Small but perfect, this little cove has a cobbled slipway and a small sandy beach at low tide.
Porthgwarra beach is southerly facing, with steep cliffs on either side, sheltering it from strong coastal winds. The slipway is still used by a handful of fishing boats but it has now become famous for being the backdrop to many scenes from the popular series Poldark.
How To Get There
Porthgwarra sits on the rugged south coast of Cornwall between Land’s End and Porthcurno. It can be easily accessed from the coastal path whichever direction you are coming from. Land’s End is 2.7 miles to the west of Porthgwarra and Porthcurno is about a mile to the east, so you can easily stop off at this little cove on a coastal walk.
If you are travelling by car from Penzance leave the B3315 just after passing through the small village of Trethewey. You will pass a playing field on your right and you then take a left turn, signed to Porthgwarra, when the road bends sharply to the right.
If you are coming from the west then you pass a small duck pond on your left and when the road bends sharply to the left you take a smaller road to the right signed towards Porthgwarra beach.
Follow this winding single track road, which at times is very narrow, until you reach the tiny village of Porthgwarra. The car park is situated behind the little cafe and is free from November to March. However, during the summer months parking fees do apply.
Porthgwarra was a small fishing base in the Elizabethan era but was not recorded as a village until the 19th century.
The small slipway was built in 1880 and around this time they also carved tunnels in the cliffs to provide access to the beach. Ullies (shellfish storage tanks made from granite) were also created to store shellfish on the beach which you can see being used in the pilchard catching scene from Poldark.
The last fishermen working from this cove retired in the 1960s and now the slipway and beach are privately owned but open to the public to enjoy.
High Tide At Porthgwarra
At high tide, you may not see any sand at all – and to call it Porhgwarra beach might sound like a stretch.
The first time we visited we were walking the coastal path and stumbled upon this little gem. We sat on the cobbled slipway enjoying the the magical view with a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.
It’s a beautiful little spot to while away an hour or two. I sat sketching the tunnel and rugged, weathered cliffs while the rest of the family clambered over the rocks and explored hidden caves. The highlight was catching sight of a seal basking in the shallow waters of the cove.
While we were at Porthgwarra Cove other people were more prepared and had snorkelling equipment. The cove is the perfect place for snorkelling with its crystal clear waters and a variety of sea creatures can be spotted.
We also saw people paddle boarding, taking advantage of the calm water and safety of the cove (a great place for beginners). Be careful not to stray out of the cove as there can be strong currents and there is no lifeguard patrol.
Low Tide At Porthgwarra
At low tide a small area of soft golden sand is revealed with just enough room to build a sandcastle or lay out a towel and relax with a book. It might not last long though so enjoy it while you can.
Also, many rock pools appear which can give you hours of fun, especially with small children. If you like beaches with large expanses of sand so you can play beach games and plenty of room to set up camp for the day then Porthgwarra isn’t for you! However, if you are looking for a peaceful spot to while away an hour or so with breathtaking views then give it a try.
The cafe at Porthgwarra serves a range of savoury options such as pasties, sandwiches and baked potatoes, hot and cold drinks and ice creams. It also offers traditional cream teas and homemade cakes served in a lovely little garden in this amazing location.
Beware it only has outdoor seating so is not the place to visit on a rainy day! After all, no-one likes a soggy pasty.
Probably the most well known scene from Poldark that was filmed at Porthgwarra, is when Ross Poldark goes skinny dipping in the sea while Demelza (his maid) watches from the cliff top. This marks the beginning of their epic romance.
Among many others, it was also used as the location for the Pilchard Catch scene when there were traditional 18th century sailing boats specifically brought to the cove.
The accommodation here is limited as it is such a small hamlet but there are a few rental cottages in the cove and the surrounding area which offer amazing views in remote locations.
Why We Love Porthgwarra
Even though Porthgwarra beach, a once sleepy fishing cove, has now risen to fame after featuring in the Poldark series it still isn’t overcrowded – even in the height of the summer season. Each time we visited, there were only a handful of other families enjoying this little cove so it has kept its charm unlike other places in Cornwall.
Porthgwarra Cove is like stepping back in time, offering you a glimpse of what Cornwall would have been like in the 18th Century, as it hasn’t changed much since then.
It is the ideal spot to take a break as you walk along the coastal path but is also worth making a special trip to especially if you are a Poldark fan. The cute little cafe with delicious food is just the icing on the cake.