Our Guide to Local Beaches

 

For so many of us that live and work in villages, towns, cities, a day at the beach is a one of the treats that we look forward to when we are taking a well earned break from our normally hectic lives. Westcliff is ideally located with a great choice of beaches within easy walking distance and more still within a short drive or longer walk along the South West Coastal Path.

There are two main beaches at Looe - Hannafore Beach, just a few yards walk around the corner from Westcliff and Looe Beach, which you look at every day from your apartment window.

Hannafore Beach

Hannafore Beach stretches from Hannafore Point along Marine Drive and actually consists of two beaches, Hannafore Beach & Wallace Beach. It is predominantly a rocky beach with shingle and some patches of course sand at low tide. Above the beach there are grassy banks and benches along Marine Drive. The beach is probably best known and best enjoyed for its fantastic rockpools that are uncovered twice daily as the tide retreats and for its view across to St George’s Island, now more commonly known as Looe Island. With a south east facing perspective, the beach is a suntrap for those who prefer a less populated beach than the sandy beach across the Looe River mouth.

There are public toilets at the beach and a café, opening times for both of which are seasonal. Tom Sawyers and Hannafore Point Hotel both overlook the eastern end of Hannafore Beach and you can certainly find somewhere to eat and drink throughout the year.

There is no lifeguard at the beach and swimming, whilst possible, is probably not advisable for this reason. The beach is accessible by all members of the family including babies and small children with pushchairs. There is a bowling green and tennis club towards the end of Marine Drive. Dog are allowed on Hannafore beach all year round

Rockpooling is a pursuit enjoyed by many and the rocky reef that is exposed at low tide is the perfect environment for you to discover interesting sea life such as sponges and sea-squirts, sea anemone various, Furrowed Crab, Hairy Crab, Scorpion Spider Crab and Squat Lobsters. The reef has large areas of flat slate and deep gullies as well as large pools so there is a good mix of habitats for sealife. If you are particularly interested in Rockpooling, why not check out the British Marine Life Study Society page which describes in more detail the sea life found at Hannafore by a rockpooling group from Sussex, including the probable find of a sea slug never previously known on British shores.

Opposite Hannafore Beach is St George’s Island, an area of outstanding natural beauty now owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and run as a nature reserve. The island has a recorded history dating back to the building of a Benedictine chapel in 1139 and was a landing place for smugglers. Until recently, the island belonged to two sisters Evelyn and Babs Atkins until they died in 1997 and 2004 respectively. Evelyn wrote two books, "We Bought an Island" and "Tales from our Cornish Island", which are about the island, their lives and their experiences. One can visit the island which is non-commercialised by boat and possibly, at extremely very low spring tides, by foot. Use this link to view a video of Hannafore Beach.

 

Looe Beach

If you are looking for a safe, sandy beach, Westcliff guests do not need to look far – just out of the window in fact across the river and Banjo Pier.

The main East Looe Beach is a large sandy beach with man made seating areas and rocks to one side and Banjo Pier to the other. At low tide, it is a vast expanse of flat sand and even at high tide, a very large area of beach remains. The sandy shelf means that the sea is shallow for a long way out and so you can enjoy paddling or swimming. It is a very popular beach for families and in the height of the season, it becomes very busy, with trampolines and other activities taking place on the beach. If you venture in an easterly direction, the beach becomes quieter and rockier

There are toilets by the beach and of course the whole of East Looe provides facilities for drinking, eating and shopping. Dogs are banned from the beach all year round.

‘Banjo Pier’ is a very popular place for a spot of rod & line fishing and for watching the fishing trawlers and other boats leave and return to the harbour.

Banjo Pier in its current form was the creation of Joseph Thomas (1838 – 1901) in the late 19th century.  Joseph Thomas is a very important entrepreneur and engineer in the history of the development of Looe and he was responsible for such developments as Hannafore Road, Hannafore Estate, the quayside in East Looe and the rail link to Liskeard. More information about Joseph Thomas may be found in a very interesting document produced by the Cornwall Industrial Settlements Initiative. There was an existing pier that had been constructed to prevent sand from silting up the Looe River which wasn’t working and Joseph Thomas conceived the idea of constructing a circular head to the pier. Apparently he was so convinced that the idea would work that he refused payment until it was proved to have done so ! Just down from Banjo Pier on the Joseph Thomas’s quayside you can book boat trips, fishing trips and even take a glass bottom boat to view the local sealife.

Looe Beach is ideal for anyone that is looking for a ‘traditional holiday beach’ and whilst it is probably overly busy in the summer, with the fine weather that Cornwall enjoys all year round would be an ideal spot to sunbathe either side of the height of season. If you wish to visit Looe Beach, there is a small ferry that connects West Looe to East Looe running at certain times or alternatively you need to walk down Hannafore Road on to Quay Road, across the bridge and along the quayside or through the town to reach the beach.

The beach immediately east of the Looe Beach is known to the locals as ‘Second Beach’ and offers fantastic snorkelling on the days with good visibility. Bass fishing from this beach is very popular as the ‘king of the sea’, as it’s known to anglers, swims in very close to the shore to feed as the tide rises. Large schools of Mullet are often seen in the large sandy patch that is uncovered at low tide, about half way down the beach. At low tide you can walk along the beach to Plaidy Beach. Use this link to view a video of Looe Beach.

