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at the head of the helford

Gweek Holiday Cottages and Self Catering Accommodation

Sitting at the head of the Helford River, Gweek may not be big but it has a lot going on, including a vibrant cafe in the thriving boatyard, a popular pub in the heart of the village, and a village stores and post office that champions local produce. The village green, on the banks of the river, is a lovely place to while away an hour with an ice cream; when the tide’s in, you can launch a kayak or SUP from here and paddle out to explore the Helford, where you’ll find quiet fishing villages, ancient wooded creeks, sub-tropical gardens and some of Cornwall’s most tranquil beaches.

The river has a rich history and has long been one of the most important in Cornwall — a few fishing boats still head out to sea from here and it’s a hotspot for yachts and leisure boating, as well as for wildlife. There are mussel and oyster beds here too, plus rich farmland, making the area a great place for food and drink. It’s also brilliantly placed for exploring the Lizard Peninsula to the south, a remote area with fascinating flora and fauna and beautiful unspoilt beaches.

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The Gweek guide

At the head of the Helford

Due to its position, sitting right at the head of the Helford River, both the northern and southern banks of the river are easily accessible from Gweek. Both the north and south can be explored on foot along coastal paths which run along both shores. To the north, there are award-winning, sub-tropical gardens which tumble right down to the water, a string of tranquil coves that are perfect for paddleboarding, swimming and evening barbecues as the sun goes down, and some beautiful fishing villages and hamlets, such as Durgan and Port Navas.

The southern shores of the Helford have a slightly different feel. Here, it’s all about exploring the wooded valleys and gentle creeks and quays, including Frenchman’s Creek, made famous by the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, and Tremayne Quay. The popular village of Helford has plenty of olde world charm and a brilliant pub right on the water. From here you can catch the ferry over the water to Helford Passage on the north side, home to the fantastic Ferryboat Inn.

Lizard Point, Cornwall, Forever Cornwall

Explore the Lizard Peninsula

In contrast to the gentle Helford River, the Lizard is Cornwall’s untamed south. With only two roads leading in and out of the area, and little-travelled area south. It’s a place of wild landscapes, fishing villages like Coverack and Cadgwith, where fishing boats are still hauled up on to the pebbles with their daily catch and sea shanty groups sing every week in the local pubs. The coast path connects a string of quiet coves, which you’ll have to yourself, even in the peak of the summer. You’ll have stretches of coast path entirely to yourself, and there are some brilliant places to eat, from cafes perched on the clifftop and fish and chips in a converted lifeboat station, to award-winning restaurants further inland.

It’s home to some amazing flora and fauna — the red-billed Cornish Chough, banks of orchids in spring, you might even spot basking sharks out at sea. The area is renowned for its geology, particular the multicoloured Serpentine rock. The Lizard is also home to Cornwall’s favourite ice cream parlours — no trip would be complete without a scoop or two from Roskilly’s.

Beaches
Forever Cornwall Poldhu Lifeguard Kit At Waters Edge

Poldhu

This sheltered cove has acres of golden sands, fascinating rockpools which reveal all sorts of treasures when the tide’s out, and a brilliant cafe just off the beach. It’s a good place to try out watersport with a surf shop next to the cafe — pick up a board or sign up for some lessons. The cafe just up from the beach serves light lunches and delicious hot chocolates through a hatch, which you can take down to the beach or enjoy on the benches to the front. It’s dog-friendly between October and Easter and plenty of parking in the large car park across the road. If you want to stretch your legs, take the coast path north and visit Church Cove and Dollar Cove (20 mins).

Forever Cornwall Praa Sands Beach Blue Sea.jpg

Praa Sands

This lifeguarded beach’s mile of sand is very white, reportedly from seashells broken down over millennia. Located on the arc between the Lizard and Penzance, the beach is flanked by rocky outcrops and backed with sheltering sand dunes so it’s great for children to romp around and splash about in the shallows. It’s also a popular spot for surfers who come for the challenging beach break and year-round rollers. Cafe for breakfast and lunch right on the beach. Dogs are welcome on the beach except July and August.

