One of the best places in Cornwall, frankly…
St Agnes is a large village (4500 people) on the north coast of Cornwall, which shouldn’t be confused with the equally lovely but completely different place called St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly. This is quite important as it can be an expensive mistake. Our St Agnes or Bryanick (Breanek in the Kernow tongue) is an unusually well-appointed place, with some of the best beaches in the land and a rich history derived from its traditional revenue streams of mining, fishing, schooner building, and harbour trading.
This video does an excellent job of showcasing how St Agnes looks and feels
There are rail services to Newquay, Redruth or Truro, from whence a bus service completes the journey to St Agnes in under an hour. For drivers, the village is just minutes away from the junction of the A30 and A390, on the B3277. The nearest airport is Newquay.
Leading down from the centre is a lovely stepped terrace of traditional Cornish cottages known as “Stippy Stappy”, said by some to have been built to house workers for the dock at Trevaunance Cove, where trading ships loaded and unloaded their wares. Others say they were sea captain’s homes.
St Agnes is brimming with industrial history, from its disused tin mines such as Wheal Kitty, Wheal Coates and the ‘Blue Hills’ and including the Polberro Mine, once Cornwall’s primary source of tin, to the broken down harbour where metal was shipped out, and coal and other supplies brought in. Trevaunance Cove also had a post-medieval lime-kiln for the smelting of ore, though its dates of operation could be anytime during the mining period – that’s 1540 to 1901!
The first chapel that was built in St Agnes is thought to date back to somewhere in the 1st century AD, and a church was put up in the same location in 1482. The 17th century Driftwood Spars pub overlooks Trevaunance Cove. The building was originally a fish cellar, and many of the original timbers come from shipwrecks in the area.
Trevellas Porth Cove is not a family bathing beach, but is interesting, because of the vestiges of the mining industry that are found there – see Heritage Trail, below. Much of the original series of Poldark was filmed around this area in the 1970’s.
All of Cornwall enjoys a maritime climate, with warm summers and mild winters, but St Agnes sits in the middle of the section known as the Sunshine Coast. It just seems that the weather is better here than in most of the UK. Clouds are less likely to form, instead gathering themselves together over the higher moors inland. St Agnes sits sheltered from the prevailing winds by St Agnes Head. For detailed information about Cornish weather why not visit our special weather page here?
A micro-brewery and pub that’s a favourite with the discerning drinker, the Driftwood Spars stands just yards up the road from Trevaunance Cove. It was originally a tin mining warehouse, then played host to many other trades before becoming a public bar in the 1940’s. The Taphouse, Miner’s Arms, Peterville Inn, and The Railway are all good solid traditional pubs, too.
Driftwood Spars is a must-visit eatery with specials as well as a bar menu that are all from locally sourced ingredients, an upmarket experience with innovative and contemporary cuisine. The restaurant known as Taste, The Cornish Pizza Company and Genki Café are all very highly regarded in their different ways. And all of the pubs listed above are fairly “gastro”, serving food in a restaurant environment as well the usual bar menu.
Carnival week is in August – the St Agnes Carnival is one of the biggest and oldest in Cornwall. Traditionally the streets would have been lined with fishermen and fishwives, miners and bal-maidens. Now it’s all about imaginative fancy dress, local bands, homemade floats and lots of dancing. Bolster, the giant, will put in an appearance, you can be sure!
Also held in August, this is a fund-raising event for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) on whom we all depend for our safety when enjoying the Cornish coast. Watch the fantastic displays, typically with the Blue Peter Inshore Lifeboat, a helicopter rescue, lifeguard demo, jet ski rescue, flares fired and the HM Coastguard cliff rescue. For the kids, there is also the ubiquitous face painting, a sand castle competition, as well as quizzes, prizes and raffles.
St Agnes Players
The St Agnes Players Theatre Players is a friendly drama group presenting quality productions, unafraid to take on challenging pieces. Check out their website for details of upcoming performances.
Victorian Fayre Day
St Agnes Victorian Street Fayre takes place on Whit Monday – it has lots to offer to all age groups. Colourful stalls that line the main street are each run by a charity and stallholders are dressed in authentic Victorian costumes. This good old fashioned event has tombola, plant, book, bric-a-brac stalls, local produce and crafts on sale, and strawberry cream teas and refreshments served up. Entertainment comes from St Agnes Silver Band, clog dancers, and local bands, choirs and singers from around the area.
A celebration of Cornish culture with life-size puppets, a drum band and a 28ft (9m) tall effigy performing the famous Cornish legend of the giant named Bolster. It’s a fun day out for all the family.
Cornwall was once apparently full of marauding giants and one of them, Bolster, terrorised the folk on the north coast, eating their children. To celebrate his eventual demise, the villagers of St Agnes hold a pageant every year beginning with a lantern procession, bonfire and barbeque. The next day, the good Knight Sir Constantine and the Bolster drummers parade the streets of the village in search of the giant (a huge puppet) which ends in a dramatic battle on the cliffs above stunning Chapel Porth. It takes place as part of the May Day celebrations.
Special Things to do and visit
St Agnes Museum
With a 320kg (700lb) leatherback turtle on display along with a detailed model of the former harbour and the figurehead of the Lady Agnes, this museum is a repository of parish history including mostly mining and maritime exhibits. Free entry!
Bolster’s Dyke is a two-mile (3.2km) long raised earthwork, said to have been built by the giant who lived in the area. It originally ran unbroken from Chapel Porth to Trevaunance Cove. Bolster the giant is much celebrated to this day (see above).
