Padstow to Harbour Cove

Padstow to Harbour Cove

A circular walk through Padstow's mediaeval network of streets to the church, the Elizabethan Manor at Prideaux Place and Tregirls Farm, with panoramic views of the estuary, returning along a mile of sandy beaches.

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The walk starts along the harbour and then winds through Padstow's streets to reach the ancient church and Prideaux Place, once the site of St Petroc's monastery. The walk continues via Tregirls Farm to the Doom Bar where hundreds of ships have been wrecked. The return route to Padstow is along the beaches of Harbour Cove, Hawker's Cove and St George's Cove which merge into a vast expanse of golden sand at low tide offering an alternative to the Coast Path.


  • After prolonged heavy rain, the wetland area beside the track across the dunes at Harbour Cove can overspill onto the track making wellies necessary.
  • Note that most coastal walks in Cornwall have paths close to unfenced cliffs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106
  • Distance: 3.1 miles/5 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in summer; wellies during a wet winter

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 106 OS Explorer 106 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Padstow's historic harbour
  • Ornate Elizabethan manor of Prideaux Place
  • Panoramic views over the Camel Estuary from Tregirls
  • Sandy beaches at Harbour Cove and St George's Cove
  • Local seafood in Padstow

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Golden Lion Hotel
  • The Harbour Inn
  • The London Inn
  • The Old Customs House
  • The Old Ship Hotel
  • The Shipwrights


  1. Follow the edge of the harbour to the Chough Bakery.

    Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the Saints Way from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the "old place", to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

  2. Turn left down the narrow passage between the bakery and Pucellis (with black bollards either end) and follow this until it ends opposite the Padstow Institute.

    Although most of the buildings in Padstow are from the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries, the street pattern near the harbour dates from the mediaeval period.

  3. Turn left and follow the road a short distance until you reach a junction to the right into Lanadwell Street at Stein's Pattiserie.

    The celebrity chef and presenter Rick Stein lives in, and is heavily invested in, the Padstow area. At the time of writing, he and his (ex wife) business partner own four restaurants, four shops, a cookery school, a cluster of self-catering holiday cottages, a pub and 40 guest rooms in and around Padstow. Unsurprisingly this is controversial: Padstow is cynically referred to by some locals as "Padstein", whilst others point out his enterprises employ over 400 local people and potentially attract more visitors to Padstow than perhaps otherwise would have been the case. Either way, there are now lots of places to eat in Padstow.

  4. Turn right into Lanadwell Street and pass the London Inn to reach a junction by the Golden Lion.

    The Golden Lion is the oldest inn in Padstow, dating back to the 14th century. Many sales of salvaged goods took place in the "Long Room" behind the Inn. During the May 1st Obby 'Oss festival, the Golden Lion acts as a "stable" for the Old 'Oss.

  5. Turn right beside the Golden Lion and follow Middle Street until it ends in a T-junction.

    Mummer's Day is an ancient Cornish midwinter celebration that occurs every year on Boxing Day and New Year's Day in Padstow. It was originally part of the pagan midwinter celebrations where people all over Cornwall would guise dance ("geese dance") which involved disguising themselves by either wearing masks or blackening their faces. Jumping to the conclusion that the blackened faces are some kind of ethnic representation, a number of people have wrongly speculated that the event originated from freedoms being given to the occupants of passing slave ships which stopped in the port to allow slaves a bit of free time and space in the town. Consequently quite a lot of confusion has arisen in recent times, including an incorporation of "minstrel" songs into procession (which is thought to stem from support for the abolition of slavery from the Methodist movement). In recent years, Padstonians have worked to "de-clutter" the ceremony of this modern confusion, paring it back to the original traditional carols and using the name Mummer's Day.

    Paul Ainsworth worked for Gary Rhodes, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing before opening his own restaurant named "Cornwall - No 6" in 2006 in Padstow with two friends.

    The early days in Padstow were tough and despite empty tables and a slating from a London food blogger in the spring of 2007 on a visit to what he described as "Chelsea on Sea", Paul stuck it out and made the restaurant a success.

    The restaurant's menu is designed to offer a different selection of local food to Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant, to complement rather than compete with it.

    Paul bought his friends out in 2009 and took over the business with his wife, renaming the restaurant to "Paul Ainsworth at No 6". The restaurant went on to win a Michelin star in 2013 and the highest AA rating of 4 rosettes in 2016. The Good Food Guide went on to describe it as "Padstow's premier gastronomic address".

