Majestic tall ships, a charming Grade II listed harbour and a Poldark connection are just a few of the reasons that you'll want to head to Charlestown in South Cornwall for your next holiday. Having started as the tiny fishing port of West Polmear with a population of just nine people, it's now a thriving village which welcomes thousands of visitors every year. The beautiful harbour and surroundings retain much of their Georgian character with beautiful period properties sitting side by side with traditional stone fishermen's cottages and harbourside inns.
Widely known as a popular filming location, with the brooding drama of Poldark shooting many of its scenes here, the village has provided the background for many other TV series and films, including Hornblower, Mansfield Park, Alice in Wonderland and even Dr Who.
While film buffs head to Charlestown to discover the background to some of their favourite scenes, history fanatics come to marvel at the fleet of square rigger tall ships in the harbour. If none of this tempts you, its unspoilt village location and excellent position on the South West Coast Path will.
Read on to discover all the best things to do in Charlestown for your next escape to the coast.
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About the village:
Once a thriving working port, constructed to export copper and china clay, Charlestown's principal industry is now made up of filming and tourism. Visitors from all over the world come to not only tread in the footsteps of world-famous actors but to also catch a glimpse of the pretty pastel fishermen's cottages lining the harbour: picture-postcard Cornwall at its best.
Wherever you are in the village, you'll see the tall masts of the ships peeking through the skyline, inviting you to come down and step aboard. You'd be mad not to as this harbour is, in fact, the last open 18th-century Georgian harbour in the UK and has even been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Village life is pretty much centred around the harbour and it's no wonder. From a popular historic restaurant with sea views to the cafes and delis dotted along the harbour walls, there's always somewhere to enjoy a hearty breakfast before heading out for the day. Return home in the evening for a harbourside stroll and a late supper at one of the traditional inns before heading back to your holiday cottage for a restful sleep.
Hop down the steps on the east side of the harbour to the long stretch of beach or head west to the small but perfectly formed beach below the port. Looking out to St Austell Bay, you can lie back and gaze across the glistening waters towards the rugged cliffs that dominate much of the Cornish coastline.
Porthpean Beach is just over a mile south and is one of those beaches that reminds you of wonderful childhood holidays. A perfect little bay with tall cliffs and azure waters lapping against the shore, it's a superb spot for families and ideal for swimming and beach games. It is accessed on a steep incline from the car park so just be aware of this if you have pushchairs or prams with you.
In the other direction, 4 miles east along the coast, you'll find the glorious south-facing Par Sands. A white stretch of sand backed by undulating dunes, you can spend hours building sandcastles and sharing scrumptious picnics filled with local produce.
Water babies should spend the day at Pentewan Beach, 5 miles from Charlestown, a sandy paradise suitable for swimming, surfing and sea canoeing and with a slipway for sailing. Hire a canoe or dinghy or just relax back on the warm sands and let the Somerset sun lull you into a peaceful sleep.
There's a cafe and other facilities in the village along the old harbour lane, just 500 metres from the beach, so it's a great option if you don't want to head home for lunch. A fun place for four legs as well as two, it's worth noting that dogs are only allowed from November to February so bear this in mind when planning your walkies.
Whether you're up for a bit of maritime history or if you just want to find out about Charlestown's fascinating past, spend an afternoon at the excellent Shipwreck, Rescue and Heritage Centre, open from April to October. Browse the maritime exhibits as well as other paraphernalia from all along the Cornwall coast.
The museum is actually home to the largest private collection of this kind on public display in Europe, with nearly 8,000 artefacts from over 150 shipwrecks. While the grandeur of the ships is intoxicating, the true reality of sailing in these times becomes very apparent as you look around. The museum is dog-friendly so pirate-loving pups can visit too.
It goes without saying that the 18th-century harbour and its classic ships are the main draw but go one step further and take a tour of the inner harbour to find out a bit more about Charlestown's rich and fascinating history. The resident tall ship, the Kajsamoor, is one that you can always rely on - a two-masted, wooden trading ketch, it is permanently moored at the harbour. Explore the deck and cargo hold, taking yourself back in time to the exciting days of merchant trading. She has been featured in Poldark, Tabboo and Frontier filming so step aboard and follow in those famous footsteps!
Just 2 miles down the road is the market town of St Austell which offers many more things to do. Take a tour of the St Austell Brewery to find out the secrets behind their 160-year old brewing process as well as sampling some of their excellent ales while you're there. Visit the Pinetum Gardens with its exotic plants and trees or take restless children to Kidzworld, with its crazy golf, dodgems and trampolines.
Adults and kids alike will love making memories at the Eden Project, the largest indoor rainforest in the world. Two biomes filled with tropical plants from diverse climates and environments all across the world, it makes a fantastic and educational day out for all the family.
Whatever time of year you visit, you'll be able to enjoy one of the varied events in the area. From music events and seasonal activities to food and drink markets, there'll always be something to do. The museum holds a great selection of events including treasure trails and the opportunity to meet a real pirate captain on board the resident tall ship Kajsamoor.
The Charlestown Regatta Week is held every July or August, raising money for local causes and if you are brave enough to do the boxing day swim, it'll go down a treat with the locals!
Charlestown is situated between two heritage coasts - the Polperro Heritage Coast to the east and the Roseland Heritage Coast to the west. Whichever direction you go in, you'll be met with spectacular ocean views; walking the South West Coast Path will give you the best viewpoint in the area. Pick up the path at the harbour and hike for miles or just take a gentle stroll along one of the shorter routes.
One of the most talked about walks leads from the pretty fishing port of Mevagissey up to Charlestown - treat yourself to breakfast in the port and then make your way back along the coast - it's a 6-mile walk but worth it for the spectacular views and wildlife. The word on the street is that the 2-mile walk between the sheltered cove at Porthpean up to Charlestown is a good one if you can't manage longer walks, although the 1-mile cliff-top route from Carlyon Bay southwards to Charlestown comes a close second.
Eating and drinking in Charlestown in not just about stopping for fuel, it's about drinking in breathtaking sea and harbour views and experiencing the excellent local produce. Have lunch at The Longstore, a steakhouse and seafood restaurant in the port - its contemporary industrial décor and huge windows make it the perfect place to dine with a view.
The sweet Pinetum Garden Kitchen is also a local favourite, with its 'cabin in the woods' design and warm welcome, while Pier House right on the harbour provides traditional design and a locally-sourced menu, all topped off with award-winning ales and views of the harbour. Try the fresh local mussels in white wine, garlic and cream sauce, served with crusty bread or the much-loved Seafood Pancake. The Harbourside Inn is another favourite, superbly placed in front of the tall ship Kajsamoor.
If the tall ships and harbour aren't reason enough to visit Charlestown, then staying in one of our holiday cottages will be! Stay at Stones Throw, an aptly named historic granite property within easy walking distance of the Quay, where contemporary design and traditional features sit hand in hand. Sleeping two guests and one dog, it's just the one for a romantic escape.
Or perhaps you're coming to Cornwall for a celebration? We have a selection of smaller properties in the town itself, that subject to availability, can be booked together, making sure that friends and family have their own space but are near enough to get together when it matters.
If you prefer to be in one property, head to one of our larger houses a few miles outside of the town to Mevagissey, Par or Carlyon Bay. Book a stay at Treleaven Farmhouse in Mevagissey, 6 miles from Charlestown, where a heated outdoor swimming pool and spacious gardens are sure to impress up to 18 guests and two four-legged friends.
Whether you are coming for a romantic break for two or bringing the whole family along, choose one of our properties in and around Charlestown and start planning your next escape.
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