Cornish beaches: Porthtowan

The draw of the coast entices old and young to the county with the result that in the school holidays (Easter and the spring half-term and especially summer) the roads are choked, the car-parks full to capacity and the beaches brimming with human life. So it was with great pleasure that my Australian family came to visit during September and October as at last I was able to visit some of those beaches that are so popular, although St Ives still managed to prove very busy.

Porthtowan in September

Welcome to Porthtowan Beach. In the Cornish language Porth = port, harbour or bay and Towan = sand dunes. It lies on the north Cornish coast approximately 20 minutes drive from St Ives and not far from Redruth and Camborne. A popular spot for surfers, it has a couple of beach restaurants from where you can enjoy a cocktail whilst watching the sun go down, a pub and a surf shop. At low tide the beach stretches nearly 1.5 miles to the neighbouring and equally stunning beach at Chapel Porth and the cliffs below the iconic Wheal Coates engine house, though I have not managed to catch the tide at the right time to do that yet. The coastal path rises steeply on either side of the beach offering spectacular views over the Atlantic Ocean.

The beach leading to Chapel Porth and the iconic Wheal Coates mine

The cliffs along here are suffering from erosion and there was a cliff fall not so long ago so you have to be careful when exploring the rock pools and caves below.

the beach and rockpools

The geology is fascinating, rocks rusty-red (iron?) and green (copper?) and sea smooth grey slabs threaded with white veins in stripes and swirls and squiggles.


There is a seasonal dog ban on the beach from Easter and October 1st between 8am and 7pm. Outside these hours and from October 1st to Easter, the beach is dog friendly. And believe me there are a lot of pooches in Cornwall!

Porthtowan in November


  1. Lucid Gypsy says:

    A quiet beach is my kind of beach!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Mine too! But it would be nice to find one when the weather is warmer 🙂

  2. A question that comes to my mind while reading this: what is the status of the Cornish language?

    1. Heyjude says:

      The Cornish language is being encouraged, a lot of signs now appear in Cornish and English. But I don’t think it will reach the point where it is taught in schools like Welsh is.

      1. But Cornish is still being spoken, is it?

        1. Heyjude says:

          There are some Cornish speakers, but it is not something you hear in the streets such as the Welsh language.

  3. We loved exploring the coastal areas of Cornwall. The scenery is amazing. We found it wasn’t too busy in September, because the school holidays were over. Popular places like Land’s End were busy but otherwise it was delightful. Your photos are gorgeous, Jude.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes, September was fine except for St Ives! It seems you have to wait until November for that place to quieten down 😀

  4. Jane Lurie says:

    I love this collection, Jude. You’ve captured the beauty and mood of this beach. I would love to be exploring those rock pools right now. Also, your black and white is terrific.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you Jane. I ‘m enjoying experimenting in black and white. I have never been a landscape photographer so all this is new to me.

  5. Wonderful variety here, my beach-friend. Misty and blue. And then the b&w with your signature figures. And of course, rock patterns, shells and whatever makes those swirls and circles. Lovely post. We’re relishing the last weeks of empty beaches. It’ll be interesting to see what summer holidays bring. We walked along 2km of beach on Sunday. There were footprints, and three cars on the headland and one figure on the beach.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Rather like that here at the moment. We managed to squeeze into the one and only remaining car space near the Tate Modern on Thursday and enjoyed a brisk walk around one of St Ives beaches, a few dog walkers on the beach, no-one in the water and we only met a few people on the headland. November is obviously a quiet month 🙂

  6. Lignum Draco says:

    It looks like a beautiful location and for so many places, that means invasion by tourists. Thanks for taking us there at a quieter moment, the way it should be appreciated.

    1. Heyjude says:

      You’re not wrong LD. Quite often there is enough space on these big beaches, but not the parking facilities.

  7. pommepal says:

    Lovely and fascinating rock formations. and the last misty photo, or is it sea spray? is so atmospheric. Our popular beaches never have a down time. In fact winter is even busier, every one from down south coming here for the warmth. But we have such long stretches and so many beaches you can always find quiet ones if you don’t want to be where the shops etc are. I prefer quiet…

    1. Heyjude says:

      The ones without amenities are quieter, but also often quite inaccessible to anyone who isn’t either very fit and agile or a mountain goat!!

  8. Loads of lovely texture here Jude – quite a feast for the eyes 🙂

    1. Heyjude says:

      Each beach is different. I like this one because it has a very nice beach bar 🙂

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