  6. Turn left and follow the lane to a fork at the Cross House Hotel.

    The annual Obby 'Oss (Hobby Horse) celebration in Padstow on 1st May is thought to be a relic of the Celtic Beltane festival marking the arrival of spring. It is among the oldest May day traditions in Europe.

    The festival starts at midnight with singing of a traditional night song and by dawn the town is dressed in greenery, flowers and flags, and the maypole prepared. Two groups of dancers then precess through the town singing the traditional day song, with one member dressed as the 'Oss - a stylised horse costume with a black cape under which they attempt to catch young maidens in the town. It is thought that the origin of the maiden catching was to bring them "luck" (i.e. fertility).

    The two 'osses are known as "Old" and "Blue Ribbon". The latter is a 19th century addition by the Temperance movement in an attempt to discourage the consumption of alcohol by the Old 'Oss followers, which has not been entirely successful! Each 'oss has a "stable" (the Golden Lion Inn for the Old 'Oss, and the Institute for the Blue Ribbon 'Oss) from which they emerge at the start of the day's proceedings and retire at the end.

  7. At the fork, keep left to follow Church Street past St Petroc's church until you reach a junction on your right (Tregirls Lane).

    There have been 3 churches on the site of St Petroc's in Padstow. The first, was built in the early 6th Century by Petroc and was destroyed in 981 by the Vikings. In the 12th Century, another church was built, which is thought might have been of sandstone and therefore didn't last long. This was replaced by the current church in the early-mid 15th Century. The cream-coloured stone in the interior, used for the columns, was imported from Normandy; the dark stone used for the font and windows is blue elvan quarried from Cataclews Point between Harlyn and Mother Ivy's bay.

  8. Turn right at the junction, passing Prideaux Place on your left, and follow the lane through the arch and onward for about half a mile until the lane ends at Tregirls Farm.

    Prideaux Place, situated at the top of Padstow, is an Elizabethan manor house which has been the home of the Prideaux family for 14 generations. It was built in 1592 by Nicholas Prideaux and survived unaltered until the 18th century when Edmund, Nicholas's great grandson, influenced by his Grand Tour through Italy in 1739, created a formal garden and updated the house by installing modern sash windows and coal burning grates.

    Consequently, the house combines some traditional Elizabethan architecture with the 18th century exuberance of Strawberry Hill Gothic. Of its 81 rooms, 46 are bedrooms and only 6 of those are habitable (the rest are as the American Army left them at the end of the Second World War). The deer park is thought to be the oldest in the country and has been dated back to its enclosure by the Romans in AD 435.

    The deer park is on the right-hand side of the road. The deer can often be seen there.

  9. At the end of the lane, walk to the sign on the building ahead then turn right to reach a stile beside the gate.

    According to legend, St Petroc arrived from Ireland around AD 520 and settled here. After his death, a monastery called Lanwethinoc was built on the hill above the harbour in Padstow. The monks there acquired land from Portreath to Tintagel. After the Viking raid of 981 documented in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the monks moved inland to Bodmin taking the relics of St Petroc with them. The site of the monastery has never been identified with certainty, but it is thought to be based on the present parish church with an extension towards Prideaux Place.

  10. Go through the gate if open (or cross the stile) and turn left onto a track. Follow this along two fields until you reach a waymark on your right, at the end of the second field.

    To your left, across the estuary, is Daymer Bay and directly ahead are the cottages at Hawker's Cove where the Padstow Lifeboat was originally launched.

    The row of six cottages at Hawker's Cove were built in 1874 for the crews of pilot gig boats allowing them quick access to reach ships entering the mouth of the estuary before they foundered on the Doom Bar. During the 19th Century, the deep river channel ran along this side of the estuary so launching at lower states of the tide would have been much easier than it is today. A pilot's lookout was situated on the edge of Iron Cove, facing out into the mouth of the estuary.

    The headland ahead is Stepper Point along which the river channel used to run. Over the last century the channel has moved towards the middle of the Estuary, possibly caused by sand piling up against the many hundreds of shipwrecks in the channel. The lifeboat has therefore had to be relocated and now launches from Trevose Head.

    The 40ft stone tower on Stepper Point, affectionately known as "The Pepper Pot", was built as a daymark - a navigation beacon for seafarers during daylight. At 240 feet above sea level, it is visible from 30 miles away. When it was built in 1830, the daymark cost the sum of £29. The money was raised by giving donors voting rights in the Harbour Association: one guinea would buy one vote.

