Padstow sits on the banks of the River Camel, the name of which incidentally has nothing to do with hump-backed ‘ships of the desert’ but is derived from the Cornish language and means crooked estuary. Just 2 miles from the Atlantic, this picturesque town is a working fishing port where crabbers, large netters and trawlers land their daily catch, often before gathered spectators.
Watching harbour life is a satisfying activity for all the family, as is crabbing – picking a safe spot in this busy port from which to dangle a line and bait and wait, usually not for long. Competitions to catch the greatest number can involve all ages, using buckets of seawater to keep them in until the winner is declared, at which point the creatures are once more released back from where they came.
The simplicity of such timeless pursuits is part of the appeal of Cornwall, the abundance of wonderful locally produced food and great cooking is another. Padstow is ‘foodie heaven’ with plenty of restaurant and café choices among them those of two celebrity chefs; Rick Stein has four establishments and Paul Ainsworth two.
There are notable ancient buildings, such as 13th century St Petroc’s church in the oldest part of town and high on the hill Prideaux Place, built in 1592. Still owned and lived in by the Prideaux family so you may well find yourself greeted by a member on your visit. There are fabulous views to be had, a variety of restored gardens and woodland walks, historic buildings and a fine collection of furniture, porcelain and paintings.
Cycling and walking are a delight in and around Padstow, which lies at the finish of the scenic Camel Cycle Trail, along with a variety of water sports including fishing, sailing and surfing. Boat trips and sea-life safaris are available during the main season.
For something different, the visitor centre at the National Lobster Hatchery on South Quay, opposite Steins’ fish and chip shop, is open all year round offering up a chance to watch baby lobsters as well as resident giant lobster ‘Herman’, while learning about fishery and marine conservation.
If all that sounds too tame for you then try the 100% adrenalin of a wild Coasteering adventure and plenty of thrilling action at Adrenalin Quarry, just outside Padstow, with its 50m cliff top drop over water on The Giant Swing, a 490m long and 50m high zip wire and a karting circuit. Advertised as ‘the scary stuff is pay as you go, all the rest is free’ – including entry, you are invited to take a picnic, watch the show and enjoy the views.