Walk 143: Padstow Town Trail

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 1.94 miles (3.12km)

Time to walk: Although this is a short town walk, there’s lots to see & explore, including shops of course. With stops for coffee & food, it could easily take half a day. There’s always something going on in Padstow so just spend some time sitting & watching the world go by

Difficulty: Easy & all on hard surfaces

Parking: Public pay & display car park by the harbour

Public toilets: Across the road from the Red Brick Building at the start of the walk & then cafes etc on the way

Map of the route:

We were in Padstow in summer 2019 as part of a short Cornwall break & 60th birthday celebrations, including a visit to Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant

Padstow is a fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, situated on the west bank of the River Camel estuary approximately 10 miles northeast of Newquay. The town was originally named ‘Petroc-stow’, ‘Petroc-stowe’, or ‘Petrock’s Place’, after the Welsh missionary Saint Petroc, who landed at Trebetherick around AD 500

Traditionally a fishing port, Padstow is now a popular tourist destination. Although some of its former fishing fleet remains, it’s mainly a yachting haven on a dramatic coastline with few easily navigable harbours. The influence of restaurateur, Rick Stein can be seen in the port, which has led to the town being, we feel somewhat unjustly, dubbed “Padstein”, by food writers in the British media

This walk follows the route of the ‘Padstow Town Trail’ but, as always, we have added our own comments & views

It’s a few years since we’ve visited this lovely town &, as it’s a glorious summer’s day…

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk begins on the North Quay outside the large Red Brick Building (you can’t really miss it)

The building we see today is quite new, having been built in 1991. The original one that stood here was built around 1870 & was used as a warehouse, mainly for holding fishermen’s gear

Prior to the property being built this was the site of the town’s first stone pier, which was built before 1536. The stone walls that we see today were added later. We’re also quite sure that the food outlet may not have been here in those days…

2. With your back to the Red Brick Building, turn right & walk towards the New Pier, passing the public toilets on the left. There are several good coffee shops along this road & we liked the simple one that’s almost next to the Rock Ferry point

Have a stroll along North Pier which was constructed during the 1930s…

3. It’s from here that the Black Tor Ferry runs every 20 minutes in high season, across the Camel Estuary to the village of Rock. There’s been a ferry running here since the 1300’s & today the route it takes depends on the level of the tide

Rock, the village on the other side of the estuary was originally called  name ‘Penmayn’, which is Cornish for “the end or head of stones. An alternative, ‘Blaketorre’, meaning “Black Tor, dates back to 1337 & is where the ferry takes its name from. This had become ‘Black Rock’ by the 18th century & was subsequently shortened to ‘Rock’

Rock has been referred to as ‘Britain’s Saint Tropez’ & the “Kensington of Cornwall’ due to its popularity with affluent holidaymakers. The Daily Telegraph has also called it ‘Chelsea-on-Sea’

Rock is also home to Sharp’s Brewery, established in the mid 1990s, but taken over by Molson Coors in 2011 to secure the ‘Doom Bar’ brand

4. Walk back past the Red Brick Building…

…stopping outside ‘The Shipwrights’, which was originally built to serve the fishermen & tradespeople of this once bustling historic port. It was also a workshop & warehouse that supplied timber to the local boatyards

Note the ‘259’ stone milestone between the two windows. This originally stood in Padstow’s railway station & showed the distance between the town & Waterloo station in London

5. We told you that this was a walk to ‘stop & chill’ & the benches by the harbour on the left here are worth spending a few moments sitting on to watch the world go by…

On the right’s a very old looking building, called Abbey House, which dates from the late 1400s, possibly with earlier origins. It’s thought by some to be the oldest house in Padstow. It was extended & remodelled over the years & there’s a reference to a “Leper Window”, so it seems that the building at one point may have housed lepers

Abbey House was owned by the Prideaux family & there’s a legend that a tunnel ran from here to the monastery up the hill, which we’ll see later in this walk

The property is reputedly haunted by the ghost of a sad, lonely Elizabethan lady. This ghost has always been seen climbing the 15th century granite stairway from the cellar & then silently makes her way along a passage which forms the oldest part of the house.

