A survey in the Times named four of Cornwall’s beaches among the best in the UK. This is the fifteenth annual list of beaches nominated by readers, and the only one where the finalists have been recently visited and inspected. Here is our view of four of the best North Cornwall beaches.
Judges were looking for excellent cleanliness, accessibility, car parking facilities, lifeguards, and dog-friendliness. And following recent revelations about pollution in British waters, only beaches with water quality rated “excellent” by the Environment Agency made the cut.
Each of the finalists is undeniably beautiful, but they also represent four different sides of the Cornish coast.
Porthcurno, west Cornwall
Considered by many to be the most beautiful cove in Cornwall, Porthcurno’s crystal clear waters and white sands give the impression of being a Caribbean rather than a British beach! What is distinctly British however are the hand hewn steps built into the cliffs that lead to the famous open-air Minack Theatre.
You’ll find a lifeguard on the beach during the summer, but take particular care at high tide as the waves can be extra powerful. You’re advised to come early, as the only access to this popular beach and its car park is via a narrow lane that is usually blocked in summer.
But once here you won’t want to leave – and with toilets and a cafe nearby you won’t need to. Dogs are welcome outside the summer months.
Porthminster, St Ives
This iconic location on the eastern approach to St Ives, is one of six beaches in this famously popular town. Arrive by train (and really, we don’t recommend driving in summer) and Porthminister is one of the first things you see. Just a minute’s walk down the steps and you’re on the sands, looking out at the dazzling palm-lined beach.
At low tide, Porthminster merges with the harbour to create a wide span of sandy beach that’s perfect for families. There’s a stylish beach cafe here, with many more options for takeaways and ice cream nearby.
Shops provide you with everything you need to make the most of the sea, including paddleboard and surfboard hire. Porthminster has its own toilets and welcomes dogs off-season, with lifeguards on duty during the summer.
Constantine Bay, north Cornwall
One of the best surfing spots in Cornwall, this curved beach is backed by sand dunes and has wonderful views of the lighthouse at Trevose Head. One of the reasons for its popularity is its variety – the beach transforms as the tide goes out, revealing a network of shimmering rock pools. Some of these are even big enough to swim in.
Take care when entering the water though, as the powerful rips that attract surfers can be dangerous for swimmers. Dogs are always welcome here and lifeguards operate for most of the year, except in winter. This being Padstow, you’re never far from good food and drink, with both a coffee stand and a café.
Parking is limited, but you can usually find a space at neighbouring Treyarnon Bay, just a five minute walk away.
Grebe, Helford River, east Cornwall
Visiting Grebe is a distinctly Cornish experience, and an adventure in itself. Find a space in the National Trust car park at the top of the valley and walk for half a mile through a steep woodland path of beech and ash and pine trees.
This secluded sand and shingle beach lies on the banks of the River Helford with rock pools to explore at either end. The crystal-clear River Helford is relatively safe to swim in, but there is no lifeguard so do take care. It’s also advised that you check the tide times before visiting as the beach vanishes at high water. There are no toilets, but Grebe Beach is dog-friendly.