Talland Bay and Polperro

A pleasant coastal walk through old-time smugglers' country.




5 miles (8kms)

400ft (122m)
2hr 45min

About the walk

This walk explores the old fishing village of Polperro. The route also passes through peaceful coastal and inland sections of National Trust property between Talland and Hendersick, and the small beaches at Talland Bay. Fishing was a mainstay here from medieval times, but this section of coast was particularly noted for its smuggling activity, especially in the 19th century.

Smuggling tales

Talland’s smugglers dealt in a range of luxury goods brought in from France. These included the ubiquitous brandy, as well as fine cloth and even tea. The only people who were not involved in smuggling seem to have been the revenue men. An 18th-century vicar and noted exorcist, Richard Doidge, is alleged to have been up to his dog collar in the trade. Doidge is said to have encouraged stories of ghostly hauntings in the Talland Bay area to discourage people from travelling at night. He was even said to dress up in ghoulish costumes in which he leapt out on unsuspecting travellers in hopes of sending them packing, especially if a ‘run ashore’ by local smugglers was on hand.

An ancient church

Talland Church is a high point of this walk. This is a wonderful building, part of which dates from the 13th century. Its location, tucked into a green corner out of sight and sound of the sea, matches the building perfectly. The church is built of local slate. The tower is three-storeyed and detached from the main building, although linked by a porch with an ancient wagon roof and weathered bosses. The old village stocks are set inside the porch. The interior of the church is every bit as fascinating: the fine wagon roof in the south aisle and the medieval bench ends. To the right of the door is a slate gravestone commemorating local man Robert Mark, who is said to have been a popular smuggler, and who was shot by the revenue men.

Conspicuous tourism has not detracted from Polperro’s charm, and the harbour still shelters an active fleet of fishing boats. Polperro grew out of pilchard fishing from medieval times, until a decline in the early decades of the 20th century. Polperro fishermen now follow diverse methods that include trawling, tangle netting and potting for crabs and lobsters.

Walk directions

Leave by the car park entrance and turn left along the lane. The lane descends quite steeply once over the brow of the hill. Watch out for traffic.

Bear off left along a mossy path to reach Talland Church. On leaving the church turn right, through the porch exit, and follow a sunken path through the graveyard to reach some steps. Go through a gate and rejoin the lane. Descend very steeply to reach little Rotterdam Beach, by the entrance to the Smugglers’ Rest Café.

Continue along the road, and at a junction turn down left past the public toilets. Follow the road round right above Talland Sand Beach and past Talland Bay Beach Café. Beyond the beach, bear round left and ascend a very steep surfaced path. Where the path merges with a lane, continue steeply uphill.

Keep straight ahead where the lane joins a wider road. Pass Polperro School and go down a narrow lane between hedges. Turn left at a T-junction, signed ‘Town Centre’, and descend steeply into Polperro and to the harbour.

Turn left above the harbour, signposted ‘Coast Path’, then left again along Lansallos Street. Cross a bridge on your left by ‘The House on the Props’ and then turn right along The Warren. Continue along the coast path for just under 0.5 miles (800m). At a junction take the left branch and climb steeply.

At a guide post, turn right to follow the coast path. This section has been re-opened after several years of closure due to a landslip. Follow the path, passing a war memorial, to reach Talland Bay and Rotterdam Beach.

Opposite the Smugglers’ Rest Café, turn right across the small car parking area above Rotterdam Beach. Go through a gate and climb either of two sets of steep steps. Follow the coast path along the bottom edge of sloping fields.

Go through a kissing gate and continue along the coast path. Go up a series of steep steps and then cross a stile by a sign indicating the National Trust’s Hendersick property. Continue along the coast path, round Hore Point, going up and down some steep flights of steps on the way. Go through a gate, cross a wooden footbridge and then go through another gate. Cross a second footbridge and climb steep steps.

At the top of the steps, by a wooden signpost, turn sharply left, signed ‘Hendersick’, and follow a grassy path to reach the outer corner of a wire fence. Continue up the path to a gate. Go through the gate, continue along the path, and then go through a gate with a barn to its left. Walk down a track for a few paces, then go left through a gate and follow a path through trees. Go through the gate, bear left across a track and go up a path to the car park.

Additional information

Good coastal footpath and quiet lanes; paths can become muddy after prolonged rain; several stiles

Gentle coastal area with occasional low cliffs

Lead required in field areas

OS Explorer 107 St Austell & Liskeard

Hendersick National Trust car park

Just before Talland Sand beach and Polperro

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About the area

Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.

In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.

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