Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall

 Looking to escape the traditional Christmas celebrations and spend a few days hibernating on the North Cornish coast, I found my perfect winter hideaway on the edge of a tiny once abandoned village called Port Quin…

This year I opted out of Christmas to retreat to the peace and rugged beauty of the Cornish coast in south west England. After a busy year, I yearned for some quiet isolation. I wanted to be close to the elements with an impressive sea view. This is exactly what I discovered at Port Quin.

‘The Village that Died’

Port Quin was once a busy fishing and mining village. But twice this tiny hamlet has been abandoned as misfortune struck. Legend has it, after a failed pilchard season and the closure of the mine, the entire fishing fleet was wiped out in a storm. The women of the village were forced to abandon their homes some time during the mid-nineteenth century. This earned Port Quin the eerie name ‘the village that died‘.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Today all of the cottages, and a decent stretch of the coast, are owned by the National Trust. The rocky cove provides a pretty natural harbour surrounded by jagged cliffs, tucked away within a series of headlands that stretch along the coast. Approached via a tiny single track lane, Port Quin must become difficult to access in the busy summer months but is completely charming.

“Port Quin can be a frightening place in a North West gale, great rollers sweeping in and breaking over the road and battering the buildings at the head of the inlet. But most people see it in their summer dress, children playing in the rock pools, the little stone cottages smiling in the sun.”

The National Trust Guide

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

As I arrived in the centre of the village it looked like a place that time had certainly forgotten.  A gale was blowing in as Storm Conor (appropriately sharing a name with my holiday let) whipped itself up, ready to lash the coast. The only hints that anyone was around were two cars in a tiny National Trust car park and a little dog wandering the beach.

Doyden Point

I headed out of the village towards Doyden Point, a rocky peninsula with views over the Bay of Lundy to the Rumps (a volcanic twin headland topped with prehistoric cliff castle).

It was Doyden Point that was to become my home for the next few days. Regular viewers of Poldark might recognise this as one of the locations used in filming the popular TV adaptation of Winston Graham’s novels.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

There are three holiday homes on the headland to the southern side of Port Quin: Doyden House (converted into four apartments), The Old Stables, and a nineteenth century folly called Doyden Castle. Any of these National Trust Holiday Cottages would make the perfect winter hideaway, with idyllic panoramic and far-reaching coastal views.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Doyden Castle was built in 1830 by local businessman Samuel Symons who built the three storey castle as a retreat. It later gained quite a reputation as a party house.

In the most exposed position, there was at least one day when it felt too windy to walk around the narrow path on the southern side of the castle safely. But it is also accessible by a more sheltered track. The Castle provided a stunning view from Doyden House, where my apartment was situated.

Cliff walks, storm watching and sunsets

The first two days were windy, as two named storms blew in from the Atlantic. Perfect weather for curling up with a good book, watching the waves crashing on to the cliffs from the comfort of the cosy cottage, with it’s roaring open fire. Every night, treated to a sunset of different colours.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

But windy weather soon cleared to deliver brilliant blue skies and time to explore this section of the coastal path. Heading south west along the cliffs towards Trevan Point, you find two deep, square, open mine shafts cordoned off with wire secured to irregular slate posts. This is all that remains of the former mixed lead/silver and antimony mine here. Pause beside the larger shaft and you can hear the ocean crashing into a sea cave below.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Further along the cliffs an eerie fresh water pond has collected, filling a large dip within the cliff face. Every time I passed this point I felt a strange sense of unease.

A gentle climb up Trevan Point rewards you with the most stunning of views across the twin coves of Lundy Bay far below, with it’s collapsed sea cave and a small handful of surfers.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

In the opposite direction,  a more challenging walk takes you via Kellan Head to Varley Head, past the rocky cove at Pine Haven, and on to Lobber Point where there are fantastic views of Port Isaac, before descending alongside Port Isaac harbour into the village.

This section of the South West coastal path includes some steep climbs and stunning views in to ragged looking bays. Lichen clings to stone walls along the route and a pair of Cornish Choughs were among the birds that swooped around in the sky above.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

The Cottage – A Perfect Winter Hideaway

The holiday cottage really was the perfect winter hideaway. One of four apartments within Doyden House, Conor sleeps two. It is a comfortable, ground floor apartment with its own small, grassed garden just above the cottage. The view from the sitting room unfolds across the headland and down the coast, with Pentire Head in the distance.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Doyden House was built by Captain Herbert Latimer Conor, a former prison governor, at the beginning of the 20th century. He chose the location for his retirement home because of its panoramic ocean views across Lundy Bay towards the Rumps.

