16/04/2014
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Cornwall's seven best scenic towns and villages

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Cornwall is just as renowned for its harbours and traditional fishing villages as it is for its beaches. Think boats rolling in with catch-of-the-day and a slower pace of life - this is a true flavour of the county.  

St Mawes

This village is one of the nicest places to visit on Roseland. It sits on a sheltered edge of the world’s third largest natural harbour, the Carrick Roads, and you get mild weather here all year round. It’s a great place for visitors who are after something quiet, pretty and a little quirky – St Mawes and its surroundings were locations for the 1975-77 TV series Poldark. There are ferry services over to Falmouth, or to Antony. But if you want to stay put, the town has two good south-facing beaches and is on the coast path. 

Mevagissey

People have lived here since the Bronze Age, and the harbour is on the site of a medieval quay. Come here to explore Mevagissey’s narrow streets and learn about its smuggling past, or to watch today’s fleet bringing in the catch. Or take the Fowey to Mevagissey Ferry across St Austell Bay. It’s one of the best boat trips in Cornwall, with a chance to see dolphins and basking sharks. The Fisherman’s Chippy on the Quay is very good, and the old fashioned pub, The Fountain Inn on Cliff Street also serves up excellent fish and chips. The Lost Gardens of Heligan are on slopes above the village.

Kingsand and Cawsand

These twin villages are on the Rame Peninsula, in an area most of the tourist traffic passes by. They are historic fishing villages with distinctive colour-washed cottages. Holiday makers and locals drink together at the Rising Sun, just up from the waterfront. Great atmosphere and a good pint of IPA.

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St Ives

This pretty town is utterly unmissable if you like fine art, and not only because it houses the Tate St Ives. Its winding streets also have plenty of private galleries selling paintings and crafts to tourists, and we like sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s house and garden and the insights you get into the artist’s life. The Leach pottery, a ten minute walk out of town, is the spiritual home of studio pottery in the UK. It’s not all about the art though. St Ives has a lovely atmosphere and is buzzing on summer days. 

Padstow

The chef Rick Stein’s franchise is all over this town, giving a decidedly upmarket feel to its narrow streets. We’ve eaten at his St Petroc Bistro and it was quite an event, and there’s a Stein fish and chip shop on South Quay, serving up beer, and local fish such as John Dory. The Chough Bakery on the Strand is not a Stein enterprise, but bakes the best pasties in the town. Padstow hums with activity in summer, and there are street traders by the quay, offering hair braiding and henna tattooing.

Port Isaac

Such a pretty little fishing village, Port Isaac is a worthy alternative if you like the idea of Padstow but prefer a slower pace. Its harbour is very sheltered and has clear turquoise water. The narrow streets are lined with white-washed and slate cottages – in fact Port Isaac has one of the narrowest streets in Britain, nicknamed ‘Squeezy Belly.’ Don’t miss visiting Port Quin, a ghost village to the west, deserted when most of the village men were drowned in a storm. It’s now owned by the National Trust and makes a really nice walk from Port Isaac.

Polperro

This village on the south coast between Fowey and Looe has very narrow streets, which just seem to squeeze tighter as they go on, and there’s a ban on traffic in summer. Smuggling took place at Polperro right from its early days as a port in the 12th century. It still works as a fishing harbour. Don’t miss the little smuggling museum, or the house clad in shells in The Warren. There’s ample parking on the outskirts and a horse drawn cart if you don’t want to walk into the centre.

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