Porth Chapel beach is idyllically set below tall granite cliffs, with sands of broken shells dipping to the sea – it’s just a short walk from St Levan, tucked between Porthcurno and Porthgwarra and quite near to Land’s End. It is just a perfect spot for an afternoon away form the tourist’s hot spots of Cornwall for a few hours of peace and near solitude.
With soft summer days still before us this September, we still have time to discover some of the secret less know spot of Cornwall and this week we visited Port Chapel beach.
Finding Porth Chapel Beach TR19 6JT
We took the main A30 to Land’ End before turning off on to the B3283 to wind our way back along the narrow country lane towards the sea. The road was surprisingly busy even in September and we sat for a while in a traffic jam, as some drivers misjudged the negotiations for passing places and an Italian coach driver held his head in his hands on the hairpin bends. But nothing could dampen our spirits with a picnic packed and beach towels at the ready, we soon moved on again in one of those little convoys that form in Cornwall sometimes and very soon some of the queue turned left towards Logan Rock – I wonder if a Sunday roast lunch was calling them down to the pub there?
We continued though in the convoy of cars and watched a second batch turn off at Porthcurno for the beautiful beach and theatre there. Our destination was up the hill though, again a step winding climb with a spectacular glimpse of Porthcurno beach to the left, before eventually taking the sharp right turn into the car park beside the beautifully tended St Levan church.
Lucy Land Rover was in the lap of luxury in the immaculately mown meadow, for the afternoon in the spacious parking for a very reasonable £2, while we walked down passed the churchyard and across the road to walk to the beach.
The walk to the beach was an unexpected extra pleasure, taking us across a well trodden Granite Bridge and on through the trees until we felt the wind tug and buffet us as we emerged from the sheltered path on to the cliff top. Here we took a little detour over a modern bridge, to avoid an eroded area.
Porth Chapel Beach
The first sight of the beach came as sudden glimpse framed by a fissure in the cliff and it was quite breathtaking. The golden sand and pounding turquoise waves rolling in to the shore, so far below us, was just lovely and full of promise for the afternoon ahead. I had to concentrate then and tucked the camera away on the steep path down and soon regretted my slippery plimsolls for the last rock climb down to the sands – oh but it was so worth it!
Harmony of sea and sands
We sat for the afternoon, enveloped in the late summer sunshine, mesmerised by the surging waves, with the Sunday papers forgotten and discarded beside us. There was a sure harmony of sea and sands as each approaching wave reigned for moment of beautiful translucence as it arrived with a hypnotic, relentless rhythm, before subsiding to melt into the undulating sands. Each wave brought opaque drifts of vapour that carried the taste of the salt across the beach to us in pin prick droplets on our skin and out to sea the sea birds dived as sure as fast as jets in sure practised precision into the foam.
Couples would occasionally clamber down and mostly stood quietly in awe of this haven but more passed on the coastal footpath above us bringing dogs who would bustle over to investigate our towels for tasty titbits.
I’m told it is possible to swim but not that day I think and then only for sure strong swimmers!
We Finally packed our things to leave and passed an excited spaniel digging furiously in the sands and his owner said “He could dig all day!” before we climbed back up the rocks to the path and as I glanced back the dog was still digging. Time for somebody else’s turn to enjoy the beach!
A short brush with history
Porth Chapel takes it name from what is thought to be the earliest chapel in Cornwall, founded near to the beach by St Selevan and it probably dates from the eighth century. The chapel lays just below the holy or sacred well reached by steps -excavated in the 1930’s, some of which have been incorporated into the cliff path. The well is still even now, sometimes used for baptisms. Water from the well is said to cure Eye diseases and toothache with the greatest benefit coming from sleeping there overnight!
Well not quite at the beach but our German guests enjoyed visiting a house in St levan for a Cream Tea. appropriately named “Porth Chapel cream teas” Other than that, the nearest facilities are at Porthcurno and The Minack Theatre.