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Secret creeks
Helford

Helford River Holiday Cottages

Our Helford River cottages are situated in one of Cornwall’s most beautiful and dramatic areas. Find quiet fishing villages, ancient wooded creeks, award-winning sub-tropical gardens to roam around 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 haven 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.

Helford is also the name of the beautiful and tiny village on the river’s southern bank, a short stroll from our Helford River cottages. On the opposite northern bank of the river you will find Helford Passage with its stunning 300 year old pub, the Ferryboat Inn. The two sides of the river are connected here via a foot ferry.

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The helford river guide

Aerial view of the Helford River close to dog friendly holiday cottage called Little Wood On The Helford

Helford Village

The picturesque Helford Village with its riverside cottages, thatched roofs and stunning views is a true countryside village, with a village shop, cafe, and a great pub… be sure to take the time to visit all three. The village shop is brilliantly stocked with fresh bread, homemade cakes and local farm produce as well as all the basics, whilst the Holy Mackerel Cafe, housed in an old church, serves delightful food and show-stopping hot chocolates, complete with toasted marshmallows. Spend an evening at The Shipwrights Arms in Helford, sit out on the waterside decking as night falls and sample Cornish spirits, local ales and an excellent choice of wines too.

Helford Village may be small but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in quality. In addition to the local eateries, Helford Village has a certain charm that can only be found in small, rural villages. Sit on the quayside with a crabbing line, watch the sailing club race on the river or explore the river and nearby creeks on foot. On a sunny day, the river’s waters are crystal-clear but equally captivating on a grey, dull day.

On the water

The sheltered waters of the Helford River are a haven for those seeking watersports from our holiday cottages — and when the wind picks up, they’re also a favourite with those who are after a little more adrenaline, particularly sailing. There are several sailing clubs in the area, with Helford River Sailing Club in the heart of the village offering holiday membership if you really want to get in on the action.

From sailing boats to kayaks, whether you want an afternoon of fishing, exploring or paddling, the guys at Sailaway St Anthony can sort it out for you and can drop kayaks, motorboats and canoes for you in Helford Village. If you’re after a spot of fishing, you can expect pollack, wrasse, ray or even gilthead bream, and there’s plenty of shore fishing that’s accessible via the coastal footpath from Helford Village.

Creekside walks and garden exploring

The banks of the Helford River are delightfully sheltered, allowing flora and fauna to thrive along the coast paths. From woodland carpeted with bluebells and fields bursting with the yellow of daffodils in spring, to the scent of wildflowers in the heat of the summer sun, there’s always something colourful popping up through the soil in this area of Cornwall. It’s no surprise that these creeks provided inspiration to one of the country’s greatest novelists, Daphne du Maurier, whose popular novel, Frenchman’s Creek, takes its name from the creek just a short stroll from the village.

Of course, if you’re after something a little more rugged then head further around the Lizard Peninsula to the dramatic cliffs of Coverack, Cadgwith and Lizard Point. With grazing ponies on clifftops, crashing waves below and stunning views across the Atlantic, this part of the coastal footpath will blow the cobwebs away.

Beaches

Grebe

From the National Trust carpark at Bosveal, it’s a 5-minute walk down to this sand and shingle river beach flanked by huge pine trees and ancient oaks (the Helford is one of the very few places in the UK where ancient woodland meets the sea). It’s a favourite swimming and paddleboard spot with beautiful views across the river. There aren’t any facilities to speak of, but you can wander along to the tiny hamlet of Durgan next door for ice cream in the little hut — the beach here is at the bottom of the National Trust’s Glendurgan Gardens

Helford Passage

Helford Passage

On the northern banks of the Helford River, this sand and shingle river beach is a picturesque spot for a swim or paddle, with the ever-popular Ferryboat Inn just behind — grab a table on the terrace and watch the boats sail by. There’s a ferry crossing which operates between here and Helford Village on the opposite bank (April to October only) — this is where the South West Coast Path crosses the river on continue its course around the Lizard Peninsula.

Porth Saxon

Right on the South West Coast Path, this little sandy cove is a 10-minute walk down through fields and woodland from the church at Mawnan. It’s off-the-beaten-path location only adds to its appeal — it’s a beautiful, sheltered spot, a favourite place for ramblers and dog walkers. As the tide recedes, a stretch of sand is revealed and there’s a small stream and a boathouse set back from the shore.

Bosahan Cove

There’s a string of pretty coves and idyllic swimming spots along the southern banks of the Helford, too. Park in Helford Village and take the South West Coast Path east and you’ll come across several pretty swimming spots within a half hour walk. A favourite is the secluded Bosahan Cove, a sand and shingle beach backed by tall pines and with wonderful rocks to clamber on. Even on a beautiful day, chances are you’ll have the whole cove to yourself.

Food & drink

Pubs and inns

The ultimate summer dining spot, the 300-year old Ferryboat Inn is right on the coastal path. Their ‘farm to table’ policy means everything is as fresh as can be, with things like mackerel tacos, seafood linguine, and an unbeatable fish and chips on the menu. Grab a table out front and watch boats sail lazily past. Over the water, The Shipwrights Arms in Helford village is a pub for all seasons. The daily changing menu features the likes of Kynance crab, lobster, monkfish and mackerel, hauled onto the pub’s own slipway outside. Check out the pizza evenings in summer. On the southern slopes of Constantine, the family-run Trengilly Wartha sits in six acres of beautiful gardens. The menu features plenty of fusion cooking as well as seafood dishes and all the pub classics. This is wonderful walking country so muddy boots and wet dogs are welcome.

Cafes

Colourful, wholesome, feel-good vegetarian food, much of which comes from the extensive veg gardens, is served in the beautiful converted greenhouses at the dog friendly Potager Garden Cafe. Outside, paths wind amongst the sprawling kitchen gardens, there are hammocks amongst the trees, chickens roaming about and flower gardens to explore. At the head of the Helford you’ll find the lovely Boatyard Cafe in Gweek open daily serving light lunches, such as flatbreads, bagels and chunky sandwiches, as well as craft beer and wine, coffee and cake. The courtyard garden, right on the water, is a little suntrap. The stylish cedar-clad Slice of Cornwall has become a bit of a local favourite, popular for its brunch, waffles and amazing cakes — dishes are fresh and packed with flavour. It’s a happy little place, with lovely staff, local textiles and pottery for sale on the shelves, and a terrace when the weather’s fine.

Buying local on the Helford

The Helford area is made up of lots of little country and creekside villages, each one with a strong and fiercely independent community spirit. In the villages of Mawnan Smith, Constantine, Gweek and Mawgan, the village shops support local producers and you’ll find fresh fish and meat, local milk (many have refill stations), and fruit and veg from the surrounding farms.

Find out more about buying local produce with our handy Local Food Guide to the Helford 

 

Things to do
Aquilegia At Glendurgan

Explore sub-tropical gardens

Take the ferry across the river to Helford Passage and visit the sub-tropical gardens of Trebah Garden or 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.

Discover creeks by kayak

Soak up the Helford from the water with Koru Kayaking. Although they’re based in St Agnes, they run guided kayak and paddleboarding trips from a private beach near Mawnan Smith. The two-hour trips are a great introduction to the area: paddle past oyster farms and the ancient oak woodlands that line the Helford and down Frenchman’s Creek, made infamous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. Fantastic wildlife (sometimes a seal might pop up to say hello), shipwrecks, hidden creeks, and the chance for a dip on sunny days.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Located in the quiet creekside village of Gweek, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a great day out. It’s home to otters, sea lions, penguins and of course, 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.

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