Helford Passage and Mawnan Smith
Arriving at the Helford River is a relaxing affair, though accommodation in it's pretty villages is hard to come by these days. Manaccan, at the head of Gillan Creek, has a thatched pub, the New Inn, a popular and renowned haunt for smugglers who were able to continue doing business long after the Excise men had successfully eradicated it elsewhere, due to its hidden location.
It is hard to imagine that Helford village was once quite an important port. The village today is a haven for exclusive holiday homes and sleepy moorings for hobby sailors, but long ago trading ships brought French rum, tobacco and lace from the continent, and duty was paid at the old custom house.
During the Napoleonic wars, pirates and free traders were able to come and go from the steeply wooded river with its deep, sheltered creeks overhung with ancient oak forests with impunity. Standing by the river bank as the early morning mist hangs over the still waters, you can visualise the romance of the beautiful Englishwoman and her French pirate created by Daphne du Maurier in “Frenchmans Creek” which lies just to the west of the village.
For a drink, The Shipwrights Arms in Helford is on the waters’ edge, or once the ferry has been summoned in the age old way and you have crossed the river you will reach the Ferryboat Inn at Helford Passage with a reputation in the area for good food.
A climb inland from The Ferryboat Inn takes you to Mawnan Smith, another photogenic village, with the lovely thatched Red Lion Inn as its centrepiece. Here though, you have the option of Giuseppe's Ristorante Italiano which offers surprisingly authentic Italian food - given this is deepest Cornwall.
For those staying an extra day the big draw here is the superb jungle like gardens at Trebah and Glendurgan. Well worth visiting if you have time, both are full of subtropical plants in beautiful landscapes sweeping down to the shores of the Helford waters and the hamlet of Durgan on the coast path.