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Helford Walks: Frenchman’s Creek

In an overgrown tangle of ancient woodland veined with beautiful walks, Helford is a truly unique pocket of Cornwall. Once a favourite haunt of smugglers for its remoteness and web of secret inlets, its mystique and untamed beauty remains the same.
If you are staying near Helford, a great walk to take is the 3-mile circular route from the village to Frenchman’s Creek and back. Made famous by Daphne Du Maurier’s 1942 novel which shocked readers with tales of the illicit affair between the affluent Lady Dona and a coarse French pirate, the walk skirts the river, woodland and countryside.

Frenchman’s Creek Circular Walk

If you are arriving by car, you can park in the village car park (there is a small charge) near the sailing club and set off on foot. Walking out of the car park, turn right and follow the road downhill in the direction of the village, lined with thatched cottages flourished with creepers.

At high tide, take the bridge over the swollen creek that runs through the village or at low tide, simply splash across (watching out for the green bits on the bottom!). Looking out for a bright red phone box as your marker, you will walk in the direction of the Shipwrights Arms pub, all the while enjoying ever-widening views of the Helford River.

Once you get to the Shipwrights, you will notice a small road winding its way up to the left behind Poppygale Cottage: take this road. After a short distance, a track veers off towards Penarvon Cove, a picturesque sweep of pebble and sand that overlooks the river. Skim stones on the mirror-like water and snap some photos before carrying on again.

On the other side of the cove, recapture the path and pump your legs up a fairly steep hill. At the top of the hill, turn right along a gravelly track to arrive at a large field with sprawling views: here, turn left. Following the gradient of the land, you will make your way back downhill whereby you will be able to take one of two routes: the first way offers great views while slightly further down the hill, the lower one hugs the banks of Frenchman’s Creek.

If you take the creekside route, keep your eyes peeled for the huge number of wading and seabirds who frequent the estuary. The keen-eyed among you will also spot the remains of an old ship half-submerged in the mud, as well as lots of beautiful sun-bleached trunks of fallen trees that dangle from the banks and dip their willowy fingers into the water. Whichever you choose, both routes do join together again so you will eventually filter onto the same track.

As the creek narrows and you turn your back on Frenchman’s Creek, challenge your legs again with another uphill amble. At the top of the hill, you will pop out onto a road: cross here and enter the yard at Kestle Barton. On the other side of the yard, a gate will propel you into a meadow-like field traced by a footpath that runs away towards nearby woodland.

Sticking to the path, enjoy a magical stroll through sun-dappled woods (covered with carpets of daffodils, wild garlic, snow drops and bluebells in spring and early summer), crossing another bridge or taking a moment to cool off hot feet and paws in the stream. Once you’re ready, the path will lead you out of the woods and back into the village, where you can reward yourself with a drink or bite to eat in one of the many local eateries!

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages near Helford here. 

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