Every time I go to Cornwall, I discover a contender for my favourite new beach or town or village. On my most recent visit, it was the turn of the fishing village of Polperro, on the South Cornish coast.
Getting to Polperro is a bit of a chore and can take a while, but once you have left your car at the large pay and display car-park at the top of the hill outside the village, you can forget all about modern life, go back in time and relax in this working fishing village that is the epitome of the word picturesque.
The River Pol runs through Polperro, and can be seen on the approach to the village from the car-park, passing underneath the elevated driveways and front gardens of houses and B&Bs. It looks idyllic, but you probably wouldn’t want to live nearby when this part of the world seems to suffer from major floods every year.
After a fifteen minute walk downhill, the road narrows. Polperro central is no place to drive, and wasn’t designed with the motor car in mind. The road is not the only thing to narrow, as some of the houses around here are tiny – many of the fisherman’s cottages have been converted into holiday homes, including the Shell House, below.
Polperro enjoys a sheltered location, situated in a valley with steep wooded hillsides. It was bitterly cold in the shaded village, due to the low December sun, so we popped into the Polperro Bakery for a warming cuppa and a Chelsea Bun each.
There were a few fishermen in with us taking a break – although tourism is big for the locals, Polperro is still a working fishing village. A sign stuck to the bakery window appealed to fishermen to decorate their boats with Christmas lights for the holidays, with a prize for the best one. Unfortunately, we left before dark, so missed the boats all lit up, but saw some of the participants – I like to think the boat with the white Christmas tree, below, won.
Although it felt freezing cold in the shade, the sun was bright and there was not a cloud in the sky so we went for a stroll along the harbour wall, past the small sandy beach and up to the cliffs looking back at Polperro with its boats in the harbour and its whitewashed fisherman’s cottages dotting the hillside.
The South West Coast Path, the walking trail which covers the whole of Devon and Cornwall, plus parts of Dorset and Somerset, passes the cliffs on either side of the harbour, and affords some great views of Polperro and of the coastline. If you head left out of the village, you will pass a lighthouse, or to the right you will see the “Net Loft” – a hut where fishermen have kept their nets overnight for centuries.
Polperro has a darker side, and was once a smuggling hotspot. There is a Museum of Smuggling next to the harbour, but we had an appointment with one of the village’s pubs instead. Of the two pubs we saw close to the harbour, The Blue Peter Inn looked the most inviting, although the other one had a great name (“The Three Pilchards”).
With it’s low ceiling and roaring fireplace, it was almost too cosy for its own good and one we didn’t want to leave on such a cold Winter’s day. We may not have quite deserved a Blue Peter Badge, but we certainly had earned our pints of Tribute. The Blue Peter Inn’s slogan is “The last pub before France”, which seemed quite apt as the village looked a bit like a French seaside town in the dazzling sunshine.