11 Ladies travel from Dorset to Cornwall for a weekend of paddle boarding, relaxing and getting away from it all. And yes, there was a tour t-shirt….
Dorset SUP Ladies on Tour
We paddle regularly together with a local group and decided we would like to have lots of ladies-only paddle boarding adventures, away from home, to try something new. Fortunately, we had someone who was prepared to take on such a project – finding a suitable date for all of our calendars, a place that could put up 11 of us (and would put up with 11 of us!) and which was near to where we could paddle and not only that, somewhere that could cater for a table for 11 for dinner! A huge Thank You to Lynn and Nicki for coming up trumps for us.
Golant is a pretty little Cornish village of narrow streets and cute cottages built on a steep hill, a long time before the age of 4x4s, so getting around some of the roads to get up to The Sanctuary was a little hairy, to say the least, and some of our cars have the scars to prove it, so do consider this when planning your trip there. We had a few cars loaded with kit, others with passengers, as the parking spaces at The Sanctuary are limited.
We stayed at The Sanctuary Eco Bed and Breakfast in Golant, Cornwall. It has rooms with 2 or 3 single beds, a self-contained flat, plus a purpose-built pod in the trees, all with stunning views over the estuary.
Run by a lovely couple, Karen and David, it is very stylish and comfortable, beautifully clean with close attention to sustainability. For example, in the shower rooms, you have an egg timer and are challenged to take a 3-minute shower! It is surprisingly very doable. They go above and beyond to help make your stay perfect and by the time we arrived, there had been several phone calls and we all felt like firm friends.
The road leading up to the B&B is very steep and the car park is half way up the lane. So if like us you have a lot of baggage – suitcases I mean! – David will take it up from the car park to the main building in his buggy.
Each of the rooms in the main building is decorated simply and elegantly and if you are staying in the adorable self-made pod, The Lookout, you have more hill to climb to get to it and you have to carry your stuff up there yourself.
But the hillclimb is worth it as you are rewarded with breathtaking views as you meander passed a pond with a deck and their kitchen garden and new vineyard.
Once you get to the top you are treated to hammocks to recover from the climb, plus your own toilet and cooking facilities. The guests in the pod have their own shower room in the main building, but at least you don’t have to run down the hill, and back up again for a wee in the middle of the night!
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast was served in the kitchen at the time we arranged with Karen to fit in with our pre-booked SUP tour. The farmhouse-style kitchen had a huge table on which all 11 of us sat around, enjoying a deliciously healthy breakfast to fuel us for paddle boarding. Breakfast was fruit salad, yogurt, granola, and cereals, with freshly made tea and coffee and tea and toast made to order. The whole experience was wonderful, and it became one of our favourite parts of the whole weekend and we could have sat there for hours.
There is also a self-contained studio, and you really don’t have to be on a paddle boarding holiday to stay there, it is worth a visit for a relaxing break, walking and sightseeing or simply doing nothing but enjoying the stunning view.
Fowey – FOY not FOW-EEE!
The nearest town is Fowey, where Dawn French lives, but we didn’t see her, sadly (huge fan!) You can meander in and out of lovely shops and take a drink, ice cream or pasty in the little square taking in the view of the river and people-watching. It’s a lovely place to amble around as a rest from paddle boarding and we came away with some amazing purchases from jewellery to clothing to local artwork. It was a hot day when we went into Fowey, so a libation was needed and we can thoroughly recommend the British Legion. If you are not a member you pay £1 for a day membership and the drinks are very reasonable, still cheaper than our local hostelries in Dorset! And as it was a busy day, it was the only way to get a seat. Do hunt out the bakery with the best Cornish Pasties, including 2 vegan options….
Table for 11
We had pre-booked and pre-ordered our Friday night meal at the Fishermans Arms, in Golant, and had such a great time we ate there every night. The food was delicious with plenty of choice on the menu, including options for vegans and those with a gluten intolerance. Our host, Nick, was friendly and fun, and we soon felt like locals – in fact, news of a large gathering of middle-aged ladies arriving in Golant got around quickly! They operated a simple (and we think, genius) system, issuing a raffle ticket to each of us, and our food and drinks were placed against these numbers for our own personal bill so settling up at the end of the evening was easy and avoided the ordeal of working out who owes what, which never adds up correctly.
