Padstow Harbour in the Camel Estuary
Padstow Harbour
Mullet shoaling in Padstow Harbour
Mullet (bottom right)
South Quay of Padstow Harbour at Christmas
South Quay
Cornish lobster
Lobster (before cooking)
Fudge shop in Padstow
Boats beached in Padstow Harbour at low tide
Boats beached at low tide
Prideaux Place in Padstown
Prideaux Place

Padstow is a very old port town facing into the Camel Estuary (formerly Petrockstow after St Petroc). Possibly from as early as 2500 BC, Padstow has been used as a natural harbour, linking Brittany to Ireland along the 'Saints Way' from Fowey. In the Middle Ages, it was known as Aldestowe (the 'old place', to contrast with Bodmin, which was the new place). The Cornish name Lannwedhenek or Lodenek derives from the Lanwethinoc monastery that stood above the harbour in Celtic times.

The first stone pier in Padstow was built during the 16th Century. Many of the buildings around the quays were originally warehouses used in marine trading during the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. Like many ports in North Cornwall, Padstow's economy was based on a mixture of fishing and import/export. During the middle ages, Padstow exported copper, tin and lead ores, slate, pilchards and agricultural produce. In Victorian times, coal was imported from Wales and timber from Quebec.

There is still an active fishing fleet at Padstow and the National Lobster Hatchery is based beside the car park. In Summer, short cruises are available to the offshore islands which have colonies of seabirds; there are also fishing trips and boats for hire.

Until the railway was extended from Wadebridge to Padstow in 1899, it was scarely known to holiday makers and remained undeveloped. There are now plenty of small shops, cafés and restaurants in Padstow as well as the well-known the restaurants and café run by Rick Stein, but many are housed in the original cottages around the harbour.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a port town, Padstow has plenty of pubs which include:

  • The Shipwrights Inn on the North Quay of the harbour
  • The Old Ship Hotel on Mill Square, off North Quay
  • The Golden Lion on Lanadwell St - the oldest Inn in Padstow (14th century)
  • The London Inn also on Lanadwell St
  • The Old Custom House on the South Quay of the harbour
  • The Harbour Inn on Strand Street, off South Quay

A number of local traditions still survive in Padstow - the Obby Oss festival on May Day and the Mummer's days of Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

A passenger ferry (who will let you take bikes across if it's not too busy) to Rock runs frequently.

The Camel Estuary is notorious for the Doom Bar - a sand bar which has caused many ship and small boat wrecks. For ships sailing into the bay on the prevailing SW wind, a great hazard was caused by the immediate loss of power due to the shelter from the cliffs. Once becalmed, they would drift helplessly and run aground on the Doom Bar. Therefore rockets were fired from the cliffs, to place a line onboard, which could then be used to pull the ship to the shore. Along the coastal path, on the cliff top, is an abandoned manual capstan which was used to winch the ships towards the harbour.

On the road out of Padstow is Prideaux place - a manor house which has been the home of Prideaux family for 14 generations. Afternoon tours are available from Sunday to Thursday from May until October.

Walks from Padstow

The tourist information centre in Tintagel also has leaflets (costing 60 or 70p) for a 7 mile circular walk around Padstow or more leisurely 1.5 mile "town trail" which both have interesting information about the local history. There is also a Padstow history walk on the BBC website. There is also a treasure trail for Padstow

Photos of Padstow on Flickr

More info