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Destination: Polperro - A picturesque fishing village burrowed into the steep cliffs surrounding the river Pol and seemingly untouched by time

12 June 2018
The fishing village of Polperro is nestled between two larger Cornish towns, Looe and Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall. Both towns boast a wealth of things to do and places to visit such as the Monkey Sanctuary in Looe and the beautiful Readymoney cove in Fowey, not to mention the bustling festivities that accompany Fowey Regatta and Carnival Week every summer. In contrast to these slightly larger towns, Polperro emanates a slower pace of life. This enchanting village of fisherman’s cottages is built into a steep valley either side of the River Pol and is famous for its vibrant fishing and smuggling past. As you approach the village of Polperro you experience the feeling of being gently transported back in time.

Francis Frith & Co - public domain

Fish being weighed in circa 1889

At the entrance to the village you’re welcomed with the sight of the 14th Century Crumplethorn Inn and Mill. Crumplethorn’s restored iron and timber water wheel and original beams made from local trees offer a fascinating look into Polperro’s past. The inn serves local Cornish fare and freshly caught fish and is a great place to either start or finish your tour of Polperro. Due to the narrow streets, it isn’t possible to drive into the village itself making it the perfect place to explore on foot. From Crumplethorn, you can enjoy the half-mile walk through the village to its harbour. Or, if you’d prefer to sit back and relax there are regular tram rides running from Crumplethorn car park. The trams are pleasingly disguised as milk floats, and there’s even the option to ride in a horse and carriage, offering a truly unique way to explore the village.

A big attraction to the village each year is the esteemed Arts Festival Held in Polperro every June (16th – 24th June this year), it’s predominantly a chance for the village to exhibit its abundant artwork but has developed over the years to include street theatre and live music across a variety of genres. The festival is a delightful show of Polperro’s beautiful arts and crafts, showcasing artwork in pottery, painting and jewellery that has been inspired by the surrounding natural beauty of Polperro for generations.

Credit, Visit Cornwall Monica Kludcka

Still a working fishing harbour, Polperro has barely changed in appearance for centuries. The ancient fishermen’s houses are a testament to the village’s on-going fishing history and stand almost untouched by time. One particular cottage is completely clad in seashells, radiating the village’s sea-bound history. Traditionally, pilchard fishing was the main occupation for the fishermen of Polperro. It’s still a working fishing harbour, however, with boats heading out to catch scallops, crabs, monkfish, bass and cod.

If you have a hankering for seafood, then head to Couch’s Great House Restaurant located in the heart of the village. After honing his culinary skills under the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Raymond Blanc, head chef Richard McGeown includes Polperro sourced scallops and locally caught hake on his delectable seasonal menu. It’s also sometimes possible to buy directly from the fishermen at the harbour; it doesn’t get much fresher than that! As with many harbours in Cornwall, Polperro has a colourful smuggling past. The port was developed in the 12th Century and smuggling flourished over the following years, reaching its heights during the 18th Century when expensive tax laws tempted some local fisherman into this tainted trade. Legends of smugglers live on in the village, with the ghost of Willy Willcox rumoured to peruse the streets still, after the man himself disappeared hiding in Polperro beaches labyrinthine caves.

CREDIT Nilfanion

The Polperro Heritage Museum boasts a remarkable collection of exhibits and photographs from a time when both smuggling and fishing thrived in Polperro. Residing in a warehouse overlooking the harbour, the museum itself was the old pilchard factory where pilchards were processed and sent around Europe. The coastline surrounding Polperro is part of the 80-mile South Cornwall Heritage Coast. From Polperro, it’s possible to walk along the spectacular South West Coast Path to Talland in the east, or Lansallos in the west, both with beautiful beaches and history-steeped churches. Polperro’s beach, though lovely, is small, but it’s only a short walk to these larger neighbouring beaches. Guided walks of the area are offered from Polperro village so you can make the most of your tour and learn about the history of this picturesque area along the way. Frequent boat trips to both Fowey and Looe run from the harbour, giving you the chance to explore further afield and regular pleasure cruises and fishing trips are easy to arrange at the quayside. These boat trips offer spectacular views of this idyllic village from the open sea and give you the chance to explore the surrounding coastline from a different perspective. It’s truly an unforgettable experience, made better still if you arrive back as the people of Polperro have for centuries, with a basket full of fish!

Did you know?

If you enjoy swimming, Polperro has a beautiful tidal pool located on the seaward side of Chapel Rock. This pool has been used for centuries due to its sheltered position and spectacular natural surroundings.

If you are planning on visiting Polperro during your next break at our Stonerush Lakes or Southern Halt sites, we have put together a few quick fire pointers to help guide you:

Where to go?

Enter into Polperro’s past with a trip to Crumplethorn Inn and Mill or taste the flavour of the sea at Couch’s Great House Restaurant in the heart of the village.

What to do?

While in the area, the history-steeped Lost Gardens of Heligan (located on the other side of Carolyn Bay to Fowey) are well worth a visit. Make sure to take a trip to the Polperro Heritage Museum and discover Polperro’s colourful smuggling past, walk the South West Coast Path and top it all off with a trip to The Eden Project too.

Boat trips

Running from Easter until November, trips start from 10:00am daily from Polperro harbour, and it’s also possible for larger groups to charter a boat.

To book your next Cornish break please visit our rentals page.

Photo credits:
Aerial image of Polperro: Chensiyuan
Fish being weighed in circa 1889, Francis Frith & Co (public domain)
Polperro: Visit Cornwall, Monica Kludcka
Polperro: Nilfanion

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