Walk - Talland Bay from 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 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.

Route Description

  1. From the bus stop at the Crumplehorn car park walk down into Polperro. From Fore Street carry on to the bottom of Talland Hill.
  2. Turn right onto Talland Street to continue along The Warren, around the north side of the harbour. The path climbs steeply uphill past the seating area at the viewpoint. Carry on along the South West Coast Path when the path forks at the top, following it around Downend Point to Talland, ignoring the footpath inland to Brent and the lane on your left just before you reach Talland Bay.

The path to the right at the top of The Warren visits the lighthouse and is known as Reuben's Walk. This is named after Reuben Oliver, a former harbourmaster in Polperro, who loved to walk up here and carried on doing so even when his sight failed.

The land beside the Coast Path as you leave Polperro was given over to allotments for the villagers to grow vegetables and flowers since the steep sides of the valley gave little opportunity to do so in Polperro itself.

On a clear day, you can see 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 Douglass, who also designed the ship required to transport and lift the three-ton granite blocks needed to build the 95-foot tower.

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.

Like other secluded coves around the Cornish coastline, Talland was a favourite landing site for contraband, and the village has its share of smuggling yarns. One of the most colourful is the tale of the Rev Richard Dodge, who at the start of the eighteenth century was a renowned exorcist. He was often to be seen leaping around the churchyard at night, cracking a whip around the headstones to drive away evil spirits. More cynical narrators have suggested that the clergyman's eccentric behaviour was actually a cover to keep prowlers away from the churchyard while the smugglers were bringing their cargo through. Then there was 'Battling Billy', who used a hearse to convey his kegs of brandy inland, knowing that the Customs men were unlikely to search a coffin for smuggled goods. He swore that, if they ever killed him, his body would still drive the hearse to Polperro; and legend has it that when the Revenue men did shoot him, his corpse went on to drive the hearse over the cliffs despite the gunshot wounds to his neck. Locals say that his spirit still haunts the bay on a windy night.

  1. For a detour to Talland village and church and the other beach, carry on ahead past the first beach at Talland Bay, walking past the car park and turning right onto the lane beyond it. Otherwise turn left on the lane above the first beach (bridals Lane) and follow it through the trees around the bottom of the hill, crossing a stream in the valley and then climbing steadily to the road at Carey Park, above Polperro.

Talland Church was built in the thirteenth century, supposedly on the site of a Celtic altar set up by St Tallanus in the fifth century. The medieval building was enlarged and reconstructed in the fifteenth century, and the bench-ends from that time survive to this day, although the sixteenth-century wall paintings were destroyed in the restoration carried out in 1848. As well as the carvings on the bench-ends, the church is known for its unusual bell-tower, which was detached until it was joined to the church by the construction of a coach-house roof between church and tower.

Records from 1400 suggest that there was a cross on the hillside above the church, known as 'Tallan Crosse', which may have been a wayside cross marking the path to the original Celtic church. 'Tallan' in Cornish means 'holy place on the brow of a hill'. There are more than 400 ancient crosses throughout Cornwall. The most common ones are the wayside crosses, which stand at the side of roads, trackways and paths. They once marked the route to the parish church, although sometimes it was to a pilgrimage or monastic site or an ancient chapel, or a holy well. Sometimes these crosses marked the site of a burial ground which existed before the church.

The pairs of towers above Talland, marked on the map as landmarks, together with another pair on the hillside above Hannafore, are a measured nautical mile, used by ships to time their speed. Although advances in technology since they were built have meant that ships can measure their speed electronically, vessels often still use the measured mile as they come out of Plymouth Sound.

Timing starts when the first pair of towers passed lines up, and it stops when the second pair does the same. The distance between is a nautical mile (about 1.15 land miles), enabling the ship's crew to calculate their speed in knots (nautical miles per hour). In order to allow for wind and tide, the process needs to be done between four and six times in both directions.

Bridals Lane is said to be the route used by brides to walk to the church, but of course, it was also the path used by all those at the ancient settlement of Bridles, which is above the stream.

  1. Cross the road to carry on along the lane ahead. Turn right at the bottom of the lane, following the sign to the village. From here you follow Talland Hill back down to the harbour, from where you can retrace your steps to the car park at Crumplehorn.

Nearby refreshments

The Smugglers Rest and the beach café at Talland, as well as many places in Polperro.

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