The Helford is a mid-sized estuary by Cornish standards and long stretches of the deeply wooded middle and upper reaches are inaccessible from public footpaths, so hiring a boat or taking a river cruise are by far the best ways to see these atmospheric places. Sightseeing boats from Falmouth go as far as Frenchman’s Creek (but don’t land on the Helford) and Helford River Cruises run sightseeing trips from the small quay at Perran Cove below Budock Vean Hotel. The estuary is easily explored in a single day from a motor boat (as long as you leave on the rising tide), which can be hired from Helford River Boats or Sailaway St Anthony. Then you can chug along exploring the creeks and abandoned quays at your own pace, or simply weigh anchor in a remote creek and relax. It takes a little organising but you don’t need any previous boating experience. Kayak, canoe and paddleboard hire are available from the same hire companies.
PLACES TO VISIT
A valley garden with ancient tree ferns, palms and ponds stocked with giant carp. There is an adventure play area, trails and a great cafe. The valley leads down to a small private beach at Polgwidden Cove (Trebah Beach) where a small cafe is open in the season. Open all year. You may have to book online. Dogs welcome.
National Trust garden with subtropical plants and exotic trees. A large laurel maze will keep the kids busy. The picturesque hamlet of Durgan is at the bottom of the valley. No dogs allowed.
An old garden centre reused as artist and craft studios. There are lawns where you can play boules and other games and one of the old greenhouses is now a cafe. At High Cross near Constantine. It’s not open every day so check online before you go. T: (01326) 341258
Tucked out of the way north of Mawnan Smith. Wild garden with forests of bamboo and tree ferns. Open three days a week March to end September.
Tolman Centre, Constantine
Great venue for drama and pre-show meals.
The house itself isn't usually open to the public but the stables and outhouses have been converted into a bistro, gallery and craft shop. Woodland walks and spa also available.
In the grounds of Trelowarren Estate. A fogou is an Iron Age (800BC–AD43) underground passage and this is the best example in Cornwall. May be closed if bats are roosting. Remember to bring a torch. Follow with a woodland walk and ice cream at the restaurant at Trelowarren.
Kestle Barton Gallery
Art gallery on Frenchman's
Creek walk from Helford Village.
National Seal Sanctuary, Gweek
Hospital for injured seals. Most are returned to the wild on their recovery. Permanent residents include sea lions. Best to visit at feeding time.