Cornwall is well-known for its beaches, its award-winning food and its stunning coastline, but it is also home to some of the most picturesque fishing villages in the world.
Nestled on the south coast of Cornwall, Fowey is a bustling fishing port on the banks of the river Fowey. It’s famous for its pretty boat trips along the estuary, its narrow streets and eclectic mix of shops. You’ll be spoilt for choice when looking for somewhere to dine, as there are plenty of independent restaurants and cafes serving freshly prepared dishes all day. Catch the Bodinnick Ferry and travel the short distance across the river to Polperro near Looe – the views from the ferry are magnificent – or take the ferry to Mevagissey.
It takes a little while to travel the rural lanes to this small village on the South coast of Cornwall but it’s well worth the journey. As well as the quirky shops and mouth-watering eateries, the village also reveals a small sandy beach at low tide and its own 16th Century castle high on the hill overlooking the bay. St Mawes Castle, run by English Heritage, provides an afternoon’s entertainment in itself with interactive displays, secret tunnels, prisoners’ cells and stunning views from the top of the castle keep. You should also include Lamorran Gardens in your visit – privately owned, the gardens are open on Wednesday and Friday to the public throughout the main season and are small but beautiful. Highlights include walled gardens, winding paths, and hidden corners, all with far-reaching views across the bay.
This little village and port on the South coast of Cornwall is known for its Hollywood past, as it’s been featured in countless productions including The Three Musketeers, Moll Flanders, Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and more recently the BBC series Poldark. Here the cast were snapped while filming for the final series of Poldark in 2019. Still a working harbour, Charlestown has two small beaches where you can chase the waves or simply sit and watch the world go by. The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre in the village houses artefacts from over 150 shipwrecks and tells the fascinating story of Charlestown.
Boscastle & Tintagel
Famously flooded during freak weather in 2004, Boscastle village and fishing port is a romantic harbour steeped in history and medieval myths. The area offers miles of dramatic unspoiled coastline and beautiful landscape to explore and is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. While you’re visiting Boscastle you should also drive the ten minutes along the coast to Tintagel, where you’ll find mysterious ruins clinging to the rugged landscape, and Arthurian tales of knights and battles at Tintagel Castle.
Despite its name, Rock has a mile-long sandy beach bordered by sand dunes stretching round the coast, making it one of the most popular areas during the peak Summer months. Its sheltered waters mean it’s perfect for watersports; there are plenty of activities to try, including water-skiing, wind-surfing and sailing, or you could just pack a picnic rug and while away the hours paddling in the shallow waters and building sandcastles. Once you’ve finished exploring the beach and the watersports, you can catch the ferry and travel the short distance across the calm waters to Padstow.
One of Cornwall’s best-known tourist attractions, St Ives is a working harbour surrounded by stunning beaches, award-winning restaurants and numerous art galleries and exhibitions. Artists have flocked to St Ives for centuries, since JMW Turner painted here in the 1800s, attracted by its unique natural light and breath-taking seascapes, and it is home to the world-famous Tate Gallery St Ives. It is also popular with holidaymakers who flock to the famous Porthminster Beach right in the centre of the town every year, to play in the rockpools, surf the waters and sample the local ice-creams. Filmmakers working on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides fell in the love with the setting and filmed here in 2011.
Famous for being home to TV’s Doc Martin, the small picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac is a must-see for many visiting the county. Visit locations from the show including the Doc’s house and surgery, Louisa’s school, Mrs Tishell’s pharmacy and much more. Walk the old cobbled streets, admire the spectacular views over the harbour and visit the great little shops and cafes. Wear comfortable shoes you can explore every inch of the small village without danger of blisters!
You can’t visit Mevagissey without eating fish and chips out of paper on the wooden benches over-looking the harbour – just be aware of the very brazen resident seagulls who won’t think twice about swooping down and stealing a chip right out of your hand. The village is home to gift shops, cafes, restaurants and a small aquarium. During the Summer season you can take a fishing trip around the bay where you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins, seals and other wildlife. Once you’ve visited all the shops you can take the coastal path around to Pentewan or the short boat trip across to Fowey.
Just 2.5 miles from the UK’s most southerly town of Penzance, Mousehole is as quaint as they come, and you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in the time the moment you step out of the car. Explore the warren of cobbled streets, charming shops and pretty galleries, before enjoying your lunch sat on the harbour wall watching the boats bob about in the water and the children playing the beach. Mousehole’s Christmas lights are famous the world over so if you can visit in December be sure to add them to your to-do list.
This unspoilt fishing village just a few miles from Looe. It offers plenty of places to relax, eat and explore, as well as a good choice of galleries where local artists display their work. Take a walk around the coast path to access secret beaches and spectacular views or catch a fishing trip around the bay. Polperro has a small sandy beach, where smugglers are reported to have hidden their wares in the caves dodging the customs men, and there is a natural tidal pool which reveals itself at low tide.
This is one of Cornwall’s most westerly villages, with a few small shops, cafes, pubs and galleries. But the real draw is the beach – Sennen Cove has crystal clear waters, soft white sand and impressive surfing conditions popular all year-round. There is parking right on the beach as well as toilets and beach cafes for snacks, cold drinks and ice-creams.