Polzeath, Rock and Port Isaac are all within 5 miles. But Doyden House enjoys a peaceful location away from any crowds, with uninterrupted views of the ocean and immediate access to the South West Coastal Path.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

The cottage was perfectly clean and well equipped, as I have come to expect from any National Trust holiday cottage. The usual welcome tray had a Christmas twist with the addition of a traditional Christmas pudding and chocolate truffles.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

A walkers backpack, complete with picnic rug, maps and binoculars was provided to tempt you out to explore. The open fire was a particular treat on those days when Atlantic storms lashed the coast.

Sea Food Heaven

The nearby village of Port Isaac is well known as the fictional village of Port Wen from British TV drama Doc Martin. It also featured in both Saving Grace and Poldark. This is a particularly picturesque place with narrow winding streets, lined with 18th century whitewashed fishing cottages. Port Isaac has a great collection of pubs, cafes, restaurants, galleries and local craft shops as well as the ubiquitous pasty bars and pretty harbour.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

If you enjoy seafood, then this part of Cornwall might just be foodie heaven for you. Port Isaac itself is home to Outlaws, a quality fish restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere by Michelin-starred chef Nathan Outlaw. Other great places to eat include The Golden Lion and The Mote.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

Nearby Padstow, is a charming working fishing port surrounded by sandy beaches at the head of the Camel River. Here you can find Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant and two restaurants by Paul Ainsworth.

Other things to do

Other National Trust attractions in the area include Tintagel Old Post Office (below), Lawrence House, Trerice and Lanhydrock.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

The nearest decent sandy beach is at Polzeath. This award winning beach is popular with surfers due to its easily accessible location and long slow-breaking, consistent waves.

At low tide the soft sands extend for approximately ¼ mile in either direction. The beach is almost completely covered at high tide. It is a great (dog-friendly) place to walk and explore the rock-pools at the periphery.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

I can’t recommend National Trust Holiday Cottages enough, and would certainly return to Conor & Doyden House next time I need a perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall. 

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So by booking your holiday through them you’re also helping to preserve some of the most beautiful places in the UK.

Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall | Amanda's Wanderlust

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24 thoughts on “Port Quin: The perfect winter hideaway in Cornwall”

  1. We’ve been visiting Cornwall for 19 years and I can’t believe we’ve not found Doyden House. It looks like the perfect hideaway for a Cornish retreat…definitely one for us and hope to get down there in 2017 so thank you for the insight and recommendation Amanda. Once again a fantastic blog post!

  2. The landscape here looks breathtaking! I especially love that sunset view and the colors are amazing. This seems like an amazing place to visit during the holiday season. We need to get out here and explore this part of the world!

  3. Christmas time can get pretty hectic. I would enjoy the view on top of that climb but the unease feeling place .. I would stay far away. Glad you had a nice holiday! One with awesome sunsets =)

  4. I have never heard of this place and it sounds amazing. I would love to stay at the The Cottage. The scenery surrounding this area is just stunning.

  5. The village that died… what a perfect place to spend the holidays in 😛 Just kidding, but those pictures are something else! I love the photos of the cove. Seems like all these quaint coastal towns would be a perfect way to restore a tired soul from holiday merriment. And those seafood spots! I love the exterior, it feels so inviting and cozy!

  6. National Trust does a great job preserving places like this. I like your very detailed post and beautiful pictures. I hope you had a great time! Thanks for sharing!

  7. It sounds like you received exactly what you need. Sometimes, we really just need a few days of peace and quiet, especially in the holiday season. I’m glad you had a great time 🙂

  8. I love these types of areas in England. I watched Doc Martin religiously on Netflix until all the seasons ran out. And now, years later I’m re-watching them! The scenery alone is 1/2 the reason I love the show. The humor is the rest. I too love staying in windswept cliff dotted remote areas. There is something peaceful yet invigorating about these rough, gorgeous seaside villages

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