beaches in west cornwall

The far west is on the edge, things are different here. We're surrounded on three sides by the sea, and it has a strong influence on our lives.

Our wonderful beaches are often what attract people in the first place, and we have a variety to offer. The widest expanse of sand is the three miles from Hayle Towans, across Gwithian to Godrevy, while the smallest are Boat Cove below Pendeen and that of Treen on the north coast. Many allow dogs all year and for surfers head west to Sennen and Gwenver or to Praa sands or Pothleven on the south coast.

Gwenver or Gwynver

This is certainly one of The Cornish Way's favourites, and just below some of our cottages at Tregiffian. It's a steep stepped climb down to the sandy beach at Gwenver. It's generally quiet. It's small. The view is great. We love it! Gwenver is a popular surf beach and has a lifeguard from May to September. Swimming is often restricted due to the rip. We've often seen dolphins and basking sharks here in summer.

Its dog friendly all year. Life guard in the holidays but no other facilities. Turn right off the A30 just before Escalls Chapel en route to Sennen. Park at Peace and Plenty car park and buy a chocolate brownie from the car park, or a jar of chilli relish then take everything you need down the cliff path.
 

Gwithian/Hayle Towans

Truly this is paradise. Three miles of sand! Three sets of lifeguards along the stretch. Some areas are dog friendly. Good café at the Godrevy National Trust car park.

Mousehole

The small patch of sand at the western end of the idyllic Mousehole harbour is not an obvious beach destination, but it can be a great family spot when it's not too busy. The town and harbour wall shelters you from the wind, while the sea in the harbour is safe to swim in and warmer than beyond the wall.

No dogs in summer. Pubs, toilets and car parking in Mousehole village.

SENNEN COVE

One of the jewels of the far west, the beach at Sennen is popular with surfers, swimmers and sun worshippers alike. There are lifeguards, showers, toilets and a great café for sundowners. Dog friendly in winter and after 7pm.

Nanjizel & Priest's Cove

This is another favourite of The Cornish Way. Again, accessibility is an issue, the nearest place to park is a mile and a half from Nanjizel, but it's worth the effort. It's often deserted.

There's a fresh water stream to wash your feet in, coarse clean sand, rockpools, and the Song of the Sea, the long narrow arch that entrances photographers as the sun glints through it. There are also caves and a cross formation in the cliffs that must have created a religious fervour in years gone by. I've often found myself swimming with seals at Nanjizel.

Dog friendly. No facilities. Park at the delightful Appletree Café at Trevescan and follow the footpath across the fields opposite. Just remember to turn right as you exit the last field where the path forks.

Priest's Cove has a real draw for me. Especially since I've lived in St Just. It's rugged, often wild, lashed by the turbulent Atlantic and right under the iconic Cape Cornwall. Priest's is good to swim from, although I'd swear the sea is always colder there. In August there's a swimming race into the cove from The Brisons, the large rock outcrop about a km out in the bay. The race isn't advertised, but I'll blog it when I hear of its date.

Dog Friendly. Toilets open all year. National Trust car park. In summer there's good ice cream from the caravan in the car park.

Penzance

We don't tend to think of Penzance as a beach, but under the promenade wall there's a beach during much of the day, and its darker sand means that the sea often feels a touch warmer. There's good swimming off Battery Rocks behind the lido, and people meet there early every morning to swim to decorated markers out in the bay. 

There's an annual charity race from Newlyn Green to the Jubilee Pool 1,300 meters away, entered into by several hundreds of swimmers every year. It's on the last Friday in August.

Porthcurno and Porth Chapel

One of Cornwall's jewels, Porthcurno has soft white sand, a turquoise sea, and it's protected by high cliffs from the winds that whip the west facing beaches. Porthcurno is popular and can get very busy, but go on a sunny week day out of the school holiday sand you'll think you've landed in paradise.

The Minack Theatre is just above the beach, and is the best place to see the splendour of this world wide favourite. Summer dog ban. Lifeguard. Car park. Café and toilets.

Porth Chapel is another beautiful secluded beach that's quiet most of the year just beyond Porthcurno past the Minnack, often with just a few local families who are in the know. 

Port Chapel is a short walk from the car park behind St Levan Church, but a difficult climb down the last part of the cliff. It's south facing, good to swim from, and a joy to find. Dog friendly. No Facilities. From Porthcurno drive towards, and then past the Minack to the very end of the lane. Car park behind the delightful St Levan Church.

Portheras and Boat Cove

Potheras is a stunning and fairly hidden beach. It really is a local's beach. There are no signs, and even once you've found the rough field car park it's still a clamber to get there. But it's worth it, the sand is fine and generally clean. We often see seals bobbing about here. Boat Cove is usually a slip way for small fishing boats, but over the last couple of years it has been a very small, secret sandy beach.

Dog friendly. No facilities, but most things in Pendeen above. Park at Pendeen Watch, or in the field in Rose Valley signposted off the Pendeen to Morvah road.

Treen. Pedn Vounder

Often named as one of the world's best beaches and our ultimate favourite. Pedn Vounder is simply stunning. Crystal clear water, clean, coarse sand, a dramatic cliff backdrop, and the Logan Rock headland off to the east.

Getting to Pedn Vounder isn't easy (there's a theme to this list, don't you think?), and it's not for anyone with mobility problems, or children, or less than agile dogs. At low tide you can walk across from Porthcurno – but if you do be wary, the tide is only low enough for a couple of hours and the climbing alternative is a challenge.

The curious Cornish word Pedn means headland, in the same way as the simpler Pen or Penzance.

Park at Treen where the Logan Rock pub is worth a visit, and follow signs for the cliff path, taking the right option, then looking out for a small path dropping down to your right.

Of all the beaches in this section this is the hardest to get to and the most rewarding.

No facilities. Clothing optional.

St Ives

With its nine beaches St Ives is a beachgoers delight. Busy in summer, but there's a beach for everyone. There's the wide open surf beach of Porthmeor with the Tate Gallery as a back drop, the north east facing Porthminster with the excellent, if expensive, beach café, and many smaller beaches. For their names alone check out Porth Kidney and Lambeth Walk (there's not much there).