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A family break in Porthleven: Cornish ice cream, rock pools and shipwrecks

A family break in Porthleven: Cornish ice cream, rock pools and shipwrecks

This pretty southwestern coastal town is hard to beat for children, with excellent food, a handsome harbour and proximity to beautiful swathes of sand.

Published May 7, 2023

4 min read

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Less than 15 miles north of Lizard Point, Porthleven is the most southerly working port in the UK. Though it was once most famous for its pilchard and mackerel output, today it’s popular with families who come for the excellent food, handsome harbour and proximity to beautiful Cornish beaches. Little ones will love dipping into rock pools and clambering over the cannons fringing the harbour that were salvaged from a shipwreck, while families with older kids can test out easy hiking on the South West Coast Path. 

Glorious food

Try the Corner Deli, where hand-spun pizzas are crisped in the wood oven, or Nauti But Ice on the historic harbourside for cones of Roskilly’s brownie and marshmallow ice cream. Every spring, you can bring the family for the annual Food Festival, a free event celebrating Cornish food and drink with chefs such as Antony Worrall Thompson, plus music and outdoor feasts.

Sandy adventures

The beach here is great for sand castles, crabbing in rock pools and watching pro surfers near the harbour. Later, you can pick up the South West Coast Path nearby for the 35-minute wander to Loe Bar beach and Loe Pool, the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. Legend has it that King Arthur’s sword Excalibur lies at the bottom. Just keep an eye on the tides, and return to Porthleven, which has a lifeguard in summer, if your kids feel like a paddle.

Market finds

For shopping, visit the Shipyard Market, where local galleries, craft shops and food stalls come together. It’s a good place to pick up picnic supplies for the beach, and there are also quirky treats for family pets and locally made beer for parents. For little ones, there’s everything from sticky jam doughnuts to unicorn cupcakes, mermaid jewellery and toys. 

Sea cliff climbs

For older children, climbing the sea cliffs in nearby Trewavas with a guide from Climb Cornwall makes for a fun day out. You’ll wander for 20 minutes along the coast path before arriving at the beautiful white granite crag for beautiful seagull’s-eye views. Suitable for children aged six and over.

Where to stay

The Old Post Office

In the centre, the former post office has been converted into family-friendly apartments. The one on the ground floor has two bedrooms, with a kitchen and terrace, and a wood-burning stove for cosy evenings beside the sea. Seven nights from £496.

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