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Pocket Guide: Padstow

Visiting Padstow

Padstow is a fishing port and resort town in the northeast of Cornwall. Situated on the estuary of the Camel river, Padstow has become an increasingly upmarket holiday destination in recent years, in part because celebrity chef Rick Stein has a number of eating places in town. Padstow is named after St Petroc, who arrived from Wales to preach in the area in 1500 AD. The town has a charming medieval harbour, and across the estuary is the fashionable holiday village of Rock. Padstow is also famous for its lively May Day festival, and is within convenient reach of some of Cornwall’s biggest attractions, including the Eden Project and Newquay.

Where to stay in Padstow

When deciding where to stay in town, you could consider choosing a Padstow hotel that overlooks the harbour, allowing you to soak in the atmosphere of the estuary. Alternatively, you could stay in the village of Rock on the other side of the water. Rock is very upmarket and nicknamed “Chelsea-on-Sea” due to the glamorous London crowd it attracts. It’s a great spot for shopping and dining, plus beach and water activities, but it’s also more expensive than Padstow.

Accommodation choices in Padstow

Padstow hotels offer accommodation to suit a range of budgets. For a luxury choice, try the 4 star Treglos Hotel, which has a restaurant, indoor pool and spa. For a mid-price option, consider the beach-side Metropole Hotel. Also 4 star, the hotel offers a free breakfast, an outdoor pool and a restaurant. For a budget option, the Blue Reef hostel is 10 miles from Padstow in the popular resort town of Newquay, and is a 5-minute walk from Great Western beach. Facilities include free Wi-Fi and parking, plus a 24-hour front desk. Note that all rooms are shared in this hostel. Overall, you are spoiled for choice in the town and surrounding areas, it’s just a question of deciding which Padstow hotel is right for you.

What to do during your stay in Padstow

Padstow has a wealth of activities for you to enjoy, both in and near the town. You could start your Padstow tour by strolling along the medieval harbour to view the many pleasure boats on the Camel estuary. The estuary is famous for being the site of the Doom Bar, a sand bank that has caused many shipwrecks over the centuries and is said to have been placed there by a mermaid’s curse. You could then browse Padstow’s gift stores and boutiques, before visiting St Petroc’s Church, which dates back to the 13th century. After that you could head to Padstow’s nearest beach, St George's Cove, around half a mile from the harbour. The beach is notable for being the site of an ancient holy spring, St George's Well, that still exists to this day.

Passing through the town is the Camel Trail cycle network, which was once a disused railway track and runs along the river from Padstow to Wadebridge, taking in Pinkson Creek, a spot that’s rich in bird life. Other pleasant beaches include Harbour Cove, which is wide, sandy and sheltered, and Hawker's Cove, which sits at the mouth of the river Camel and enjoys a very wide stretch of sand at low tide.

At the end of your day of exploring Padstow, you could enjoy an excellent meal at one of the various outlets owned by celebrity chef Rick Stein, including The Seafood Restaurant and Stein’s Fish & Chips, before ending the evening at a traditional English pub (ideally one with a beer garden, allowing you to enjoy the Cornish sunset).

Across the Camel estuary from Padstow is Rock, which you can reach several times a day by ferry. This upmarket resort village includes a mile-long sandy beach with calm, clear waters, a sailing club and a Michelin-starred restaurant, The Black Pig. Popular activities in the area include yachting, fishing, angling, windsurfing, rowing, canoeing and water skiing. Although Rock is not a great place for surfing, nearby Polzeath beach is a surfer’s hotspot where you can take lessons. Other attractions include the St Enodoc golf course and the medieval St Enodoc church, notable for its crooked steeple, and the traditional fishing villages of Port Isaac, Port Gaverne and Port Quin. Also near to Rock is Daymer Bay, a popular family beach, and Constantine Bay Beach, a stretch of sand that’s dotted with rock pools.

Other attractions in the area of Padstow include the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which lay forgotten under tangled weeds for many years but are now one of the most UK’s popular botanical gardens, and the Bedruthan Steps, a cluster of coastal rocks said to be the stepping stones of an ancient giant. An ideal time to visit Padstow is during the “Obby Oss” May Day festival, when the entire town comes alive with colourful costumes and celebrations. You are bound to find much to entice you on a trip to this scenic and historic coastal town.

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