The History of Tregildrans Quarry


aerial view of tipis and lake at cornish tipi holidays

Our all-weather inland lake adventure activity venue at nearby Cornish Tipi Holidays (where we run activities when the weather and sea conditions at Port Gaverne are unfavourable), has a fascinating history.

stand up paddling on a lake in north cornwall with cornish rock tors


Despite being less than four miles away from our coastal base (under 10 minutes by car), the lake at Tregildrans Quarry feels a world away from the rugged north coast. Surrounded by trees on all sides and set in a wooded valley, it is a green and tranquil setting that is enjoyed exclusively by ‘glampers’ staying in Cornish Tipi Holidays’ incredible canvas accommodations (that are sited in several clearings around the site) and wedding parties who enjoy unique celebrations here.
The quarry was developed by the Tom family who have farmed and worked this land for eleven generations and who now run Cornish Tipi Holidays. It was worked from the 1920s until 1964, producing blue elvan (also known as greenstone), which is a particularly hard igneous rock. It is believed that much of the rock quarried here was used as aggregate in the redevelopment of the harbour walls at Port Isaac in the 1920s. Following that construction project the quarry continued to be worked and its stone, which was crushed on site to be used as aggregate or ballast, was transported by rail with the quarry being served by a dedicated siding (known as ‘Betty & Tom’s Siding’) off the North Cornwall Railway line which ran through the site. The Port Isaac Road railway station (which was neither in Port Isaac, or particularly close to the road!) which was built to serve Port Isaac (having goods sheds built to store fish and shellfish being sent from Port Isaac to Billingsgate Market in London) is just south of Cornish Tipi Holidays, and aerial images of the site and Tregildrans Lake show the route of the old railway line as a gentle green curve through the North Cornwall countryside. As you drive through the site to get to the lake you will cross an avenue of trees, which is the old railway line that closed in 1966.

old port isaac road railway station

Following the closure of Tregildrans Quarry it was filled in and flooded to create a 200 metre long lake of the same name. The lake is up to 15 meters deep in places with rock walls rising from the water which are great for coasteering around several sections, and with other sections of bank that are lower and tree-lined making for a really pleasant environment. Because the railway line closed and the quarry was flooded around half a century ago, nature has had a chance to reclaim this area and the natural vegetation is well established. In spring and summer it is lush and green with wildflowers lining the lane and path down to the lake, and in autumn the colours of the changing leaves surrounding the lake are beautiful. For us, it is perfect as we can offer multi-activity sessions that include kayaking, stand-up paddling and some coasteering-style climbing, traversing and jumping in a private setting. Tregildrans Quarry feels a world away from the nearby tourist trails – much like our activity routes out of Port Gaverne, offering an opportunity to escape even if the weather is wild on the coast.

kayaking in early spring at cornish tipi holidays lake with cornish rock tors


Aerial view of tipi campsite and Tregildrans Quarry lake courtesy of Cornish Tipi Holidays.

Historic photograph of Port Isaac Road railway station reproduced from St Teath History website.