The small harbour-town of Porthleven lies close to Helston on the edge of Mounts Bay. It boasts the most impressive harbour complex in Cornwall. The stout stone walls and piers were built with the help of Napoleonic prisoners of war to provide a refuge for sailing ships driven onto the rocks in this corner of the bay by the prevailing westerly winds.

Low tide at Porthleven

Low tide at Porthleven © Graham Horn - CCL

Strict conservation laws have ensured that Porthleven remains an unspoilt working port and fishing boats and other craft still use the harbour today. Holiday makers have not been forgotten, however, and there are numerous shops and restaurants and an excellent wide beach. Porthleven was the home town of the Dambusters' Commanding Officer, Guy Gibson; there is a road named in his honour.

Loe Bar, a couple of miles south of Porthleven, is a giant sandbank thrown up by storms back in the 12th Century to block the River Cober and thus form Loe Pool, the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall. Prior to this time, ships could sail up the river to Helston.

The frigate, HMS Anson, was shipwrecked in 1807 at Loe Bar. Although it lay stranded on the bar close to the shoreline, many of the crew still lost their lives. This event inspired Henry Trengrouse to design the rocket fired line, a fore-runner of the 'Breeches Buoy'.

Content by B. Benney

Map of Porthleven

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