The ancient Celtic kingdom of Cornwall is blessed with over 300 miles of spectacular coastline along its distinctive southern shores. Its sparkling aquamarine waters are only disturbed by little villages and harbours, welcoming home colourful fishing boats at the end of the day as the sun slowly sets behind them. All have a worthy place on the bucket list of places to visit, but the ancient harbour of Polruan should definitely be one of your top choices.
Part of the parish of Lanteglos-by-Fowey, it is surrounded by water on three sides; jutting majestically out into the Fowey Estuary on one side and to the sea on the other. Across the water, its bustling harbourside neighbour, Fowey, is a wonder of medieval and Georgian architecture with a vibrant maritime history. Slightly further afield, and only an hour away by car is the cathedral city of Truro as well as St. Austell, home to the renowned Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
This lovely hilly outpost, with its cottages gazing down to the sea below, is famous for its boat building heritage and is still an important centre for fishing as well as other maritime activities. A solitary road into Polruan leads you down to the quay where the Lugger Inn, full of history and intrigue, will greet you for a well-deserved drink in its cosy bar. Rubbing along happily with the village store, it has a charm reminiscent of childhood holidays where the only thing that worried you was where you would buy your next ice cream. Hazy memories are sure to come back to you after just a few hours in this lovely village.
And across the water, where a passenger ferry will leisurely transport you, is the buzzy harbour town of Fowey. Here you can browse along the maze of little streets, wander around the art galleries and pick up some treats from one of the many bakeries or fudge shops. There are plenty of things to do in and around Fowey – beach trips and fishing, boat trips up the river and along the spectacular coast. It has a friendly and welcoming ambience that will make you want to return again and again.
ON THE BEACH
Now we can’t think of any other place we would rather go than to a cove with this fabulous name. Tucked away just inside the mouth of the river and surrounded by sweet little houses, you are sheltered enough to not have to worry about sandy sandwiches! Children will love paddling and rock pooling at low tide and older ones can swim out to the pontoon floating in the sparkling aquamarine sea. For those who get a bit bored after a couple of hours in the sun, there is a fabulous ten-minute stroll to St Catherine’s Castle.
One of the most picturesque coves in the area to swim, sunbathe and play about in the sand, this remote spot is positively beckoning you to call at its shores. Polridmouth Cove has two gorgeous beaches looking out to St Austell Bay, another fabulous place to visit. Not only that but just above the high tide mark are the lake and grounds belonging to Menabilly House, allegedly the inspiration for the boathouse in Daphne du Maurier’s epic novel, Rebecca. Its tranquillity comes at a price, however – it is a fifteen-minute walk to get to from any direction.
One of the prettiest bays around with crystal clear blue waters and white sands, Lantic Bay is perfect for swimming and soaking up the sun. Nestled at the base of towering forest green cliffs, you will be hard pushed to find a better place for a family picnic. Gaze out wistfully at the wonderful selection of yachts (from Fowey) anchored in the bay and lie back and dream of that lottery win...
White House Beach
Take a day trip to this small sandy beach at low tide in Fowey, perfect for sitting back and watching the Polruan ferry taking its passengers from side to side. Sheltered by Whithouse Point and Quay, it is near enough to the esplanade to pick up an ice cream when the weather gets too hot and there is also a refreshing sea water paddling pool for little ones. Perfect for Famous Five-type adventures, just don’t forget the tinned sardines and ginger beer!
Front and Back Beaches
What these beaches lack in name, they certainly make up for in convenience. Almost touching the Polruan quay is Front Beach, just a pebble’s throw away from most of the properties in the village. Great at low tide when little ones can race around, collecting water for sandcastles when sunny and flying kites when windy - the infamous Winkle Picker shop on the quay is right on hand for crabbing lines and ice creams if you run out. Back beach is situated to the left of the quay and is slightly more quiet, better if you like your sunbathing uninterrupted.
PLENTY OF FISH IN THE SEA
If you are partial to a spot of fishing, the areas around Polruan are a fisherman’s dream. Cast off from the quay or castle, go crabbing from the slipway or take a full day’s deep-sea fishing. A favourite spot is St Catherine’s Castle which you can get to via the base of the rocks at low tide. Be careful though as past half tide, you will have to climb the rocks back up to the castle! All sorts of fish can be caught in this region, from dogfish and mackerel to coalfish and conger! Whichever you manage to reel in, you will return home with fond memories and a catch to remember.
