37. East Cornwall Coastal: Tallan Bay To and Beyond Polperro - 6miles - OS Explorer 107
Steep in parts but mainly easy going.
Polperro is one of Cornwall’s quaintest fishing villages with its fair share of smuggler myths. One, about Willie Wilcox, trapped by a rising tide in the cave that is still there on the beach, adds a blue pixie encounter. I’m sceptical. More likely a smurf. ‘I come in peace and for a bit of tax-free shopping Mr Wilcox.’
There's no parking in the village. There is a car park above it, but its not the idyllic way to approach this beauty. Via the coast path from Talland Bay is.
Set your sat nav for Porthallow about 1.5 miles to the east.
Approaching from the A387, we parked just before Talland Bay Hotel on the left. Porthallow is tiny, so you can’t miss this quirky hotel sitting in a glorious position with its gardens overlooking Talland Bay. Time for tea with free cake!
Done with admiring the gardens, parrot bench and zebra striped sofa, head downhill, cutting left off the lane soon after by a footpath sign and through a farm gate into a field.
The path drops steeply to a lane and the east beach of Talland Bay. This is where life gets difficult. You’ll find an excellent café bar here called the Smugglers rest. Only one thing for it: Save it for the return trip.
Turn right up the lane to the west beach and – would you believe it – another café. Good cafes are not usually that common. They should be converted London buses to complete the irony (they're not).
A steep climb up a path follows. Turn left at a yellow way-marker to keep on the coast path. Lovely views from here, and that large white house you pass was once (and still is for all I know) the abode of Richard and Judy according to a family friend who lived nearby.
Now, apart from a memorial cross to locals who lost their lives in the great wars, it’s open country and ocean. Easy going and glorious on a sunny day. There are paths going off left and right but the main coast path is clearly marked.
A picturesque inlet and tumble of white buildings ahead is your introduction to Polperro, unspoilt by car parks and various do and don’t signs.
The first nod to tourists such as we is a café and smuggling museum on you left. It's by the inner harbour that reaches into the heart of the village.
A pleasant spot to rest, but there are options. Walking on a bit further you’ll get the best view of The Blue Peter Inn on the opposite side. A traditional pub full of character, with lovely views from the sea facing window plus pithy lines on black beams to raise a smile. One from memory: If I’d have known Mr Right’s first name was Always I would have had second thoughts.
Before you reach the end of the inner harbour there’s a shell plastered house on your right worth a moment’s gawping. It should be awful but it surprisingly magical. .
Crossing to the other side of the inner harbour head toward the pub (or explore Polperro more before heading to the pub). The coast path restarts up steps on the right just past it.
Tempted to call in, I was persuaded to wait. On on we went, passing a shelter on our right. A pleasant hiding place from the sun on this day.
Polruin is the next village but, as lovely as it is, we’re not going that far.
About two miles along the coast path, just before a steep descent to a stream and wooden bridge, there’s a path on your right.
You’ll see from your map this heads back, paralleling the one you’ve just walked along.
If ticks are a concern and it's overgrown, as it can be, you may prefer to retrace your steps rather than take it. Otherwise, it’s a pleasant way to get a slightly different perspective on the return journey.
Eventually the secondary path re-joins the main path and soon after Polperro comes back into view.
This time, passing the shelter on your left, take the path to your right marked Netloft Sixty Yards. This takes you to the top of the cliffs by the outer harbour. A perfect viewpoint.
A single building nestles near the top. Built originally as a chapel in the 19th century, it was later used to store pilchard nets before being abandoned to the elements. Good old National Trust restored it.
I’ve written about the demise of the pilchard fleets before in another trail blog. A sad story of overfishing. Fortunately, tourists like us turned up to replace them as a source of income. Gutting unnecessary and less smelly - usually.
Another reason to take the little path to the Netloft is to climb down steps to a large and deep rockpool. A great place to relax and wild swim That’s where Jane went while I enjoyed the Blue Peter Inn and great pint of Devon’s Otter ale. Went down a treat.
If you didn't explore the village the first time, now’s your last opportunity. Yes, the shops sell typical seaside stuff, but the village retains its charm and it’s easy to image it as the backwater it once was, and still is in winter. And its only an hour and a half from Exeter!
If dry beach rather than rocky ledge or damp sand is your preference for relaxing, now’s the time to head back to Talland Bay. It’s a little beauty in itself.