Traditional fishing villages to explore in Cornwall

Coastal, Days out

Posted by Ed Roberts on 2nd February 2021

Cadgwith 

Gorgeous fishing villages are thoroughly emblematic of Cornwall. When you conjure up such a place in your mind’s eye, chances are you’ll summon every aspect associated with the painterly vision of a Cornish fishing village. Brightly coloured fishing vessels, turquoise nets and bobbins, gale-embattled seagulls, hardwearing stone harbour walls, old houses hewn from granite stacked up on the steep valley slopes above the water, patient cows and sheep on the green hills, the persuasive thrum-and-splash audio of sea against rock, enough blue in the sky to make a sailor’s shirt… All of these elements draw us back to Cornwall again and again. Just one more time.

Stay at one of our lovely fishermen’s cottages in a Cornish village by the sea. We have cosy properties all around the craggy Cornish coast, each in superb locations. Cornwall is a delight all year round and, contrary to belief, the shutters don’t come down in the wintertime; more and more visitor attractions and places to eat remain open all year. Cornwall isn’t just a summer place; it reserves so many of its best natural spectacles for the off-season! So, come down to the ocean and watch the swells all year round! 

Seek out a place by the ocean


Mevagissey

Mevagissey

Mevagissey is a large yet quaint Cornish fishing village bordering the Dodman on the south coast of the Duchy. The focal point is its twin harbour and its distinctive sea arm, Victoria Pier, with its small lighthouse beacon. Former fishermen’s cottages and pubs line the east side of the harbour as well as a small aquarium. Rows of houses rise up atop of one another on both sides of the water; the tall hillsides implemented well, a testament to abilities of the creative builders who came here centuries earlier.

The villagers still operate a fishing fleet (of around 60 vessels), a summer ferry to Fowey and there are also some pleasure boats. Mevagissey is home to quite a few handy shops and places to eat too. Other attractions in and or near the village include the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the Mevagissey Model Railway.  

Stay nearby: Mevagissey Quayside Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests 


Charlestown

Charlestown

Charlestown is a Cornish fishing village at the edge of St Austell, and neighbour to the attractive Carlyon Bay. Charlestown embraces its marine history as it is home to a very interesting 18th-century stone harbour and the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre. The Georgian harbour is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least one tall ship is moored up in its narrow dockyard; look out for the Norwegian sailing vessel, The Kajsamoor.

You may recognise the harbour from a few films and TV serials like The Brotherhood of the Wolf, Taboo, Saving Private Ryan and Doctor Who (to name a few). You can wander around the harbour and look out over St Austell Bay; there’s also a marketplace and scattering of eateries near to the sea. Keen movie fans will recognise Charlestown from the award-winning 2019 feature film, Bait.

Stay nearby: Customs House Roost | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog


Mousehole

Mousehole

Dylan Thomas described Mousehole as, ‘"The most beautiful village in England". Nobody would argue with this fact. It is lovely; set along the coast south of Penzance and Newlyn, Mousehole is the quintessential Cornish fishing village. Its compact harbour gives sanctuary from the harsh Cornish waves in the winter when the entrance is temporarily sealed up. Few commercial fishing boats are based at Mousehole these days; it was once a crowded port where pilchards were landed by the thousands.

The gorgeous houses around the harbour are made from Lamorna granite and it’s a wonderful place to take a short walk; stop at one of the pubs and sample some stargazey pie. You can pick up the South West Coast Path to the Tater Du Lighthouse, built in the 1960s; it’s the most recent beacon of its kind built in the Duchy. One of the main curios in the village is the lovely Wild Bird Sanctuary, where seabirds and local species are nursed back to health. Around 1,500 birds are rescued every year. Visiting the lights at Christmas time is something of a local institution and they are well worth seeing if you are in Cornwall around then. Mousehole is close to The Minack Theatre at Porthcurno and Land’s End too!

Stay nearby:  Mary’s Loft | Sleeps: 2 guests


Coverack

Coverack

At the south-eastern end of The Lizard, Coverack is a Cornish fishing village at the head of the nice semi-circular bay. Its stone harbour is at one end and is dominated by its arch-roofed lifeboat station (which is also home to the village chippy!) Coverack sits on the South West Coast Path and the stretch in the northerly direction is particularly wild and lovely as the trail meanders its way along to beaches and wooded pathways up around St Keverne, Roskilly’s Farm (where they make and sell the delicious ice cream), and Dean Quarry.

The only pub in Coverack is The Paris Hotel, which stands at the head of the village, above the harbour. Small fishing boats still use Coverack harbour as a base but not many. The beach here is shingly and full of rock pools; it’s fairly popular with wild swimmers and snorkellers all year round. It’s one of the only coastal villages in Cornwall with a long, paved promenade to walk along with benches and lovely views across this delightful bay. This part of the Lizard is fairly off the beaten track as most visitors head straight for Lizard Point or the more popular Kynance Cove, Mullion Cove or Kennack Sands.

