Cornwall’s serene south is all fishing villages, picturesque harbours, sleepy coves, golden beaches and clear glistening waters. When it comes to utter tranquillity, the Duchy’s southern coastline has it all. And this walk, with its smuggler havens, turquoise waters and grey seal spotting points, has it all too.
Start your trek at Polperro Harbour, at the front of the South East Cornwall fishing village. If you’re on four wheels, there’s a public car park here with plenty of spaces. From the car-park, walk along the north end of the picture-postcard harbour and then head out east along a short road called The Warren. Make sure you look back and soak up the cottage-lined harbourside vistas from here, as well as the views of the fishing boats bobbing on the water.
It isn’t long until you leave the harbour walls behind and hit the South West Coast Path – although you can veer off briefly south to check out the dinky Spy House Point Lighthouse, which was in operation between 1911 and the 1950s, should you fancy – and then walk east along some stunning cliffs all the way to journey’s end at Talland Bay Beach. It really is a special piece of coastline here, with plenty of places to stop and look out to sea and try to spot grey seals playing in the waters at the right time of year.
Just over halfway between Polperro and Talland is Downend Point with its First World War memorial. This is a fine site for a rest and to contemplate the world’s beauty set against its darkest tragedies. And then your final task is to follow the path along the cliffs that straddle the coastline to Talland. Fast fact: a 38-acre section of this stretch was actually bequeathed to the National Trust by famous early 20th century ‘modern schoolgirls stories’ author Angela Brazil, a former resident of Polperro who had bought it to save it from development.
Talland Bay Beach and its surrounding craggy bays and cliffs, at the end of your journey, is a gorgeous place. It’s easy to see why, in days gone by, this stretch of coast was so popular with smugglers, though. In fact, as recently as the 1980s, smugglers were trying to land and stash drugs in the crags and caves along the coast here. You can explore these little havens for yourself or just stretch out on the beach after a fulfilling walk.
Or perhaps, you can make this a circular hike and head out across the countryside from Sand Hill, which sits at the western end of Talland Bay Beach, taking paths that wind back over hill and dale to Polperro. Of course, if you want to return, then just backtracking along the coastal path is also a great option. Whatever you do, make sure you tell your family and friends about this special stroll along the serene southern coastline.
Why we love this walk: Cornwall does bays and coves well. Like really well. And this walk takes in one of the county’s finest picture-postcard harbours as well as one of its most unspoilt bays. There’s plenty to do at each end, whether that be browsing the shops in Polperro or dipping into the crystal clear waters at Talland Bay Beach. We recommend turning this two-hour jaunt into a whole day affair.