  11. Turn right at the waymark and follow the path up the steps and along the edge of the field to reach a stone stile between fields.

    Alternatively, in summer (when the track ahead to the beach isn't waterlogged), it's possible to walk along the beach instead if the tide is out, and return to the coast path at St George's Cove to rejoin the route.

    Harbour Cove is the beach on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary from Daymer Bay. There is a beach at all states of the tide at Harbour Cove although at low tide, the vast beach stretches out towards Doom Bar and merges with the other beaches, making it possible to walk around Gun Point to St George's Cove across the sand.

    During Victorian times and even during the early 20th Century, the main river channel ran alongside Stepper Point and so there were no sand dunes or sand bars here and the cove was surrounded by rock platforms below the edges of the field. Harbour Cove itself was a tiny beach at the mouth of the inlet in the area which is now marshland with an old double wooden walkway.

    Harbour Cove is also known locally as Tregirls beach, named after Tregirls Farm. In 1600, the name was originally "grylls" but was corrupted into "girls" over the years. It's possible the name of the farm arises from the Grylls family who were part of the Cornish gentry.

  12. Cross the stile and follow the path to another stile.

    The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

  13. Cross the stile and follow the path to a junction of paths with a waymark. Bear right to follow the waymarked path around Gun Point to the wooded valley at St George's Cove.

    A gun battery on Gun Point is shown on maps as early as 1801 and may originally date back to defences against the Spanish Armada. It was re-fortified during the Second World War and these are the remains visible today.

  14. From St George's Cove, continue along the coast path up the estuary to a waymark in front of the War Memorial.

    The Camel Estuary is a nursery ground for bass and is a designated conservation area. Young bass spend their first 3-4 years in estuaries and then move into inshore waters. At 6-7 years the bass are sexually mature and migrate out into the Atlantic into deeper water to breed during the winter, returning each summer to coastal waters. Fishing for bass is illegal in the estuary during the summer and autumn to help protect the breeding population.

  15. Go through the gate ahead and past the Memorial to the gate on the other side.

    Padstow's fishing industry reached its heyday in the nineteenth century, by which time there were also six shipyards. In the 1880s, shipbuilding declined when wooden ships were replaced by iron but the town was fortunate that by the end of the nineteenth century, east-coast trawlers made Padstow the centre of their winter fishing.

    When the railway opened in 1899, this quickly became important for fish export and during the 1920s, there were still well over 100 fishing boats in the harbour. When the railway closed in 1967, the fishing industry went into decline but recovered somewhat in the 1980s with Padstow being recorded as the 3rd largest fishing port in the South West in 1986.

    The fishing fleet is much smaller today but is still active, and the National Lobster Hatchery is based beside the car park on the South Quay.

  16. Go through the gate and follow the left (lower) path until you reach a junction where another surfaced path departs to the left.

    The National Lobster Hatchery, located on the quayside at Padstow, are aiming to create a sustainable shellfish fishery in Cornwall by providing a predator-free environment for lobsters to grow past the zooplankton stage where they normally mostly perish. The lobsters are reared in captivity until they are 2-3 months old - the age when they set up home in a burrow. They are then released at different points around the coast to replenish stocks caught by fishermen. There is a visitor centre there where you can find out more about what they do and meet the lobsters.

  17. Follow the path ahead until you reach the harbour.

    The first stone pier in Padstow was built during the 16th Century. Many of the buildings around the quays were originally warehouses used in marine trading during the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. Like many ports in North Cornwall, Padstow's economy was based on a mixture of fishing and import/export. During the middle ages, Padstow exported copper, tin and lead ores, slate, pilchards and agricultural produce. In Victorian times, coal was imported from Wales and timber from Quebec.

  18. Continue ahead and follow the edge of the harbour to return to the car park.

    During the nineteenth century when emigration from Cornwall was at its height, Padstow was the centre from where many people left to start a new life in the Americas and Canada. The ships importing timber from Quebec or Prince Edward Island would offer cheap travel to passengers wishing to emigrate. Many of the ships themselves were either built in Padstow or in Canada by earlier Cornish immigrants. In 1841 (after the Cornish potato famine), Padstow was the UK's third most important departure point for Canada, surpassed only by Liverpool and London.

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