There’s another story which, is that, from 1938 to 1981, the house was occupied by a reclusive widow. For many years Annie Simpson was a familiar figure standing in the gallery window overlooking the harbour. The rumour was that she was awaiting the return of her husband who was lost at sea. The truth though was he had been killed in a car crash shortly after they bought the house

6. The small ‘hut-like’ structure on the corner of the quay is called the Cory Memorial Shelter, which was built in 1938 on the site of an old Elizabethan cottage…

The shelter was built in memory of Sir James Herbert Cory, a Welsh politician & ship owner who was born in the town to a family of farmers. He was Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1913 & served as Conservative MP for Cardiff. He was created a baronet in 1919. In his time he was a director of 35 different companies, & gave much of his fortune to charity

7. Walk down the right side of the shelter towards the Old Ship Hotel & Mill Square…

The trail guide tells us that until the 1860’s, one of the town’s two watermills was located here, hence the name of the square. The mill pond was actually in front of the hotel, which dates back to the 1700’s, although the building we see today is a later reincarnation

If you fancy an ice cream well…

8. Turn round & have a look at the huge anchor that’s hanging outside ‘The Clipper’ restaurant. The sign on it tells you it was uncovered in 1820 during excavations for the tidal defence scheme

Walk past the Clipper & continue (if you can) past the bakery & pasty shops to Market Place…

9. Turn left & walk down to the South Quay. Again, there’s plenty of benches along here to simply sit & watch everything that’s going on…

The large stone building on the corner is now a hotel but, as the name implies, it was once, in part, the Old Custom House. The part overlooking the Quay was used as a grain warehouse & the door for the pulley can still be seen…

Turn the corner to see the part of the building that was used for the Customs House

10. Continue along the road, parallel with the large car park, to arrive at the Court House with dates back to the 16th century. The town has a link with Sir Walter Raleigh, who lived in Padstow for a time when he was Warden of Cornwall. He established a Maritime Court in the town & his Court House, here on Riverside, was the administrative centre for the collection of taxes & dues

Today the Court House is a private residence & a holiday home, should you wish to stay somewhere a bit special

11. Today, the building almost next door is almost as famous in the food world. This is chef Rick Stein’s flagship eatery, The Seafood Restaurant

The Town Trail leaflet tells us that this building hasn’t always been a restaurant. Over the years it’s been used as the local Drill Hall, for storing coal & also as a False Tooth Factory. Opened by Rick Stein & Jill Stein in 1975, The Seafood Restaurant is famous for establishing an international reputation for the very freshest fish & shellfish. We loved it & the atmosphere is really relaxed so, if you’re in town book a table!

12. We’re now going to escape the crowds for a short while & turn right up the side of the restaurant into St Edmund’s Lane…

…to the junction with New Street. Down the hill on the right is a large white building. This is another Stein establishment… St Petroc’s Hotel & Bistro

Our route though lies up the hill & then right into Hill Street…

13. You’ll be lucky to meet any tourists along this part of the walk as it narrows to a walled alley known as ‘Little Hill’

At the bottom of the hill, pass through the gateway into the churchyard of St Petroc’s Church. There’s been a church on this site for hundreds of years, the first dating back to around the 6th century. The church, monastery & all it contained were completely destroyed by the Vikings in 981. The second, built in the 12th Century Church, fell into disrepair. The present Church was built between 1425-1450

Look for the old Celtic Cross which is estimated to date back to 900 & probably stood where the entrance to the old monastery originally was

The inside of the church is quite simple, but beautiful…

14. Come out of the churchyard via the opposite entrance to the one you came in, onto Church Street, Turn left & walk up to the junction with Tregirls Lane

The large property on the right’s the Dower House. Dower houses were traditionally built for the widow of an estate owner, such as the imperious Dowager Countess of Grantham in ‘Downton Abbey’, played by Maggie Smith. They are usually in a prime position in the village, mirroring the opulence of the “big house” without the hassle & expense of its upkeep

