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Cornwall Marine Directory

Cornwall Marine Directory :: Helford River

Helford River

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On the Western edge of Falmouth Bay lies the picturesque and peaceful estuary of the Helford River which not only offers a relaxing cruising ground with interest and respite for the visiting boater, it also holds the sort of magic that has inspired poets, artists and novelists for years.

The Helford is an ideal location for kayaking, learning to sail or simply chartering a boat to enjoy the sort of peaceful quiet that only the wooded river Helford can offer. The river also boasts a ferry from Helford Passage to Helford Village, allowing walkers of the coastal path to continue their walk south.

Aerial photograph of Helford River

At the entrance to the Helford River is the small drying creek of Gillan, which makes a delightful destination to drop anchor or for a leisurely walk. The creek is almost a smaller version of the Helford and is more pristine as well as quieter when the Helford is busy with the hubbub of the summer's visitors.

Helford Village is a popular tourist spot home to the Shipwrights Arms pub that has sun terraces tumbling all the way down to the water's edge. It's an ideal spot to bring the dinghy ashore or beach your canoe for a pleasant break in a day on the water.

Across the water Helford Passage is a hamlet with a sandy beach and the Ferryboat Inn that also offers food and drink for the hungry sailor as well as the summer visitors. The coast path can be joined at this beach, offering gentle walking and some lovely panoramic views out to the boats in Falmouth Bay and up the river.

helford_qtr_yachtThe Helford is a great location to hire boats, dinghies and canoes. If you pick up a boat in Helford Passage, it will provide you with a good vantage point from which to explore the estuary. The river faces the Fal across Falmouth Bay and also provides an excellent centre for exploring the coastline on foot as it stretches south and west towards Lizard Point. The estuary is a sheltered area of lush subtropical vegetation and quiet villages but was once a centre for tin export with a share of the fishing industry to boot.

This river is home to two of Cornwall's most spectacular gardens. The National Trust-owned Glendurgan and the neighbouring Trebah Gardens each enjoy sunny sheltered valley locations running down from the north side of the Helford, to the river. Check out for more information.

Enjoyment of these gardens is made better by the fact that they are but a stone's throw from Helford Passage which makes a great spot to arrive at for lunch. They are also reachable from any venue on the river by dinghy or canoe. Today the estuary is a secluded resort, notable for the sailing boats that regularly stop here below beautiful wooded hills.

Today the estuary is a secluded resort, notable for the sailing boats that regularly stop here below beautiful wooded hills...

One look at this picturesque flooded valley with its rolling wooded sides and peaceful tranquillity and it's easy to understand how it came to captivate the mind of a young Daphne du Maurier who spent childhood holidays here before moving from London in the early part of the Twentieth Century.

It was one particular muddy waterway - Frenchman's Creek - that provided inspiration for one of her major works. The creek lies on the south side of the river with the picturesque ruin of a fisherman's cottage at its head but otherwise no markings to show that it is one of the best-known creeks in Britain. Without a doubt the best way to explore it is from the water in a canoe or shallow dinghy.

Birdlife in the creek is another of its big draws; all manner of winged creatures can be seen here - from the wild birds that live in the wooded valley to the sea and estuarine wildlife of the river itself. You only have to sit still on a mooring for a short time before you become aware that you are not alone. Don't forget to bring a good pair of binoculars.


Seals relaxing on the Helford EstuaryPort Navas Creek is home to the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Fishery which farms oysters in underwater beds. Oysters are an important part of the local economy and have been for centuries. Today the Helford oyster farm not only employs its own workforce, is also helps raise the profile of the area, contributing to the tourist industry, which is today's main occupation in Cornwall.
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