Grebe Beach

On the northern banks of the Helford, Grebe is a little gem of a beach, a pretty slice of shingle backed by soaring Scots pine trees and ancient oaks just beyond the village of Mawgan Porth. The rocky outcrops at either end means there are interesting rockpools when the tide recedes and great rocks for scrambling. It’s a fairly steep 10-minute walk down a wooded track from the National Trust carpark, so it stays relatively quiet year round. The water, which turns turquoise in summer, shelves gently so it’s a great spot for swimming and paddleboarding

Things to do
Forever Cornwall Seal Sanct. Seal 2

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Gweek is home to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, a great day out for families. Dozens of rescued otters, sea lions, penguins and seals, and is dedicated to educating people on the struggles of marine life and why conservation for these animals is so important. Visit the penguins at feeding time, become a keeper for a day and see seals on their way to recovery at the seal hospital. You’ll need a few hours to wander around the various pools, and there are nature trails, a team of brilliant, informative staff who hold interesting talks about the sanctuary and its inhabitants throughout the day, and a good cafe serving vegan food.

Sub-tropical gardens

Visit the sub-tropical gardens of Trebah Garden or the National Trust’s Glendurgan Gardens and stroll through the gardens that tumble down to the riverside for a little more exotic horticulture. Come for the carpets of bluebells and primroses in spring; in summer for the cool and tranquil woodland glades, and ice cream on the beach. At Glendurgan you’ll find a second hand bookshop, plants for sale and a 180-year old maze. Trebah is packed with wild and wonderful flora and fauna, including 100-year old rhododendrons, an award-winning cafe, and a playground for children.

Lizard Adventure

There’s no better way to appreciate the true beauty of the Lizard’s dramatic coastline than from the water. Explore all the nooks and crannies of the Lizard by kayak, on a coaststeering day, aboard a SUP or climbing the cliffs with the friendly team at Lizard Adventure, in the heart of the peninsula. The knowledgable and supportive team will have you throwing yourself off cliffs, spotting seals amongst the waves, paddling through caves and scaling jagged cliffs in some of the UK’s most scenic spots. Aimed at everyone aged 8 onwards.

Places to eat

The Boatyard Cafe

This little cafe in the heart of the boatyard is open every day between 9.30-3.30 and serves light lunches (flatbreads, bagels, vegan breakfasts, chunky sandwiches and delicious salads) as well as craft beer and wine, coffee and cake. It’s a bright, colourful place, with bright yellow walls, comfy sofas, low lighting and lots of plants dotted around. The courtyard garden with  right on the water, is a little suntrap — the perfect place to enjoy a coffee with the busy sounds of the boatyard and chiming masts in the background.

 

The Black Swan

A lively, independent and welcoming pub in the very heart of Gweek, popular with locals and serving good, honest food and a great choice of Cornish ales, such as Sharps Doom Bar, Tribute, Bass and Betty Stogs, as well as regularly changing guest ales. Friday is fish and chips night, which you can choose to takeaway and eat on the village green over the road. The Sunday lunches are particularly popular — they get booked up pretty quickly so phone ahead. They organise regular music nights and events throughout the year.

The Potager Cafe

This restored plant nursery and greenhouses, saved from dereliction 20 years ago, was has been transformed into the Potager Garden Cafe (pictured above). Colourful, wholesome, feel-good vegetarian food, much of which comes from the extensive veg gardens, is served in the beautiful converted greenhouses. Outside, paths wind amongst the sprawling kitchen gardens, there are hammocks amongst the trees, chickens roaming about and flower gardens to explore. This is a real community hub, with artists’ studios and workshops onsite — visitors are welcome to wander in for a nose. It’s dog-friendly, too. Open Weds-Sun.