Category: Like a local

Find your fish

A fresh-from-the-ocean catch for dinner – just that bit fresher and tastier when staying by the sea? Time to expand your piscatorial horizons and find out what to pick up at the fishmonger and how to cook it, with Ben Tunnicliffe at Newlyn’s Tolcarne Inn

Newlyn Harbour, on the sheltered west side of Penzance Bay, has welcomed fishing boats with their catch since the 15th century. And it continues to be a thriving fishing port landing multiple species every day, from mackerel and monkfish to John Dory and cuttlefish.

A few hundred yards from the pier is the 300-year-old home of the Tolcarne Inn. An unstuffy pub, it’s lauded for its lip-puckeringly good seafood, which travels from sea to market to plate in hours not days.

Award-winning chef Ben Tunnicliffe set up in Newlyn in 2012. “In other European ports, seafood restaurants are abundant. Newlyn has arguably the most diverse fish market in the country, so it made sense to open a fish restaurant here,” says Ben, who buys his fish daily from the market or direct from day fishing boats.

A freshly caught fish will have bright eyes and slimy skin. It also won’t smell of anything.”

Choices, choices

Planning a fresh fish supper? Ben recommends seeking out a local fishmonger and quizzing them on what’s landed that day.

“A freshly caught fish will have bright eyes and slimy skin. It also won’t smell of anything. If it’s starting to smell it means it’s getting old. Be guided by what’s on ice in the shop,” he says.

“If you’re new to cooking fish then have a good chat with the fishmonger. They’ll be happy to answer your questions. They can also prepare it for you, if you need them to, by filleting and pin boning, and then can give you advice on how to cook it.”

Once you get your freshly wrapped fillets or whole fish back to your retreat, Ben recommends not trying to do anything too fancy and risk ruining it by submerging it in an overpowering sauce. Whether it’s a meaty monkfish fillet or a juicy piece of hake, let the delicate flavours shine through and allow the fish itself to do the talking.

“Less is always more,” says Ben. “The simplest way to cook fish is to wrap your fillet in foil with some lemon juice and some herbs stuffed into its belly, season it and then stick it in the oven. Or put it under the grill, as opposed to on top of the grill, or fry it quickly in some butter.”

Gently does it

The biggest faux pas home cooks can make is to overcook their fish, says Ben: “If you think of the amount of raw fish that’s eaten in Asia that tells you not to be afraid of eating undercooked fish. You want it to remain moist and succulent, so it doesn’t dry out. This is a delicate product. Keep it slightly underdone and it will continue to cook in its own steam before you serve it.”

“One of the earliest pieces of advice I got in my career was: ‘what goes together, grows together’”

With fish and seafood prices soaring over the past couple of years, Ben also advises that you experiment with lesser-known species, rather than your traditional coastal favourites: “There’s a huge demand for popular catch like lobster, turbot and mackerel, which means prices are driven up. So, don’t be afraid to try something new and perhaps more affordable.

“Occasionally in the restaurant we have great weever fish on the menu – the fish that buries itself under the sand and can give you a nasty sting. It’s not commonly eaten in this country and people are a little unsure about it but when they try it, they love it.” He recommends asking the fishmonger what’s in season and how they recommend it’s cooked.

The perfect partner

With your fish taking the starring role on your dinner platter, it’s just a question of which sides to serve. While the humble potato – boiled, chipped or fried – is always a safe bet, look at what else is currently in season.

“One of the earliest pieces of advice I got in my career was: ‘what goes together, grows together’,” says Ben. “If you go to the local veg shop, see what produce is coming off the fields at the moment and it’s likely to match with what’s coming off the sea. It’s a really good tip.”

He offers up this seasonal serving suggestion for half-term holidaymakers: “All the brassicas are in season right now, so take some curly kale and fry it off in a little oil and water. Throw in some finely diced chilli, anchovies, lemon zest and lemon juice, continue to fry for a few minutes, and season. This would be a delicious accompaniment to a baked juicy fillet of gurnard, seasoned with a little olive oil and lemon juice.”

