An early morning train ride into Cornwall is always something to look forward to as it usually means Emily and I are on a mission. This weekend was no different. Par to Polperro via an overnight stay at Fowey. Disembarking at Par we made a beeline for Par sands and the coastal path; only stopping to pick up some free fresh produce for our journey. Armed with overnight bags we set off, making the most of the sunshine and tramping through sand onto weaving cliffs as we made good time to Polkerris.
The sand was glistening at Par
Rounding into the old fishing village of Polkerris, Emily was struck how it was the picture-perfect summer holiday; beach, bay, pub and families enjoying the sunshine. Everything you would associate with Cornish seaside. With the surrounding countryside being exactly as Daphne du Maurier describes in her books, the bustle of the beach versus the quiet of the cliff paths is a stark contrast. We left with a feeling of just how timeless these places were and that, thanks to the South West Coast Path and the National Trust, they would remain so.
Polkerris – a great little seaside getaway
The highlight of this whole section was Gribbin Head. Open heath with cattle grazing plummets down to dramatic cliffs looking out to sea in three directions. The countryside is ancient. Iron Age people and Medieval farmers settled on the viewpoint and in Elizabethan times it was a beacon site which in 1588 carried news to London of the approaching Spanish Armada. Such varied history invites conjecture and narrative. Understandably it inspired both The Birds and Rebecca by du Maurier. I wish I had the time to sit there and write a few novels! Today, dominating the landscape, is the Gribbin. An 84ft tall daymark that has been there since 1832, helping sailors get into Fowey harbour. And for us it meant we were nearing our destination.
The towering daymark
The last stop en route to Fowey was St Catherine’s castle – a site which has been used as a fort on and off since 200 BC when it was an Iron Age promontory fort. The castle ruins we found were built by King Henry VIII in 1540 due to coastal raids by France and Spain. It saw use throughout the many European wars right up to the Second World War, where it was included in the coastal defence battery. And it was the firing point for a minefield that was laid across the mouth of the Fowey. For such a small castle / fort it sure packs a punch!
So much history for such a small fortification
Rounding the next bend and walking into Fowey was spectacular. There are few locations that are as perfect as this little seaside town. Exploring the harbour, hidden alcoves, beach, and grabbing a pasty completed a perfect morning on the coastal path. Plus, Emily got to try her first Saffron Bun – a Cornish delicacy that up until now I hadn’t realised she was yet to sample. Ticking all those local tourism boxes!
First views into Fowey harbour
After filling up on the baked goods we took some shelter from the heat in the small local aquarium, marvelling at all the amazing fish and sea creatures (some monstrous) that are from the surrounding waters. You can easily forget just how tropical the Cornish peninsula can be compared to the rest of the UK, but the local marine life is always a good reminder! But honestly, I can’t lie, seeing all the crustaceans did whet an appetite for our dinner…
Foreshadowing this blurry platter of murdered seafood for dinner!
We had an afternoon of beers, rattler (a Cornish cider), ice-cream and sunshine before we checked into our gorgeous B&B, the Well House. Emily was thrilled that it was built in 1430, something that is sometimes overlooked by us Brits as we take our amazingly long history for granted. We rounded off a stunning day with a big seafood platter at Sam’s at Fowey. A great Cornish seafood restaurant that never disappoints – the pilchards really are a local speciality. Squeezing in a bit of harbour fishing ourselves we managed to catch several small pollack before calling it a day. And what a day it was! A perfect start to our brief UK staycation.
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As always – my favourite parts of the coast path are the deserted little beaches like this