On the last night, we were treated to the locals’ Sunday night jamming session and Viv even ended up joining the band, playing the drum box with a broken finger, and our host Dave showed off his guitar skills. It was a great night to end the holiday, we wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else, we felt so welcome and at home.
So on to the actual paddleboarding!
Finally! I hear you say, but I wanted to set the scene!
We pre-booked a tour for Saturday with Encounter Cornwall, who were located in The Boatshed near the river, as you’d expect, in Golant. Karen and David had previously run a kayak hire business in the village and it was with this company that we had our paddleboard tour on Saturday morning. Karen was in regular contact with Jules at Encounter Cornwall with regard to the weather, as the wind had picked up that week – typical! And between them, they arranged the best time for our tour based on the weather forecast even before we had arrived in Cornwall! Now that is service and attention to detail that took away any stress from us. We were happy to go with their local knowledge and expertise.
You could in theory walk your boards down from The Sanctuary to the Boatshed, but it would be seriously hard work getting them back up, the hills are very steep – as my calf muscles will tell you – and it would potentially ruin a beautiful day on the river! Therefore, we drove down, parking was alongside a rail track and it was just a few £s for 24 hours.
We left the cars there for the night as we were paddling again from the same launch point the following morning.
The trip along the River Fowey from Golant to Fowey is not for beginners, and if you haven’t paddled there before, I wouldn’t recommend it without a guide/instructor. It can get quite choppy with the wash from boats and there is a huge tide – when the tide is in, some of the lower road on Golant, below the pub The Fishermans Inn, is covered and therefore undrivable, and when it’s out, it’s OUT!! Do call Encounter Cornwall for advice before setting off.
Our guide Phil was fantastic, showing us a new stance on the board; one foot slightly behind the other rather than rigidly square on! However, at some point, I lost balance and did that instinctive thing of putting a foot behind to steady myself and ended up doing the comedy ‘walk-backward-off-the-board’!
As it was July, the weather, and thankfully the water, was warm, and as I always take a change of clothes, I managed to quickly change into something a bit drier once we got to Golant, so as not to get chilly.
The tour was from Golant to Fowey, stopping as elegantly as possible in front of a lot of tourists, for an ice cream or a pasty. In some parts, there are HUGE ships, as this is the 3rd deepest natural river and it is used for cargo ships. So huge in fact, that one was the size of a cruise liner and had 2 pilot boats and harbour master with it. We were ushered to a jetty to wait until the Goliath of a ship passed and was safely turned and docked. It was quite a spectacle to watch.
Phil showed us to a place where there were large starfish and some of the group held them – not me, I bravely hung about at the back, it is not my thing !! You don’t often get to see this sort of thing without a guide, so it is very much worth the money for the experience and tips on where to paddle, what to look out for in terms of tides and currents, and of course, the foe of the Paddleboarder, wind.
The troublesome question of licenses
As we were with a guided tour, no license was required, but if you paddle unaccompanied you may need to get a license to paddle in the harbour. Do call Encounter Cornwall to check as googling it left me still none-the-wiser, but there seems to be a Harbour Fee, should you be paddling into Fowey and beyond.
Let loose on our own
On day 2 and after advice from Phil at Encounter Cornwall to go across the river and into a quiet inlet to avoid the forecast wind, that’s exactly what we did. It was a peaceful paddle, where we enjoyed the riverside wildlife and were not worried about other craft. We also managed to avoid the huge downpour of rain and were quite surprised when we arrived back that all the roads were soaking wet! It was a perfect paddle for a Sunday morning, easy and relaxed after the more challenging time the previous day.
Can’t wait to go back!
We all had such a lovely time that we are planning a return trip. The only problem is that lots of our friends and paddle buddies are green with envy and want to come with us next time. I am not sure if we can use the same accommodation because of that, but we will definitely try to arrange it so that we can go back to The Sanctuary, especially for that amazing breakfast and the delightful company of Karen and David, and the locals at The Fishermans Arms.
Words by Helen Louise Davies
Photos from the group