Porthallow, meaning ‘Port at the end of the Moor’, is a small, tucked-away village on the east coast of the Lizard Peninsula. It was once a busy fishing port, famous for its thriving pilchard fleet – in fact, the old pilchard cellars can still be seen near the pebbly beach. The local inn, yes, you guessed it – The Five Pilchards is named after the traditional way of counting the fish in groups of five, and reminds us how important the industry was to the Cornish economy.
The history of the pub can be traced as far back as the 1830s, and inside, you’ll find a fascinating range of nautical memorabilia to explore whilst sampling a locally made pasty or a steaming bowl of Porthallow Chowder.
Just a mile off shore is the Manacles Reef, a rocky outcrop, and the cause of countless historical shipwrecks. It’s a popular site for diving, accessed from the neighbouring Porthkerris Cove, where you can hire the gear, or book a boat trip to snorkel with the basking sharks.
You’ll find St Keverne nearby: a handful of shops, two inns and a cluster of whitewashed cottages, all huddled around the village square, and overlooked by the impressive 15th Century church, St Akervnus. On a balmy summer’s evening you may catch some traditional Cornish music from the St Kerverne Band or Male Voice Choir.
Just a few miles south brings you to the Lizard Village and the most southerly point in the UK. Rugged scenery, the famous lighthouse and Cornish Cream Teas. Meander in the souvenir shops, take a stroll along the blustery coastal path, and finish off the day with a hot salt-and-vinegary fish supper and breathe in the crisp sea air.
Holidays in Porthallow are best spend exploring the stunning Cornish coastline. The Lizard Peninsula is the Cornwall of Poldark or Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. It’s the Cornwall of quiet leafy lanes, patchwork fields, and the sounds of the sea. Just a short drive in the opposite direction is the beautiful Helford River where you can explore the tranquil creeks and inlets, tiny coves and pretty riverside villages.
Based in a kiosk on Helford Passage beach, Helford River Boats runs the passenger ferry which runs between Helford Passage and Helford village, home to a fantastic riverside pub, The Shipwrights Arms. They also offer a fleet of self-drive motor boats, rowing boats, Sit-On kayaks and paddleboards which you can hire and explore the stunning Helford River estuary at your own pace. Visit Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek, Port Navas Oyster Farm or the hidden coves and quiet beaches. No previous boating experience is necessary as Helford River Boats provide full instructions, as well as safety equipment and a map of the river. They can also provide a water taxi service, which must be booked in advance.
Helford River Boats, The Kiosk, Helford Passage, Nr Falmouth TR11 5LB (T: 01326 250770)
Run by the National Trust, Glendurgan Gardens span over three valleys, filled with sub-tropical plants, exotic flowers and bright blooms. The peaceful gardens lead down to the unspoilt beachside hamlet of Durgan. Here you can take a rest and enjoy the stunning views of the Helford River, treat yourself to an ice cream, build sandcastles and watch the wildlife on the water. Glendurgan Garden offer a great day out for the entire family thanks to its impressive maze and Giant’s Stride rope swing, shop and teahouse, which serves traditional Cornish cream teas, light lunches and Children’s meals.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR115JZ (T: 01326 252020)
The subtropical valleys of Trebah Gardens offer a fantastic day out for the whole family. Four miles of footpath lead through canopies of exotic trees, plants and flowers which cascade down to a private, secluded beach on the Helford River. Here, you can take in the views, relax on the beach and enjoy a famous Roskilly’s Cornish ice cream from the Boathouse Cafe. There are adventure playgrounds and children’s trails to keep the youngest members of the family entertained, and dogs (on leads) are welcome in the gardens and on the beach all year round. As well as a visitor centre and shop, there’s a fantastic café, Trebah Kitchen, which serves locally sourced, seasonal food. Trebah is also home to an amphitheatre where you can catch music, dance, theatre and comedy performances.
Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR11 5JZ (T: 01326 252200)
Spend an afternoon exploring the stunning natural beauty of the Helford River with a boat tour helmed by an experience skipper. This memorable trip aboard The Hannah Molly – a traditional Cornish boat with room for 12 people – begins from Budock Vean. From here, you’ll travel along Port Navas Creek, past Helford Passage and Trebah Gardens, before crossing to Helford village and its surrounding creeks and inlets, including Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek.
