A Sense of the Sea, Exploring the South Coast

PUBLISHED: 13:32 12 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:42 20 February 2013

A Sense of the Sea, Exploring the South Coast

A Sense of the Sea, Exploring the South Coast

Ian Wilkinson heads to the south coast to explore Fowey, Looe and Polperro, all with fishing, boats and sailing at their heart...

Just a few miles of glorious Cornish coastline separate the town of Looe from the village of Polperro and the port of Fowey to the west. For the energetic, the best way to visit all three towns in the same day is to take the beautiful South West Coast Path. A more leisurely alternative would be to travel from Liskeard to Looe on the Looe Valley railway and then by local bus, or even boat, to Polperro and Fowey.

Life in Looe

While geographically close, the three places are very different. Looe is a working fishing port and life revolves around the quay in East Looe where the boats tie up and where there is a busy wholesale fish market. Technically you cant buy fish from here (although I have seen deals done!) but Pengellys, an established family-run fish merchant situated next to the market, has a fine reputation for really fresh fish and seafood as well as other delicacies.

Across the Looe River from the fishing quay is West Looe. You can get to it by the old bridge or via a passenger ferry across the short stretch of water. Close to where the ferry lands in East Looe youll find a number of local skippers offering boat trips of all descriptions including trips round the bay, fishing expeditions, a jaunt in a glass-bottomed boat and to St Georges Island, a wonderful marine nature reserve now owned by the Wildlife Trust. One of the nicest trips is to Polperro or Fowey on the William Cantrell Ashley, a splendid Picturesque Polperro.

A few miles down the coast, Polperro is what most people imagine to be the archetypal Cornish fishing village. Set in a deep gash in the cliffs, the narrow streets, whitewashed fishermens cottages, vibrant waterfront and busy harbour are all incredibly picturesque and it is therefore unsurprising that the villages main income stream is now from tourism rather than fishing. That said, there is still plenty of commercial fishing in evidence and the small fish market seems to be doing good business. There is also a very good electric tram service here, which is particularly welcome on the return journey from the village, which is mostly uphill!


Polperro, in common with many Cornish resorts, has its fair share of art galleries, a good example of which is the Ebenezer Gallery on The Coombe. Its a converted chapel owned and managed by the East Cornwall Society of Artists. Exhibitions are held during the summer months, as well as Christmas and Easter, and feature paintings by local artists in all media, as well as ceramics, woodturning and sculpture.

There are several good pubs and restaurants in Polperro, including the 13th-century Crumplehorn Inn opposite the main car park and the Blue Peter Inn by the harbour. Both serve good food, Cornish beers and both play live music.

If you are travelling by car from Looe or Polperro to Fowey its much easier to drive to Polruan and catch the passenger ferry across the river to Fowey. In fact, Polruan is well worth a visit, not least because of the panoramic views of Fowey and the river from the car park at the top of the village. Unspoilt, Polruan is a charming village with a waterfront dominated by a shipyard that undertakes maintenance work on some fair-sized trawlers and some historic vessels.

Fun in Fowey

Across the water, Fowey is a delightful old town and an important commercial port. The large ships that manoeuvre up and down river dock at the deep-water quays just out of sight of the town and carry china clay to foreign destinations. Recently some very large cruise liners have also visited the town and the sudden influx of passengers is of course manna from heaven for the towns retail traders! And shopping in Fowey is a joy! There are few high street names here but lots of interesting specialist shops selling all sorts of local goodies as well as clothes, second-hand books, works of art and antiques.

Fore Street and the waterfront are full of good pubs and restaurants. Tea and homemade cake in the garden of the Dwelling House on Fore Street is a delight, or for something stronger, just cross the road to the excellent Lugger Inn that combines old slate floors, polished wood and maritime memorabilia with a warm welcome and some very good local ale! Fowey is a vibrant colourful place, so for a little respite, the parish church of St Fimbarrus is right in the heart of the town. It has some fine interior carvings and some interesting memorials to the Rashleigh family who originally owned Menabilly, the one-time home of Daphne du Maurier, and is a place of tranquillity.


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