Porthtowan derives its Cornish name from its most obvious feature - its sandy beaches and dunes (towans). It owes its present day character to its popularity as a local seaside resort in Victorian and Edwardian times when the local populous from Redruth and the surrounding areas flocked here, particularly on Bank Holidays.
Today's conveniently placed shops and tourist amenities have their roots in this period when a handful of bathing machines served the adventurous swimmers of the day, most people then being content merely to take tea after a walk on the cliffs. The cliff walks are still splendid, but there is now much more to Porthtowan than just tea rooms!
One local folk tale tells of a voice from the sea; "The hour is come but not the man." A ghostly figure spotted at the top of a nearby hill, in response to the call, rushed down and vanished beneath the waves.
Overlooking Porthtowan are the remains of Wheal Towan, one of Cornwall's most celebrated 18th century copper mines and scene of a fortune amassed by Ralph Allen Daniell of Trelissick, "guinea a minute" Daniell - his reputed income night and day.
In 1897 the wreck of the Rose of Devon left a lasting scar on the locality, bodies of dead sailors being buried in the cemetery at nearby Mount Hawke where a Cornish cross now marks the sad event.
Mount Hawke is the country cousin to Porthtowan one and a half miles inland. Founded on mining and agriculture, and once a local centre for rope making, the village has become popular in the last 20 years. Several lovely wooded walks are possible from here as well as access to some of Cornwalls most exclusive areas of natural beauty.