I’ve just seen Porthleven through visitors’ eyes, and what a wonderful location it is.
Growing up in West Cornwall with parents who liked to get out and about at every opportunity, I’m familiar with most of the towns and villages in the far west.
I’ve just accepted Porthleven as a pretty place, and thought little more of it.
But at the weekend friends invited us to stay with them in the town, and it enabled me to see the lovely port with different eyes.
The UK’s most southerly port still feels like a real town, with a strong population involved in fishing, the arts, and of course tourism. There are a number of brightly coloured boats in the harbour all year around, and often you’ll see the gig Lowen Mor (loosely translates as ‘happy sea’) moored in the harbour, resplendent in its Cornish yellow and black colours.
The town is now home to a number of great restaurants and is fast getting a name for itself as a foodie destination, reinforced by the April food and music festival.
Rick Stein’s latest venture opened at the end of last year and joins Kota, Kota Kai and The Square for fine dining, and the smart cafe Amelies. Fine dining is all very well, although of course nothing beats fish and chips on a sunny evening, eaten sitting on the harbour wall.
Just up the hill from The Square the Deli is a good cafe and does stone baked pizzas at the weekend. There are several other cafes too, and the bakery for a decent pasty (eat it from the bag, no plate required).
Both The Harbour and The Ship offer reasonable pub grub. The Harbour is a St Austell Brewery pub hotel and St Austell’s beers are good if well kept. Over at The Ship you’ll get a wider range of beers including Skinners from Truro and Rebel from Penryn.
With all that good food to eat you’re going to need some activities to keep you trim.
The cliff paths in either direction are rewarding, and one is very different to the other. To the west towards Penzance the cliffs are high with hidden coves such as Prussia, Rinsey and Keneggy, with Rinsey dominated by the old mine engine houses.
To the east there’s Loe Bar and its beautiful fresh water pool on the edge of the Penrose Estate (don’t be tempted to swim in it though, it has a strong undertow as does the sea at this point). Further on is Church Cove at Gunwalloe, what must be one of the most romantic churches anywhere in the world.
Dogs are allowed on the eastern end of the beach at Porthleven all year around, and in the evenings and early mornings nearer the town. The smaller coves are dog friendly all year as well.
Stay at Trevena Cross Barn just outside of Porthleven and you can get away to your own tranquil private surroundings, with the town only two miles down the road, and The Queen’s Arms in Breage just a short stroll around the corner. The house allows one well behaved dog and sleeps up to eight, although it’s often enjoyed by couple in the quieter months. Its generous and well planted gardens are so nice you’ll be torn as to whether even to leave home.
At the weekend we stayed the night at The Harbour. We drank at The Ship while watching the fiendish adults and children jumping from the various levels of harbour wall, and then ate at Amelie’s Restaurant.
Sitting outside The Ship, with the town band playing across the water made for a perfect evening, finished off by a good informal dinner at Amelie’s where the service was particularly good. The Harbour did its job, it did seem rather expensive for the basic accommodation, but the location is excellent.