If you’d prefer to let Ben do the cooking, head to the Tolcarne Inn, Newlyn.

Enjoy your pick of coastal culinary treats when you stay footsteps from the shore.

The forgotten corner of Cornwall

A guided walk on the Morwenstow cliffs by David Myers

The phrases “off the beaten track” and “hidden gem” are often used to describe Cornish beaches and villages, which, upon arrival to the teeming carpark, are evidently anything but. However, Cornish wildnerness guide David Myers would like to introduce you to a place which might well be Cornwall’s best representation of the above terms.

There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of Morwenstow, the wild and windswept coastal parish at the extreme North end of the county, and there’s a good reason why – it’s literally not on the map (well, a lot of them!). The postcard below is a great example: the 7-mile stretch north of Bude has been chopped off, an unwieldly inconvenience to the map maker.

This isn’t a negative, far from it. It’s a unique quirk about the area which only adds to its feeling of remoteness. An hour’s drive to the nearest dual carriageway, and a further half-hour more to the closest motorway and proper train station, you really have to make an effort to get to this place. But those who do will be rewarded with some of the most unspoiled, stunning and quiet stretches of coastline in the South West. On a sunny August bank holiday, if there are more than 5 people on some of the beaches it’s classified by the locals as busy.

There are no settlements on the Morwenstow coastline, just a string of remote beaches and coves, towering clifftops and rugged coastal scenery. The only building you will encounter is a tiny cabin, constructed in 1843 by an eccentric vicar from the salvaged timbers of a ship wrecked on the jagged rocks far below. It’s been standing there defiantly for the past 180 years, surviving all manner of storms the Atlantic has thrown at it, and serves as a visual reminder to the area’s wild history of shipwrecks, piracy and smuggling. Even the local pub, the Bush Inn, owes its name to a code the smugglers used to distinguish friend from foe.

Hawker’s Hut by David Myers

That’s not to say the coastline is all that this area has to offer. You can head inland up one of the many deep, wooded valleys, surrounded by ancient oaks. It’s a paradise for walkers and trail runners, with the vast network of paths leading into the parishes of Welcombe and Hartland, forming a network of hundreds of miles of adventure, where you will most likely not encounter a soul.

Bluebell lined woodland trail by David Myers

If cycling is more your thing, the quiet country lanes make an excellent way to explore the area. An electric bike, hidden beaches, a 13th century pub and a tearoom all combine to make an unforgettable day out.

If you’d to experience perhaps Cornwall’s best kept secret then visit www.davidmyers.co.uk or Instagram @davidmyersguide. David is a wilderness guide and Morwenstow native who offers guided walking, trail running and electric bike trips in the area, for people who want to experience the quieter side of North Cornwall and Devon. From easy one-hour history walks, to challenging all-day and multi-day adventures, there’s something for everyone.

Watch and act

Sleeping by the sea means catching a wave at any time when conditions allow, early, late or later still. This is the #beachoutofhours. But before pulling on your wetsuit and reaching for your board, take a few moments to read the surf…

Such is the whimsy of the British weather that you never quite know what to expect when you peel back the curtains from the cosy embrace of your seaside bed. While a day lounging on the beach with a well-thumbed paperback fares better when the sun is sparkling, the sea’s there to be enjoyed come rain or shine.

In fact, when it comes to surfing, a touch of mizzle can actually improve conditions, says Charlie Unsworth, who works as an instructor at Croyde Surf Academy in north Devon.

“The rain can actually help the surf as it ‘grooms’ the waves,” he says. “It can patten them down into a smooth state, making it a nice clean ride. You’re wet already, so a little bit of rain doesn’t hurt.”

Ideally, you want a unified wave – so one straight line, not little waves coming in from all angles. That tells you the surf is clean and going to be easier to surf.”

