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Living with the Cornish locals in Gorran Haven

Ashley Chalmers

Contributor

The charming little village of Gorran Haven is tucked away on the southeastern coast of Cornwall and comes complete with friendly locals, stunning views, and a proper sandy beach—something that’s practically unheard of in England. A stroll along the narrow, rolling paths that wind around town offers sneaky glimpses of panoramic vistas in between each whitewashed building. It’s safe to say that the hamlet feels like a true escape from present day. In fact, Gorran Haven in general comes with a local vibe you just won’t find as you move deeper into Cornwall. But while the buzzy vibes of St. Ives and stunning views of Penzance pull people out to the end of the Cornish coast, you don’t need to drive the extra stretch to feel like you’re a world away. Gorran Haven offers a peek into local Cornish life and even has a secret, sandy beach, tucked away in its own stunning cove.

The food

Situated close to St. Austell and its more practical amenities, Gorran Haven is comprised mostly of quaint little fishing cottages and tiny shops offering typical beach-ready souvenirs. But it also boasts a few casual dining options that feel perfectly small-town. Like most villages in Cornwall, the beach is Gorran Haven’s heartbeat. The scenic village wraps around a small, sandy inlet, where local fishermen pull up onto the coast each day to sell their catches directly to the public. You can ask around for phone numbers in advance, or you can try your luck and approach the boats as they arrive. If you prefer someone else cooks up your food, there are a few takeaway options (think crab cakes, conch fritters, and fish and chips), but none are as perfectly local as Cakebreads. Every Friday in the summer, this café/bakery/post office (yes, you read that right), hosts the village pizza night. Most customers take their pizzas straight to the beach for a village-wide party, often complete with live music.

The coastal walk

The English coast is renowned for its coastal paths and scenic walks, and Gorran Haven is no exception. It even offers a manageably-sized ring walk that will lead you back into town… you just have to know where to find it. As you walk into town from the car park, just before you reach the beach, you’ll see a small gate that looks like it leads to private property. In reality, this winds you up onto the Dodman Long Loop, where you can walk along the coast and take in the salty sea air. There are stunning views from all angles, whether you look out into the sea or back toward the village. Best of all, it’s relatively flat and easy to do with kids and pups alike. The loop also serves as an ideal way to spend an afternoon that, weather-wise, might not be beach appropriate. Of course, the locals probably disagree with you on what that means, exactly. Even if you pick a drizzly, misty, breezy day for a stroll, don’t be surprised if you spot swimmers bobbing out at sea.

Little Perhaver Beach

Most visitors flock to the main beach, which is bustling and fun and particularly perfect for boogie boarding or eating ice cream from The Mermaid Beach Café. But Gorran Haven has a secret. Tucked around the cove and only accessible during low tide, Little Perhaver Beach feels like the best-kept secret in all of England. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs, you can expect breathtaking views, soft sand, and, when the tide is out, warm, shallow waters that feel downright Mediterranean. Little Perhaver Beach can also be accessed by a secret path that comes with a ton of steep, concrete stairs. If you can hack it, it’s worth it. Also worth noting: both beaches are dog-friendly, though they do ask that dogs stay on-lead during certain peak times.

Charlestown

There are plenty of places to visit within a short drive from Gorran Haven, including the famous Eden Project and the Lost Gardens Heligan. For other towns to explore, most guides will also rightfully send you to Mevagissey or St Austell as the closest towns. Each recommendation is worth your time—especially if you’re in need of a market or are looking for fun things to do with kids who can only handle so much beach lounging. But if you’re eager to explore a cheerful, historic village full of restaurants, shops, and a pebbled beach of its own, then Charlestown is the answer. Poldark fans will know this spot in an instant, and thanks to its dock full of pirate ships and a flourishing food truck scene, it’s also a great option with kids.

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