PORTLOE a fishing village hidden away and lost in time on Cornwalls coastal path.
Portloe – July 2017 – The break in the damp weather couldn’t have come at a better time, giving us the perfect excuse to get out of the house and kick start our blog – Secrets of Cornwall – Rain macs in the boot, sunglasses on, sweaters and a casual scarf to the ready, off we set, confident we had prepared for most eventualities the Cornish summertime could offer.
As it turned out our inaugural day was perfect. The sun shone and the heat in the air was beautifully tempered by the breeze from the ocean.
Locals vs holiday visitors…
We had expected Portloe to be very much like our old friend, Polperro; with its picture postcard setting, quaint houses and exceptionally busy streets. What we found was a place that felt like we had stumbled upon a great secret frozen in time. We wound our way down a footpath sized road that seemed to keep the distant coastline forever just out of reach. The drive itself was Cornwalls usual abundance of pretty hedgerows and gorgeous old stone houses. We were lucky enough to regularly afford ourselves time for a second glance as reversing became an increasingly important part of our journey, all the while musing, “if only one could drive backwards all the way it would surely save a lot of messing about”. After several seemingly impossible encounters with other road users (of various shapes and sizes), we suddenly emerged as close to the harbour as you would comfortably want to be in something non mollibus extulit (not floaty).
As is the case with most Cornish harbours/villages/towns there is usually a past that is steeped in mystery, intrigue and rum so we did a little research…
Portloe meaning harbour (porth) and inlet (logh) or ‘cove pool’ once thrived as a busy port, with a fleet of more than 50 boats working the rough Cornish waters during the 17th and 18th centuries. The pilchard they fished provided a meagre living and with taxes running high on the salt for curing, the local farmers and fishermen turned their hand to smuggling. French brandy was brought into harbour illicitly and hidden in cellars. In a vain attempt to stamp out this illegal trade, customs ordered a watch station/boathouse and slip to be erected, now a holiday home but still easily recognised as it’s original intention. Today, only two boats remain working from the cove, fishing for crab and lobster.
In more recent years the harbour has played host to a slightly less volatile ambition. Film crews have used the rugged location to shoot scenes for Disney’s Treasure Island, the 1992 serialisation of The Camomile Lawn, BBC’s comedy series Wild West and the villages’ Lugger hotel can be glimpsed at the end of 1963’s Crooks in Cloisters.
(The rum wasn’t bad either!)
A drivers guide to Cornish villages…
Back to todays adventure and having now tackled the parking conundrum, we recalled our earlier approach to this quintessential harbour village as a delightful challenge. The roads to and through Portloe really made us feel we were somehow robbed when we bought our car and since discovered that it did not posses the same ‘springy wheel’ qualities as the Ant-hill Mob in Wacky races. Such a feature would have most definitely made our encounters with other vehicles – cars, tractors etc. less traumatic. Safely in the car park, our now rumbling tummies dictated a certain urgency in figuring out which of the two eateries on offer (The Ship Inn and The Lugger hotel) we should patronise. We are suckers for a sea view so we plumped for the latter, a 17th century inn that saw a former owner sent to the gallows for smuggling and was subsequently closed. The Lugger is now a bespoke (and visitor friendly) hotel.
As we unfolded and extricated ourselves from the car, we wondered where everyone was. For July, it was incredibly quiet, almost deserted save for a scattering of locals and guest house employees going about their business.
The good hotel guide…
The hotel itself, with its white washed walls welcomed us in to its clean, fresh uncluttered interior as did the hotels concierge. We were in luck, the game was not yet afoot for the lunch rush and we had first pick of the tables. The outside balcony boasted just enough patrons to fill it’s small quota of seats and so we opted for a window seat inside the restaurant that afforded a spectacular and dramatic view.
What to eat? Something with chips was definitely the order of the day and that something we decided would come in the form of sandwiches, Cornish cheese & house chutney and smashed avocado & piccalilli. Our choice really did not allow for the resident chef to flex his/her culinary muscles and show off their full potential but nonetheless it was delicious. Sitting watching out over the harbour, closely guarded by Jacka Point and Portloe Point, the glittering water and the rugged coastline along with two full bellies left us feeling refreshed and utterly content (which is short for a little bit fat and very sleepy).
Two bloggers a Kernow rambling…
Next up, a short walk up on the cliff top to work off some of the chips and to find out what awaits us on this stretch of the South West Coast Path (a walk for another less chippy day). The views backdropped by the Cornish countryside did not disappoint. We had just enough time to take in the scenery before we had to head back to the car. As we left Portloe, deservedly accredited with ‘Cornwalls area of outstanding natural beauty’ (AONB) accentuated by it’s chocolate box, Cornish granite cottages, we felt we had spent the day in a working fishing harbour 200 years ago.
Portloe (porth – logh) – Wed 12th July 2017 – Loc: Roseland Peninsula of South Cornwall, near the picturesque village of Veryan.
Harbouring the secrets of it’s Cornish smuggling past, Portloe today plays host to both visitors and locals. Walkers passing through, often stop for a while in one of the villages quirky holiday cottages, catching a glimpse of a live long ago lived.