Cornish beaches: Holywell Beach

One of Holywell Bay’s most distinctive features are the twin rocks just of the coast. These two huge rocks are known as Gull Rocks or Carter’s Rocks. Those of you who watch the TV series ‘Poldark’ may recognise these images. Holywell beach is owned by the Warleggans .

The name Holywell is derived from holy well and it is believed this refers to a cave at the northern end of the beach. Only accessible at low tide (so take care) the cave contains an unusual rock formation which creates a series of basins with its calcium deposits, also at low tide a wreck of an old Argentinian coaster can be seen just offshore.

I went here towards the middle of July shortly before the schools broke up for the summer. When that happens it becomes silly season in Cornwall with roads, beaches and car-parks full to bursting. But on this evening it was reasonably quiet, with just a few people amongst the dunes, some of which rise up 60 feet,  a romantic spot to watch the sun set over the sea. Nippers were having a surf lesson and members of the Holywell Bay Surf Life Saving Club appeared to be enjoying a social get together.

In 2002 the club hut was turned into a film set for the James Bond film ‘Die another day’ unfortunately Pierce Bronson did not actually come out of the water, it was a stand in, but viewers at the cinema still think that Holywell Bay is Hawaii!

It is a perfect example of the north coast’s wide open bays, though the sand is a rougher texture than those further to the south. Behind the beach are tall sand dunes topped with Marram grass and Sea Holly. They are pretty tough on the calves to walk up, but you do get a nice view from the top. Access to the beach is either through the crystal clear stream or over the small bridge. There is summer lifeguard cover (19 May–30 September) and the beach is dog friendly all year round. It is a bit of a walk from the NT car park and that is the only place where toilets are located. There is a pub close to the car park, but be warned it does get busy. Close by is a golf course and a holiday park.

Oh, and bear this warning in mind if visiting during the summer months. Especially if you head off along the coastal path towards Polly Joke and Crantock over the headland.



  1. beetleypete says:

    It’s great that you are able to enjoy that area before the summer ‘avalanche’ of tourists, Jude. As for adders, Beetley is ‘Adder Central’. They are actively encouraged to breed with help from the local wildlife trust, and I have seen quite a few now. We have those warning signs all around.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Sue says:

      Adder Central! Yikes!

    2. Heyjude says:

      Yikes Pete! Photo?

      1. beetleypete says:

        I never had a camera when I saw one, but I was also more concerned about keeping Ollie away from it. They tend to slide away when approached, and apparently only bite if provoked. The small young ones are supposedly the most dangerous, as they have not learned how to regulate the venom in their bites. It has to be hot as a rule, and then you might catch them basking on a path, or in short grass. Most locals have seen at least one this summer, and I spotted three this year, including one that had just bitten someone else’s dog.

        1. Heyjude says:

          Yes, I can see them being a problem where inquisitive dogs are concerned.

  2. Chloris says:

    Fabulous beach Jude and great photos.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thank you Chloris. Of course I cannot take any credit for the actual beach or location 🙂

  3. janesmudgeegarden says:

    The main photo on your post today (on the side) is terrific, like a small part of a Klimt painting with those golden touches. Looks like a wonderful beach to visit, with its history and film locations. Strange to think you have snakes there. We tend to think we have a monopoly on them!

    1. Heyjude says:

      I have yet to see an adder. Came close to something which might have been one on a walk once, but it scuttled away quickly.

  4. restlessjo says:

    Oooh, gorgeousness! Will come back for a better look later. Rushing out the door 😦

    1. Heyjude says:

      When are you never rushing somewhere!

      1. restlessjo says:

        Nurse, Specsavers and yoga this morning 🙂 🙂 Bizarre combination. Just taking 5 before we attack the loft. Eek!

  5. bushboy says:

    Thanks for taking me to Holywell Jude 🙂 When I first saw the title, I though it said Cornish Breaches. I did wonder why you were writing about pantaloons 🙂

  6. Sue says:

    Essence of my childhood remembered….

    1. Heyjude says:

      Scrambling up and down those dunes? They are hard work now!

      1. Sue says:

        Sure! No way I could do it

  7. Eeek, I wouldn’t want to meet an adder on the beach. Otherwise, this area looks lovely.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Well you have an awful lot more dangerous snakes and spiders than we do. I think the snakes in question probably live up on the dunes.

      1. A snake is a snake and I don’t want to meet any of them! Spiders are much more manageable.

  8. I remember Marram grass from bio;logy lessons – it keeps the dunes from blowing away – love Cornwall beaches and especially the small rivers that run across the sands to snake their way into the sea! Thanks for all the info and pictures Jude

    1. Heyjude says:

      I hadn’t realised that most beaches have these little streams. I don’t associate Cornwall with rivers as there are so few big ones.

      1. the Helford is a favourite of mine -not like the Severn or Thames maybe but cornish rivers cut through some of the best scenery –

        1. Heyjude says:

          Yes I like the Helford too, very peaceful along there, but the narrow lanes are horrendous for driving along.

        2. Guess they were built for pedestrians or pony & trap!

        3. Heyjude says:

          No River Hayle on that list.

  9. Su Leslie says:

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful beach Jude. Seems strange to see a snake warning sign though, especially at a beach.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I forget that we have adders here! I’d love to see one, but not too closely.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        I understand that!!!
        My mother is totally snake-phobic. That’s why we emigrated to NZ rather than Australia (can’t say I’m sorry about this now). She practically had to be carried off the plane when we arrived in Yangon on our way here from the UK because she was convinced that there would be snakes all over the runway and slithering loose all round the airport. My dad was soooooo embarrassed.

  10. I believe this is the first I’ve ever heard of venomous snakes on an English beach. That aside, I’d love to see and photograph the place.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I don’t think they actually go onto the beach to sunbathe, but on the headland and in the dunes. 🙂

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