Wave wisdom

Before you spring into your neoprene, however, spend a few moments casting your eye over the horizon to gauge the state of the waves.

Catching a wave in Croyde Bay

Image credit: Lou Pamment @lou.lives.big

“Ideally, you want a unified wave – so one straight line, not little waves coming in from all angles. That tells you the surf is clean and going to be easier to surf.”

When it comes to wind, preferably you want it to be offshore, delaying the break of the wave and keeping it glassy. Charlie says: “Look for a steady blowing wind, ideally not over 15mph, otherwise you end up battling the wind and weather rather than surfing.”

Follow the locals’ lead

Tim Heyland has been surfing the beaches of Cornwall and Devon for over 50 years. For surfing novices, he recommends getting up early and keeping an eye on the traffic.

“A cheat’s way to read the surf is to look at the number of boards heading to the beach. If you see the car park filling up with surfers, you’ll know there’s going to be good waves.

Obviously a calm day is preferable but those are never guaranteed. Last summer I’d just got in the water at Trevone when a freak hailstorm hit. It was wild but also hilarious.”

“Another tip is to have your surf early in the morning, as there’s very little wind first thing. As the land heats up during the day, the wind generally picks up. It then falls away again in the evening, so before sunset is another good time to get in the water.”

Trevone Bay at low tide

Image credit @steph__andr

Easy access

For people with disabilities, there’s more than just the weather and the groundswell to take into consideration.

“My advice would be to go in the sea just before high tide,” says adaptive surfer and open water swimmer Issy Kingdon, who surfs with The Wave Project. “You’ll have less distance to travel across the sand and you can enjoy it for a good half hour before the tide starts to recede again.”

While beach wheelchairs are available, they tend to book up quickly during the high season. Issy therefore recommends looking for beaches with slipway access to the sea. “Trevone Bay near Padstow is a good example of an accessible beach as you can drive right down and get directly into the sea at high tide” she says.

“Nothing beats going to the beach to look at the conditions for yourself,” says Tim. “An app might say the surf is ‘poor’, but you can still have fun on little waves.”

“Obviously a calm day is preferable but those are never guaranteed. Last summer I’d just got in the water at Trevone when a freak hailstorm hit. It was wild but also hilarious. As long as it’s safe, you’ve got to make the most of it!”

On RNLI beaches, surfing zones are marked out with the black and white flags, helping surfers know where to paddle out and letting you know that lifeguards are on hand to answer questions and help when needed.

Surf trackers

If you can’t see the surf there and then, apps such as Surfline and Windy provide up to date reports, including information on surf height, swell, wind direction, wind speed and tide times.

While the data is usually pretty accurate, it pays not to be too reliant on technology.

“Nothing beats going to the beach to look at the conditions for yourself,” says Tim. “An app might say the surf is ‘poor’, but you can still have fun on little waves. Or, if it really is all over the place, swap your surfboard for a bellyboard and have a play in the white water.”

However, if the wind is in excess of 30mph or the waves exceed six feet in height Charlie recommends keeping your feet on dry sand: “There’s a phrase, ‘If in doubt, don’t paddle out’. It’s a good one to stick to if you are having second thoughts about getting in the water. Always play it safe rather than take a risk.”

Image credit: Charlie Unsworth

The #beachoutofhours means taking advantage of the conditions whenever they’re right. Find your place to stay to watch the waves and act when the timing suits…

Newquay Wild Activities

“The minibus is buzzing with conversation as we drive the family group back to their hotel. As the youngest son gets out, he hugs the guide and says, ‘I want to be a marine biologist just like you.’”

We recently caught up with our friends from Newquay Wild Activities, who gave us a run down on their latest Rockpool Ramble on Fistral beach….

Image credit: David Kirwan

The day started when Liz picked them up three hours earlier from Watergate Bay. A lovely group down on holiday and booked with Newquay Wild Activities to experience a rockpool ramble. The van pick up means they can leave their cars in the car park and not worry about navigating the busy Newquay streets. They arrive at Esplanade Green overlooking the world famous South Fistral Beach.

