Whitsand Bay

In Brief

Suitable for: Families and dogs
Location: Military Road, near Millbrook and between Looe and Torpoint
Parking: Paid car parks near access points to the beach and limited on-road parking
Dog friendly?: Yes (throughout the year)

Stretching out over three picturesque miles along Cornwall’s southeasternmost corner between Looe and Torpoint is Whitsand Bay. Overlooked by Rame Head and its 14th century chapel on one side and the small coastal village of Portwrinkle on the other, this beach (or, in fact, collection of beaches) is big, bold and beautiful. Various rocky outcrops break it up, particularly at low tide, but Whitsand is nevertheless its own beast that’s popular with locals, tourists and plenty of Plymothians from just over the water in Devon. Despite its popularity, though, Whitsand’s sheer size means you can always find a patch of sand to call your own.

One of Whitsand’s most popular spots is near the car park at Tregantle Fort which leads to the aptly named ‘Long Sands’ part of the beach. The fort itself is still a military firing zone at select times, so do check on the government’s firing website beforehand as this can affect whether sections of the sands are open or not. Moving eastwards, Sharrow Point houses another large car park that services the Freathy and Tregonhawke sections of the beach, as well as some rocky coves and a cave which is said to have been excavated by hermit’s own hand in 1874. This grotto, which has Lugger the hermit’s scrawled verses etched across its ceiling, is sadly fenced off to the public.

The beach near Sharrow Point is overlooked by holiday chalets that line the clifftops. Interestingly, in the waters off this part of the bay lies a former navy frigate, HMS Scylla, that was sunk here in 2004. It lies alongside a Second World War wreck, US liberty ship the SS James Eagan Layne, to form an artificial reef which is really popular with divers. 

All of the routes down to the beach take winding paths down the steep shrubby cliffs. Care should be taken as routes can sometimes become slippery and loose, particularly in the winter months. During busy periods, bottlenecks can also appear on these narrow paths. The paths at the eastern end are the kindest underfoot, though. Down on the beach, some areas are patrolled by lifeguards in the summer but the currents can be dangerous in certain areas, particularly during bad weather, so pay attention to signs along the beach.

Aside from the Tregonhawke section, where there’s a surf school and café, there are no shoreside facilities along Whitsand Bay, so visitors should prepare to be self-sufficient during their visit to these beaches. And that includes Rover, as dogs are allowed on these sands throughout the year. Pooch, person or anyone in between, though: prepare to be rewarded with a magical day on soft sands at this storied stretch of Cornwall’s southern coastline.