Days Out in Cornwall
Helford Passage and Frenchman’s Creek

England's weather is predictably unpredictable, which means that any holiday plans, and especially plans for days out in Cornwall, have to be flexible and need to contain wet weather options. Because its location at the southwestern tip of England ensures that – while mild – Cornwall is also getting more than its fair share of rain.

What kind of weather you end up getting is mostly down to luck. We've had an August break in Cornwall hot enough to climb down to a tiny cove and swim in the sea. We've had autumn breaks where walking on the cliffs had us leaning into the wind going one way before being pushed home at double speed. And we've had a March holiday, where it rained nearly every day except for the very last one, where the heavens aligned to create one of the most perfect days out in Cornwall.

Footpath Besides Frenchman's Creek © essentially-england.comFootpath Besides Frenchman's Creek ©

We'd been staying in Port Navas, a tiny place by the Helford River, and after a week of days out in Cornwall exploring castles, churches, mines, and abandoned villages, we'd set aside our final day for a literary pilgrimage.

I'm a fan of the books of Daphne du Maurier, who lived in Cornwall and set many of her stories here. She has a raft of bestsellers to her name, but my favourite has always been the story of Frenchman's Creek.

Walking Down to Helford Passage to Catch the Ferry © essentially-england.comWalking Down to Helford Passage to Catch the Ferry ©

Despite stunning film adaptations, Frenchman's Creek is not a romance. There is no happy ending in the traditional sense. Rather, it's a bittersweet love story, the tale of a woman waking up to possibilities. and working within the confinements of her time and station in life. Meeting a pirate offers Donna a chance of escape and a brief taste of freedom before she chooses to return to her family responsibilities.

The story is gorgeous, quiet, and beautifully drawn, and its setting is not imaginary, but a real place near the Helford River—and maybe two miles and a boat ride from our holiday cottage.


Days Out in Cornwall - Frenchman's Creek Walking Map

If you would like to look at our walk more closely, use on your mobile device as a user, or download the gpx file, then please click on the map. Take care if driving to this part of Cornwall as the roads are very narrow and there is not much parking.

We could have driven, but the tiny roads in that part of Cornwall—narrow strips of tarmac with high banks on either side—can make for a challenge, especially when it’s busy. Besides, the day was perfect: warm, sunny, with a blue sky, and everything around us waking up from winter sleep. Walking sounded perfect, the two miles to Helford Passage passed swiftly, and then we were greeted by views of sun glittering on the water, boats bobbing in the gentle swell, and the fabulous, nearly white beach.

This was Helford Passage – and it was a stunning sight!

Helford Passage and the Ferry Pontoon © essentially-england.comHelford Passage and the Ferry Pontoon ©

To reach Frenchman’s Creek, we needed to cross the river and we did it using the little ferry boat. On the other side you’ll find a typical Cornish holiday village scene of water, beautifully quaint houses, and a welcoming pub. Perfect for a gentle, meandering explore.

Frenchman’s Creek is a little way off. The area is owned by the National Trust, and a circular walk will take you from Helford Passage to the creek and back to the village.

Walking Through Helford © essentially-england.comWalking Through Helford ©

While staying in Port Navas, we’d learned the rhythm of the tide; found the boats mired in mud at one point and serenely afloat on the full tide six hours later. Frenchman’s Creek lives by the same ancient rhythm, and either one would have suited the place. But I'm glad that we arrived fairly nearly high tide.

There's a scene in Daphne du Maurier’s story where our pirate has to make a quick escape, but finds his ship caught in the mud and damaged to boot. In peril for their lives, the crew races to make repairs before spanning boats the ship’s bow and ‘beating’, ie. rowing, her into deeper water and the safety of the sea.

They get away just in time, but sitting on the edge of the creek—which we had to ourselves and which was utterly peaceful—made me picture the drama of the pirate’s escape all the better.

The Mud at the End of Frenchman's Creek © essentially-england.comThe Mud at the End of Frenchman's Creek ©

Visiting Frenchman’s Creek is a delight. The well-maintained paths made for an enjoyable walk, which we finished with a well-deserved drink at the pub right beside the ferry point before crossing Helford Passage once more and wandering our way back to our cottage.

The following day, our drive home was accomplished in mist and rain, with the odd rainbow thrown in for colour. But we’d had this one perfect day to visit a place that had been top of my must-see list for this Cornwall holiday. And for that most perfect of days out in Cornwall, I thank all the weather gods.

View Over Frenchman's Creek © essentially-england.comView Over Frenchman's Creek ©

Fancy Reading Frenchman's Creek?

Frenchman’s Creek is possibly not the best-known Daphne Du Maurier book, so if you fancy reading it you can buy from Amazon below. We’ve got the Four Great Cornish Novels collection which makes a great read, and includes Jamaica Inn, in which we stopped for breakfast the next day on our way home from Cornwall. Believe it or not, we actually wanted poor weather in the morning, as it would add to the atmosphere. I’m sure that story will come soon…

Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier

Great Cornish Novels by Daphne du Maurier

Holiday Cottages in Helford

And if you would enjoy being like Donna running off to Frenchman’s Creek each day, why not stay in one of the many very attractive cottages in Helford. It was a very peaceful location and only a short walk from the creek. have a good selection of cottages here.

Walking through Helford © essentially-england.comWalking through Helford ©

For more things to do in England return from our Helford Passage and Frenchman's Creek page to the Things to do in Endland page here.