Image credit: Neil Wilkinson

Here they meet their guides, two passionate locals who are as excited as the group to share and explore the rocky shore.

There are some amazing pools on South Fistral that contain a wondrous number of species – each with their own story to tell. Even the seaweed has some secrets to share, if you look close enough. A multitude of shells cling to them for security such as the iridescent blue ray limpet as does the beautiful Stalk Jellyfish.

Stalk Jellyfish by Ivan Underwood

Blue Rayed Limpet by Zeni Hayton

The group wander their way down towards the surf to look at the deeper pools and rocks covered in thousands of mussels and barnacles, always keeping an eye out for wildlife passing by in the bay. Crabs are discovered, fish swim by and shrimps come and play on their toes. Starfish of all types are found – they are incredible creatures that eat algae while clambering over rocks. Did you know they can lose a limb for an easy getaway if they are ever in danger?

Spiny Starfish and Cushion Star by Gwynnie Griffiths

As the tide exposes more rock, anemones begin to close to protect themselves while they wait for the protection of the water.

Anemone by Josh Symes

The group are enthusiastically hunting for more animals as Liz returns with their pasty and drink. A perfect spot to enjoy some sustenance before the slow meander back to the steps.

Amazingly, as they clamber their way off their beach, more wildlife is spotted – a Stone Chat just hanging out on the brambles!

Stone Chat by Josh Howells

There is so much to explore on Newquay’s shores. Liz and the group spend the drive back talking about everything they saw. The guides log all the wildlife information ready to send to the record centre which the group helped to collect (they are now citizen scientists!) and the guides get ready for their next group – this time… a Wildlife Walk around the headlands of Newquay to spot some of the bigger, more elusive wildlife.

Grey Seal by Adrian Langdon

Newquay Wild Activities is a brand-new Social Enterprise set up by Liz and Laura in 2022 – it stemmed from a decade in the marine conservation sector in Cornwall, a fabulous network of friends and colleagues and a yearning to show tourists and locals that Newquay has so much to offer.

Discover what lies beneath our rockpools and the wildlife that shares our shores. Book onto a Rockpool Ramble or a Wildlife Walk with mini-bus pickup included. Learn how to collect valuable scientific data that can help to inform conservation research and national policy. Explore the north Cornwall coastline with experts on hand to guide you.

For more information visit Newquay Wild Activities for the summer dates and activities. Including the spectacular night-time rambles – see what happens in the cover of darkness!

Anemone at nightAnemone by night, Josh Symes

Luxury charters with One Atlantek

Atlantek – it’s Cornish for Atlantic

As the sun appears over the hills behind the beautiful port of Fowey, a small crowd of people gather to watch the launch of the stunning Rib, Meraud Atlantek, at Caffa Mill. One Atlantek are getting ready to collect the day’s guests from Albert Quay with a day of adventuring and exploration awaiting the family of four who discovered this luxury charter company having met them at Henley Regatta!

What started as a lunch booking at Sam’s on the Beach in Polkerris has turned into much more.

The guests are welcomed by the operations director and skipper of One Atlantek, Tim. As they listen to their safety brief with a fresh coffee in their hands, The brand new 8 metre Ribeye A811 gently bobs against the pontoon. Lifejackets are handed out and the guests climb aboard. Bags are stowed and before they know it, this lucky family are headed out of Fowey in the bright sunshine ready to start their adventure.

Turning to the left out of the harbour mouth they soon arrive at Lantic Bay. This secluded beach has turquoise water and is a good trek to access it by land. The anchor is dropped and a morning swim is the next priority. Watched by a local Seal who is sunning himself on a rock.

Everyone takes turns jumping off the boat and even the kids are dropping comments about how wonderful this place is.

