Reaching Porthleven, the most southerly port of mainland Great Britain, I noticed with absolute joy that even on a blazing afternoon in the height of summer, there was room to breathe. No big crowds to nudge through, no traffic to dodge, and a parking space. Perfect start. There are several car parks to choose from, the most central being the council owned Kittos field, just tucked away by the harbour head, and some just a short walk away from the village.
The harbour plays host to most of the village’s cafes, restaurants, shops and galleries, as well as a gorgeous view and space to sit and take it in. On hot days at high tide, you can recline on the grassy area beneath the St Piran’s flags to watch local kids leap off the walls into the blue, and almost all eateries provide outdoor seating for a little sea air, sun catching and people watching. My favourite for this has got to be the terribly sweet Amélies at the Smokehouse. Pull up a deckchair in their outdoor area, and treat yourself to an Amélies Eton Mess, or check the specials board for locally caught fish.
Spend a few hours exploring the coastal paths over lunchtime, and fuel yourself with a fresh takeaway lunch or one of the fantastic picnic options from The Corner Deli on Fore Street. They also do wonderful bespoke gift hampers to take home for loved ones, if you’re feeling generous. For an alfresco evening meal, for me it has to be either The Square at Porthleven, who throw open the doors to their patio in summer for smart dining and wine drinking, or a relaxed meal at The Ship Inn on Mount Pleasant Road, an eighteenth century smugglers pub, which sits atop a stack of stone steps looking out to the mouth of the harbour.
Porthleven is regarded as one of the best places for expert surfing in Cornwall due to the small reef to the right of the harbour. This knowledge comes with a rather large warning – it is not for the faint-hearted. The reef creates powerful waves, strong rips and becomes dangerously exposed when the tide gets low, so although not the place to hop in unless you’re extremely confident, it makes for some excellent viewing.
Now, to the beach. If bombing off high walls into the water below is not for you, take the road along the left-hand side of the harbour, grab a sweet treat from Nauti But Ice ice cream parlour, (you’ve earned it), and continue past the beautiful, colourful houses on Bay View Terrace, until you reach the clock tower on Institute Hill. Have a pause, amble down to the end of the pier and look left. Not far now. Back at the clock tower, just head uphill and once round the corner you’ll find the steps down to the sand.
There’s plenty of shopping to be done, and I began with the stalls of the Porthleven Harbour Market. With trading days on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday each week from March to October, all manner of shiny things await you: clothes, crafts, jewellery and the like, along with a little festive bunting for good measure. Continuing along the right-hand side of the harbour to its end, I took the steps down to the Lifeboat Art Studio, to see some local artist’s work on display.
There are several galleries dotted around Porthleven, and recommended to me by a lovely local who sells her own adorable “Jeanniegems” handmade crafts and glass work in her shop Bumbles, was the Four Crows Gallery on Chapel Terrace. As well as artwork by owner Suzie Williams, you’ll find plenty on offer to take home as a gift, perhaps to yourself! I particularly loved the printed lampshades by Particle Press and the Thousand Paper Cranes, that are made right here in their little studio in Cornwall.
All contained within this little port sits a whole host of activities, reclining spots, quality shops and eateries. With picturesque holiday homes and the award-winning Kota Restaurant and B&B, Porthleven is a village so inviting, it is not to be missed.