Everything you need to know to fall in love with Padstow
- Credit: David Chapman
While away a few hours, or stay for a weekend, in this ever-busy harbour town with a big foodie reputation.
Situated on the beautiful Camel Estuary, Padstow may be relatively small, but it is enormously popular, filled with visitors wandering around its narrow streets or queuing up for fish and chips from Rick Stein’s.
Stein’s is synonymous with Padstow and the family’s association goes right back to the 1970s when Rick and Jill Stein opened a small seafood bistro. The business has grown over the years to encompass more restaurants, shops and accommodation, and it is at the core of Padstow’s reputation as a food and drink destination.
The town has a rich history, with links to one of Cornwall’s beloved saints, Petroc, who, in the 6th century, built a church which became a monastery dedicated to the saint until it was destroyed by the Vikings. The present day church, still dedicated to St Petroc, is on the same site.
Padstow holds fast to its traditions, the most well-known being the May Day celebrations. Visitors flock to the town in their thousands, but this is very much a part of the locals’ heritage, going way back in time through the generations - the exact beginnings are still a mystery. It involves music, singing, dancing and mysterious masked characters, namely the Obby Oss, of which there are two, the original Old Oss and the Blue Ribbon Oss, introduced after the First World War.
Fishing, shipbuilding and trading have played a big part in the town’s history, with tourism taking over in the 20th century.
A walk along the harbour, then through its back streets is an adventure, there is so much to see and do, pop into shops, cafes, art galleries, perhaps visit a pub – the oldest in town, the Golden Lion, is also the ‘stable’ for the Old Oss. A visit to the Padstow Museum, housed in the former railway station, will reveal the background to some of the town’s architecturally interesting buildings, of which there are many.
There are beaches to explore and many ways to make the most of its coastal setting, including wildlife sea safaris and fishing trips. Walkers have the South West Coast Path, and they can join cyclists on the wonderful Camel Trail, a five mile route along the old railway line to Wadebridge – and, if so inclined, further on towards Bodmin.
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The food and drink scene
From fish and chips to Michelin-starred dining, there is no shortage of dining options in Padstow. First and foremost are the family of Rick Stein restaurants, which long ago set the standard for top notch food; but Paul Ainsworth has also made his home in Padstow with his Michelin-starred restaurant, No.6, along with Caffe Rojano, which serves small plates, pizza and pasta.
Also offering small plates, dishes created from the catch landed by local fishermen and brought to the door – literally, is Prawn on the Lawn. From April it moves to its summer venue, Trerethern Farm; but still in town, offering meat, fish and veg sharing plates, is its sister restaurant, Barnaby’s.
The old post office is now an equally busy hotspot for both locals and visitors. Padstow Brewing Company has turned it into a spacious tasting room where you can try out the various beers, or a cocktail or glass of wine.
Where to stay
Coswarth House is no run-of-the-mill bed and breakfast establishment. This beautiful period property offers a luxurious overnight stay with breakfast the following morning at Rick Stein’s Café, which is just a short walk away. Despite being in the heart of Padstow, this is a peaceful retreat with its own walled garden which has views of the Camel Estuary.
Other high quality places to stay include those in the Rick Stein stable, which offer a range of options, from a cosy self catering cottage for two to one of the 16 rooms at The Seafood Restaurant. Chef Paul Ainsworth also provides accommodation at Padstow Townhouse, where there is a choice of six suites, and breakfast hampers are delivered to your door.
For a harbourside location there’s the Old Custom House pub which has a choice of 23 boutique bedrooms and it has The Barn, a self catering apartment with estuary views.
More to do:
Prideaux Place is an Elizabethan manor house, still lived in by the family it was built for. It sits just above the town, surrounded by formal gardens and a deer park, with views across the Camel Estuary. Book a tour or simply enjoy a light lunch in the Terrace Café. It’s open from Easter Sunday.
Not to be missed is a visit to the National Lobster Hatchery on South Quay. The marine conservation, charity is on a research and education mission and is raising thousands of baby lobsters to put back into local waters, so replenishing shellfish stocks. Just seeing the tiny little lobsters is a treat in itself.
Take the ferry across to Rock, and stop a while at The Mariners pub for more Paul Ainsworth dining delights, before heading off to see the tiny St Enodoc Church, famed for being the resting place of former poet laureate, Sir John Betjeman.