My favourite place to stay in Cornwall is a tiny ancient fishing village called Polruan, situated at the mouth of the Fowey River estuary. Polruan is bounded by water on three sides - Penpoll Creek to the north, the Fowey River to the west and the sea to the south. The village can only be reached by one road in about 40 minutes and is far enough off the beaten track that many tourists miss it. This remoteness gives Polruan its untouched charm with its narrow streets and even narrower alleyways. The ferry running every 15 minutes to and from Fowey is still the best way to get to the village.
Historically Polruan was known for its fishing boat building industry and it still goes on to this day, in addition to general boat repairs. During the 1400’s the Blockhouse (above) situated at the opening of the harbour was used as a defense against the French and Pirates. An identical Blockhouse sits on the estuary on the Fowey side and a heavy metal chain ran between the two on the bed of the estuary. When the harbour was under attack they would raise this chain to either keep the enemy marauders in or out!
Visiting Polruan is like stepping back in time. This quaint old village clings to the side of a steep hill with the one road in leading down to the quay. Visitors are not allowed to take cars into the village but use the car park above and walk down via the flights of old slate steps twisting between the houses. They will however allow you to drive your car down to unload your suitcases into your holiday home! Even the locals don’t have much parking available, so the lack of any traffic just adds to it’s appeal. The village centre is at the foot of the hill and faces across the estuary, to the very popular and chic larger town of Fowey.
Polruan has two Pubs, The Lugger Inn on the quay and the Russell Inn a few steps away on Fore Street. Most of the village life centres on these two Pubs, both of which also offer excellent lunch & dinner menus, entertainment and friendly locals. There are two General Stores (one which includes a Post Office) and the Harbour Café.
Fowey offers a much larger range of shops and restaurants, including a shop specialising in Cornish Pasties and is just a 10 minute ferry ride across the estuary. Having to take a ferry to the shops or for an evening out, also adds to an already quaint holiday experience. The ferry brings tourists across to Polruan, but as its final run is around 10pm, their stay is limited and the village streets are deserted and silent by the time you walk home to bed.
The village has a good number of holiday cottages available to hire and nearly all these offer wonderful sea views. They range in size from studio apartments to homes that will sleep up to 10 guests. Many of them are situated just feet above the water and you can pass many hours just gazing out at the relaxing scene of boats criss-crossing the estuary.
Polruan is not in itself a beach resort; the village beach is more for commercial use with boat builders fronting onto it. But there are many lovely coastal paths surrounding the village, offering the walker some spectacular views out to sea and some remote coves, including the stunning Lantic Bay (below), to enjoy. But these are not easily reached by the faint-hearted or unfit, as they usually involve some vertiginous footpaths and steep climbs down to the beaches.
Within driving distance there are many places to visit including St Austell and Land’s End, as well as a good selection of National Trust historic properties. Cornwall tends to attract many artists to live so there are always exhibits to see locally, or beautiful beaches to enjoy for a day. The food offered in Cornwall is also excellent, with not only their local specialities such as Pasties, but many wonderful seafood restaurants and shops.
A holiday in Polruan is all about peace, quiet and living the life of a local for a brief time. It’s a great place to go to re-charge your batteries and just watch life float by as you read a good book and listen to the seagulls, enjoy an energizing cliff top walk or just chat to a local over a drink in the pub.