Polperro, Cornwall

Polperro, Cornwall

Travelling down the gorgeous country lanes of South Cornwall, the picturesque approach to the seaside village of Polperro, near Looe hints at the jewel waiting to be discovered. Set in a small valley and surrounded by lush trees, this is a gorgeously traditional village much-loved by visitors, and its clear to see why.

For parking, the huge car park is right on the approach into the village, so it’s nice and easy with none of the struggles you sometimes get. Just make sure to take plenty of change with you, as it’s cash only here. From the car park, it’s a gentle slope down into the village, passing pretty houses steeply banked either side of the ever-narrowing lane on the approach to the harbour.

With oh-so-cute shops, plentiful cafes and a large array of restaurants and pubs to whet your whistle, Polperro certainly caters for the visitor, but it’s the tiny lanes and ancient houses which wow here, who crowd together and make it quite difficult to find the harbour! Turning a corner, you’re suddenly faced with the pretty, elongated harbour, full of boats shored up, lined with higgledy-piggledy fisherman’s cottages – look out especially for the unique shell-covered house to the left of the harbour.

Polperro dates back before the medieval times, and its rich history can be seen in every street. For centuries, boat making, and pilchard fishing and processing was the mainstay for the villagers, whilst the 18th and 19th century introduced a more illegal trade, when smuggling became a mainstay of the village, bringing contraband goods over from Guernsey. 

The Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing, set right at the harbour’s edge, offers a wonderful insight into the village’s past, bringing to life the fascinating history of both the fishing and smuggling trade. With artifacts dating from the 18th century onwards, there’s even rare film footage of pilchard fishing from the 1930’s, whilst the history of Polperro resident Robert Jeffery, press-ganged into the Navy then cast ashore one deserted island in the West Indies for stealing his captain’s beer, offers an extraordinary look into this charismatic village.

Today, whilst fishing is still very much part of everyday life in Polperro, you’re much more likely to find bewitched visitors wandering the streets than hidden contraband. Nevertheless, there’s still a rich, historic feel to the village with ancient houses and fascinating pubs like The Three Pilchards and The Blue Peter – stop for a pint in one of these ancient inns and it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like back in the 18th century. If shopping is more your thing, you’ll find a good collection of gift-inspired shops, whist of particular note are the bakeries, ideal for picking up some goodies to take back to your Cornish boutique retreat.

The South West Coastal Path passes through here, so if you’re looking to stretch your legs, take the path up and out of the village, passing the houses that seem to defy gravity, clinging bravely to the steep cliffs as you climb – the people who live here must be exceedingly fit! Alternatively, walk to the head of the harbour and you’ll find a small sandy beach (only visible at low tide) – the perfect spot for a picnic if the weather and tide are on your side. It’s also dog friendly should you have your pooch with you. If the tide is in, the harbour entrance has some seating and it’s a great spot to look out over the sea, or back over the village. 

Polperro is a wonderful village to visit and full of surprises – expect it to be bustling during the holidays, but catch it on a quiet February day and you’ll almost have the place to yourself. A wonderful spot whatever time of year, it’s a must when exploring South Cornwall.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in South Cornwall here.


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