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The old fishing village of Polperro, clinging to the rugged cliffs of the Cornish south coast, is the quintessential Cornish fishing village, with a hint of the romance of smuggling in its past. The narrow winding streets packed tight between old fisherman's cottages, winding down to the blue waters of the harbour make it an unforgettable place to visit.

Polperro, image Adam Gibbard

Polperro sits beside the River Pol, either side of a steep valley. For centuries, the chief industry here was fishing, especially Cornish pilchards. Tourism has long surpassed fishing as the village's biggest earner, but even though the pilchard and fish oil trade has died off, Polperro is still a working (albeit small) fishing port. The village's current small fishing fleet concentrates on cod, bass, pollock, ray, monkfish and flatfish plus scallops and crab. It is still sometimes possible to buy fresh fish at the quayside.

Fishing boat returning to Polperro, image Monika Kludcka


Polperro's seemingly timeless otherworldliness has long made it popular with artists. 'The Harbour, Polperro' is perhaps the most famous of the works of Edward Frederick Ertz. Slightly later, the great Czech painter Oskar Kokoschka fled the Nazis and settled in Polperro for a while. Some of his most important works, such as Polperro II and The Crab (both of which are kept by The Tate) feature Polperro.

While Polperro's beauty made it attractive to 20th century artists, its location was what attracted smugglers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. High taxation on imported spirits, tobacco and other goods made it worthwhile for local fishermen to smuggle them in from Guernsey and elsewhere. You can learn more about Polperro's smuggling past at the Polperro Heritage Museum of Fishing and Smuggling.

Since 1996, the village has had its own arts, music and drama festival. Held in the middle of June every year, the Polperro Festival lasts for over a week with all sorts of activities and acts.

Polperro, image Monika Kludcka

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