Cornwall Walk Of The Month: Polperro

Stepping back in time to wander pretty streets

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Hayley Bisofsky Pope
Cornwall dweller, lifestyle blogger and founder of The Little Naturalists Club
3 August 2022

Packed tightly into the steep valley on either side of the River Pol, the quaint village of Polperro is undoubtedly one of the prettiest villages on this stretch of coastline. You will feel like you’ve stepped back in time whilst walking through the traffic free streets that wind through fishermen's cottages.

Singing through the streets

With every turn there’s a surprise to be seen wether it be the Old Watch House, the Saxon and Roman Bridges, the Fish Quay or the famous House on Props.

In the summer, many of the cottages are covered with a profusion of colourful flowers and the Polperro Fishermen Choir can often be heard giving open air performances on the Quayside.

The calm after the storm

As early as 1303, Polperro was recognised as a fishing settlement and recorded in a Royal document. Its protected inner harbour is full of colourful boats that bob gently in the calm bay which also provides excellent swimming. The small harbour owes its calm water to the Quay that was built after the violent storm of November 1824.

The storm goes down as the worst storm that ever occurred and in Polperro three houses were completely destroyed, the whole of one pier and half of the other were swept away along with the 50 boats in the old harbour that were broken to pieces.

Shops and somewhere to eat

It is still a working fishing village today, although tourism now provides the main source of income. Most of the buildings are now shops selling paintings, crafts, pottery, jewellery, souvenirs and food, and at the entrance to the village, opposite the main car park is the 14th century Crumplehorn Inn and Mill.

The Mill boasts an impressively restored water wheel consisting of 12 tons of revolving iron and timber. The building itself is covered in flowering plants and the picnic tables outside are the perfect place to seek refreshment next to the churning waters of the River Pol.

The Mermaid Pool

The rugged and wild shoreline of Polperro offers many a natural pool used for swimming. Chapel Pool is accessible by very steep steps down the side of a cliff that require some caution but its worth it when you get to the bottom.

It’s a natural pool that is filled by sea water at high tide and then after half tide it becomes a swimming pool. It is popular with locals and tourists and you will usually see people swimming in it all year round.

Exploring via water

Head down to the harbour and you will see a few providers offering pleasure boat rides. They provide a half-hour trip along the coast towards Fowey. They are short and sweet trips that are often accompanied by a running commentary from the boatman who is more than happy to share stories from the coastline’s smuggling past.

It seems that every cave along this section of coast has a lot of stories to tell. The village was well known for its smuggling activities during the 18th and early 19th centuries and now the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing is open to keep those stories and the rich history alive. The museum is well worth a visit if you get chance.