Durgan Beach

Image courtesy of trewena.com

In Brief

Suitable for: Beach lovers who want to step back in time
Location: Off Grove Hill, Mawnan Smith, near Falmouth
Parking: There’s a good car park at National Trust attraction Bosveal, just a 15-minute walk from the beach
Dog friendly?: Dogs are welcome all-year-round

A small picture-postcard hamlet that overlooks the Helford River. A cute shingle beach below it. Some marvellous scenery. Mix this together and what do you have? Durgan Beach, a seaside spot that takes you back in time.

Durgan hamlet and its beach are just south of Mawnan Smith, itself not far south of Falmouth and just to the east of Helston. The beautiful Helford River and its estuary that opens up into the sea here is the dominating feature that you can soak up as you lie on a beach that’s mostly made up of shingle but is certainly comfortable enough.

It’s worth noting that the village of Durgan itself makes this beach experience a special one. This little gem is an unspoilt vestige of Cornwall’s past and a visit here feels like a giant step back in time. Don’t expect any garish seaside adornments. Don’t expect loads of shops and pubs. This is a traditional Cornish fishing village experience with a gentleness about the whole place that will suit lovers of the tranquil who also have an eye for the historic. No matter what direction you look, whether that be back into the village or across the estuary, you can imagine a watercolour being composed. It’s that picturesque. 

Getting to the beach is a bit of a trek. The best way, if you’re driving, is to leave the truck in the decent car park at National Trust attraction Bosveal, which is off Mawnan Smith’s Grove Hill, and to walk for about 15 minutes down to Durgan and its beach. It’s worth the stroll, though, as the view is stunning as you round the last bend and the little cove and pretty village are revealed. There’s a handful of old cottages backed by wooded cliffs and, behind them, the beautiful Glendurgan Garden attraction that’s highly recommended.

The shingle beach itself sits at the foot of a small slipway beside the Old School House. There’s a small National Trust shop here that serves ice creams and hot drinks during peak season but at other times, bring a sandwich and flask with you and find a cosy corner of the beach to spend your afternoon marvelling at those views. If you want a dip, though, be warned that there are no lifeguards here, so care should be taken as the tide changes fast and strong currents sweep the estuary. Situated along a popular part of the South West Coast Path, the beach is also a popular wayby with hikers and dog walkers, so expect to share it with plenty of fleeting visitors during your stay. 

Durgan Beach offers less of a, well, beach experience and more of an atmospheric step back about 150 years. There’s something almost therapeutic about sitting on the shingle and watching the boats loll in and out of the estuary, their rigging clanging against their masts in the gentle breeze. If you love history, serenity and breathtaking views, then Durgan is for you. Just make sure you’re wearing your favourite walking boots so you can get there.