Stay nearby:  Trewillis Farm – The Rest Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests


Boscastle

Boscastle

Boscastle is a very famous fishing village in North Cornwall. Sitting at the bottom of a deep valley, a river - the Valency - courses through the middle of the village out to the Atlantic around a dog-leg-shaped channel. This high river pass has provided shelter for fishing boats for hundreds of years; you can see the thick harbour wall at the end of a walkway to the coast from the heart of Boscastle. Only one or two registered fishing vessels set out from this port nowadays but it's still a lively spot to visit if you are in the area.

There is a National Trust café and exhibition displaying photographs from the 16th August 2004, when the village (along with Crackington Haven) was devastated during a massive flood. The news footage and the photographs in the exhibit allows visitors to see the level of destruction. Today, there is no discernible trace of the storm and you can visit the village’s many pubs, shops and cafes. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, which is a unique collection of occult items from the UK and beyond. It’s a fascinating spot.

Stay nearby:  Rivers Brink | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog


Gorran Haven

Gorran Haven

Mevagissey’s quiet neighbour is a real gem for those of you looking to truly escape the crowds. Centring around a gently sloping, sandy beach, Gorran Haven has a large stone harbour wall along its southern edge, providing shelter for the tiny handful of fishing boats. The village stands at the foot of a valley and is home to a village shop where you can even enjoy a cooked breakfast. It’s a strange yet good experience to eat your brekkie at a table amongst the magazine racks! Tasty too!

Over the top of the serene and lesser-visited National Trust-managed Dodman Point (the highest headland on Cornwall’s south coast) is the secret beach of Hemmick. Park your car at the hamlet of Penare as the road down is very, very narrow and very, very steep. The South West Coast Path between Gorran Haven and Hemmick is stunning. Gorran is very sleepy and beautiful and we’d recommend it to anybody that loves the quiet life, but still hankers for a holiday in a Cornish fishing village. This place only gets ‘vaguely’ busy at the height of the summer holidays.

Stay nearby:  Demelza | Sleeps: 3 guests 


Port Isaac

Port Isaac

One of the best-known and best-loved Cornish fishing villages is Port Isaac. Home to a lovely working harbour, with lifeboat station, there’s plenty to see and do here. Fine dining prospects are de rigueur, so you can choose from superb dishes at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and The Mote. There are also some great pubs.

It would be remiss to recommend a trip to Port Isaac without mentioning that it’s been the set location for TV’s popular Doc Martin and that it’s also the focal point of the world-famous band, The Fisherman’s Friends. Their life story was dramatized in a 2019 film of the same name. Port Isaac is close to the surfing hotspot, Polzeath, and you can also visit the Sharpe’s Brewery (in Rock) for a tour if you like Doombar. Padstow is a short ferry ride over the Camel River from near there. Beach hunters will love Daymer Bay and the immensely popular Tintagel Castle is a short drive up the coast too.

Stay nearby:  Helstone Sunnyside | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 2 dogs 


Porthallow

More lovely Cornish fishing villages

We’d also recommend day trips out to these quaint fishing ports up and down the Cornish coast.

Padstow: This large fishing village is popular with day-trippers with its busy harbour, great places to eat, the ferry to Rock, its beaches and the Camel River Trail.

Porthallow: A curious fishing village at the half-way point of the South West Coast Path. Great views over to Falmouth and the Roseland Peninsula, and a lovely pub. Seek out Fat Apples café for the best lunch in Cornwall.

Portreath: A historical town with a lovely small sandy beach, superb clifftop views, mining heritage all around, and it's a surfers’ delight too!

Cadgwith: This gorgeous fishing village on the Lizard has wonderful views and access to the South West Coast Path. Visit the spooky seaside ruins of Poltesco too.

Looking for more inspiration for places to stay? Then visit our collection of holiday coastal cottages in Cornwall. 

10 best places to stay


We have properties all along the Cornwall coast for you to choose from. Whether you are a solo adventurer or you’re planning a romantic break for you and the love of your life, we have the place for you. Perhaps you are planning a family holiday or hope to spring a surprise party on a friend or relative, we have large farmhouses and party properties too. For even more ideas on where to stay in Cornwall, visit our guide to coastal cottages.

Browse cottages

Please be mindful that it is always necessary to plan your trip carefully. Whilst accurate at the time of writing, please be aware that the availability of amenities such as lifeguard cover, shops, cafes, toilets and car parks at UK beaches may vary from time to time, especially in current circumstances. Make sure you check carefully before leaving home to avoid disappointment. For an up-to-date list of beaches which are lifeguarded, visit the RNLI lifeguard patrol website before making your journey.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.