After 45 minutes it’s time to really up the stakes for this group. Tim has spotted dolphins off in the distance and as the group dry themselves off, they are suddenly surrounded by at least a hundred of these majestic creatures. Three of the pod decide that the bow wave is the place to be and the guests are treated to a twenty-minute lesson in what playing in the water really looks like.

As quickly as they arrived, the dolphins are gone and Meraud Atlantek and her passengers are now in the middle of St Austell Bay looking back at the Cornish Alps in the distance.

With the rising tide, the beaches at Silver Mines are the place to be. With no access from the coastal path, these are as close to a private beach as it’s possible to get and the snorkelling is fantastic.

With time flying by, It’s off to Polkerris to be dropped off at Sam’s. Meraud sits waiting just off the beach and with full bellies and big smiles, it’s time to be whisked around Gribben Head and back to Albert Quay where it all began.

One Atlantek are a small local company with some big ambitions. Created in 2022 by Tim Hogg, One Atlantek deliver a truly unique hospitality experience on board their beautiful Rib, Meraud Atlantek. Half Day (4 hours), Day (6 hours) and Extended day (10 hours) charters are available. Have a talk with Tim about creating your perfect day.

Find out more and book your luxury charter today, the perfect experience during your self-catered stay.

Beach BBQ tips

When the sun is shining, you want to spend as much of your time away outside and on the beach as possible – and that includes meal times! We recently caught up with our friend Rupert Cooper of Philleigh Way Cookery School (on The Roseland Peninsula) and Cove Café (above the beach at Hayle looking across St Ives Bay), to get his tips for cooking on the coast.

“Cooking can and should be as enjoyable an experience as eating, even if you’re not in the comfort of your kitchen” Rupert tells us. All it takes, we’re told, is a bit of preparation and a few tricks of the trade to make beach barbecues so much more than burnt bangers and burgers with a dusting of sand.

The first piece of advice that he has for us all, is to invest in a reusable BBQ such as the fold-able Flatdog made by Cornish company ProQ Smokers, which packs down into a case not much bigger than a large laptop. They’re more efficient, great value for money over the course of their lifetime, and cool down quickly enough that you can carry it back to the car after finishing your dinner and drinks. It turns out that disposable BBQs are bad on a lot of levels. Sure, only a few inconsiderate litterers leave them smouldering on the sand, but even for the rest of us there’s the fact that they cannot be recycled and over one million end up in landfill in this country each year. That’s why Waitrose no longer sell them.

Rupert’s tip, particularly for the ProQ Flatdog that he takes to the beach for family cook-outs, is not to overfill it with charcoal. “They get super hot, so it’s better to start small and top-up.”

He also advises to take a paper bag of good quality lumpwood charcoal, and a couple of (natural) firelighters. There’s no waste, no flavour taint from synthetic firelighters, and it’s one less thing to carry back to your car or accommodation! You can check out Rupert’s guide to different charcoals for barbecuing here.

“If you use good quality lumpwood charcoal then you can start cooking almost straight away. The only reason we’re told to let a barbecue burn down is because most disposable barbecues or “easy light” charcoal is covered in chemical accelerants that need to burn off so that they don’t taint your food. But with good charcoal you can start charring peppers and aubergines whilst there are still flames, and then start cooking meat or slower cook items once those have died down.”

With our equipment sorted, what’s best to cook for a delicious, easy, and stress-free meal? “Try cooked lobsters!” Rupert tells us. “They’re really easy, there’s no packaging or faff, and they’re super tasty. Just warm them up with butter on the BBQ. Eat them as-is or follow our recipe for home-made tartare sauce or cucumber salsa to make in advance and take them in jars to make classic lobster rolls on the beach.”

Another suggestion is to make simple kebabs and koftas in advance (lamb koftas are delicious and really easy) and you can either make simple flatbreads yourself to cook on the grill, or buy ready-made flatbreads to serve them in with a dash of plain yoghurt and cucumber.

