The allure of the tiny fishing village of Polruan is undoubtedly in its tranquility and relaxed way of life. For this reason, you won’t find many shops, just those of a traditional small coastal village, providing the essentials and fresh local produce. For proper shopping, pop across the water to Fowey where you can easily spend a whole day browsing and picking up souvenirs of your time in Cornwall.
From quirky boutiques selling vintage gifts and beautiful things for the home, chandlers selling traditional boating fare and a diverse variety of shops selling clothes for both beach and boat, Fowey will have you captivated the moment you reach the harbour. Don't forget the art galleries and studios dotted about the town, the ideal place to spend an afternoon admiring local artists as well as one or two from further afield.
To help you find the best shops in the area, we have put together a guide to everything you could need in Polruan and Fowey - all you have to do is bring your pennies!
Right On Your Doorstep
Nothing to do with pointy shoes or picking winkles as you may think, The Winkle Picker is a little seaside shop situated on Polruan quay. The shop was actually owned by Miss Joan Winkle and Miss Joanne Pickering many years ago, hence the wonderful name! It is now the perfect place to buy buckets and spades and colourful fishing nets, as well as handfuls of ice-creams on a sunny day. Acting as the local post office too, you won’t have to venture far to send your postcards home.
The village store, Polruan Store, sits at the bottom of Fore Street and sells everything you might need for a few days on the coast. From locally-sourced meats to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, it also has a dedicated deli section selling cheeses, cured meats and fresh pasta. If you don’t want to spend your precious beach time shopping, they will also take orders for collection or free delivery. On top of that, you can pre-order freshly baked bread and croissants along with a favourite newspaper for the following morning. Great for those who like a lie-in!
Created from their love of everyday items, the owners of The Webb Street Company in Fowey have curated a collection of simple beautiful objects often inspired by the local coast. Sourced locally and from afar, gifts, jewellery and artwork sit happily together in a store that is a joy to look around.
For a typically Cornish gift and homeware shop, head to Brocante in Fore Street. With an open plan ground floor and four upstairs rooms, there is plenty of space to find some exquisite gifts to take home and perhaps one or two things for yourself. Make sure you ask to see the brilliant Becky Bettesworth prints which are inspired by the classic railway posters of the 1930's. For contemporary style, pop along to The Clementine whose objets d'art are not only designed by themselves, but also by European brands such as Broste and Umbra.
For Little Treasures
Treasures is a real gem of a shop, with something for every age. True to its name, it is packed with gifts, jewellery and cards as well as lovely mementoes to take home. Decorated in seaside blues and greens, it is the most wonderful place for children to browse, desperately looking for something to spend their holiday money on. Mrs Noah’s Gifts is also a haven for party invites, dressing up costumes and gifts, perfect if you have a birthday party to host while in Cornwall.
Show your charitable side by supporting the brilliant RNLI while you are on holiday. By buying gifts and souvenirs, you will be supporting their vital work along the coast. For something a little more elegant, perhaps to take home for somebody special, pop into Anne Evans Antiques where you will delight in a range of lovely items from shells to 19th century French chandeliers.
Down To A Fine Art
The elegant Fowey River Gallery is set in a fine Georgian merchant’s house and exhibits mainly figurative art, often by local artists. There is also a selection of gifts, cards, handbags and scarves if you are looking to take a special gift home for somebody, and you may be lucky enough to catch one of their exhibitions held throughout the year.
The wonderful Art for Serious People Gallery is a must-visit - the owner left his life as a Venetian gondolier in the midst of a mid-life crisis and has come to Cornwall for a year to make pieces that are now coveted all across the world. Other wonderful galleries are Toe in the Water Gallery and White Doll Arts and Fowey Pottery.
Top Tip: The annual Festival of Arts and Literature comes to Fowey in May – follow the town’s Art Trail and make the most of the private studios dotted about the town as they open their doors to visitors for this week only.
All At Sea
Upper Deck Marine is the yacht and dinghy chandlery to head to if you need anything for a day at sea. They also sell sailing clothes and shoes through their shop, Outriggers, so head here if you need waterproofs, fleeces or life jackets before heading out on the water!
There is also a branch of the popular Quba Sails in the town, a nautical brand founded in Devon in 1996 and now one of the South-West's most loved maritime brands.
The Great British Bake Off
It would simply be wrong to not include one or two traditional Cornish bakeries in our tour of Polruan and Fowey. The Quay Bakery is the place to head to for artisan bread which is freshly baked on the premises every day. They also offer a huge selection of gorgeous tarts, muffins, cakes and biscuits. Make sure you try the scrumptious Cornish Pasties, made freshly every day – our advice is to buy a few for later too!
Also pop into Roly's Fudge Pantry and watch the different fudges being made and buy some of the Vanilla Clotted Cream - it would be rude not to! Fowey Fudge and Middletons of Fowey also have lots of scrumptious fudges and old-fashioned sweets, and The Cornish Bakery, triple bronze winner at the World Pasty Championships is a must-visit.
For the best places to eat in and around Polruan and Fowey, have a peek at our Dining Out guide.
The little den that is Birdkids is sure to transport you back to long-forgotten childhood holidays by the sea. Gorgeous traditional wooden toys and books, pull-along animals on strings and woodland themed little plates and cups sit alongside dressing-up clothes and face paints, perfect if you have a little one’s birthday while on holiday. Everything is beautifully designed and of great quality, with designs inspired by nature. Here you will find butterflies, birds and flowers on almost everything as well as yukky bugs for those who like such things.
Also try the Powell Craft Boutique for beautiful old-fashioned baby clothing, toys and nursery accessories. Dresses with bunnies on and rag dolls are the perfect present for any little girl, and the dinosaur eating sets and vintage plane print scooter will earn you points for sure.
Top Tip: For grown-up children, the men's vintage racing car pyjamas from the Powell Craft Boutique are the perfect birthday present.
The Secret Garden
The wonderfully named Boatyard Bloomers may tempt you in with false promises about what is actually on offer, but you won’t mind when you see the lovely fibreglass boat planters and beautiful hanging baskets that they are famous for. Bursting with colour with each boat's name proudly painted on the side, they may well inspire you to take a bit of Cornwall home with you.
Reed's of Fowey is another little den that also has lots of lovely items for the garden as well as an enchanting bunting-clad room filled with goodies for both indoors and outdoors. They also stock items that help our wildlife friends, so they get our vote!
With its baby blue exterior, dotted with bursts of colour in its seaside inspired windows, Seasalt is the place to go if you want to look the part. There is no shortage of Maritime stripes and colourful trousers at this coastal lifestyle shop and you’ll be sure to be tempted into some of their gorgeous accessories too. Also head to Ocean One which has many famous names such as the Spanish brand Hoss Intropia, and of course, the popular seaside clothes shop, Joules. A little haven with wellies and waterproofs for all the family, it is the perfect place to head to if the heavens decide to open!
For bookworms, Bookends of Fowey is a hidden gem, with second-hand and faded antiquarian books rubbing happily alongside art supplies and traditional postcards. Popular Cornish authors such as Daphne du Maurier are featured and there is a great range of books relating to Cornwall and Cornish history.
We hope that you have enjoyed our tour of shops on both sides of the river and that you will find some lovely things to take home with you. If you are looking to stay in this beautiful area, have a peek at our cottages in Polruan and cottages in Fowey for inspiration.