Cornish board and lodge

Cornwall is Britain's surfing capital, where those who live by the wave buy by the wave
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No matter what the time of year is in Cornwall, stand on the shore and you will always see a few small figures in black beyond the breakers. Surfers don't mark the seasons, only the swell; if the waves are better in mid-winter, then it's simply a matter of thicker wet-suits and extra gear.

No matter what the time of year is in Cornwall, stand on the shore and you will always see a few small figures in black beyond the breakers. Surfers don't mark the seasons, only the swell; if the waves are better in mid-winter, then it's simply a matter of thicker wet-suits and extra gear.

Paddling out into a February sea may be an acquired taste, but it is a growing one. Anyone with a keen surfer in the family and a place on the coast can be pretty sure that it will be used all-year round. It is no longer even a case of throwing boards and friends into a van for the long journey west, but rather of catching a flight to Newquay, the surfers' Mecca, and only an hour and 10 minutes away from London.

However, it is probably harder to find a place close to a beach at a reasonable cost than a seat on the plane. The South-west has seen sharp price rises in the past few years, fuelled by a migration west as well as cash-rich holiday home purchasers. Overall prices have risen by more than 60 per cent since 2001 and even an apartment overlooking a beach will be above £200,000.

At Miller Countrywide's Truro office, James Bailey knows as much about wind and waves as he does about property. A keen surfer from the hardy school of enthusiasts, beach-hopping is second nature to him. At Porth, Newquay, the agents have for sale a 1930s built house, light and spacious with four bedrooms and, best of all, with a view of the surf. Porth Beach is one of the safer guarded beaches along the north coast as well as being quieter than many during high season. "It may not be one of the best for surfing because it gets limited swell, but it is excellent for learning because of the shape of the waves," explains Bailey. "It is also a good place to retreat when the waves at Fistral are too big."

The White House, which looks out to Porth Island and to the Atlantic beyond, also has a large rear garden with outbuildings. The asking price is £465,000.

Just above the famous Fistral Beach, home to national and international competitions, Stags have recently built a house in a small development, for sale at a guide price of £270,000. It has a master bedroom suite, two further bedrooms, a large sitting room and a kitchen/dining room leading into the garden, from which "glimpses of Fistral Beach can be enjoyed", according to the particulars.

In the same area, but overlooking the Gannel estuary, teeming with rare bird life, a modern detached five-bedroom house is for sale at a guide of £450,000. It has south-facing balconies and is close to the scenic south-west coast path with Fistral to the north and Crantock Beach and Holywell to the south.

Further south, an apartment on the cliff top at Perranporth could not be closer to the three-mile sandy beach, renowned for its good surfing. The three-bedroom apartment is one of the largest in Droskyn Castle, a hotel before it was converted into flats and originally thought to have been a monastery. The asking price through Stags is £275,000.

The small cottage in a village setting is hard to find along the northern coast, unlike the south with its pretty fishing villages and river properties. Crackington Haven, near Bude on the border with Devon, is an exception having surf and a number of small attractive holiday homes, but so also is ever-popular St Ives in the south of the county.

Here, for £240,000, Miller Countrywide can offer the keen surfer a two-bedroom apartment just 100 yards from Porthmeor beach which is rated almost as highly as Fistral. It has the added bonus of being next to the famous pub, The Sloop.

Spring buyers have been flocking to the town and the agents sold five cottages last week. A pretty three-storey granite cottage, bang in the middle of old St Ives and minutes from the surfing beach has just come on to the market for £239,950.

The shortage of properties for sale - especially close to the coast, which is all owned by the National Trust - is as acute in Cornwall as elsewhere in the country. Apart from the odd barn conversion, houses in either cliff top positions or on a beach with surf are rare.

At Treyarnon Bay, close to the better known Constantine, Catherine Elliott, from Miller Countrywide, says the rare opportunity of a building plot near the beach, but next to the car-park, has come up for sale for £285,000. What it loses in privacy it gains in location. Ms Elliott says that a good-sized house in this kind of position would be around £700,000 to £800,000, and that you would find nothing as close to the sea for under half a million pounds.

Buyers generally have to go inland to find substantial houses with gardens and land.

At Porthtowan, nine miles from Truro, Jackson-Stops & Staff are selling Heatherside, a spacious house set high on the cliff overlooking the beach and across to the open sea. The four-bedroom property also has a high degree of privacy with sunny gardens. Its guide price of £425,000 reflects the fact that work will be needed to replace some unsuitable post-war materials used in part of its construction. The agents say that it is a minor problem but might affect a buyer needing a large mortgage.

But for a shorefront property with an away-from-it-all feeling, Trenow at Perranuthnoe is hard to better. That it also happens to be on the south coast of Cornwall and yet sits above an outstanding spot for surfing is a closely-guarded secret, according to James Bailey. The property in a large garden and with a wrap-around decking that gives it a beach house feel has stunning views of St Michael's Mount. If you climb down the low cliff and the swell direction and tide are right the surfing is fantastic. The waves are smaller than the north coast, but in winter it is much safer.

But climbing down knotted ropes to a rock reef might not appeal to fair-weather surfers. A sandy beach is not away from the property, which has a guide price of £600,000.

Miller Countrywide: 01872 274211 or

Stags: 01872 264488 or

Jackson-Stops & Staff: 01872 261160