In Polperro it’s easy to step back in time in what is a largely an unspoilt fishing village on the south coast of Cornwall. Its beautiful cottages cling to steep hillsides around a small harbour with spectacular views of land and sea making it an artist’s paradise.
Polperro must rank as one of the most picturesque villages in Cornwall, if not England? The road into the village snakes down the steep-sided coombe, mainly free of traffic, meaning you can enjoy wandering through the streets browsing the shops that major in locally made handicrafts and confectionery. There's also plenty of places to eat and drink from award-winning restaurants to traditional pubs.
Get the camera ready for when you reach the picturesque harbour, especially if the tides is in, and make a point of visiting the Smuggling Museum where you will find out all about the village’s sea based trials and tribulations.
Dotted around the village there are several galleries, carrying on the tradition of artists who have fallen in love with the views over the years. We think you'll do the same and just to make sure we recommend walking up the coastal path either side of the harbour to capture the view looking back over the village, we promise you won’t regret it.
Hidden coves and stunning views
The South West Coast Path passes through Polperro and offers spectacular views and access to beautiful beaches both to the east and the west. Heading east towards Looe you reach Talland Bay after about a mile. Here there’s a choice of beaches and some wonderful rockpools to discover when the tide is out. Continuing onto Looe you will pass other quieter coves, even in the summer months.
The coastal path heading west can be challenging to even the competent walkers. It’s very up and down with lots of steps. Walkers who make the effort are rewarded with wonderful views and hidden smugglers coves at Lansallos and Lantivet Bay.
For those not wishing to explore far, Polperro has its own small sandy beach located just outside the main harbour. The beach is in front of Willy Wilcox’s cave, believed to have been used by smugglers. There’s also a man-made tidal pool on the seaward of Chapel Cliff, to the right of the harbour mouth. Here many a local has first learnt to swim, away from the waves of the ocean.
During the late 1700s/early 1800s Polperro was heavily involved in the smuggling trade with boats crossing the channel between Cornwall and France all the time, bringing back all sorts of goods, mainly to avoid paying heavy taxes. Over the years it’s the alcohol and tobacco that is usually talked about, but less romantics goods such as salt were just as important to the people of Polperro.
Salt was needed to cure the oily fish such as pilchards, caught in their thousands by the villagers and a staple diet throughout the year. The government in London increased the tax on salt to fund wars with the French, so the fishermen imported it from France illegally.
Of course, they still brought in barrels of rum, brandy and gin, unloaded under cover of darkness in local coves such as Talland and Lansallos. Stories talk of hidden tunnels under the village, one was said to come out at the back of the cave on the beach, and there are also tales of ghosts of headless smugglers charging through the streets on horseback.
Polperro’s smuggling history is well documented, because at the time it was happening all the comings and goings of boats were recorded by a man called Zephaniah Job. When he died the villagers tried to destroy the evidence but much of it survived and forms the basis of the information displayed in the museum, which is well worth a visit.
Polperro's a magical place whatever time of the day you visit.
Plan your trip
Everything you need to know to plan your perfect trip to Polperro
From the M5 at Exeter continue down the A38 to Plymouth and cross the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall. At Trerulefoot Roundabout turn left onto the A374 then right onto the A387 and follow the signs to Looe and Polperro.
There's only one carpark in Polperro at the top end of the village. From here it is a 15 to 20 minute walk down to the harbour.
Polperro is served by busses from Plymouth, Liskeard and Looe.
The nearest National Express stop is in Liskeard, 12 miles away.
The nearest railway station is at Looe, five miles away. This is a branch line from the mainline at Liskeard. You can catch a bus to Polperro from Looe or Liskeard stations.
FAQs CopyView all
Tha's a very good question... and one we would struggle to answer.
Some might suggest a traditional fishing village like Polperro or Mousehole, other might mention Blisland, high on Bodmin Moor with one of the few village greens in Cornwall.
Smugglers hideaways such as Cawsand or Boscastle, even some of the mining villages have their own beauty like Carnkie or St Just, it just depends what you're looking for?
What we are sure of is that wherever you are in Cornwall, from Calstock on the Tamar to St Buryan in the far west, you will find a village worth looking at.
Visit Cornwall would not recommend trying to drive beyond the mini roundabout you meet at the bottom of the hill as you entre Polperro. Turn right here and park in the large car park.
There is no parking in the village and the lanes are very narrow with tight turns. If you do manage to negotiate your way through the village you will most likely find yourself lost in countryside, miles from anywhere!
When the tide goes out there is a small beach outside the harbour, more shingle than sand. For a nicer beach it is worth walking east along the South West Coast Path to Talland Bay.
Polperro has been a star in many a film, but most of them are quite old now.
The Manxman was Alfred Hitchcock's last silent film, shot in Polperro in1929. It meant to be the Isle on Man, but shows fishing boats leaving and returning to Polperro.
Miranda is a film about a mermaid who wants to travel to London. It was made in Polperro in 1948.
Another Time, Another Place was the first film to give Sean Connery a leading role. Released in 1958, it features both Polperro and Looe.
The Giant Behemoth was a monster movie where atomic tests cause changes in the ocean's ecosystem, creating the said behemoth.
The Tale of Little Pig Robinson is a TV movie from the early 1990s that starred Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Toyah Wilcocks as a cat!
Discover your Cornwall
Long sandy beaches, hidden coves, rugged moorland, quaint fishing villages, deep wooded valleys, bustling seaside resorts, industrial heritage, rocky headlands, colourful gardens, idyllic rivers and a bijou city, Cornwall has a bit of everything for those who want to explore.
Your weekly dose of Cornish cheer!
When you can’t be in your favourite place all the time, catch up on the latest stories, upcoming events, holiday ideas, and offers with a newsletter straight to your inbox. Terms and Conditions / GDPR compliance: by providing personally identifiable information Visit Cornwall will use it to provide you with ongoing information about their products and services. No one from Visit Cornwall will rent, sell or lease this personally identifiable information to other companies or individuals.
Find us on socials and stay connected with the Cornwall you love.