A local

A local's guide to Portreath

Ed 20 September 2019


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The history

The beach


Food and drink



About the village

Portreath is a hidden gem of a village tucked into the North Cornwall Coast. It lies 4 miles south of Porthtowan and 4.5 miles from Redruth inland. It’s a quiet haven away from busier resorts across the Duchy, but it still has many handy amenities, including a few pubs and shops for visitors without making it feel overly commercialised. The beach is wide, sandy and popular with bodyboarders who love to ride the waves along the mole (the long harbour wall). Wayfarers can join the South West Coast Path as it follows the hemline of the jagged cliff-gilded countryside around Portreath. You can also follow a long-distance bike trail from there to Devoran on the south coast. Remnants of Portreath’s industrial past can be seen throughout the village making it a fascinating place for those with an interest in history too.

The history

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Portreath was once a busy port; a large pilchard fishing fleet was based here before the late 1700s. By the mid-1800s the ore mining industry in Camborne and Redruth began to boom. A harbour was built along with the mole that extends along the north edge of Portreath’s small bay. Nowadays it’s a lot quieter as all the industry has died and only a few fishing boats use the village as a base. During its heyday, copper ore was transported from the mines on horse-drawn wagons to the port, then cargo shipped to Swansea in South Wales for smelting. The ships would return, laden with Welsh coal. The pathways from the mole and the harbour still survive today and makeup part of the Coast-to-Coast cycle path (Portreath to Devoran). If you are wondering why some of the buildings look slightly fortified, this is because the town was built up to repel a potential Franco-Spanish invasion on the port during the American Revolutionary War of the 1800s. By the end of the 19th century, the copper mining industry had fallen quiet and the harbour was sold to Cornwall Council (as it is known today).

The beach

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The beach is a semi-circular, sandy expanse that runs between two towering cliffs. The village and the valley are at its head. A stream runs down the north end of the beach by the mole. High above is the pepper pot lookout that can be visited for commanding views of the beach. Like some other beaches along this wonderful stretch of coast, the surf is a thing to behold. As the swell builds along the mole, the crest of the waveform collapses and rolls down itself, again and again, to form what the locals call The Vortex. Unfortunately, for dog lovers, there is a complete entry restriction at the beach between Easter Monday and the 1st of October. Fear not because you can take your dog a few miles down the coast to Godrevy or Chapel Porth. Look out for locals who take their horses into the surf here, a lovely sight. Another good view of the beach is from the summit of West Hill - you can meet National Trust managed Shetland ponies up there for part of the year (for the other half, they live at the Navox above Godrevy).  You can also marvel at a huge section of the cliff top that was dynamited in the late 20th century as it was said to be unsafe; after detonation, instead of tumbling down to the beach, the plateau levelled out and dropped a few feet never to move again.

The attractions

South-West Coast Path (SWCP)

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The sections of the SWCP that pass through Portreath are fantastic. With some extremely arduous stretches, this is still a great area to do some trekking. To the north you can reach the neighbouring village of Porthtowan. For most of the SWCP’s length you will see mine workings, a military base as well as opportunities to spot dolphins and seals playing in the quiet lagoons. From high up on the slate and sandstone cliffs, sections drop right down to near sea level with ascents and descents up various staircases. It’s a great escape from the world though as this is a very quiet stretch of the SWCP. Also, head south to Bassets Cove; the walk is strenuous in parts, but there are spectacular views, lots of wildflowers and various sea birds.

Tehidy Country Park

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There aren’t that many areas of woodland in this part of Cornwall, as the land is characterised by mine spoils, stone Cornish hedges, and lush farm fields and meadows. So, head to Tehidy if you love old trees. The country park covers an area of 250 acres with over 9 miles of nature trails. The park is also a haven for birds – there are a number of hides around the lakes in the park where you can observe the birdlife feeding and interacting. There is also a café and visitor centre at the heart of the park – there are several entrances and car parks at Tehidy all with sealed pathways to get around.


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For a great day out at the beach, drive a few miles up the coast to Porthtowan, which has an even larger beach than Portreath. You can even walk all the way to Chapel Porth Beach at low tide by the cliff base. Enjoy a leisurely lunch in The Blue Bar, which is right at the beach or build sandcastles, bodyboard, surf, picnic or sunbathe, there’s enough room for everybody. There used to be some lovely sand dunes at Porthtowan, but have since been eroded. The locals are currently trying to bring them back by fencing off areas at the rear of the beach.

The food and drink

The Basset Arms

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Named after the family that used to own Tehidy Park, the Bassetts made their fortune from the tin mining industry. The pub itself sits just beyond the harbour and is a great social hub for the village that welcome visitors in for an evening meal and a pint of Cornish ale or cider (ever tried Cornish Ratter?). Meals consist of the finest Cornish ingredients, with fish being a speciality and there’s a good choice of burgers and steaks. 

The Blue Bar, Porthtowan


In the neighbouring village, you’ll find this great bar and restaurant. You will feel transformed by the modern, beachfront location and settle right into the laidback surfer lifestyle that embodies this village. Expect cool beers, chilled wine, refreshing salads and surf and turf combos; it’s a buzzing little place and is a good meeting spot for young locals and visiting families. Book a table for evening meals and check opening times if you are visiting in the off season. 

The Terrace

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This Mediterranean-style restaurant is said to be the best of its kind in the whole of Cornwall, which is a very high accolade indeed. Its location is up Tregea Hill, high above Portreath, so the views from the deck on a pleasant evening are second to none. Its reputation as a place to dine out is steadily growing apace. At present, the Spanish-born chef, who was trained in France, is the draw as he blends the flavoursome dishes of Galicia and France with Cornish ingredients to delicious effect. Book ahead to avoid missing out.

The accommodation

Stay in a beautiful self-catering cottage in Portreath. North Cornwall is a great way to experience an authentic Cornish holiday away from the crazy crowds. If you are looking for an off-season break or a romantic weekend, we have some exceptional prospects in our collection. Travel with your extended family and stay in a country farmhouse or a large country dwelling with sea views. We thoroughly recommend a stay in a holiday home in Portreath; visit our portfolio of self-catering holiday properties today.

Discover more of Cornwall:

Guide to Cornwall

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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