If you’re vegetarian or don’t like the idea of dealing with meat when cooking outside or away from home, preparing portobello mushrooms with butter and herbs ahead of time then wrapping them in foil so that they’re ready to put straight on the grill is a great option.

Any last tips from Rupert? “Ice cold drinks, of course! There are some incredible craft breweries, wineries and distilleries in Cornwall, as well as companies making low-and no alcohol alternatives. If you’re enjoying great food and good times on the beach with family and friends, then make sure you don’t let that part of the picture slip!”

Enjoy the sun, be careful and sensible when cooking outside over fire given the recent dry conditions (this article is about barbecuing at the beach, but you might be barbecuing in a back garden), and if you’re cooking and eating in a public space then please remember to leave no trace.

If you’d like to learn more about the art of woodfired cooking, or cooking in general, during your time in Cornwall then check out the calendar of cookery courses at Philleigh Way Cookery School on the beautiful Roseland Peninsula here. There are courses covering everything from how to make Cornish pasties or various fish and shellfish courses, through different cuisines, baking and of course, barbecue.

Alternatively, if you just want to eat his food with a view over the beach rather than cooking for yourself, Rupert’s latest venture Cove Café, nestled in the low cliff above the sand of Hayle Beach with incredible views across St Ives Bay, is open daily from 9.30 – 4pm with special evening events such as their hugely popular Portuguese chicken nights a regular occurrence.

Where to eat and drink by the sea

The teams at the National Lobster Hatchery and EW Wines share their recommendations for venues offering great food and drink in great coastline locations…

Across Cornwall, the list of places to enjoy the finest food and drink is eclectic and increasingly sustainable. We asked some Cornish residents working in the wider industry – with their own produce and drink credentials – to reveal recommended venues.

The National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) is a standout organisation in Cornwall’s dynamic seafood scene. Founded in 1998, the charity’s focus is education, research and conservation. Its key conservation project is a pioneering programme to enhance the Cornish lobster population, working closely with the local fishing community.

Image credit: National Lobster Hatchery

The NLH expert team rears lobster babies through their most vulnerable life stages, to improve survival chances by approximately 1000% above survival rates in the wild. This supports a healthy and sustainable lobster stock, and the local fishing communities, both now and in the future.

“Another champion of the seafood scene on the South Coast is the beautiful Hooked on the Rocks. Located overlooking Swanpool beach near Falmouth, this restaurant is perfect for a long lazy lunch overlooking a spectacular vista.”

Chief Operating Officer Nicola O’Donnell says: “For an up-close look at marine conservation in Cornwall, including a peek at our lobster maternity ward and nursery, you can join us in Padstow at our main hatchery site. A centre for all ages to learn more about marine biology, sustainability and, of course, lobsters.”

Seafood with sea views

Nicola recommends The Lobster Shed at Harlyn Bay for great, sustainable seafood by the sea. The lobster served at The Lobster Shed is caught off the coast of Padstow by local fishing boats, and the whole menu is sourced within a 25-mile radius.

“The Lobster Shed are one of our incredible fundraising partners and run our scheme Buy one set one free’ – a great way for organisations and their diners to support sustainability.”

Image credit: The Lobster Shed

Keeping it local but with the sound of something more exotic, the restaurant’s Lobster & Camel pairs Cornish lobster with a Pinot Noir Rosé Brut from the Camel Valley.

“Another champion of the seafood scene on the south coast is the beautiful Hooked on the Rocks. Located overlooking Swanpool beach near Falmouth, this restaurant is perfect for a long lazy lunch overlooking a spectacular vista,” says Nicola.

Bar on the beach

Molly Gardiner, Communications and Admin Officer at the NLH, says the Blue Bar in Porthtowan is a great seaside spot any time; a café by day, with a bar and live music for the evening. “Grab a coffee or a pint and sit back, right by the beach. Siting there recently I saw about 50 dolphins out in the Atlantic. It’s a perfect stop off on a coast path walk or post-surf,” says Molly.