MESSING AROUND IN BOATS
Sail close to the wind
Who doesn’t like a day messing about in sailing boats? Fowey Harbour is a haven for all types of sailing and no matter what your level, one of the yachting clubs, in true Cornish style, will welcome you with open arms. Both the Royal Fowey Yacht Club and the Gallants Sailing Club showcase an exciting racing calendar throughout the season for both cursers and dinghies. If you need some pointers, call the Fowey Maritime Centre or the Fowey Harbour Sailing School who will be able to give you a bit of training.
Go your own way
If you fancy a bit more speed, hire a motor boat from the town quay in Fowey during the summer and feel the breeze in your hair, regardless of what the wind is doing. You will be brought your boat, kitted out in life jackets and shown how to steer (just like a car apparently). Make your own way along this wonderful area, travelling down river towards the sea or up river past Fowey’s iconic Troy sailing boats towards the docks and RNLI lifeboat. If being the captain of your own vessel is too much for you however, and you prefer to sit back and watch the envious faces on the banks as you sip a glass of champagne, then drop anchor and hand over to a local skipper who will take you on a river or coastal trip from the town quay.
Get back to nature
For those of you who prefer a little tranquility on your holiday, why not immerse yourself in the calm and peaceful waters of the river in a canoe? Get back to nature and see the river from a different perspective, looking out for Herons and Kingfishers as you glide through the ripples – the odd deer has even been spotted! The Upper Harbour is the perfect area for this - you can hire a kayak from Fowey Kayak Hire and discover the hidden treasures of the river on your own or take an escorted trip with Fowey River Expeditions, perfect if it’s your first time or if you have little ones with you.
SHOPPING AND ART THERAPY
Though Polruan has just a couple of shops for essentials (croissants are essentials in our opinion), Fowey over the river has a lovely selection of shops from little boutiques selling gifts and cards, interiors shops selling beautiful things for the home, confectioners selling fudge and chocolate and traditional chandlerys selling all sorts of things for messing about in boats.
When you have spent all your pennies, head for one of the many art galleries and studios where you can not only browse the artwork on display but get to see local artists at their best. Our favourite has to be the Venetian gondolier who in the midst of a mid-life crisis, swapped the canals of Venice for a year in Cornwall – his brilliant Art for Serious People Gallery should be on every visitor's to-do list.
For insider knowledge on the best shops and art galleries in the area, have a peek at our Shopping Guide for inspiration.
DAYS IN, DAYS OUT
If you can bear to tear yourself away, there are plenty of fun things to do in the areas around Polruan and Fowey – the nearby villages and harbourside towns make a great family day out with food festivals, water sports, wildlife boat trips and horse-pulled trams, not forgetting the spectacular huge square sail ships of Charlestown, home to the famous TV series, Poldark.
The historic twin towns of East and West Looe are a great place to take a trip on a glass-bottomed boat - you may see some seals and dolphins playing about in the waves if you are lucky! Don't miss the unspoilt fishing villages of Polperro and Mevagissey for a taste of the traditional side of Cornwall - they really take you back to another era. Daring types can hunt for the mysterious beast of Bodmin Moor; for those who do not want to have an extra guest on their day out, they can instead traverse the coast on the more tranquil Bodmin and Wenford Railway.
To the ends of the earth
Slightly further afield, the cathedral town of Truro is just over an hour away and the old market town of St. Austell is slightly nearer at three-quarters of an hour's drive. Visit one of its many attractions including the fascinating Eden Project, the Lost Gardens of Heligan and Caerhays Castle. If that isn’t enough, you can take a day trip down to St. Ives and the most south-westerly point of Great Britain, Land’s End, visiting the majestic St. Michael’s Mount on the way - just make sure that you check the tide table first!
If we have persuaded you that Polruan and Fowey should be that bit nearer the top of your bucket list, have a peek at our lovely selection of cottages in Polruan and cottages in Fowey for ideas on where to stay.
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.