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I’ve read loads of these “top beaches in Cornwall” lists over the years, and I’m constantly amazed that one of my favourite beaches never seems to get a place. Mother Ivey’s Bay, one of the Seven Bays (along with Porthcothan, Treyarnon, Constantine, Booby’s, Harlyn and Trevone) just south of Padstow is a world class beach. It has perfect white sand, is nicely sheltered by Trevose Head, has a bit of character with the nearby RNLI station – and it’s often so quiet you can have it to yourself.
One reason it’s fairly unknown is that it doesn’t appear on many roadmaps, so is not the easiest place to find. It doesn’t have its own designated carpark, but you can park at Trevose Head – just follow the signs from the B3276 coastal road from Padstow to Newquay. You’ll have to drive on a private road for a while, and pay £3.50 for the privilege, which includes parking. If you’re lucky, you might be able to squeeze onto the lay-by near Mother Ivey’s Bay Holiday Park, who own the beach, for free.
Alternatively, you could walk here from Padstow (if you’ve got the energy) or Harlyn as the beach is on the South West Coast Path. Once here there are no facilities such as shops, toilets or lifeguards – it’s not going to win a Blue Flag anytime soon, although the dramatically sited lifeboat station on the rocks should give you comfort.
When you’ve had enough of lazing on the sand, gazing at the off-shore islet or even having a dip or a surf, it’s well worth the short walk to see the lifeboat station. A thick iron gate greets you at the entrance, and pedestrians can fit through it and walk downhill on the twisty path to see this RNLI facility. The flag that flutters outside the station’s house has seen some stories, and has been so battered by the wind over the years that the “N” and “I” no longer exist.
There are several plaques on the walls of the house, giving a brief description of each rescue that has taken place per year. From “saved four men and a dog” to “took out doctor and landed a sick man”, any Hollywood scriptwriter with writer’s block should spend some time here to get some inspiration.
The launch is open for the public (Mondays to Fridays, 10am – 4pm) to look around.
After a hard day on the beach, hunger will be calling, and you’ll be pleased to hear that one of the best country pubs in England is only a couple of miles away.
The Cornish Arms in the village of St. Merryn is owned by Rick Stein. The bar is well stocked with St. Austell Ales beers on draught, and the food is high quality pub grub. My wife says the mussels are the best she’s ever eaten, while I’ve never had a bad burger, pie or steak. It’s a victim of its own success, and gets extremely busy. You can’t book a table – it’s first come first served, so order a drink, get your name on the waiting list and grab a seat in the beer garden.