There is no denying the charm of a working Cornish fishing village, with their quiet and peaceful harbours it’s the perfect destination for any trip to Cornwall. In fact, a trip to Cornwall is incomplete without a stopover at a proper fishing village!
With support from other travel bloggers, I’ve collated a shortlist of the Cornish fishing villages that are well worth the visit and should make it onto your next itinerary for the south-west of England. Having taken my own staycation road trip to Cornwall and Devon this year I’ve gotten to experience several of these charming villages along the way.
The quaint fishing village of Polperro is located on the southeast coast of Cornwall. Despite becoming a top tourist destination in the southwest this Cornish fishing village has managed to maintain is rustic and traditional aesthetic.
The majority the tightly packed houses, situated around the picturesque harbour, are original to the village and pre-date the boom in tourism. The authenticity of this village is also maintained by the fact that it is still an acting fishing village today, though it is no longer the primary income for the village.
Polperro has recognized that it has become a tourist destination and has made may necessary steps to mitigate the impact on the village itself. This includes creating a large car park outside the heart of the village and allowing only local traffic access to the narrow streets. This allows the village to really shine and the heavy tourist shops remain outside the centre of the village.
What not to miss:
- Cream Tea at the Plantation Inn
- Fishing Boat Tours to Fowey
- Wandering the streets along the harbour
- Hiking to the Chapel Pool overlooking the harbour
- Polperro Heritage Museum
Tip: Plantation Inn has an amazing cream tea on offer and does speciality scones as well. Their banana scone and banana cream is a winning combination!
Submitted by Sylvie from Kids2Cornwall.co.uk
Submitted by Suzanne from Meandering Wild
Sennen Cove is a small Cornish fishing village on the north coast of Cornwall. The village is focussed around the harbour and the beach. Dominant on the shoreline is the lifeboat station which is vital for the safety of the fishermen and visitors alike. This is open in the summer months and bank holidays so you can see the story of the crew and get up close to the lifeboat. Adjacent to the lifeboat station is the stone slipway which has the fishing boats pulled up above the high tide line and is protected from the seas by a large curved harbour wall.
The sandy beach runs all the way from the harbour breakwater to the northeast and is great for surfing and bodyboarding. If this isn’t something you enjoy then Little Bo Café on the seafront opposite the lifeboat station is the perfect location for a cream tea and time watching the surfers.
Sennen Cove is reached by taking the A30 from Penzance towards Land’s End. About a mile from Land’s End a small road will take you down into Sennen cove village. Given its proximity to Land’s End makes this one of the most westerly villages in England and an easy walk along the coast from Sennen Cove will take you to Land’s End, the most south-westerly point in England.
Submitted by Debbie from Grand Adventure Story
Port Isaac is a traditional Cornish fishing village which tumbles down steep cliffs to a sheltered cove on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast. White-washed cottages, narrow streets and a picturesque harbour make Port Isaac a firm favourite with tourists. It is also familiar to many as the fictional village, Portwenn, in the much-loved TV series, Doc Martin.
Port Isaac is located north of Padstow and is accessible by bus on a route which runs between Bude and Newquay. It is a popular destination for day visitors, most of whom park in the main car park at the top of the hill. From here holiday-makers amble along the almost-car free roads to the harbour, passing picture-perfect cottages along the way. We visited Port Isaac for a quick lunch stop as part of our Devon and Cornwall Road Trip in the summer of 2020.
Port Isaac is home to many foodie treats, but our top tip is to head to Just Shellfish for a true taste of Cornwall. Find this hidden gem tucked away in the Port Isaac Fisherman building on Fore Street. Choose from lobster, dressed crab or sandwiches, or pick up small taster pots of ocean delicacies such as cockles and mussels. Take your fishy spoils down to the harbour and pick a spot on the slipway (at low tide) to enjoy lunch with a view. Watch out for the seagulls who’ll snatch your food from you given half the chance!
Submitted by RJ from RJ on Tour
Polruan is the lesser-known neighbour of Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall. It is accessible by road, by ferry from Fowey or for hikers it is on the South West Coast Path. Polruan is a small fishing village with a long history dating back beyond the 8th century. There are church ruins to reflect that as well as a Tudor Castle on the River Fowey. Polruan castle is a ruin and was used as a defensive fortification. As such this structure has some excellent views of the mouth of the river and coastline.
For the more active visitor, there are opportunities for water sports including hiring paddleboards or swimming on the village’s beach. Walking along the coastal path takes you to some splendid beaches including Lansallos bay or Lantic bay which are both breathtaking. The docks in the village are active with both boat repairs and commercial fishing.
For dining or drinking out, there are options for pubs, these are located on the dockside or small cobbled side streets. Or if you’re looking for simple pub gub and local beer, the Russell Inn is a delightful place, the proper job IPA or Korev lager are top recommendations to try. And for a more formal meal out eating local seafood, The Lugger Inn is the place to visit. One standout dish is their take on fish stew that includes local seafood.
The small fishing village of Boscastle is located on the northern coast of Cornwall on the River Valency leading out to sea. Visitors can enjoy the views of the harbour, the charming shops and walks, as well as walks through the countryside for even more impressive perspectives on the area.
Over ten years ago, back in 2004, the village was nearly destroyed by flash floods. Incredibly the village was rebuilt to it’s previous standard, and a lot of effort went into protecting the rustic aesthetic and original feel of the village. It’s an incredibly welcoming and well-maintained environment, but not hugely crowded with tourists.