 

Beaches a walk away

There are many other fine beaches nearby which can be reached by car and some by foot. Obviously all beaches are a walk away as they are on the South West Coastal Path  - but how long have you got ?!

In the opinion of the author, and it’s only my opinion, I think it is always worth taking a walk westwards to Talland Bay, 3.6 miles away. When you reach Talland Bay, there is a café to rest at for a while (seasonal). Once you have rested, you can summon the energy to walk the extra mile or so to Polperro where you can choose from a wide range of excellent pubs and restaurants. From Polperro, you could walk back if you are superfit or organise a taxi to take you back to Westcliff. There is a bus service to Looe which runs from the top of Polperro village but you would need to check the timetable as it changes according to season...

A similar walk in an easterly direction would mean you would reach Seaton beach but the author has never walked that way, preferring instead to plough a furrow between the Tom Sawyers at Hannafore and the Blue Peter in Polperro !

The beaches we have featured are generally well known but there are also secret coves known only to the locals which you can discover for yourself. I can’t tell you where they are because if I do, they won’t be a secret anymore !!. Enjoy your walk and enjoy finding a hidden gem of a cove or beach – but be careful, because many of these small coves disappear when the tide comes in.

To the east you will discover...

Plaidy

Plaidy Beach is a sandy beach with rock pools. It is largely covered at high tide.  It is about ½ mile from Looe beach along a nice footpath. Plaidy Beach is utilised by holiday makers staying at the Millendreath Holiday Village but as there are no facilities, toilets or car parking at Plaidy, it can be reasonably quiet. Dogs are allowed at certain times of the year. It is possible to park at Millendreath and walk along to Plaidy.

Millendreath

Located about 1 mile east of Looe is Millendreath Beach. It once had a watersports centre, shop and café but the last time we visited Millendreath Beach in Febuary 2006, everything was in a state of some disrepair.

One point of interest for Millendreath is that there is an American Flying Super Fortress sunk approximately ¾ of a mile from the beach. This makes for interesting diving. Boats and jet ski’s can be launched from Millendreath beach.

Seaton

Seaton is a large and popular family beach with grey sand as is common in South East Cornwall. There are a number of facilities at Seaton such as public toilets, a café and a beach shop. There is a local pub, The Smugglers Inn, and a restaurant, Sands Bistro.

The car parks at Seaton are small and will become full in the summer on hot days and at weekends. The beach is easily accessible and suitable for all the family. Dogs are banned at certain times of the year

Downderry

Just to the east of Seaton is Downderry Beach. With a good pub on the beach, Inn on the Shore, and a large sand and shingle beach with rock pools at low tide, Downderry is very popular with locals and visitors alike. Sometimes referred to as ‘Lord Elliot’s Beach’, the main Downderry beach is easily accessible. The eastern end of the beach is difficult to access and involves climbing a very steep cliff path. It is an ‘unofficial naturist beach’. It is possible to walk along the beach from Seaton at low tide but check before doing so.

There are lots of facilities at Downderry – parking, a pub, restaurants, shops, toilets and even a post office. Dogs allowed at certain times of the year

Downderry offers excellent snorkelling on a good day, and if you are lucky you could stumble across the wreck of ‘Gypsy’, the sister ship to the ‘Cutty Sark,’ that is hiding under a kelp bed not far from the shore line. There is a slip road to the beach enabling cars to drive right down on to the beach to launch boats and jet ski’s.

Portwrinkle

Portwrinkle has two beaches  - a shingle beach to the west and an ever  popular sandy beach, Finnygook, to the east of the village. Portwrinkle is located at the western extreme of Whitsand Bay where the Royal Navy recently sank HMS Scylla to create an artificial reef. There are great views of Rame Head and Looe from Portwrinkle.  If you like the beach, you may wish to stay there next time!

Access to the beaches at Portwrinkle is not easy and they are probably not suitable for disabled people or pushchairs. There are two car parks but they are small and become very crowded. There are toilets but no other facilities at the beach.

Whitsand Bay

Whitsand Bay has the best beaches in the area for sand and surfing. It is a four mile long sandy beach but the problem is that it is not easily accessible. There are no toilets and the cliff path to the beach is very steep .

For surfers, the beach is suitable for beginners through to intermediates and there is a review of it on the BBC site.  Beware the rip currents.

At the western end of Tregantle beach (also known as Long Sands Beach) is Tregantle Fort, a MOD firing range. During firing sessions, the beach is closed by means of a ‘red flag’. Details of firing times are posted through notices issued to the local parish councils, Harbour Masters, Post Offices, and coastguards.  Details are also published in the Cornish Times and The Western Morning News or can be found by calling  01752 822516.

Around the middle of Whitsand Bay is Freathy Beach which has a café above it and to the easterly end is Tregonhawke Beach. There is some parking available in lay-bys along the coast road and there are lifeguards in summer.