15. Continue up the hill to arrive at Prideaux Place, an Elizabethan country house which has been the home of the Prideaux family for over 400 years. The house was built in 1592 by Sir Nicholas Prideaux, a distinguished lawyer, & was enlarged & modified by successive generations…

The family is thought to have been of Norman descent. During World War II, the American Army was billeted at Prideaux prior to being sent to Omaha Beach on D-Day

The deer park across the road’s one of the most ancient in England. Unfortunately they were elsewhere when we visited…

16. Retrace your steps to the Dower House & turn left down Fentonluna Lane…

On the left’s Fentonluna Well, which is supposedly the oldest Holy Well in Padstow & is thought to have served the Prideaux estate. The arch dates back to 1592 & was built from stones recovered from the original gatehouse

17. Follow the lane as it bends right down the hill, where there are magnificent views across the rooftops & the Camel estuary…

At the junction with the High Street turn sharp right & look opposite to see the entrance to Marble Arch

18. Marble Arch is a tiny alley that connects High Street with Church Street. In the 1700’s the building to the right was the workhouse. Walk carefully down the alley as it’s quite steep…

Also, make sure you don’t hang around too long!!

19. We’re now back in the heart of the town, amongst the crowds again. Turn left down Church Street, which shortly becomes colourful Duke Street…

It’s all downhill back to the harbour now, so turn right into Middle Street, where we stayed above the Rick Stein Cafe (& highly recommended it is too!)

20. On the left’s Tredwen Court Alms Houses, which were built for the elderly poor around 1875

At the bottom of the hill, on the corner with Lanadwell Street’s one of Padstow’s most famous, & colourful pubs, The Golden Lion

It’s thought that the Golden Lion dates back to the 1600’s &, as the sign tells you, is the home of the original May Day ‘Obby ‘Oss which is where all the celebrations begin each year. It’s generally thought that the celebrations mark the end of Winter & the welcoming of Spring

21. Lanadwell Street is probably one of the most photographed in the town & it’s not hard to see why, especially in summer when all the hanging baskets are in bloom…

There’s another well-known pub on the left, The London Inn. The pub’s been here since 1803, but the building was originally three fishermen’ cottages

22. We’re back in Market Place once more, where you’ll find another Stein establishment, the Patisserie

Bear right up Broad Street & then left through the gap into ‘The Drang’, which brings you back out at the Quay near the Old Custom House. ‘The Drang’ actually means ‘a narrow entrance’!

23. Walk back around the corner past the Seafood Restaurant once more & cross the road to the large “shed” style building which contains a variety of Stein establishments including, upstairs with a view across the estuary, the Cookery School

Downstairs are the Deli & the Fish & Chip Shop

24. Our walk ends at the property on the edge of the quay which houses The National Lobster Hatchery. Years ago you could simply walk into the large warehouses that contained the hatchery beds & look at thousands of lobsters of different sizes, prior to their release into the sea

The National Lobster Hatchery was initiated in 1992 & was eventually opened to the public in August 2000 although there were many problems associated with life support systems during the early days, as well as a lack of visitors due to a foot & mouth outbreak. Subsequently, an upgrade of the life support systems took place in 2005 along with another upgrade to the holding facilities in 2010

The Hatchery is one of two similar facilities in the UK, the other being in the Orkney Islands. They are seen as a very positive way of increasing stock levels &, when mainly funded by visitors (the Padstow facility is one of only 2 facilities in the world so far to do this), the concept is then seen as being cost-effective

Selected local fishermen & shellfish wholesalers provide female egg-bearing lobsters which are taken in & held until their eggs hatch. The resulting larvae are then on-grown into their post-larval stages before being released into the coastal waters of Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly.

Juvenile lobsters are released onto suitable substrate, either by dive clubs who deliver the lobsters to the seabed, or by fishermen who effectively pump the juveniles directly onto the sea floor. The released juveniles will take between four & five years to grow to marketable size

So that’s the end of our short, but quite detailed stroll around one of Cornwall’s most famous towns. Was it as good as we remembered? Yes it was & it’s a plaice (sorry place) we’d never grow tired of visiting so, if you’ve not been lately…

Go Walk!