A seaside resort amid brooding coastal scenery, Perranporth is home to one of the best beaches, not just in Cornwall but the entire country.
Perranporth Beach is swarmed by surfers, but there’s ample room for everyone on these golden sands that seem limitless when the tide goes out.
The South West Coast Path beckons you off to the heather-topped cliffs and ghostly tin mines of Poldark country, where Winston Graham set his novels, and where the BBC has come to shoot the television series.
Go inland for days out at Trerice’s Elizabethan manor house and open farms making Cornish cider and Cornish ice cream.
1. Perranporth Beach
Three miles from Droskyn Point to Penhale Point, Perranporth Beach is absolutely immense, especially when the tide goes out.
The sand is soft and golden, and washed by dependable waves for surfers and body boarders.
At low tide there’s a constellation of rock pools to fascinate children, and you can make the hike up to Penhale Point in the north.
Here the beach is bordered by Penhale Sands, a massive dune system topped with grass, and the site of a 1,500-year-old oratory which we’ll cover later.
Chapel rock in the centre of the beach has a tidal pool at low tide, while at the rockier south end of Perranporth Beach, closer to the town, are intimidating stacks and natural arches.
The beach is one of the few in the UK to claim its own pub right on the sand, at the Watering Hole.
When everything comes together and the wind blows from east-southeast the beach breaks produce excellent lefts and rights at Perranporth Beach.
There’s a flourishing surf community here, with a handful of shops and a couple of approved surf schools with certified instructors to get you started.
Perranporth Surf School is right on the beach throughout the summer, providing friendly and flexible tuition for individuals, families and groups.
Ticket to Ride Surf School is also highly rated and offers one-off lessons for first-timers or people who need a refresher, as well as “Surf & Stay” packages and camps.
One option is a surf lesson in the morning, which includes day-long equipment hire so you can put your skills to the test in the afternoon.
Every Friday evening at 18:00 there’s an open surf and yoga session.
3. South West Coast Path
This 630-mile National Trail is often mentioned among the world’s greatest walks.
Starting at Minehead in Somerset, the route tracks the South West of England’s furrowed coastline, descending to each river mouth and rising again to high cliff tops.
These constant changes in elevation make the South West Coast Path a daunting proposition for long-distance hikers, but holidaymakers can take brisk day walks in awe-inspiring scenery and return to the comfort of their accommodation.
At Perrranporth you can strike out south into the abandoned mines and rough-hewn cliffs of the St Agnes Heritage Coast (more later). North, the walk to Pentire and Newquay is equally drama-filled, curling around the dark, rocky ramparts of Kelsey Head, and stooping to the sequestered cove at Poly Joke Beach and then the boundless sands of Crantock Beach.
4. Perranzabuloe Museum
Meaning “Perran in the Sands”, Perranzabuloe is the name for the wider parish, the museum for which is in the 19th-century hall for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
If you need an alternative to the seascapes, sand and surf you can pop in here for a bit of local history.
The collections cover traditional livelihoods like fishing, mining, farming, as well as the arrival of the railway in 1903. There are riveting details about the many shipwrecks in the parish, as well as the First World War munitions factory and the training exercises that took place in the build up to the Normandy landings in 1944. The museum also documents Perranporth’s surfing history, going back to the 1920s when an undertaker sold coffin lids for people to ride! Lastly, you can read up on novelist Winston Graham, who moved to Perranporth aged 17 in 1939 and set his Poldark novels in rugged North Cornwall.
5. Perranporth Gardens Charities
Cutting through Perranporth is a string of gardens between the old railway embankment in Perrancombe and the waterfront at the promenade.
There’s a clock garden, prom garden and bowling green, as well as putting greens and a boating lake open in the summer.
These are all wreathed with carefully tended flowerbeds, shrubs and palms.
The gardens are in the care of a charity set up in 1937, using income from the waterfront car park for upkeep and to fund important local causes.
6. Healey’s Cornish Cyder
In business for over 30 years, Healey’s Cornish Cyder produces a selection of ciders, wines, spirits, juices and jams.
Most famous is the Rattler Cornish Cloudy Cider, which packs a serious punch.
Healey’s farm outside Perranporth is a big family attraction, where grownups can discover the ins and outs of brewing cider and other beverages, while children will love the tractor rides and meeting farm animals.
On a lively and informative guided tour you’ll get the inside track on how all of the farm’s range is made, viewing the state-of-the-art cider production hall, cider press, a cider-making museum, as well as a whiskey distillery and cellars.
The tour closes with a ride through the orchards and a sampling session.
Afterwards you can sit down to a classic Cornish cream tea, or a cider infused stew at the Old Bottlery restaurant.
7. St Piran’s Oratory
The town’s name means the Cove of St Piran, which comes from a 5th-century abbot.
St Piran is both the patron saint of Cornwall and patron saint of tin miners, while the Cornish flag, a white cross on a black background is St Piran’s Flag.
He founded an oratory at Penhale Sands, which over time became lost to the dunes before being rediscovered in the 19th century.
The remains of a later parish church, also engulfed by sand, can be found close by.
The oratory has been excavated once more over the last few years and is encased in breeze blocks to protect it from the elements.
You can see the vestiges of the small nave and chancel, as well as an inscribed stone and carved heads, built into the wall and doorway later in the Medieval period.
