An ancient fishing village with a long history of boat building, Polruan is situated on the Polperro Heritage Coast. This village in South Cornwall has a distinct charm about it with many old buildings along the quay. There is only one road in and out of Polruan, which suffuses the village with an olde-worlde charm. Wider excursions are possible by ferry in Polruan, with the connection to Fowey departing regularly throughout the day. The village has excellent amenities which includes two pubs, a convenience store, cafés and other local stores.
About the town:
Polruan is built into the top and sides of a large hill sat at the mouth of the Fowey River. On the eastern bank, its bagatelle of fishermen’s cottages seems to defy gravity as they sit high above the water's edge looking across to Fowey, located on the opposite river bank. Ancient history punctuates the atmosphere, with old ruins sat on the cliffs around the base of the hill, as would be expected at such a grand natural landmark. The blockhouse and St Catherine’s Castle sit at odds, one in Polruan and one in Fowey, and it’s historically documented that a chain was passed between them to stop or hinder enemy ships from entering the river mouth.
Polruan is a very appealing choice of holiday destination and this is undoubtedly due to its tranquillity and secluded coastal location. Shopwise, there is The Winkle Picker
down on the quay where you can buy postcards, token gifts, delicious ice creams and colourful beach toys for building a sandcastle or a rock pooling expedition. It also doubles as a post office. There is a yacht and dinghy chandlery where you can buy all your waterproof apparel if you are thinking of taking to the waves. Even better, the village has a smattering of cool eateries and fine pubs to hide out in at the end of a long day of touring (read on for details).
As Polruan is up on a promontory it doesn’t have any of its own beaches; having said that, you don’t have to go far to find what you’re looking for, with a fine choice of a ferry and a walk away, or a short drive up the coast. Polruan has several beaches close by, either on the Polperro Heritage Coast or on the Fowey side of the river mouth.
On the Fowey side is Readymoney Cove, a sheltered spot just around the head from the centre of Fowey, tucked into the wooded hillside below St Catherine’s Castle. There are some basic facilities there like a kiosk and WCs. As it is a river beach it benefits from the boat wakes, as well as gentle waves. Around the bay is the rocky cove at Lansallos, which is managed by the National Trust, and also has good facilities. It’s about 0.5 miles from the car park but is a lovely small beach that doesn’t get overcrowded. Other beaches worth getting into your car for are Par Sands, Polkerris, Polridmouth Cove, Whitehouse, Polruan Quay, and Lantic Bay.
Penmarlam Caravan & Camping Park – A few miles north of Polruan, and up the hill from the hamlet of Bodinnick is this pleasant holiday camp. With spectacular, panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and the Fowey River, this a superb base for those looking to spend some serious time getting to know the Polperro Heritage Coast, Fowey and wider area. With excellent facilities including a bar, shop, swimming pool and sports facilities, Penmarlam is a perfect choice.
A stay at one of our Polruan self-catering holiday cottages means you can get out and explore the beautiful village and the neighbouring Fowey, at your leisure. We have contemporary-style lodges, stone cottages, large home-from-homes for extended families, chalets and more – visit our Polruan accommodation page to inspire your choice. Many of our properties welcome dogs too!
The food and drink:
Polruan has two pubs to choose from: The Lugger, and The Russell Inn. The former is a St Austell Brewery affiliate, so you are guaranteed a great ale if that’s your poison, and a decent meal at certain times of the day. The Russell Inn is hidden away down a side street but that’s not stopped it from drumming up a lively passing trade. Today it’s a bit of a gastropub with staff more than apt at whipping up a burger in a bun big enough to sink a frigate. Other than that, to find much more than a bag of Skips and a Kit-Kat from the paper shop, you have to venture aboard the ferry to Fowey where a hoard of eateries, doors agape, are waiting to ply you with their fine fare. If you fancy a takeaway lunch on the waterfront, try Quay Bakery for something freshly baked - you won’t regret it! Other favourites on the snack front are Roly’s Fudge Pantry, or The Cornish Bakery, who make world famous pasties.