It remains a working fishing village, and boats can be seen in the harbour, or fisherman hard at work putting those boats in or out as well. The harbour area is absolutely charming and picturesque. And there are fantastic coastal hikes for the more adventurous to stretch their legs.
What not to miss:
- Boscastle Visitor centre
- National Trust cafe (hard to find a better cream tea)
- Boscastle Harbour
- Harbour wall walk
- Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Tip: Pack your hiking boots and take the easy coastal path for some really charming views of the village and sea.
Submitted by Shobha George from EpicEnglandTravel
Fowey in Cornwall is a small fishing village with a really deep harbor. The charming town has lots of art galleries and boutique shops. It’s is famous for being the Cornish retreat of the author, Daphne du Maurier. You can pass Daphne du Maurier’s home on the South West Coast Path near Fowey. Walking is a big activity in the area. Be forewarned, the estuary and the walks can get muddy so it’s best to pack good hiking boots. Any gear that is forgotten should be easily found in the town which has several stores with outdoor gear.
There is plenty to do in Fowey which caters well to tourists. Sailing, kayaking, canoeing and SUP in the estuary is popular. There are several beaches in the area and the best one for families is Whitehouse Beach. On the harbor tours, the guide will point out the du Maurier home, as well as homes owned by other celebrities. If you cross the bay on the Ferry, you can explore Mevagissey, the cute town across the harbor. There are even dolphins occasionally spotted in the Fowey Bay! There are a handful of inns and pubs in Fowey, and many tea and coffee rooms. There’s a popular ice cream place on the harbor.
If you are visiting with children, the best place to stay in Fowey is the Fowey Hall Hotel, a luxury family hotel that has large family rooms. Fowey Hall Hotel is on the clifftop and has steps leading down to the village center. The best fine dining in town is at Q at The Old Quay House overlooking the harbor. For casual fare, try Sam’s On The Beach which was built in the old lifeguard station on Polkerris Beach.
Mousehole is located a short distance from Penzance in the southwest of Cornwall. It’s a must-visit Cornish fishing village for anyone visiting this southwest as it will transport you away from the hustle and bustle of the larger city and into a charmingly peaceful community. The harbour itself is idyllic and the town has quaint alleys to be explored.
The history of Mousehole dates back to the village being a fishing market, and it continues to be a working fishing harbour today. Fisherman can sometimes be spotted near the quayside tidying up their nets and boats at the end of the day.
What not to miss:
- Walk along the quayside
- Visit the harbour beach
- Have a bite at the Rock Pool Cafe
- Grab a pint at the Ship Inn
- Wander the alleys and streets and visit the local artist’s galleries
Tip: There is a bus that connects Penzance to Mousehole for those who want a short trip out to the charming village. Parking is limited in Mousehole itself. There is a car park just on the edge of the village (TR19 6PS) with a good amount of space.
Submitted by Kylie of Our Overseas Adventures
Mullion is the largest village located on the Lizard Peninsula; it’s a beautiful little spot that’s worth visiting during your time in Cornwall. It’s located 5 miles from Helston and comprises a village with cute shops, art galleries and ‘The Old Inn’, a gorgeous thatched roof pub that’s hundreds of years old. The 15th-century church of St Mellanus is a must-do with its beautifully carved oak pews depicting scenes from the Bible.
Mullion Cove located down a short winding road from the main village. Mullion Cove was formerly a pilchard fishery, and is still a working harbour with fishing boats anchored along the shore. Its location along the treacherous coast was the scene of many shipwrecks and legend has it, was the hotbed for smugglers back in the day – many of who were shipped off to Australia and New Zealand (including my descendants!) However these days the rugged cliffs and coastline are National Trust land and there are plenty of beautiful places to take a walk.
While you’re at Mullion Cove it’s definitely worth calling into the Porthmellin Cafe located right on the water’s edge at the harbour. They serve a delicious traditional cream tea (with your choice of strawberry or raspberry jam) and crab sandwiches made from local seafood are a speciality.
Submitted by Chris & Heather from A Brit & A Southerner
While Cornwall is home to a myriad of idyllic fishing villages, Mevagissey is perhaps one of the most iconic and charming for a variety of reasons. Located around five miles south of the larger town of St. Austell along the southern coast of Cornwall, Mevagissey is the stereotypical Cornish village, fishing port and civil parish.
Take a stroll along the quaint main street visiting the local shops before heading to the harbour to experience the local fishermen going about their day-to-day duties with the catch of the day. Of course, a visit to Mevagissey wouldn’t be the same without heading to one of the local fish and chip shops.
For those of you that have visited other Cornish villages, there is something extra special about sampling stereotypical fish and chips in Cornwall. The Fishermen’s Chippy is a popular spot among locals and visitors alike, while the village is also home to several other dining establishments ranging from local cafes to more eclectic fine cuisine.
After devouring the finest fish and chips in the south, visit one of Mevagissey’s must-see attractions – The Cornish Fudge Shop. A trip to anywhere in Cornwall wouldn’t be the same without indulging in Cornish fudge but Mevagissey certainly offers some of the best in the country.
Stay in one of the local B&B’s or perhaps a camping in Cornwall experience is more suitable with the plethora of campsites in the immediate vicinity and conveniently located to Mevagissey and other idyllic Cornish villages.
Other Cornish Fishing Villages to consider visiting?
Although these did not make our list there are many more that are worth an honorary mention.
- Gorran Haven
- Helford Passage
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