Helford River Cruises, Budock Vean Hotel, Mawan Smirh TR11 5LG (T: 07941 027732)
Explore the Helford River from a sit-on kayak, paddling past sailing boats and ancient oak trees to Frenchman’s Creek – the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s famous romantic novel. This two-hour kayak tour is a great activity for the whole family, offering a unique way to explore the area whilst keeping active. No experience is necessary as Koru’s experienced guides will teach you kayaking techniques and safety information. Buoyancy aids are provided, and wetsuits are available to hire.
Koru Kayaking (T: 01872 552255)
Found in the small Cornish village of Porthallow, The Five Pilchards offers a great pub atmosphere and high quality homemade food available in the restaurant, conservatory and outside courtyard. All ingredients are sourced from local suppliers making it the ideal spot to sample the fabulous produce that Cornwall has to offer. The surrounding area is also a beautiful place for cliff walks with stunning views of Falmouth Bay.
The Five Pilchards Inn, Porthallow, Helston, Cornwall TR12 6PP (T: 01326 280256)
A fantastic spot to eat, drink and relax, watching the boats go by whilst the kids go crabbing. This lovely old waterside pub, with views to die for, has a friendly atmosphere and serves tasty, wholesome food and great local beers all in an idyllic setting. Arrive by ferry from Helford Passage which brings you almost to the door, tie your boat or kayak to the pub’s pontoon or park in the car park at the top of the village and walk.
The Shipwrights Arms, Helford Village, Helston TR12 6JX (T: 01326 231235)
Dating back 300 years, The Ferry Boat Inn sits on the edge of the beach at Helford Passage. Thanks to its waterside position, you can look out over one of the most beautiful views in Cornwall whilst enjoying a drink or delicious meal. The Ferry Boat serves a tasty menu of homemade pub classics, alongside fresh, locally caught seafood dishes. Outside, there’s a large terrace with plenty of seating, perfect for long sunny days and warm, summer’s evenings, and come winter there’s a cosy open fire. Children and dogs very welcome.
The Ferry Boat Inn, Helford Passage, Falmouth, TR11 5LB (T: 01326 250625)
A thatched traditional inn in the heart of Mawnan Smith just minutes from the South West Coast Path and a pretty stroll through the woods to Maenporth Beach. Here you can sample local ales and ciders in the raftered bar along with enjoyable food from light lunches to a evening menu packed full of fresh local Cornish produce. A great spot to stop off when walking or visiting nearby Glendurgan or Trebah Garden. Children and dogs welcome.
The Red Lion, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 250026)
A friendly café in the heart of Mawnan Smith where you can buy freshly baked bread and pastries, and tuck into homemade cakes, breakfasts and light lunches, as well as obligatory traditional Cornish cream teas!
Cornish Maid, The Square, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 251202)
A small sheltered pebble beach with lovely views where fishermen used to launch their boats in their hundreds. Today there are still a few working fishing boats pulled up on the shore and the unspoilt village has a popular pub, aptly named The Five Pilchards. Car parking literally on the beach so not far to carry all the kit, lots of rockpools exposed at low tide and great snorkeling just offshore.
Godrevy Cove is a lovely sandy beach over 300m in length and unlike other beaches in the area, there is still plenty of sand at high water. Access is via the Coast Path but it’s not a difficult walk, only about 500m from the hamlet of Rosenithon where you can leave the car on the road. There’s good swimming and snorkelling here, as well as rock pools at low tide and the beach is never crowded. You can also access next door Leggan Cove across the foreshore at low water, a similar but smaller and more sheltered beach.
This is a real gem but quite tricky to access, so it’s not for everyone. Almost hidden on the southern banks of the Helford River, this idyllic sand and shingle cove is surrounded by thick woodland and is a fantastic spot to swim or sunbathe, often without another soul in sight. To get there either cut through the gardens of the Bosahan estate (summer months only, admission charges apply), bring a small boat or walk about a mile along the coast path from Helford Village. No amenities due to its location, dogs allowed all year round.
A quiet and secluded shingle beach on the Helford River in between the villages of Durgan and Mawnan. Access is via a short woodland walk from Durgan and then a steep path down to the beach, which means it’s rarely crowded and ideal if you prefer peace and quiet to cafes and facilities, of which there are none. The water is safe for swimming here and there are rocky outcrops to explore and jump off. It’s worth bearing in mind though that while there is a large beach at low water, with the highest tides it’s completely covered. Dogs welcome all year round.
Prisk Cove beach can only be reached on foot, either from the village of Mawnan through a pretty wooded valley or via the South West Coast Path. Located just south of Rosemullion Head the beach consists mainly of shingle with a huge expanse of rockpools exposed at low tide. Parking at Mawnan Church or on the road, dogs welcome all year.