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Once the premier fishing port on the northern stretch of Cornwall’s coast, Padstow’s harbour is still home to a working fishing fleet, but tourism has long since replaced fishing as the town’s main industry. Whilst there is no doubting the town’s popularity as one of Cornwall’s principal holiday cottage resorts, its compact size, locked in between the harbour wall and the Camel estuary, means it has successfully retained an altogether cosier, quainter ambience than some of its larger rivals. Padstow has recently enjoyed a renaissance as self-styled food capital of the region, thanks in no small part to a fine array of restaurants, not least of which is that run by celebrity super-chef Rick Stein. Book early if you want to dine at his Seafood Restaurant in style; if you’re too late, or the budget won’t stretch that far, you can also try his Café and St. Petroc’s Bistro. There are many other excellent eateries, both expensive and of a more modest price bracket, along the quayside.
Padstow’s network of narrow lanes and streets lend themselves to discovery on foot, and most roads eventually seem to wind up around the harbour, the natural focal point of the town. From here, many of the boats offer fishing trips, with mackerel being a ready catch for the amateur sea angler. Away from the quayside, the town’s saint – St. Petroc, from which the name Padstow originates – is honoured at the parish church, where carvings date from the fifteenth century. The church is also important as the traditional starting point for one of two renowned walks which begin in Padstow, this one being The Saint’s Way. This ancient route, originating from the Bronze Age, allowed travellers to make the journey from Padstow’s north coast to Fowey on Cornwall’s south coast by an inland rather than a hazardous coastal route. Nowadays, the well-marked path can be enjoyed in easily manageable stages, and route maps are widely available. A second popular route also originating in the town is the Camel Trail, a 17-mile cycle trail which heads up the Camel river from the Padstow, finishing at Poley’s Bridge, on the edge of Bodmin Moor. Sections of the trail are open to walkers and horse riders; again, information leaflets and maps are available locally.
Padstow has some super beaches; Tregirls has a beautiful stretch of white sand, but a shorter or longer walk or drive in either direction will reward the visitor with any number of lovely spots; Constantine Bay is renowned for its surf; Harlyn Bay has good swimming and surfing, Treyarnon Bay is pretty but like many can be crowded in summer; Porthcothan beyond it, with its backdrop of rugged cliffs, tends to be quieter. Some four miles or so south of Padstow, Bedruthan Steps is one of Cornwall’s most dramatic beaches. A series of rugged slate slabs jut defiantly out into the sea; popular legend has it they form the stepping-stones of the giant Bedruthan. Splendid panoramas of this natural spectacle can be had from the vantage point of the coastal path; access from the cliffs down to the beach is difficult, via steep and often wet steps. This is a beach to ramble on, marvel at and explore rather than swim at, as unpredictable tides and strong wave render the waters treacherous. Enticing Daymer and Polzeath beaches near Rock, on the far side of the Camel estuary from Padstow, make a better bathing choice; a ferry connects the two shores regularly in the summer and less frequently in winter. Both offer fine sand beaches, ideal for sunbathing, windsurfing, sand yachting and beginners’ surfing, thanks to a combination of shallow waters and gentle waves. Beaches aside, one family attraction in the Padstow area worthy of note is the Crealy Great Adventure Park near Wadebridge. This is a one-stop shop day out, combining a farm centre with animal shows and feeding, roller coaster rides, a variety of themed play zones, activity centres and much more, designed to keep all the family entertained, rain or shine.
If you would like to visit Padstow, why not take a look at these self catering holiday cottages?