Padstow’s fame is in part due to the unrivalled geographical position of its harbour, perched on the golden sands of the Camel Estuary. Still a working fishing port, it has found fame in recent times thanks to the arrival of celebrity chef Rick Stein, with other world-renowned chefs following suit. If the Steins’ seafood restaurant is out of your budget, you can still try his superior fish and chips on the pier or eat alfresco sat on the harbour wall with a takeaway from his renowned patisserie or delicatessen. There is even the opportunity to for a quick lesson in his cookery school!
There is plenty to occupy the visitor aside from food, and it is very pleasant negotiating the warren of tight and winding streets, often adorned with flowers and greenery, as well as Padstow's cafés, galleries and working harbour. The town can feel very busy in high season during the day, but for those walking in or out you will experience a more serene pace of life, arriving just as the day trippers leave, allowing more room to meander the tiny harbour and medieval streets.
For the weary coast path walker, perhaps used to more basic overnight stays, Padstow provides a celebratory ‘end of trail feel’, a time for well-earned indulgence for those having completed the toughest of sections of the Wreckers Trail from Westward Ho! or the chance to stock up on some reserves for those arriving to trek out on the beach path to St Ives.
Padstow is steeped in history, and in the late 1500’s Sir Walter Raleigh was the Warden of Cornwall here based at the Court House (now privately owned). Step further back in time with a visit to the 6th century St Petroc's Church, just outside the harbour, dedicated to Cornwall’s patron saint and set in a glorious, wooded vale. Whilst there, look out for the medieval pew adorned with a fox preaching a sermon to a gaggle of geese! Also well worth a look, Prideaux Place is a grand Elizabethan manor house that sits high above the harbour, with ornate state rooms, formal gardens, a deer park and a beautiful setting, location of filming for an adaptation of Shakespeare’s’ ‘Twelfth Night’ made on location here in the 1990’s.
Padstow Museum is open to visitors by donation, and has an interesting collection of pre historic artefacts, railway, lifeboat, Obby Oss and fishing artefacts, as well as research archives.
If you are visiting on 1st May, you may witness the famous Obby Oss Ceremony, a festival believed to welcome the start of summer, and with roots in pagan fertility. An anarchic mix of musicians, singers, twirling dancers and revellers, the procession chasing a rather unusual caricature of a snapping horse around the town.
For rest and relaxation, the old harbour is a great place to watch the hustle and bustle for a while. If you would like to try something more active, hire bikes and pedal Cornwall’s finest off road trail, The Camel Trail, along an old railway line. The route is flat, car free and affords the most stunning views and coastal vistas back across an estuary teeming with wildlife as it heads inland to Wadebridge and Bodmin. There are also plenty of opportunities to try water sports and several first class sandy beaches for those wanting a dip. An alternative is to catch a ferry over the Doom Bar to Rock with its golden sands, and then avoid the Kensington by sea set with a walk to tiny St Enodoc Church, resting place and beloved by Sir John Betjeman, and from time to time still buried by the Camel’s shifting sands.
Explore Wadebridge on your way through, stop at little wooded cafe's even pedal to the award winning Camel Valley Vineyard to taste some wine. Suitable for anyone who can ride a bike and very easy to arrange. For a waterbased day off you can take boat trips around the rocky offshore islands which have tremendous bird colonies, take surfing or coasteering lesson (jumping into the sea from the rocks), go kayaking or just head for a swim at nearby Trevone or on a secluded cove near the headland.