The bewitching Cornish fishing village of Polruan is beset on three sides by picturesque bodies of water: the Fowey River Estuary which curls around its western fringes; Pont Creek which laps the north shore and the bounteous deep blue of the English Channel which closes in around the remainder of its edge. In fact, it’s almost an island!
Everywhere you walk you are surrounded by the water or in the giddy hangers of the lush green woodlands that characterise this part of South Cornwall. There are several lovely walks by river and sea that either originate or wind around Polruan’s edge; primarily the endlessly beautiful South West Coast Path. 630 miles in length, it hugs the coastlines of four counties, beginning in Minehead in the north and ending in Poole Harbour in the south.
Polruan to Polperro
7 miles – challenging
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Walk the South West Coast Path along the woodland studded coastline eastwards from Polruan out to the picturesque, traffic-free village of Polperro. The path follows a series of highs and lows in close succession, taking you into the depths of the Cornish countryside, where you can enjoy your walk identifying wild flowers and butterflies.
Just under 7 miles in length, it's wise to undertake this trail on a mild weather day and take drinking water and a hat as there are long patches that are unshaded. Habitats include shingle beaches, maritime grasslands, scrublands, farm fields and clifftops. See if you can catch a sighting of a Dartford warbler or a peregrine falcon on the wing, high above the sea waters enjoying the warm upward thermals.
Beginning at West Street in Polruan, head east to The Peak for the first of many great views out towards Whitsand Bay and beyond. There are several ascensions as you climb past Blackbottle Rock with views across Great and Little Lantic Bay. Other highlights are Palace Cove, Lansallos Cove and Chapel Cliff, before eventually descending one last time into the beautiful village of Polperro.
After such a rewarding walk, seek out one of the cafés or pubs to get some well-earned refreshments. Check bus times in advance because although there is a connecting service back to Polruan, it’s not very regular, as to be expected in such a rural location.
Polruan – Lansallos circular walk
6 miles (3 miles each way) – moderate
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Lansallos is a beautiful hidden cove where you can sunbathe on a rock or swim in the gentle deep waters. From Polruan it’s an uphill climb past Blackbottle Rock on to Pencarrow Headland which dominates much of the view along this coastal stretch with its jagged rocks pointing upwards to the sheltering skies.
Well worth the trail over the hills above Lantic Bays Great and Little, this wonderful spot is close enough to Polruan to warrant a lovely day trip on foot. Once you’ve rested at Lansallos, head 0.25 miles up a covered path from the cove where you’ll find the hamlet’s church and very good toilet facilities with changing area too. The path winds down through Churchtown and woodlands before returning to the banks of the Fowey Estuary and Pont Pill.
Fowey town walk to St Catherine’s Castle
3 miles (1.5 miles each way) – easy to the beach – moderate to the fort
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Catch a ferry across the estuary from Polruan Quay and you can enjoy a walk to St Catherine’s Castle, a 12th-century Henrician fort. The castle walls are largely intact, and you can climb to the top of its turrets for an excellent panorama of the harbour and out over the English Channel.
Chances are you may be able to see your holiday cottage if you are staying in central Polruan from here. If you feel like giving a speech anytime soon, the turret is a prime spot to treat your family and friends to an oration should the mood take. On the way between the ferry and castle you wind past a few beaches and coves which are perfect for exploring.
One of these, Ready Money Beach, is a sandy inlet surrounded by overhanging woodlands and has an ice cream shop and public toilets. The beach is a lovely sheltered place to enjoy and its location means the water doesn’t get too choppy here but does get wake washes from passing boats out in the estuary. The trail’s terrain to this point is undemanding, although the fort is found up a steep, uncovered path but the distance is relatively short (0.75 miles). Please take there though as the trail can become muddy and slippery in wet weather.
This walk is great if you fancy a paddle on the beach, a slow amble up the trail to the fort, sea views and good proximity to the shops and restaurants of Fowey to relax in afterwards.
Gribben Daymark walk
4 miles – moderate
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From some parts of the local coastline, one of England’s most distinctive daymarks is visible. If you fancy a day out a few miles out of Polruan, this is a great choice. Travel over to the Fowey side on the car ferry and you could be at the origin point of the walk at Menabilly Barton (7 miles) within no time. There is a large car park at Hambland Farm in the hamlet.
A great deal of this path is flat and follows the South West Coast Path around the edge of Gribben Head. The main ascent is after you dip down to Polridmouth with sea-level views back to St Catherine’s Fort. The Gribben Daymark is a huge tower, painted in red and white horizontal stripes dominating the headland. It’s a great place to catch your breath, have a drink and enjoy the view of open sea. At 26m tall it has stood out on the headland since 1832. Built by Trinity House, the tower pinpoints the approach to the harbour entrance to Fowey. It has aided sailors that previously had been prone to mistake the shallows of St Austell Bay for the deep waters of Falmouth Harbour.
The trail follows the coastline with the sea on your left so that you end up heading north towards the small village of Polkerris. A long way before you reach Polkerris you will find a shortcut that leads back inland to the car park across a few stiles and farm fields. This walk is another great route for families. Again, as there is very little shade on hot days, prepare responsibly as there are no facilities at Gribben Head.
The Luxulyan Valley circular walk
3.5 miles – easy to moderate
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This wonderful woodland circuit is located a short drive from Polruan (14 miles) from Black Hill car park - the Luxulyan Valley is a steep-sided, valley through which the River Par flows its way to the open sea. It was designated part of a World Heritage Site in 2006 due to its major concentration of early 19th century industrial remains. The area is looked after by The Luxulyan Valley Partnership, a local conservation group that helps to maintain the woodlands network of pathways, many of which are based on the routes of horse-drawn tramways.
The trail takes in Cornwall’s first stone viaduct, still intact, that doubles as an aqueduct. Some of the trails follow leats such as Carmears Leat which used to ferry water into the mills downstream closer to Par. You may also encounter the remains of a mining building when you reach Penpillick Hill; all the main shafts have clid caps and are clearly marked with signs to warn you off. There is so much to see for visitors with an interest in Cornwall’s industrial heritage.
This walk is dog-friendly as there are no stiles or livestock around and there are a wealth of places for them to explore and scamper around. The trails are clearly marked and some of the more popular routes are sealed and navigable by walkers of all stamina and ability. It’s a beautiful walk, particularly the views from the viaduct: truly breathtaking.
There are many walks in the area of Polruan and Fowey to discover, this is a compilation of just five of our favourites for all strollers, trekkers and day-trippers of all ages and abilities. We hope you enjoy your stay in Polruan.
Enjoy all of this wonderful walking on your doorstep from our selection of Polruan cottages. They also offer the perfect place to put your feet up after a long day of trekking.