This is a craft complex set in exceptionally beautiful countryside. Visitors have the chance to observe local traditional skills such as pottery, candle carving and fudge making. For a small charge, you can try the potter’s wheel, decorate plates and pots or dip your own candles. Entry is free. There is a picnic area as well as a nice restaurant serving light lunches.
Healey’s Cyder Farm
Healey’s Cornish Cyder Farm is just 4.5 miles (7.2km) from St Agnes. This is the home of the famous Rattler Cyders, but they also make Apple Brandy, Apple Whisky and Eau de Vie as well as jams and other preserves and fresh pressed fruit juice. All of these things are stocked in their shop, and everything except for the strong spirits is available to sample completely free of charge!
Miners and Mechanics Institute
This 1893 building was constructed to serve the growing population employed in these industries and now acts as a sort of second village hall and community centre.
The remains of a nineteenth-century tin mine on the coast path, now preserved by the National Trust. A super place for a stroll, with abundant wildlife and you might see dolphins playing in the surf!
Blue Hills Tin Stream
A working business which takes tin ore that’s been mined by the action of the sea and pounded clean by the waves. The ore is smelted and refined, and then the tin is cast into unique gifts and jewellery which can be bought online. You can walk around the Blue Hills mining area – it’s above Trevellas Porth beach – or take a walk around the Visitor Centre at Wheal Kitty.
St Agnes Beacon
St Agnes Beacon is a local landmark belonging the National Trust and rising 629 feet (200m) above the neighbouring countryside. From the top of it, you’ll get views of the coastline from St Ives in the west to Padstow in the east. On a good day, it’s said that thirty-two church towers can be seen from the top of the beacon
Bosvigo Garden in Truro 6.8miles (11km) away or Trerice near Newquay 9 miles (14.5km) are lovely gardens open to the public. The house at Bosvigo is not open to visitors but at Trerice you can explore the stunning Elizabethan Manor and handle replica artefacts and armour.
No visit to Cornwall would be complete without a day at the Eden Project with its biospheres of exotic climates and flora and its exhibitions of art and culture.
The Minack, an hour’s drive from St Agnes, is the most famous open-air theatre in Britain, perhaps in the world. From above it looks as if someone thousands of years ago had carved a theatre into the granite cliffs at Porthcurno. In fact, it was built in the 20th century!
This area provides excellent bass beaches and many species of flatfish. In the autumn you can also catch codling and whiting in this area. For deeper water, boat trips are available from nearby ports, notably St Ives and Newquay.
Perranporth, Porthtowan and Chapel Porth are good surfing beaches and very close to St Agnes. This whole stretch of coastline is the very heart of Cornish surfing. The coast between Penhale and St Ives is sometimes referred to as the Badlands, with rumours of localism and unwelcoming behaviour towards visitors, but it’s not really so. Read our post about surfing etiquette and you won’t get any grief from the locals. Trevaunance Breakers Surf School provides coaching for beginners in the noble art of surfing.
St Agnes’ Trevaunance Cove is an iconic sandy cove with the added benefits of a slipway, and facilities right down on the beach. As you can see from the photograph, the clean, green Cornish water is no myth.
Chapel Porth is a big expanse of golden sand with many rock pools and caves. At high tide, it gets small and rocky.
Trevellas Porth is small and pebbly but very pretty. The sea can be rough here, and there’s no lifeguard cover.
Dog Friendly Beaches
Dogs are welcome all year round at Trevaunance Cove and Trevellas Porth. Chapel Porth has a seasonal dog ban from Easter to the 1st of October. For info on all the dog-friendly beaches in Cornwall, check out our page.
The beaches in the area are child-friendly, but beware large surf at Porthtowan or Perranporth and tricky conditions at Trevellas Porth. The best choices would be Trevaunance or Chapel Porth. Be aware of rip currents at all locations.
The nearest golf course is Perranporth Golf Club, a rugged links course designed by James Braid. It demands precise distance judgement and control and commands spectacular views over Perranporth beach. Blind shots can make life difficult for beginners despite marker posts and boards on the dunes. The wind often adds to the difficulty. A fine course, nonetheless.
With over seventy footpaths and bridleways, and so much to see and explore in the area, St Agnes is a particularly good base for a walking holiday. It is also on the South West Coast Path, where there are shortish scenic walks to neighbouring Perranporth (3.5 miles/5.5km) or Portreath (7 miles/11km). For more information on the South West Coast Path and details of the many differing walks, why not check out our page on the subject here…
Also, there are some ten impressive historic walks to draw from, collectively known as the St Agnes Heritage Trail.
ST AGNES VILLAGE TRAIL
ST AGNES BEACON WALK
PORTHTOWAN, BANNS VALE, MOUNT HAWKE AND CHAPEL PORTH
WHEAL ROSE, THE POLDICE PLATEWAY AND MAWLA
COATES, CHAPEL PORTH, WHEAL LAWRENCE VALLEY AND GOONVREA
WATER LANE, WHEAL BUTSON AND JERICHO VALLEY
JERICHO VALLEY AND CROSS COOMBE
We have several self-catering holiday cottages in St Agnes and the surrounding area.
Self-catering in Cornwall has never been so good! Check out our Cornwall Guide to discover more about what’s going on and things to do, places to eat or to visit in the surrounding area, from your St Agnes cottage.
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