Holywell Bay

Holywell Bay is one of Cornwalls most beautiful family beaches. With its towering sand dunes, trickling stream and the stunning Gul rocks you are sure to be blown away by the beauty of the area. Due to its location on the north coast of Cornwall, Holywell is a fantastic beach for surfers of all abilities and has lifeguards patrolling the beach every day throught out the summer from mid May until the end of September, keeping the beach safe.

For those wishing to take to the sea for the first time Holywell Bay School of Surf offers surfing lessons for all abilities and is based on the beach at the Lifeguard hut. Equally fun & a little less challenging than surfing is body boarding, a sport which the whole family can enjoy!

RNLI Lifeguards patrol the beach daily between mid May and the end of September from 10am to 6pm. They offer invaluable advice about the daily conditions. In addition to setting out red and yellow flags marking out the safe bathing area they have black & white flags marking a safe surfing area where they can keep an eye on beginner surfers. Holywell Bay also has a Surf Life Saving Club which was formed to patrol the beach before the days of professional lifeguards and now trains local youngsters in beach safety and life saving skills.

The beach has grown in popularity since the early 1930’s. It is one of the first beaches in the country if not the first where Malibu stand up surfing was tried. The earliest film of this is by Lewis Rosenberg who built his own Malibu after seeing pictures of Hawaiian surfers at the cinema and brought it to Holywell Bay to try it out. The film can be seen on You Tube, ‘Lewis Rosenberg 9.5 mm. films part 2’ it shows a lot of Holywell Bay beach and the early attempts at surfing. It also shows Penna’s Tea Rooms where ‘for a charge of 1/6d a sumptuous tea with splits, Cornish cream and Saffron cake’ could be obtained. They were in the building opposite to what is now the Treguth Inn. The film is fascinating insight into holidaying in the early 1930’s but beware the opening sequence has a few seconds of nude frolicking on the beach; presumably they were the only ones there!

Walking along the beach at low tide one passes a wreck; the remains of the SS. Francia an Argentinean coaster which had a cargo of coal and was wrecked in 1917, on hitting the shore it broke its back and was not able to be refloated, parts of it were salvaged by traction engine but a lot was left behind.

On reaching the cliffs at the far end of the beach it is worth looking for the Holywell, from which the bay takes its name and which was reputed to have healing powers, its waters were ‘thought to offer relief from fluxes and other disorders’. It is in one of the caves but the rocks can be very slippery so be careful, if you would like full directions please ask us when you arrive.

The whole area is a photographer’s paradise with abundant wildflowers and wildlife on the dunes and also sea life in the rock pools. Seals can often be spotted from the cliffs, and Holywell also attracts the occasional pod of dolphins.

There are marvelous walks along the cliff coastal paths on either side of Holywell Bay and views from the cliffs are spectacular in all directions.

A large area of the beach and cliffs belongs to the National Trust and the views at Holywell were voted the fourth favorite view in the UK in a poll of its members in 2008.

Holywell Bay: the village

Historically Holywell was little more than a few cottages with farming and mining as the mainstay for the population.

The cliffs used to have spectacular engine houses on them for the silver lead mines which dotted the area. Today little remains as they were demolished by the army during World War II as they were considered them to be landmarks for German bombers looking for the nearby army camp. However the entrances to tunnels the miners dug; the adits can still be seen in the cliff as one walks the coastal footpath to Perranporth, as can the old Count House on the edge of the cliff at Penhale from where the miners were paid.

Today Holywell Bay is a small friendly coastal village with two inns, one of them thatched and both of which serve traditional pub food and drink. There are two seasonal shops. One of which being Holywell Stores which is run by us and stocks all that is required for a day on the beach, from balls to buckets and surfboards to sandwiches. Holywell Bay has a regular bus service to various towns in Cornwall such as Newquay, Truro and Perranporth.

Nearby is a leisure park with various entertainments and also an 18 hole pitch and put golf course which is alongside a more challenging 18 hole par 3 golf course.

There are many footpaths offering inland as well as coastal walks. A popular walk is to the site of the Lost Church, The church of the patron saint of Cornwall St. Piran which is buried in the sand dunes which stretch from Holywell to Perranporth. Legend has it that a whole lost city ‘Langarrow’ is buried under these dunes having been overwhelmed in a great sandstorm.

It may be that Holywell Bay already seems familiar to you this could be because you’ve seen it before. It is very popular with film and advertising companies as it is an un-spoilt beach. Perhaps the first time it was used was by the BBC in the 1960s filming for one of its series of Treasure Island with Patrick Trowton later to be Dr. Who.

More recently it was used for the opening sequence of the James Bond film ‘Die Another Day’. It also recently featured in ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ and a number of commercial advertisements. In September 2011 there has been the filming of scenes for German TV screening of a story by Cornish novelist Rosamunde Pilcher.

The recent television production of Jamaica Inn was filmed at Holywell Bay, it was a good production but let down by the sound and subtitles, which were needed to follow it properly.

Most recently Holywell Bay has been regularly seen in the BBC series Poldark. Many of the scenes of Hendrawna Beach were filmed at Holywell. The two Gull Rocks are often in shot. So for those of you who love Poldark keep an eye out for Holywell Bay.