There’s an information board labelling the site and a 10th-century cross between the site of the oratory and the graveyard of the old church.
8. St Agnes Head
The St Agnes Heritage Coast, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, begins directly south of Perranporth.
The seascapes at St Agnes are powerful and untamed, with craggy outcrops, coves and soaring cliffs topped with heather and gorse.
Up to the 1920s the cliffs provided the material for a once prosperous tin mining industry, traces of which can be seen in the adits pocking the cliff faces.
Most dramatic of all is St Agnes Head, cared for by the National Trust, and where the mines’ old engine houses sit precariously on the edge of the cliffs.
9. Trevaunance Cove
The main beach for St Agnes, Trevaunance Cove is walled by jagged cliffs and steeped in the village’s tin mining heritage.
On the beach there’s a mix of sand and shingle, while the indented coastline protects the cove from the full force of the Atlantic.
There are rolling waves for surfers, and the beach is complemented by a cafe, pub and shop.
When the tide goes out you can head off to investigate the rock pools and walk to the neighbouring Trevallas Porth beach, although you will need to keep an eye on tide times or face a vertiginous climb back to the village! In the evening the sunsets are gorgeous from the stone terraces over the beach.
10. Blue Hills Tin Streams
Above Trevaunance Cove you can tap into St Agnes and Cornwall’s tin mining heritage.
Blue Hills produces tin using alluvial mining methods that go back hundreds of years.
Tin concentrates, unlocked and washed by the constant pounding of the Atlantic waves, are gathered on the beach and then dressed, smelted and refined.
Blue Hills uses the metal to fashion all sorts of handmade gifts.
The coastal scenery here is wonderfully rugged, and after an introduction you’ll be directed down a track for a self-guided tour, during which you’ll get to know some of the dangers involved in mining, and watch smelting taking place live.
The owners are a font of mining knowledge and happy to answer questions.
11. Holywell Bay Beach
The National Trust looks after this majestic beach to the north of Perranporth.
Holywell Bay Beach is on an epic scale, with enough room for everyone to enjoy the shore in their own way.
Body boarders come for the surf, while families can spread themselves out on the endless sands.
When the tide comes in there’s lots of room in the grass-topped dunes for picnics.
Take time to explore too, as at low tide you can enter Holywell Cover, which has a flight of stepped pools coated with cream-coloured calcareous deposits.
Also at low tide you can make out the rusting plates of a 70-year-old shipwreck.
For families the Holywell Bay Fun Park back in the village has lots of things to keep smaller visitors engaged, liked bumper boats, trampolines, bouncy castles, mini-golf and slides.
Finally, if you’re a fan of the Poldark TV show, you may recognise Holywell Bay Beach from series three.
12. Callestick Farm
Practically next door to Healey’s Cornish Cider is a farm producing another enticing Cornish speciality, ice cream.
Run by the Parker family since 1953, Callestick Farm uses free range milk from a herd of 300 cows, grazing in a picturesque valley.
Of course, you can call in for a scoop or three of ice cream, but the farm is free to visit and children especially will enjoy checking it out.
There are pigs, various chicken breeds and of course the cows, which are normally calving in spring.
You can also see the inside of the ice creamery, where nothing is left unexplained, and grab a cup of tea, while there’s a playground on the farm for smaller children.
The farm is open seven days a week, Easter to October.
A little further away but well worth the eight-mile drive, Trerice is a sumptuous Elizabethan manor house owned by the National Trust.
The history of Trerice is tied to the Arundells who were here from the 12th century, long before the current house, and stayed until 1768. The house blends beautiful interiors with a rich collection, including a 300-year-old longcase clock and a six-metre oak table, so large it can’t be removed from the Great Hall.
The window in the Great Hall is composed of 576 panes, some of which goes back to when this house was completed in the 16th century.
Upstairs the Great Chamber has an enchanting view to St Newlyn East Church, as well as fine stucco-work (although you may spot a small mistake). Trerice is beside a capacious barn, containing a restaurant, while on the grounds is a replanted Tudor-style knot garden with 800 yews and an orchard growing historic fruit tree varieties.
14. Perranporth Golf Club
Although a private course, Perranporth Golf Club allows visitors seven days a week.
This highly-rated, natural links course is on high ground with knockout vistas across the beach and shimmering ocean at Perran Bay.
Perranporth’s 18 holes were drawn up by the fabled course designer James Braid in 1927, and have hardly been altered since that time.
And while inexperienced players are welcome, the course asks questions of even the most assured golfers for its blind drives and approach shots that are almost impossible to judge the first time round.
That’s partly because the hard and fast greens are raised on punishing lofty plateaux.
If you’re up for a tough but rewarding round in stirring scenery green fees for 18 holes are just £40 on weekdays and £47 on weekends.
15. Perranporth Country Market
Every Friday from 10:00 ’til 12:00 there’s a market in Perranporth’s Memorial Hall, stocked with handmade crafts and produce from local farms.
At these stalls there’s meat eggs, fish, shellfish, flowers, plants, preserves, baked goods, haberdashery, cards, art, toys and all sorts of crafts.
There’s also a tempting choice of traditional Cornish pasties.
For the uninitiated, Cornish pasties are a sort of portable meal that originated among Cornwall’s tin mining communities, with seasoned beef, slices of potato, swede and onion, all wrapped in pastry, negating the need for miners to carry dishes or cutlery.