Discovering the Timeless Cornish Village of Porthallow
Set on the magnificent Lizard Peninsula, not far from the tranquil creeks of the Helford River, lies one of Cornwall’s most historic coastal villages.
Known locally as ‘Pralla’, Porthallow was once a thriving fishing community and home to a busy fleet of pilchard luggers, hence the name of its traditional village pub, ‘The Five Pilchards’.
Steeped in maritime heritage, this idyllic corner of the south Cornwall coast is home to a selection of charming Toad Hall cottages, all of them within easy reach of the region’s most beautiful beaches.
Porthallow is recognised as the half-way point along the world-famous South West Coast Path as it winds its way from Minehead to Poole. From the doorstep of our Porthallow holiday cottages, you’ll find breathtaking coastal walks with far-reaching views across the sparkling waters of Falmouth Bay and St Mawes. The Porthallow valley trail is bathed in bluebells during the spring and the headland is a canvas for wildflowers atop of the serpentine rock formations, resplendent in their red and green hues. The wildlife along this idyllic stretch is both varied and spellbinding, anything from soaring buzzards and diving cormorants to bobbing seals, leaping dolphins, and gentle but giant basking sharks.
A Potted History of Porthallow…
Porthallow was a ‘flourishing fishing village’ throughout the 13th and 14th centuries and was later one of the many communities along the Lizard Peninsula to use cotton ‘seines’, an ancient net dragging technique. The catch, largely pilchards (known today as ‘Cornish sardines’), was sold to the fish merchants of Falmouth Harbour for two shillings per hundred, with the leftovers drained of oil then salted and packed into barrels and stored in pilchard cellars to help feed the village during the winter months.
During the late 19th Century Porthallow became something of a tourist attraction, largely due to the opening of its brand new inn and its reputation for safe seawater bathing. During the 1960s, the Manacles Reef – a rocky coastal outcrop off the Porthallow beach – became a popular diving spot due to its once infamous reputation for shipwrecks. For those of you curious as to the origins of its name, Porthallow means ‘port at the end of the moor’.
Things To Do in and around Porthallow…
A little further southward down The Lizard Heritage Coast, past the picturesque hamlet of Porthoustock and inland from the sandy, secluded stretch known as Godrevy Cove, lies the working organic dairy farm of Roskilly’s. Here, you can meet the animals, stroll the meadows and ponds, and sample the farm’s award-winning ice cream, lovingly made from the milk and cream of its free-roaming Jersey herd.
Keep an eye out for the ‘Giant’s Quoit’ which can be spotted at the roadside just outside the village of Rosenithon near St Keverne. This iconic pile – shaped and weathered by the elements – once stood on the local cliffs but was carefully relocated due to quarrying activities.
Explore the quiet and enchanting waters of the Helford Passage when you book a Helford River Boat. With rowing and motorboats, sit-on-kayaks and paddleboards all available for hire, what better way to experience these secret beaches and isolated inlets, from Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek to the oyster farm at Port Navas. There’s also a lovely selection of waterside pubs where you can while away the hours on a lazy afternoon. If you’d prefer just to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the river, then hop aboard the Hannah Molly, a traditional Cornish day tripper that gently chugs along these tranquil waters with an experienced skipper at the helm courtesy of Helford River Cruises.
Close to the unspoilt coastal hamlet of Durgan you’ll find the magnificent Glendurgan Garden, a peaceful enclave maintained by the National Trust full of sub-tropical plants and exotic blooms. Here, you can stroll the gardens at your leisure before enjoying a traditional Cornish cream tea or light lunch. Equally as stunning are the subtropical valley gardens of Trebah where you can walk in the dappled-shade of giant one-hundred-year-old rhododendrons, magnolias and camellias as they cascade down the hillside towards the Helford River. Dogs are also welcome.
Porthallow Beach is sheltered by the surrounding headland, a scenic pebbled stretch where the pilchard fisherman used to launch their boats. Porthallow Cove is full of rock pools at low tide and is also a great spot for snorkelling.
Close to the pretty coastal hamlet of Rosenithon, only a couple of miles away from Porthallow, is the lovely sandy beach of Godrevy Cove. Backed by rolling fields and clusters of sea pink thrift, this isolated setting is one of peninsula’s many unspoilt inlets. Around the grassy headland lies Leggan Cove, another lesser-known beach that’s far from the madding crowd.
Surrounded by ancient woodland on the banks of the Helford River lies Bosahan Cove. Found by way of sub-tropical garden trails through the Bosahan Estate, it’s easy to see why this sandy shore gets called one of south Cornwall’s ‘hidden gems’.
Another of the Lizard peninsula’s much-loved inlets is Coverack Cove. Noted for its turquoise waters and recommended by the Good Beach Guide, this unspoilt beach is enjoyed by both watersports enthusiasts and anglers. Close by is the pretty Coverack harbour, and dogs are welcome on the beach all year round.
Only three miles from Porthallow is Grebe Beach, a delightful shingle stretch on the Helford River that’s only a short woodland stroll from the peaceful hamlet of Durgan. There are plenty of rock pools for the kids to explore and the crystal-clear waters are great for swimming. Where better than this idyllic hideaway for a riverside family picnic.
Where to Eat…
Let’s begin with a trip to your ‘friendly local’. Porthallow’s Five Pilchards Inn is steeped in maritime history and is every inch the traditional village pub. This fisherman’s haunt offers up an inviting menu with a homecooked touch, plus plenty of vegan and vege options. Sit outside in the pretty courtyard or enjoy a sunny spot in the conservatory and admire the beautiful coastal views.
Only a short distance inland and set on the gentle backwaters of the Helford River is The Shipwrights Arms, a place to sit back and relax while the wading birds leave their trails along the shoreline. This yachtman’s retreat is a place where the whole family can enjoy some unhurried and quality time together, with the added bonus of a sumptuous menu full of local delights.
Also tucked away in the leafy shades of the Helford River is a local favourite known as the The Ferry Boat Inn. This age-old watering hole has served the fishing folk and mariners of the North Helford Passage for more than 300 years. Surrounded by sloping meadows and ancient woodlands, this waterside setting is sure to make your heart sing. Expect some homemade ‘pub grub’ classics, fresh seafood and a warm welcome whenever you dine here.
If you’re looking for a quintessential thatched pub to help quench your thirst and satisfy your appetite, you’ll love The Red Lion in the village of Mawnan Smith. You won’t have to stray far from the South West Coast Path to find this gorgeous pub where children and dogs are always VIP guests. It’s also not far from the famous gardens of Glendurgan and Trebah.
Just inland from Porthallow Beach and set in the grounds of an old vineyard is the Fat Apples Café. Here, you can enjoy a home-cooked breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea from a menu celebrating the fayres of local butchers, bakers and fishermen. You’ll also find imaginative crafts and Cornish treats, a selection of local artwork, and a little library full of second-hand books. You might even stay on to enjoy an evening of live music in the lantern lit courtyard.
Just around the headland that shelters Porthallow Cove lies the pebbly beach of Porthkerris, home to the Porthkerris Divers Beach Café. This rustic little venue continues to gather rave reviews with a stylish and hearty menu that befits the stunning panorama. As the name would suggest, this is a popular haunt for divers returning to the shore after their underwater explorations of sunken wrecks.
Come and explore west Cornwall’s majestic Lizard peninsula when you book a stay with Toad Hall Cottages. As well as a collection of pretty Porthallow holiday cottages, we’ve got hundreds of delightful dwellings tucked away in some of the West Country’s most desirable locations.