The team also recommend the Cornish Cream Teams available at Berryfield Tea Room, on the road down to Porthcothan Beach.

And to drink?

EW Wines, based at Indian Queens near Newquay was voted the best regional wine shop in the South West last year by wine magazine Decanter. One reason for the accolade is probably that it offers more than a quality selection of fine vintages.

The company is on the journey to becoming a B Corp – a certification scheme for more sustainable business. And as well as special tasting events, you can call in for free wine tasting from a selection of 16 wines, with Jim Bass – EW Wines’ WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Diploma qualified lead educator – offering a guide to the wines in store too.

“For a picnic lunch, we’ll call in to Da Bara bakery for provisions and I’ll take along some of our new range of premium canned wine. We’ve got a dry Muscadet that is absolutely delicious.”

For anyone staying by the sea this summer, they’ve curated a coastal wine box which can be delivered to your door on arrival.

Image credit: EW Wines

When it comes to finding a great spot for a glass of wine with a view, Jim recommends packing a picnic and adding some cans of wine to the hamper.

Favourite spots for picnic lunch or dinner include Porth Island and Whipsiderry Beach, both north along the coast from Newquay. “We had a takeout dinner up on Porth Island recently and watched the setting sun, one of the best views I’ve had with dinner for a long time.”

“For a picnic lunch, we’ll call in to Da Bara bakery for provisions and I’ll take along some of our new range of premium canned wine,” says Jim. “We’ve got a dry Muscadet that is absolutely delicious; it’s the same quality as a bottle – light and crisp, with a little texture. And the canned Fleurie we stock is the first Beaujolais in a can I’ve tasted that I would recommend.”

For takeaway dinner, Jim recommends the filled homemade flatbreads and fried beignet potato sides served at Babu, tucked away on the Treloggan Industrial Estate in Newquay. For dinner out, The Secret Garden in the town isn’t to be missed, serving artisan pizza paired with organic and biodynamic wines. “You wouldn’t know it from the outside; the terrace is really cool and has an amazing view,” adds Jim.

Found a favourite place by the sea for food and drink? Share your recommendation with us on social media, using @beachretreats and #bigreveal.

Huddle-up in a place for two, a walk from north Cornwall’s renowned beaches and eateries, or make the most of being together this summer, footsteps from picturesque picnic stop-offs. Where will you stay?

Board stories

From the far west to the overlooked south east, via the unmatched north, there’s a bay and a board for everyone. Keen board riders and paddlers reveal their chosen craft and coast…

Cornwall’s winding coastline reveals countless unmissable stops for enjoying and exploring the sea by board. Samantha Bruce and Georgia O’Carolan of Whitsand Bay Ladies Surf Club, Matt Hawken at Newquay Activity Centre, and Dan Bassett at Surf St Ives tell us which board they reach for and where they’re heading…

Whitsand’s welcoming waves

Organised by the Adventure Bay Surf School, Whitsand Bay Ladies Surf Club was Georgia O’Carolan’s first surf experience. “Outrageously, I didn’t start any board sports in the water until joining the Club when I was 27 because I thought I was too old to learn, which I now think at nearly 30 is just beyond silly.

“Our swells might not come in as big and fierce as the north coast generally, but we’re a great surf destination when it’s in.”

“We have all ages, sizes and abilities in our club and it doesn’t matter how good you are, as long as you’re safe – which might mean a lesson or a lifeguarded beach – you belong there in the sea. My tip for a novice would be to just go out and do it!”

Image credit: Adventure Bay Surf School

Georgia – RNLI lifeguard – says her corner of Cornwall on the south east coast is a little quieter which can mean more choice and opportunities to catch waves out in the bay. “Our swells might not come in as big and fierce as the north coast generally, but we’re a great surf destination when it’s in, and great for beginners and intermediates.”