Cawsand & Kingsand

Rame Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by water and in addition to Kingsand and Cawsand, the villages of Cremyll, Millbrook, St.John, Sheviock, Crafthole, Antony & Whitsand Bay itself are located here.

The twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand  are on eastern side of the Rame Head and offer a pair of shingle beaches to enjoy. The villages are home to a number of pubs, cafes, restaurants and shops and with their twin sheltered beaches and rockpools, are popular with families.

Cawsand and Kingsand are located just near Mount Edgumbe and the Cremyll foot ferry linking Cornwall to Devon at Plymouth as it has done for centuries. They are very sheltered with Rame Head to the west and Picklecombe Point to the east.

 

To the West you can enjoy...

Talland Bay

Talland Bay has two sheltered shingle beaches, Talland Sand and Rotterdam Beach, and some nice big rocks to the side which make for a comfortable place to sunbathe. At low tide there is some sand but of course it’s wet ! There are rock pools to explore.

There is a café, a shop, toilets and a reasonable amount of private car parking behind the shop together with some road parking. Up the hill is Talland Bay Hotel which is excellent for dining. There are some nice tables outside the café and personally, I love Talland Bay and the walk from either Looe or Polperro.

Talland is also a must for the snorkeller with the regular Pollack and colourful Wrass to the occasional flash of the silver Bass. Talland is a  good beach for catching edible crabs  - if they have not crawled into the pots that are dotted a short distance out to sea by the local crab and lobster fishing boats.

Polperro 

 

Unspoilt by progress, the ancient fishing village of Polperro is a Conservation Village surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty situated in a sheltered cliff inlet.

At low tide, the small sandy Polperro Beach appears as the waters of the Outer Harbour recede only to disappear again a few hours later as the tide returns. Obviously it is a nice clean beach ! The other side of Peak Rock, the large rock that defends the entrance to the harbour, is Chaipel Pool, a part natural, part man-made sea water swimming pool. There are many wonderful walks to enjoy from Polperro, either eastwards towards Talland Bay or in a westerly direction towards Lansallos.

Every day from Easter until October there are ½ hour boat trips available along the coast and also mackerel trips by arrangement.  The Polperro boat men also run half day trips to nearby Looe and to Fowey.

There is lots to do in Polperro with a museum displaying the smuggling & fishing history of the village, lots of pubs, restaurants and cafes as well as shops and a variety of stores.  For more information on Polperro, click this link and if you have enjoyed your break at Westcliff, why not bring some friends down with you and stay again at Westcliff.

Lansallos

Located midway between Polperro and Polruan, Lansallos Beach is a lovely sheltered beach of sand & slate shingle also known as West Combe beach. Almost perfectly semi-circular, the beach is generally quiet and is known as a good resting point for those walking along the coastal path between Polperro and Polruan.

Lansallos Beach can be best reached by walking there along the cliff path from Polperro or by walking down from the Lansallos car park near to Lansallos Church. In our opinion, the path down to the beach makes access too difficult for wheelchairs and pushchairs. There is a small car park in Lansallos.

Lantic and Lantivet Bay

Located between Polperro and Polruan, Lantic and Lantivet beaches are a collection of small but perfectly formed coves of which Palace Cove is the most stunning.

The white sandy beaches of Lantic and Lantivet Bay are basically a secret and are likely to remain so due to the extreme difficulty associated with accessing them.

The climb down to them is hazardous and Pencarrow Head which provides the coves with shelter rises to 400 feet. Frankly the very best way is to get there is go by boat which is what we do when we get a chance !. This means finding someone to take you there and pick you up – not impossible for one of our guests . . ..

There are no facilities, no toilets and no car parking so as one might imagine, these beaches are totally unspoilt by progress . . .and may it long continue. Swimming is considered dangerous due to currents.

Polruan

The smallest beach of all those reviewed is the beach which is only exposed at low tide next to the quayside at Polruan.

It is from this quay that the foot ferry leaves for Fowey and the beach is overlooked amongst others by locals and visitors enjoying a pint at The Lugger Inn and the shipbuilders at Tom’s Boatyard. There isn’t much privacy but its ideal for exhibitionists with perfect figures and children who really don’t care. Personally, I like the little beach and I always have a paddle as a minimum when I am taking the ferry across to Fowey.

There are toilets at the quayside and shops nearby. Car Parking is difficult in ‘lower Polruan’ but there is plenty of parking at the top. Polruan is very interesting and the local history includes attacks by the Spanish in the 14th century and by the French in the 15th century. There are the remains of a 14th century defensive ‘Blockhouse’ at Polruan from which a chain was hung to a similar structure on the Fowey side preventing attacking ships entering the harbour.

So, that concludes the review of the beaches from Kingsand to the east through to Polruan in the west..

When researching this piece, I found a very nice website produced by John Butler who is a keen walker. His website brings the review of the beach alive with photographs and commentary. Please use these links to see what the beaches and the coastpath are really like to walk to and visit.

 

Fowey to Polperro

Polperro to Looe

Looe to Portwrinkle

Portwrinkle to Plymouth

 

 

If you want more information about beaches in Cornwall, then please visit Things to Do In Cornwall.