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Porthleven Harbour - geograph.org.uk - 218946.jpg
Porthleven Harbour
Grid reference: SW625255
Location: 50°4’5"N, 5°18’58"W
Population: 3,190  ((2001))
Post town: Helston
Postcode: TR13
Dialling code: 01326
Local Government
Council: Cornwall
St Ives

Porthleven is a Cornish fishing village near Helston. It is the most southerly port on the island of Great Britain,[1] and was originally developed as a harbour of refuge, when this part of the Cornish coastline was recognised as a black spot for wrecks in days of sail. Nearby Loe Bar was particularly infamous, with swimmers and surfers being warned off the area to this day.

About the village

Including tourists and surfers would swell that number considerably. Porthleven has exploited its location and exposure to powerful swells to become one of the best-known and highly regarded surfing spots in Britain. Waves often exceeding 6 feet break on the shallow reef that was shaped by blasting the harbour. Due to the prevailing westerly winds it was very easy for a ship under sail to get trapped in the bay and be cast up on the rocks at the small fishing coves of Mullion, Kynance and the Lizard.

Arguably, Porthleven's most recognisable building is the Bickford-Smith Institute next to the pier and harbour entrance. With a tower about 70 feet high, it looks like a church but currently is used as a snooker club and houses the town council offices. It featured (along with various other scenes from the town) as the incident room in an episode of the TV detective series Wycliffe.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution stationed a lifeboat at Portleven in 1863. A boat house was built at Breageside from where the boat was taken to the water on a carriage. A new boat house on the west side of the harbour entrance was opened in 1894 with a slipway to make launching easier. The station was closed in 1929 as the neighbouring stations at The Lizard and Penlee had been equipped with motor lifeboats that could cover the whole of Mount's Bay. The slipway was dismantled and the boat house was used as a store for a while but has since become the Shipwreck Centre museum.[2]

Protected areas

There are four "Sites of Special Scientific Interest" close to Porthleven; Porthleven Cliffs SSSI, Porthleven Cliffs East SSSI, Wheal Penrose SSSI and Loe Pool SSSI, of which the first three are also "Geological Conservation Review" sites.

The ″Giant’s Rock″, within Porthleven Cliffs SSSI, is a glacial erratic of unknown origin and unknown mode of transport to its present site near the entrance of Porthleven harbour.[3][4]

The Wheal Penrose SSSI is a disused lead mine 500 yards to the south with "good examples of typical lead zone mineralisation".[5]

The Loe Pool is Cornwall's largest natural lake formed by a barrier beach, known as Loe Bar, which dams the River Cober.[6]


  • Football: Porthleven FC, who play at Gala Parc


Sunset overlooking Mount's Bay
Waves beating the pier
Porthleven Harbour

Outside links


  1. Cornwall Online - The Lizard Peninsula Guide
  2. Leach, Nicholas (2006) [2000]. Cornwall's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater: Twelveheads Press. pp. 37–38. ISBN 0-906294-43-6. 
  3. Porthleven Cliff - Natural England
  4. Porthleven Cliffs East - Natural England
  5. Wheal Penrose SSSI - Natural England
  6. Loe Pool - Natural England