Porth Joke, a small sandy cove wedged between two headlands, also known as Polly Joke.  The name comes from the Cornish Pol Lejouack, which means Jackdaw Cove.

Live streaming webcam view of Crantock Bay. 

Map of the area.

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Crantock Beach with Goose Island. Photo by Nilfanion, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 13 August 2016


A glance at the 1967 edition of the Ward Lock Red Guide to North Cornwall reveals that in those days the nightlife in Newquay included dancing at the Blue Lagoon and Olde Tyme Music Hall at the Newquay Theatre.  Licensing hours in those days were 10.30 to 3.00 and 6.00 to 10.30 (12.00 to 2.00 and 7.00 to 10.30 on Sundays).  The town was described as “a bright and cheerful town possessing all the ingredients for a healthy, happy and interesting holday”.  Sadly, by the first decade of the present century Newquay had become a magnet for hedonistic teenagers fresh out of school, hell-bent on downing as much alcohol as their young bodies could take and more.  The resort possibly reached its nadir in 2009 with the launch of  “Newquay’s Biggest Bar Tour” which offered, for £16 a ticket, an alcohol-fuelled tour of some of the town’s rowdiest pubs.  On one particular night there were reports of a quiet residential street being invaded by hundreds of drunks committing lewd acts and terrorising the residents with their appalling behaviour.  This was also the year when two inebriated teens fell to their deaths from the clifftops in two separate incidents, almost inevitable given the town’s position strung out along the top of some very tall cliffs – part of its appeal along with the extensive sandy beaches.  

Needless to say, this situation could not be allowed to continue, and recently there have been encouraging signs of efforts to clean up the town’s image.  For example, clothing deemed to be offensive, such as the repulsive ‘mankini’, have been banned as part of a code of conduct for the Pubwatch scheme, which also covers the carrying of weapons and antisocial behaviour.  Which is good news, because Newquay has all the makings of the perfect resort, with something for everyone.  For the kids there is Newquay Zoo, with over 130 species ranging from cuddly favourites such as red pandas and meerkats to larger beasts such as African lion and zebra.  Trenance Gardens includes a boating lake, and the Blue Reef Aquarium has an underwater see-through tunnel.  Newquay boasts some of the country’s best surfing beaches, and there have been numerous international surfing competitions held there over the years.  Fistral Beach, which hosts some of the Boardmasters activities (see previous post)  is the main beach for surfing, and must rank as one of the best in Europe, if not the World.
One of Newquay’s best known landmarks is the tiny island just offshore, connected to the mainland by a private suspension bridge, and with a house proudly perched on top.  The house is currently available as a holiday let, but you’d have to be a banker or a politician to afford it – even in low season it costs nearly £2000 for a week for 6 people – mind, that does include a fully equipped bar, possibly a bit risky given the sheer drop down to the beach.  As for the suspension bridge, getting the luggage across to the property could prove interesting, and of course the guests would have to put up with the late-night parties on the beach below, which is apparently what drove the former owners, Lord and Lady Long, to put the house up for sale.  Another distinctive little building in the area is the Huer’s Hut, overlooking the bay on Towan Head, a reminder, along with the nearby harbour, of Newquay’s past as a fishing port.  The hut was used as a lookout where men would scan the sea for shoals of pilchards.  Just to the west of here, the Tea Caverns were excavated by miners in search of metal ores, and they were also used by smugglers for hiding contraband.

For a list of events in Newquay, see the Visit Newquay website. 

Webcam view of the Fistral Beach.

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Photo by Jaynie Bell, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 6 August 2016


This 2-mile stretch of golden sand is one of North Cornwall’s most popular surfing destinations, and in recent years the sand and surf have been supplemented with some excellent dining venues, most notably Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen. In fact surfing isn’t the only thing on offer here: the Extreme Academy has classes in a range of waterborne activities including some I’ve never heard of – waveski or hand planing anyone? The big event of the year at Watergate Bay is the Boardmasters Festival, which this year starts next week on the 10th August. As well as a major surfing competition, the festival includes a music arena featuring a range of bands. Skateboarders are also catered for, with the Canna Ramp hosting a Skate and BMX ramp contest. Like all good festivals, there is camping available and a host of eating, drinking, shopping and other goodies on offer. Let’s hope the weather cooperates so that all this hedonism is accompanied by some of Watergate Bay’s legendary sunsets.

Anyone who has been around as long as I have will remember the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, some of which was filmed in Cornwall. As an avid Beatles fan growing up in Cornwall, I remember being ridiculously excited at the prospect of bumping into them, a vain hope needless to say. The Fab Four arrived in the area in September 1967 during the Cornish leg of the tour, and while filming there they stayed at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, just along the road, but some of the filming took place at Watergate Bay.

Map of the area.

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Photo by Derek Harper, via Wikimedia Commons