The Cornish resort of Rock has a reputation for attracting the moneyed jet-set, but you don’t have to own a 4×4 or a yacht to go there. The hoi polloi can take the ferry from Padstow, just one mile across the Camel Estuary, and enjoy a day in paradise.
The rich, the posh and the famous love Rock. The likes of David Beckham and Prince Harry are rumoured to holiday here, although the only famous person I’ve ever had the fortune of spotting is the British actor Timothy Spall.
If you can’t afford to stay, the Black Tor passenger ferry shuttles tourists across the Camel Estuary from Padstow for £4 return and the trip takes about ten minutes – see timetable here. Every July there is another way to get to Rock for the more active – an organised charity swim. If you want to drive there, there is no bridge from Padstow to Rock so you’d have to head back inland towards Wadebridge.
So what is there to do here? Very little to be honest, and that is probably Rock’s charm. The beach is world class so if the sun and the tide are out, lounging on the fine white sand with a picnic and a good book should keep you busy. It’s dog-friendly all year, so if you have a pooch it will love the network of footpaths in the dunes backing onto the beach. At low tide, you can walk across the sand to the popular Daymer Bay around the corner.
If you fancy something more energetic, follow the South West Coast Path the three miles to the busy surfer hotspot of Polzeath, or play a round at St. Enodoc Golf Club. You could also pay a visit to St. Enodoc church, where the Poet Laureate John Betjeman, a Rock-lover, is buried.
Rock’s claim to fame is that it is home to the renowned Sharp’s brewery, producer of the UK’s best-selling cask ale ‘Doom Bar’, named after the treacherous sandbank in the estuary where the River Camel meets the Atlantic Ocean. Sharp’s brewery shop is worth a visit, but is a good half-hour walk away in the tiny village of Pityme. Sharp’s make a much better beer than Doom Bar called Atlantic, so stock up on bottles of the stuff here.
Rock is hardly a shopping mecca, but the handful of shops it does have are classy (think White Stuff, Jack Wills and some very nice but posh art and homeware shops). If you don’t fancy paying top dollar to eat at Outlaw’s (Nathan Outlaw’s fine dining restaurant at the St. Enodoc Hotel), there’s an excellent branch of the local bakery, Malcolm Barnecutt’s, where you’ll find arguably the best pasty in Cornwall. If you prefer a liquid lunch, Rock is not blessed with many boozers, although there is The Rock Inn on the main drag, with the Blue Tomato café bar next door.
One difference between Rock and other resorts along Cornwall’s north coast is its lack of surf culture. Being tucked alongside the Camel Estuary, water laps onto the shore rather than the crashing of waves, although the wind remains. As a result, windsurfing, sailing and kite-surfing replace surfing as the beach sports of choice.
Another thing that sets it aside from its neighbours is the annual food festival. While other Cornish resorts may be all about fish and chips or pasties, Rock celebrates its elitism with its oyster festival (www.rockoysterfestival.co.uk).
It takes a while to get used to the fact that instead of looking out to sea from the beach, you have a view of green fields across the estuary full of grazing cows and sheep.
You might be having such a relaxing time in luxurious Rock, but don’t forget the last ferry leaves at 7.30pm in summer – it’s a long walk back to Padstow otherwise.