Can there be a better place to stay for a British sea-side break than Watergate Bay in Cornwall? With two miles of sandy dog-friendly beach, it’s excellent for storm and sunset watching, surfing and fine-dining and provides a perfect base for cliff-top walks.
I’ve got some great memories of staying at Watergate Bay, from lads’ holidays at the campsite on the cliffs in the late 90’s to my legendary wedding at the super-stylish beachfront Watergate Bay Hotel in 2010. Kat and I were one of the last couples to get married in the hotel’s old function room (overlooking the waves crashing onto the beach), before it was turned into a spa and indoor pool.
It’s a bit of a haven for foodies these days, with Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen competing with the hotel’s American-themed restaurant Zacry’s and The Beach Hut. Meals in all three are included if you go on a “Taste of the Bay” break, and I’d definitely recommend you do.
But I’m not here to promote the wedding package or the restaurants.
Its location on the north Cornish coast, just a few miles north of Newquay, is ideal as a base for walking along the cliffs. Fancy joining me on a six mile walk to Porth and back? It will take anything from 45 minutes to two hours to get to Porth depending on how often you stop to gawp at the rocks, sea caves and beaches (such as the fantastically-named Whipsiderry) below you.
Facing the sea, head left and follow the cliff-top path in the direction of Newquay. You’ll be able to see the spooky-looking Headland Hotel ahead of you (Roald Dahl’s The Witches was filmed there), and Trevose Head lighthouse in the other direction.
Watergate Bay is a popular spot for surfers, kite-surfers and body-boarders with its Extreme Academy surf school. You will be able to see dozens of heads bobbing in the water waiting to catch the next big Atlantic wave.
The further from Watergate Bay you walk, the more rugged the coastline gets – make sure you take your camera along to capture the dramatic rock formations. Signs warn against standing too close to the cliff edge, as the old wooden fence has collapsed in many places.
I’ve been on this walk twice now – once on a cold and windy winter’s day, and once on a hot and sunny summer’s day. Both times I’ve turned lobster-red with sun/wind burn, so you might want to slap on some factor 30. There is also a lack of refreshment stops on the way, so take some water with you. There is an ice-cream hut just outside Porth but this is closed out of season – your only other chance is at The Mermaid Inn, a family friendly pub on Porth’s sandy beach.
Make sure you start heading back to Watergate Bay well before the sun sets as the cliffs are no place to be stuck in the dark. The resort’s Beach Hut café/bar/restaurant not only serves amazing hot chocolate (ask for an Extreme Hot Chocolate, served with a mammoth mound of whipped cream, chocolate jazzies and marshmallows), it has to be one of the best places in England to view sunsets from, like the one below.
I don’t think a song has been written yet about the Watergate Bay sunset, so until then you’ll have to make do with this classic from The Kinks.
One of the first travel blogs I started to read was the lovely Jo Bradley’s Restless Jo. Every Monday she takes you on one of her Jo’s Monday Walks – sometimes in her native North East, sometimes in her second home on the Algarve, but there are no rules. Cornwall was made for Jo’s Monday’s Walks, and the Watergate Bay to Porth stretch is my entry.