Experience Helston: Porthleven and The Loe
Experience Helston: Porthleven and The Loe
It might be less than 14km long, but if you do the full loop, the climb up and over Gipsy Lane means you’ll still earn your harbourside cream tea/pasty/fish and chips in beautiful Porthleven.
Alternatively, you can reverse the route, taking the meandering flat trail down alongside The Loe and then up and over the cliff trail into Porthleven, to save the big climb over the tops until you’re fuelled.
The third option is the easy one, just to do the Loe section in both directions. Whichever you choose, it’s a mini adventure packed with Cornish character in terms of coastal and inland scenery, traffic-free lanes and tracks, historic interest and foodie treats with the chance of a proper leg challenge too. Not bad for just over 8 miles – a fine example of how fantastic the Helston area is for cycling.
This is one of three routes starting from the Cycling UK EXPERIENCE hub in Helston.
A foodie haven
From Coronation Park, roll past the skate park then sidle alongside the main road past Lidl for 100m. Split left at the first opportunity and you’ll soon forget about the traffic as you climb up Gipsy Lane. The surface turns from tarmac to gravel at the last house, and the steepest part of the climb is the roughest, so either hop off and push or prepare for a real challenge to the top. The great thing about getting the effort in early, is that once you’re on the plateau of Sithney Common, the riding experience couldn’t be more different from that short section of busy main road.
Here, it’s all foxglove-covered lanes past the ancient banked settlement site and slightly more recent farm of St Elvan where the stables have been converted into thoroughbred holiday accommodation.
From Praze, you can head straight into Porthleven, but our route takes you down across the top edge of the village. Be aware that the steep descent ends at a Give Way sign onto a relatively busy road so be sure not to overshoot.
Check left and right, then head straight across up the lane to Methleigh Farm. Not only is the farm a lovely collection of traditional buildings, but also hosts a farm shop which was set up in the summer of 2020 for selling the farm’s potatoes to local people during the coronavirus lockdown. Other neighbouring producers soon started bringing their stock and since its humble start, this garden shed of goodness has become a hive for foodie fans who are buzzing about the farm’s own Cornish Black Bee honey, homemade Hevva cake and local fruit and veg.
A short section of gravel farm track takes you onto the road where an incredible coastal view opens up ahead of you, so take your time to really drink it in as you roll down into the western side of Porthleven.
Be sure to take the right fork to enjoy the delicious panorama of the outer harbour pier and the long beach of Porthleven Sands. As you roll down with high white garden walls on your left, the bright boats of the inner harbour will unscroll in front of you and the fantastic foodie menu of this busy village starts with cafés and seafood stalls.
The delicious distractions continue right round the horseshoe harbour too, but that makes it super popular, so please ride carefully or just hop off and take your time to really enjoy this deservedly famous highlight of the whole West Cornwall area.
Watch out for the landslip
When you’ve had your fill, it’s time to finish the loop around the harbour with the cobbled surface either settling your stomach, or making you regret that second cream tea.
The narrow road smooths out as it climbs though, letting you grab views out over the sea and sands to take your mind off your legs. While the old coastal path dropped down to a car park and then contoured along above the beach, recent landslips have left a massive rocky scar right across the trail just behind the car park bank, so definitely don’t try that option.
Instead, double back before the drop to the car park and then double back again onto the gravel bridleway across the top. On a good day, the views from here down the Lizard to the south or west past Penzance are truly world class, but again that can make it busy, so take your time around the twisty corners as the gravel is quite loose even if you’re paying attention. That applies even more down the switchbacks at the far end which drop you down onto the promenade above the Loe Bar.
This unique piece of geography is well worth a detour onto, and you can change things up by crossing the Loe Bar and then following the natural bridleway singletrack along the eastern edge of the Loe back into town.
If you don’t fancy pushing across the sand, the official route follows the broad, tree-lined path as it winds along the western edge of the Loe. You’ll then pop out into the picture-perfect parkland of Penrose House, horseshoeing round to roll back under the trees on the final piece of broad multi-use path to pop out opposite the Coronation Park start point.
The development of these routes has been funded through EXPERIENCE, a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, €16 million) through the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020, boosting visitor numbers in six pilot regions across England and France. This project will harness the experiential tourism trend to extend the season (October – March), generating 20 million new off-season visitors spending €1 billion across the Channel region by June 2023.