Name drop the following restaurants to food lovers, you may get some kudos – Pintxo in Fowey is the place to book a table at if you love Spanish cuisine, in particular, the tapas. For a good feed of standard family grub head to Sam’s in Polkerris. With a woodburning pizza oven and captive fishermen standing off the rocks with their rod and reel, you mustn’t expect less than fresh and vital at this establishment. It’s friendly too! Addicted to seafood, then beat down the shutters at Captain Hanks for the freshest lobsters, mussels, and grilled fish. Exceptional.
For a more explicit list to set your mouth a watering, check out our Cornwall Food and Drink Guide.
Polruan’s ancient heritage can be explored in the form of its preserved ruins. The Blockhouse was built at the end of the 14th century to protect the harbour from pirates. St Saviours Ruin, another key site standing high on the hill above Polruan, is the remains of St Saviours Chapel, which date back to the 8th century.
Polruan and Fowey will be forever associated with the 20th century author Daphne du Maurier, with many sites that inspired her famous novels still traceable today. The bookshop, Bookends, in Fowey always has her complete collection in stock, so be sure to make yourself familiar with one of her classics like My Cousin Rachel, Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, or Frenchman’s Creek.
The famous schooner, Jane Slade, was built at Polruan boatyard in 1870. The vessel was used to ferry fruit back from the Caribbean and beyond. The schooner Jane Slade was eventually wrecked in Pont Creek off the Fowey Estuary where years later it was spotted by Daphne du Maurier and after researching the history of the Slade family, it inspired her to write her first published novel, The Loving Spirit in 1931. The character of Janet Coombe is based on her knowledge of Jane Slade.
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Polruan is close to the South West Coast Path which can be followed upstream above the banks of the Fowey to Bodinnick. Otherwise head eastwards to Lansallos, Polperro and Looe.
Avid walkers will enjoy the Fowey Hill Walk, overlooking woodland and creek with views of Fowey Harbour. This popular 4-mile circular route includes two ferry rides, from Fowey to Polruan and Fowey to Bodinnick. Further west, 2 miles outside of Fowey is the striking walk up to Gribbin Daymark, a huge stripy brick structure that can be seen from the sea and for miles around. It is on the Coast Path and there is a circuit around the promontory northwards to Polkerris and back. It’s a nice and level walk above the sea that doesn’t get too busy, perfect for taking the dog for a stretch on a cool day.
For days out in the wider area, Charlestown is worth a look if you love tall ships and maritime history; otherwise, The Eden Project is just outside St Austell for a fun educational trip for all the family. Plymouth has activities to satisfy three lifetimes and is well worth the trip if you are a shopaholic, or love ships, swimming, and aquariums!
The shopping...in Fowey:
You won’t find many shops in Polruan, this is because of its remote location and narrow lanes that hinder large delivery trucks. For a shopping trip, pop across the water to Fowey where you can easily spend a whole day browsing and picking up souvenirs of your time in the West Country.
From quirky boutiques selling vintage gifts and beautiful things for the home, chandlers selling traditional boating fare and a diverse variety of shops selling clothes for both beach and boat, you will find most things you could ever need. For gifts with a bit of flare, head into The Webb Street Company. Specialising in clothing, jewellery and art. If you are looking to take a bit of Cornwall back home with you, venture into the gift and homeware shops like Brocante, and The Clementine. Polruan is a great place to source some Becky Bettesworth prints as well, so keep an eye out. For kids, go to Treasures and Mrs Noah’s Gifts are bound to inspire you. Don't forget the art galleries and studios dotted about the town, the ideal place to spend an afternoon admiring local artists as well as one or two from further afield. There are several high street favourites here and there, but independent shops rule the roost.
We have some lovely self-catering holiday cottages in and around both Polruan and Fowey in our collection. From fisherman’s hideaways, sea view apartments and suburban home-from-homes, we have something for parties of all sizes and requirements.