Walk - Killigarth to Talland Bay & Polperro
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2021. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- From the reception car park at Killigarth Manor Holiday Park turn right and follow the Claremont Falls road, continuing ahead when Carey Park joins from the left, to where Bridals Lane leads off to the right at the next junction.
- Turn right and walk down Bridals Lane, curving right with it after the houses, to Talland Bay.
- Turn right above the beach and take the South West Coast Path uphill towards Polperro. Carry on past the path to the right towards Brent, above the war memorial on Downend Point.
Polperro and Talland share the war memorial above the rocks on Downend Point. The sailors' names look out to sea, the soldiers' to the land: a total of 45 men lost to the two parishes in two world wars, plus Lieutenant Richard James Nunn, a pilot killed in the Falklands War in 1982. Lt James was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his courage in evacuating casualties under enemy fire.
From here, on a good day it is possible to see the satellite dishes of the Goonhilly earth station. At one time it was the world's largest satellite earth station, with more than 25 communications dishes in use, and over 60 in total. The first dish, “Arthur” (after the Arthurian legends), was built in 1962 and remains a listed building although BT closed the station in 2008. There are now plans for Goonhilly to be a space science centre, maintaining communication with spacecraft missions.
Another landmark visible from here is the Eddystone Lighthouse, nine miles off the coast at Rame Head. The present lighthouse is the fourth to have been built on the site and was designed in 1882 by James Douglas, who also designed the ship required to transport and lift the three-ton granite blocks needed to build the 95-foot tower.
- Carry on along the Coast Path until it drops steeply downhill towards Polperro. The path to your left just before you reach Polperro, along Reuben's Walk, will bring you back up to the Coast Path if you turn right just before the lighthouse.
The path is named after Oliver Reuben , a local councillor and magistrate who liked to walk to the lighthouse even after his eyesight failed. As you walk along the top of the cliffs above Reuben's Walk, just before the path begins to descend to Polperro, you can also see the remnants of the old plots of land where the fishermen used to grow vegetables.
Rounding the last corner above Polperro, there are spectacular views to be had across the harbour to the headland, and to Chapel Cliff and Willy Wilcox Cave. According to the legend, Willy Wilcox was a smuggler trapped in the cave by the tide when he was hiding from the customs men who were pursuing him. Another legend tells of a secret passageway from the cave to the cottage, but it can't have been there when Willy needed it, because his restless spirit is said to haunt the cave still!
Smuggling played an important part in the local economy during the latter half of the eighteenth century, when high taxes were levied on goods to finance the wars with America and France. Items such as brandy, gin, tea and tobacco were much cheaper in Guernsey, where the tax did not apply, and fishermen eked out their meagre livelihood by means of “The Trade”. Visiting Polperro in 1762, John Wesley remarked that the whole community appeared to be involved in the smuggling.
The presence of a customs officer among Polperro's population, surely the community's most disliked parishioner, was more than compensated for by the residence of its great benefactor, Zephaniah Job. As well as running legitimate businesses that included pilchard exporter, corn trader, seed and timber merchant, and coal and linen importer, Job acted as the smugglers' banker, hiring lawyers to represent them in court and sending them money when they were in prison. Meanwhile he was also acting as banker and accountant to many well-heeled members of the local aristocracy.
The path dropping down from the cliffs into Polperro is known as The Warren, an exceptionally pretty path ablaze with colour from the cottagers' flower baskets and their tubs of shrubs. Look out for the famous shell house, with almost every inch of its walls decorated with patterns formed entirely of white seashells.
- Passing around the back of the harbour, by the Harbour Heritage Museum, carry on inland along The Warren and on to Fore Street and The Coombe to browse among the shops, galleries and tearooms in the picturesque village.
Smuggling apart, fishing provided the main livelihood for Polperro for centuries, and at one time there were as many as 40 "drifters" working out of Polperro. These were large gaff-rigged boats, also known as Polperro gaffers, which trawled for pilchards using seine or drift nets.
The fish were processed in three factories near the harbour, where the women and children washed the pilchards before salting and curing them. After this the oil was pressed from them using large screw presses, and then they were packed into barrels to be sold.
Today the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing occupies one of the old fish processing factories. Allow time for a browse around the museum to get a taste of how life was for the Polperro fishermen and their families.
- To return to Killigarth, head back towards the harbour, but before you reach the Warren turn left up Talland Hill. There is a long, steep climb to the top, but plenty to look at below you when you need to pause to catch your breath.
Carry on uphill through the trees, ignoring any turnings to left and right, until you come to where the road forks.
- Turn right here and walk past the school on your left, to where the road veers sharply left.
- Turn left up this road and continue to Killigarth, just a little way ahead.
There are numerous restaurants, pubs and tea shops in Polperro.