The lowdown is that yes, you have to be quite good to surf there because of the occasional rip tides and unoccasional rocks; yes it is the home (Chapel Porth to be precise) of the World Belly Boarding Championships, but no it’s not especially cliquey, just full of residents who love their town and fill its noticeboards with clubs, societies and events.
Where to start? Beach end? In the town? Stippy Stappy? Churchtown? Ideally, make a dramatic entrance on foot along the coastal path that follows the craggy grey hem of this slate-littered section of the north coast. Empty engine houses punctuate the skyline, silently speaking of times and industries now past, namely the mid-19th century, when Aggie was purportedly one of the most industrialised corners of the world. At this time of year (summer), flashes of purple heather and turquoise twinkles from the sea add artistic splashes of colour to an otherwise wild canvas.
Whichever way you choose to arrive, start at the beach, Trevaunance Cove, the centre of summer in St Agnes. Grab Tom for some surfing knowhow, head into Schooners for coffee and cake and some beautiful views, Breakers for ice creams, paninis or a fried egg sarnie or come prepared with a pre-made picnic feast for some al fresco eating on the rocks and frolics in the water. Check tide times carefully as the beach can expand and retract in the manner of a crazy accordion.
Once you have exhausted the beach, head up the hill back into town, passing the award-winning Driftwood Spas on your left, with its own brewery full of signature beers such as Lou’s Brew (for the landlady) and Badlands (a term once referring to the beaches of Aggie), a great venue for live music as well as theatre in the garden. Opposite the pub is The Blue Duck on your right for cutey knick knacks associated with the sea.
Keep climbing and you pass Trevaunance Cove Art Design full of talented artists such as Duncan the silversmith, whose wares are very tempting indeed. Further up is Sugar Shack, a unique combination of a café in a garden and a shop full of bespoke items by designer duo Carla and Greg. Carla’s fabulous retro pieces made from old watch parts are definitely worth checking out.
On up the road and you pass The Taphouse on the left of the roundabout, one of the key Aggie watering holes, great for live music and Friday night paella. Pop into Chops and Mary’s surfing shops, one for men, one for women, just opposite each other. Chops is famed for being a longboard champion. Hang a right, past the Peterville, up the hill, past the endearingly pretty Hovis-like street of miner’s cottages that is Stippy Stappy and you are in Churchtown, the commercial and foodie hub of the town.
On the left, it is imperative that you go into the St Agnes bakery and order a meat pasty and a butter bun. The butter buns are to die for and you will want many. Just across the road is the St Agnes Hotel, which has fish nights, poker nights, open mic nights, as well as being the yearly AGM venue for that local retro sport, belly boarding. Continue past the hotel and you will hit a partnership of top quality food: Clair’s veg shop next door to partner Tony’s butcher’s: Bateman’s. Award-winning homemade sausages as well as home cured bacon make a delicious supper, followed by some ripe apricots and Cornish strawberries from Clair, who does her best to get as much Cornish represented on her shelves, even down to the flowers. Bateman’s also sell quality booze.
Keep walking and at the mini roundabout on the left is Rik’s fish shop, complete with prosthetic limb in shark’s mouth on the wall outside. A chef for 25 years, he will happily advise you on cooking any of his products, which range from gurnard to lobster, mackerel to rock salmon. He is also the only sponsored disabled surfer in the country as well as being a keen fishermen who helps bring in the catch. Impressive credentials.
Aggie is also a throbbing centre of masculine pursuits, select from any of the following: the Cuckoo Race (10k-ish run on the cliffs); fishing competition (by invitation only alas); dog racing (a fairly new phenomenon); the Trevellas Motor Trials (vintage rallying up impossibly vertical cliffs); a tough triathlon, the Paddle Race and Round the Rocks swim. And then there’s Bolster Day but that’s a whole other story … .
St Agnes punches way above its seemingly small town, seaside credentials, reflected in house prices and top quality venues and well worth a full day of your full attention.