Pretty Harbours in Cornwall
Born from a deeply entrenched relationship with the sea, Cornwall’s coast is peppered with harbours. Both natural and manmade, they grant access to bounty-rich waters, provide space for trade and shelter from ravaging storms. Tightly interwoven within Cornwall’s maritime history, these safe-havens have played a crucial role in the lives of salt-washed Cornishmen for years, from the days of piratical smugglers to modern-day fishermen still making a living from the sea.
These days, harbours remain an integral part of Cornish culture and also provide the perfect vantage points to sit and while away the hours, gazing at the sea. Gather up your gaggle and see for yourself. A great base for watery adventures as well as simply watching the to’ing and fro’ing of boats with ice cream in hand, you can take in the views and immerse yourself in the past, present and future of Cornwall.
Here are some of the pretty harbours in Cornwall you can look forward to seeing:
St Michael’s Mount
The history of St Michael’s Mount’s harbour is thought to date back to classical times. Believed to have been a focal point for trading in the tin industry more than 2,000 years ago, Cornish tin would have been transported from the island to the rest of Europe. There is also an underground tram that carries provisions from the harbour to the castle!
First built in the late 1800s, Mullion Cove’s harbour protects fishing boats from powerful westerly storms rolling in from the Atlantic. Gifted to the National Trust by a local family, it is a veritable suntrap and perfect for soaking in the views of the sparkling sea.
The picture-postcard Mousehole harbour was the main port in Mounts Bay from the 13th to the 16th century before Penzance and Newlyn began to take over. Playing a major role in the pilchard fishing industry in the 20th century, Mousehole harbour is now best-known for its magical Christmas light display that takes place every year.
Home to a quaint harbour sheltering a small fishing fleet, Coverack shows that good things come in small packages. Wander down to take advantage of the views and make use of the abundance of shops and cafes that sit within easy reach of the harbour itself.
Overlooked by white-washed cottages and steeply sloping cliffs, Port Isaac harbour is awash with north coast charm. A thriving port from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century, the harbour was used to import and export coal, wood, stone, ores, limestone, salt, pottery and other goods. These days, it is more popularly recognised for its role in the television series, Doc Martin.
Portscatho’s little harbour nestles into the eastern side of the Roseland peninsula and is home to fishing and day boats. For shell and sea glass hunters it is a particularly good place to visit at low tide as all the water recedes and the harbour dries out, leaving behind little treasures twinkling in the sun.
A 13th-century fishing village, Polperro’s harbour was used by fishermen to catch pilchards when they were once in abundance. Later, in the 18th century, it became the haunt of smugglers who used to bring in contraband such as tea, gin, brandy and tobacco from Guernsey. Nowadays, it provides a scenic spot for a sunny afternoon stroll or bracing winter walk, before refuelling with a local Cornish cream tea.
Featured in BBC’s Poldark, Charlestown is a real time capsule. A Grade II listed harbour, it was originally built between 1791 and 1801 by Charles Rashleigh to export copper from local mines. These days, it is home to a fantastic fleet of tall ships and is regularly used as a location for films.
Sharing a huge connection with the sea, Mevagissey was once one of the South West’s most successful fishing ports. Involving the whole community, locals all contributed to the harbour’s thriving fishing industry, taking up fishing, boat building, net making, sail making, blacksmithing, trading and more!
Porthleven is a picturesque village with an impossibly pretty harbour in Cornwall. Lined by restaurants and traditional pubs and boasting superb views, the harbour is a wonderful spot for a morning stroll or afternoon beer overlooking the water. It is also, coincidentally, one of the best places to enjoy storm watching in Cornwall too (from safe inside the pub, that is!).