Friday, 22 February 2013

Padstow - 5 Things to Do on Holiday

The bustling North Cornwall port of Padstow has been a centre for fishing and boat building since mediaeval times and an attractive town has grown around the harbour over the years. Padstow’s former prosperity can be seen in the imposing Georgian (and older) buildings that line the quayside. Whilst once the merchants who owned them traded cargoes from far and wide now-a-days they are home to cafes, holiday accommodation and shops.

Padstow harbour
Although the traditional industries have largely disappeared Padstow has had a renaissance as an upmarket holiday destination, some may say due to the influence of celebrity chef Rick Stein. The harbour is still as thriving as it ever was but now the custom is the holiday trade. Fishing boats have to a large extent been replaced by cruisers and yachts and fisherman’s cottages are now some of the most desirable holiday accommodation in Cornwall. There are still a few fishing boats, but most of their catch is destined for the table of the numerous fine eating establishments.

So, once you have spent a day or so pottering around the harbour, sitting in the cafes and admiring the view from your cottage what next? Well, the list of suggestions below are a few of my favourites and there should be at least one to suit everyone and help get the most out of your holiday in Padstow.

Cycle the Camel Trail

Camel Trail
Cycle the Camel Trail
Whilst you may think this sounds a little energetic it doesn't have to be. The trail follows and old, disused railway line running from Padstow to Bodmin, passing through Wadebridge. As such it is relatively flat, since steam engines weren’t great at pulling loads up steep hills. It is a well maintained route stretching for 11 miles, or 17 if you continue after Bodmin. The trail caters for everyone; walkers, horse riders and birdwatchers but it is best known as a cycle route.

The scenery is some of Cornwall’s finest as the trail follows the route of the River Camel the 11 miles to Bodmin. The surrounds are also a haven for wildlife with many relatively rare water birds such as curlews and egrets to be seen. Whilst most cyclists call it quits at Bodmin there is a further section leading up to the village of Blisland on Bodmin Moor. This steeper wooded section is more demanding but the views and scenery at the top are worth it.

The Camel Trail is traffic free and safe for families. It can also be taken at your own pace with plenty of refreshment spots en route, and a great pub at the end! If you haven’t got a bike with you that’s not a problem as there are plenty of places to hire a bike in Padstow and Wadebridge.

Go to the Beach

Some of the best sandy beaches in Cornwall are within a stone’s throw of Padstow. Just a few hundred metres along the coast path, north of the harbour is a magnificent stretch of sand incorporating Hawker’s Cove, St George’s Cove and Tregirls beach.
Padstow Beaches
St George's to Hawkers Cove
If you don’t mind a short drive then there are a plethora of beaches within range. Head a few miles west to the popular and safe, family friendly beaches of Trevone and Harlyn Bay. Both are lifeguarded and slightly more sheltered than many of the North Coast beaches. Harlyn is also home to one of the areas best regarded surf schools.

Alternatively you can catch the ferry from the harbour over to the super posh village of Rock on the other side of the Camel. There are a few great beaches within walking distance of here starting with Rock beach itself. This dune backed, sandy beach follows the estuary around to the next beach, Daymer Bay, a lovely sheltered beach bordered  by sand dunes. If you really fancy a walk, the next beach around is Polzeath, another great family beach with a reputation as a surfing hotspot.

Dine with Stein!

Rick Stein restaurant
Rick Stein Seafood Restaurant
Whether Padstow’s fortunes are directly to Rick Stein or not there is no way of getting away from him. With an empire comprising of four cafes and restaurants, four shops, a cookery school and several upmarket accommodation options it is no wonder the town has been dubbed Padstein.

The original Rick Stein restaurant is the Seafood restaurant which is generally well regarded if a little pricey. If you want to tick it off the list but save yourself a few quid don’t bank on Stein's Fish and Chips being the answer. Whilst the menu has some slightly more exotic offerings than the average chippy, expect to pay a premium for it. Of the four I think I’d be plumping for tea and cake at the cafĂ© and leaving my bank balance relatively unscathed!

Go on a boat trip

Boating excursions from Padstow’s harbour are a great way to explore this part of the North Cornish Coast. There are a host of companies running cruises and angling trips with sailing times depending on the tides. Just to the east of Padstow is the striking double headland of the Rumps, with several islands just off the coast including Puffin Island - guess what you can spot here! Head in the opposite direction around Stepper Point and there are numerous points of interest such as Tregudda Gorge and Trevose Head beyond.
Wildlife spotting
Grey Seal

Wildlife spotting trips are popular and there is always something to see at anytime of year. Common sightings include seals, dolphins and a host of sea-birds  If you are lucky and it is the right time of year you may even spot basking sharks and sunfish. Perhaps the most spectacular sighting was a year or 2 ago when a pod of killer whales were spotted of Trevose Head.

Get on yer Obby Oss!

Padstow Obby Oss
Obby Oss catches a maiden
Before there were any celebrity chefs, or tourists for that matter Padstow was known for its May Day celebration, the annual Obby Oss (hobby horse) festival. Derived from some sort of Beltane, pre-Christian fertility rite the custom revolves around the two Obby Osses and their teams gallivanting around town in search of maidens to accost! The two teams are headed by their respective Osses (a sort of one man pantomime horse) and consist mainly of morris dancing types dressed in white and playing accordions / banging drums. They are named the ‘Blue Ribbon’ and the ‘Old’ Osses. Sounds bizarre? Well it kind of is and get there early as it’s busy.

There is a less well known tradition on Boxing Day and New Year's Day. Mumming Day, or Darkie Days as previously known, involves the slightly dubious practice of the townsfolk dressing up and performing as minstrels. It isn't clear what the origin of the custom is and certainly there is no racist intent these days.

So there are a few ideas to get going with, there are plenty of other things to do in and around Padstow such as visiting the National Lobster Hatchery or enjoying a pint in the London Inn. Whatever you decide with such a picturesque town and fantastic surroundings you'll find plenty of things to do on holiday in Padstow.


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