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Things to see and do at Holywell

Visitors running into the waves with a dog on the beach at Holywell, Cornwall
Visitors enjoying the sea with their dog on the beach at Holywell, Cornwall | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Holywell is the largest bay on this stretch of coast. From enjoying a peaceful walk to surfing, there is plenty to explore.

Busy days

Holywell beach is very popular and the car park can fill, especially during busy holiday seasons. If the car park is full please respect the local area and visit another time. We ask that you do not park on approach roads or nearby verges as this could block access for emergency vehicles.

Holywell cave

At low tide the cave can be found tucked under the southern cliffs of Kelsey Head. From the beach it appears a mere slit, but some steps lead up to several stepped pools ascending towards a hole in the cave roof. Take care on the steps, which are covered with slimy green weed.

The outline of these pools is blurred by a creamy-white calcareous deposit which has built up from the mineral-rich water dripping from the roof. This grotto-like feature, tinted with red and blue colours, is worth seeking out on an outgoing tide, and a torch is useful. Exploring on your own is not advised.

Holy wells at Holywell

There is some doubt as to which of the two wells in the area gave its name to Holywell. Both were objects of pilgrimage for hundreds of years by mothers of sickly children or by people disabled in one way or another.

The Trevornick valley well

This well is on land owned by the Holywell Bay Leisure Park, but the owner often allows interested visitors to view the well, provided they walk down from the Leisure Park’s car park. The Newquay Old Cornwall Society restored the stone structure around a natural spring, and there is an inner and outer Gothic arch to mark the site.

Surfers in wet suits leaving the water and walking up the beach at Holywell, Cornwall
Surfers on the beach at Holywell, Cornwall | © National Trust Images / Chris Lacey

Surfing at Holywell

The north Cornwall coast is famous for its great surfing beaches. Whether you're an experienced surfer or just learning, Holywell offers a fantastic place to catch some waves.

Holywell Bay School of Surf and Cornwall Surf Academy offer surf lessons at Holywell. They are independent surf schools and the only outdoor providers licensed by the Trust to operate at these beaches.

Family fun at Holywell

Pay a visit to Holywell and start ticking off your list of '50 things to do before you're 11¾'. Have a go at jumping over waves or take a swim in the sea - don't forget to follow the advice from the life guards though. You could also explore the nearby footpaths using a map and compass or look out for different sea birds.

Good to know

  • RNLI lifeguard cover is in place from 13 May to 24 September, 2023.
  • At low tide the rusting plates of a 70-year-old wreck can be seen. Anyone in the sea should be in the water to the west of this hazard, as directed by the lifeguards’ flag signals.
  • Although rarely seen by humans, adders are often found in the dunes during sunny weather and can cause a nasty bite to dogs. Please keep dogs under control at all times and if you suspect an adder bite you should seek the advice of a vet.
  • Like at many sandy beaches weever fish can be found at Holywell, particularly at low tide. Please wear beach or wet suit shoes if going in the sea around low tide as weever fish stings can be very painful. If stung the advice is to immerse the area affected in hot water for 30-90 minutes.
  • There are areas of beach and dunes prone to have fragments of sharp wire embedded in the sand, so please stay alert.
  • It's worth checking the tide times before visiting a beach. It is easy for the tides to take us by surprise so make sure you double check what time high tide is before you go to the beach.
Aerial view of Kelsey Head at Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Discover more at Holywell

Find out how to get to Holywell, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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