Friday 13 December 2019

Padstow, the Mermaid and the Perilous Doom Bar

Padstow, Cornwall - big beach.

Such beautiful sand at Padstow when the tide is out. Nowadays boats are able to enter the harbour - but it hasn't always been that way according to Cornish folklore.

Padstow sandy beach, Cornwall

To quote from the late 1800s.  

The port of Padstow has a good natural harbour, as far as rocks are concerned, but it gets chocked up with drifting sands as to be nearly useless.

It was once deep water for the largest vessel and was under the care of a merry maid, most would call her a mermaid. But, whatever her description, boats could travel safely to the harbour.

All was well at Padstow until a man bought a new gun! Some say the man was a Tristram Bird others that it was Tom Yeo. But, whoever, the new gun was aimed at a seal. Tragically though it was the mermaid who was shot. She dived for a moment; but re-appearing, raised her right arm, and vowed that henceforth the harbour should be desolate.

The picture below shows Tristram Bird with his gun and the mermaid.

Mermaid with Tristram Bird, Cornwall

According to the many legends, following the mermaid's death there was a terrible gale. When the water subsided a Doom Bar or Bar of Doom was situated at the estuary entrance.

Since records began, in the nineteenth century, there have been over 600 wrecks, beachings and capsizes due to the Doom Bar - and, of course, the mermaid's curse.

The photo below is from 1911 when the French ship Angele was wrecked on the Doom Bar.

Angele sailing ship wrecked at Doom Bar, Cornwall

Today the estuary is regularly dredged and the Doom Bar has moved - see comparisons between 1825 and 2010 - charts by Worm That Turned.

Doom Bar, Padstow in 1825 and 2010

Most boats can now reach the harbour at Padstow safely.

Padstow harbour, Cornwall

There is still lots of sand about, when the tide is out, as can be seen in the photo below.

Boats at Padstow, Cornwall

For other Padstow posts please visit:

Padstow, Cornwall on a Sunshine Winter's Day

Padstow, Cornwall: Ghosts, Cornish Pasties, Fish & Chips And More


  1. Interesting and fascinating tale. Cornwall seems to have more myths & legends than anywhere else.

    1. Thanks David, yes, Cornwall is full of myths, legends and saints.

  2. What a gorgeous place! These photos and the history are fascinating.

    1. Thanks Trish, a typical Cornish fishing village. I always find them interesting and the stories that go with them.



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