And when she is paddling out at Whitsand she opts for a Mick Fanning Sugar Glider, either 7ft 6in or 7ft. “It’s fast and fun, and the first time apart from a rescue board, I’ve used a single-fin board.”

Image credit: Adventure Bay Surf School

Fellow Ladies Club member Samantha Bruce goes for the KORE 7ft 2 Fun board when she’s catching waves at Tregonhawke or northwards at Bude.

What makes a great surfing beach? “A long sandy beach, with minimal rocks, a short approach – so I’m not carrying my board for miles – and even better if there’s a coffee van or food shack for a refuel and hang after,” says Samantha.

Her preferred conditions are 3-4ft, slightly wild waves. “I enjoy the challenging conditions and having a laugh with the girls while navigating them,” she adds.

For first timers, Samantha recommends a small group or 1:1 lesson. “Speaking as someone who wanted to surf for years but was apprehensive, you’ll know instantly if it’s for you, then find a group to be part of.”

“At about mid-tide you can dot in and around Little Lusty through the rocks, and there’s even a secret cave to paddle through.”

Paddle north

“It’s beautiful and so peaceful – teaming with wildlife and amazing views. It can be difficult to find a good launch spot, if you don’t know the area, and it’s definitely worth knowing your tides, but it’s one of the best spots to paddleboard on the north coast.”

Matt Hawken, paddleboard instructor at Newquay Activity Centre, is talking about the River Gannel which meets the sea at Newquay. Staying with the whole family or all your best friends, everyone can enjoy stand-up paddleboarding along the Gannel.

Image credit: Newquay Activity Centre

“Because it’s so sheltered, it’s an awesome spot for all skill levels,” says Matt. “With the right tide and the best spots, the water barely moves and it’s great for enhancing your skills.”

Waterborne explorers can venture upriver to Trevemper or downriver to Crantock Beach, with a guided tour the best way to find the ideal launch spots and tidal conditions. A calm, laidback board choice, paddleboarding reveals views and coastline locations hidden when exploring on land.

Image credit: Newquay Activity Centre

As well as floating down isolated creeks along the Gannel, Matt recommends the expanse of Newquay Bay on a calm summer’s day. “It’s surprisingly sheltered for the north coast of Cornwall. At about mid-tide you can dot in and around Little Lusty through the rocks, and there’s even a secret cave to paddle through. And then down to Porth beach for a quick break and back towards the harbour. The water is crystal clear, the sun is shining, there might even be seals and dolphins enroute.”

Wood for waves

Surf St Ives’ Daniel Bassett chooses an Alaia, a fin-less style of wooden surfboard originating from Hawaii, for his board-based excursions.

Wooden surfboard crafters, Otter Surfboards, describe the Alaia as “a thin, narrow, solid wood surfboard with a round nose and square tail and, most importantly, no fins. They originated in pre-contact Hawaii where they were shaped from Koa wood left over from producing canoes and they were usually around 7-12 feet long. Modern Alaias usually come up between 5 and 8 feet long.”

Image credit: Daniel Bassett @surfstives

Daniel says he likes to be out on the Alaia at Godrevy, near Hayle, but is happy catching a wave along the coast as long as it is breaking on his left side as he glides towards the sand, known simply as a left.

Spacious beaches and September swells are the best conditions for Daniel who surfs to “escape the worries of everyday life and be at one with the elements.”

“I’d recommend spending time on a bellyboard for learning how to read the ocean and feel comfortable in the water, before progressing to surf-craft,” he says.

All along the coast, wooden bellyboards can be hired for free thanks to Surf Wood for Good. A bellyboard for acclimatising to the waves can be picked up for the day from just inland of St Ives Surf School at Little Goat Gruff. And there’s more than 10 locations across Cornwall to pick-up a borrowed bellyboard for wave-seeking elsewhere.

A secluded stay for two or a celebration pad for everyone, choose where you’ll stay for your chosen board time…