Port Gaverne

Port Gaverne in North Cornwall
Port Gaverne
Slate being loaded at Port Gaverne in North Cornwall
Slate being loaded
View of Port Gaverne from the headland opposite Port Isaac
Port Gaverne at low tide

Port Gaverne, the tiny settlement and inlet neighbouring Port Isaac, was more prominent than Port Isaac in the past. In fact, the settlement at Port Gaverne dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded in the 1300s. The sheltered inlet made it a good place to launch boats and it is still a popular place to launch small craft today.

The name was previously recorded as Port Kerne and on maps from the 1800s as Port Keverne. One of the quirks of the Cornish language is that "k" often transforms into "g" when placed after another word, which might have resulted in Porthgeverne (which is not far from how some of the locals still pronounce it).

The road from Port Gaverne which joins the Delabole road was quarried out in the early 1800s by the Delabole Slate company and known as "The Great Slate Road". Around 100 ships a year came to Port Gaverne to collect slate, each capable of carrying 50-80 tonnes. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses, to load a sixty ton ship. The slates were loaded by women, who then packed them in straw to protect them on the voyage. The incoming ships also brought coal from Wales and limestone, for the local limekiln, which was used to whitewash the cottages.

Once the tide goes out there is a sandy beach. Being very sheltered, Port Gaverne is good at all states of the tide for swimming and launching kayaks, though watch you don't stray across the path of any boats launching off the beach (or coming back in).

The headland on the right of the beach is an excellent spot for fishing for mackerel and occasional pollack. Seals can often be seen out from the headland. The footpath to the headland is accessible from the beach when the tide is out, otherwise you can walk up the hill to the right of the beach along road and join the footpath from there.

The Port Gaverne Hotel was originally the Union Inn frequented by crews of the slate vessels. It was built by shoemaker and fisherman James Stroat who "kept it and then spent all he had". His brother William was a Master Mariner and apparently "a good merry old toper". On the walls of the pub, there are lots of photos and paintings of Port Gaverne and Port Isaac from the 1800s and early 1900s.

There were 4 large pilchard cellars built in Port Gaverne at the start of the 1800s which can still be seen at the bottom of the hill leading up to Port Isaac. In their heydey, in the early 1800s, it is suggested that they could have processed 1,000 tons of pilchards in a week.

There is very limited parking close to Port Gaverne beach (absolute maximum of 15 cars). However there is quite a big car park at top of hill on left towards Port Isaac and this is free of charge in the evenings.

Tide times for Port Gaverne

Directions

Take the B3314 through Delabole and past the turning to St Teath. Carry on along the B3314 past a few farm tracks on the right until you reach a slanted crossroads. Turn right here and the lane takes you to Port Gaverne.

Walks to Port Gaverne

Photos of Port Gaverne on Flickr

More information about Port Gaverne