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The Prettiest Villages in Cornwall

By Alex Boag-Wyllie, Marketing Assistant
More by Alex

Smuggling, Surfing and Stone Cottages

England’s southernmost county stretches into the ocean from the mainland. Famed for its sandy beaches, picturesque mines and delicious cream teas, Cornwall is a destination on many bucket lists. The coastline is a shimmering sprawl of blue water crashing against dramatic cliffs. In quieter stretches of this coastal county, the sea laps against soft sandy beaches as surfers play out in the waves.

Cornwall is a popular holiday location today. Yet it also has a long history of humans living and working here with the sea. From quaint fishing hamlets to sleepy villages with a military history, there is much to discover in England’s southern corner. Wander down narrow streets, beside thatched cottages, and along sandy beaches with us to find the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac is a charming village on the north coast of Cornwall. A photogenic haven, this historic village has a long history of fishing. Used as a fishing base for at least 400 years, many of the handsome houses around the harbour today date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Port Isaac is also known as the filming location for the popular TV series Doc Martin.

Post Isaac, or Portwenn as it is known onscreen, offers visitors an idyllic view of the Atlantic from the charming whitewashed cottages that huddle together on the shore. Additionally, a sandy beach completes the trifecta that makes Port Isaac one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Nestled in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the iconic South West Coast Path passes through Port Isaac. A great spot for coastal hikes, spend time in the village to discover hidden treasures. For example, look out for one of the narrowest thoroughfares in the UK, the aptly named Squeezy Belly Alley. There is no escaping this beautiful village’s ties to the ocean. Therefore, Fisherman’s Friends, the sea-shanty-singing folk group, started here in the 1900s.

From its origins as a bustling fishing village to its transformation into a quiet retreat after the arrival of railways, Port Isaac exudes a sense of timelessness. In conclusion, spend time here to enjoy natural beauty, a rich cultural heritage, and the undeniable charm of one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Mousehole

Nestled on the north coast, Mousehole is a small but gorgeous village huddled around a bowl-shaped harbour. Charming narrow streets make this fishing village challenging to navigate in a car, so plan your parking and enjoy the walk. Better still, park nearby Newlyn and walk in (3.2 km/2 miles) or get the regular bus to enjoy vibrant Mousehole without the traffic queues.

The origins of the name ‘Mousehole’ remain a mystery. Theories include references to the village’s tiny harbour, a nearby sea cave or a young woman’s brook (from the Cornish word, moeshayle). Regardless of its origin, Mousehole – pronounced mow-zuhl – is undoubtedly one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Mousehole exudes charm with its stone cottages, quirky shops, and lovely views. Beyond the quaint vista, the village also boasts a captivating history. Sacked by the Spanish in 1595, Mousehole was also home to Dolly Pentreath, reputed to be the last native speaker of Cornish when she died in 1777. Nearby, the old Penlee lifeboat station is a poignant reminder of the village’s maritime heritage. The station remains untouched since the tragic loss of the Solomon Browne and her crew in 1981. In the present, Christmas transforms Mousehole into a winter wonderland with a stunning display of festive lights.

Across the bay from St Michael’s Mount, situated in an AONB, and on the South West Coast Path, Mousehole is an unmissable gem to discover. Described by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas as “the loveliest village in England”, it is quickly apparent to visitors why.

Boscastle

The village of Boscastle is one of the most scenic on the beautiful north coast of Cornwall. Located in an AONB, Boscastle is near Tintagel’s historic village and castle, famed for its Arthurian connections. Find out more about the dramatic Tintagel Castle here. Alternatively, visit the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic by the harbour in Boscastle for your own touch of magic.

Built around an impressive harbour owned by the National Trust, picturesque Boscastle suffered devastating floods in 2004. Reminders of the flood still stand around the village, which has fortunately recovered and returned to its place as one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Naturally sheltered by the hills surrounding the village, Boscastle is a charming village of stone houses within a tranquil setting. Visit Boscastle to experience its charm, and don’t miss the lovely walk from the village to the dramatic swell of the sea.

Zennor

Tucked away on the north coast of Cornwall is the tiny village of Zennor. Less than a kilometre from the secluded coves that dot this coast, Zennor might not have the same fishing history as some other villages featured, but it is no less tied to the sea.

Steeped in charm, Zennor is best known for its mermaids. With a population of just 200, a charming church dominates Zennor. Step through the sheltered stone porch and heavy wooden door to discover the story. Carved into a pew end in St Senara’s Church is a mermaid. Local legend tells of a villager who disappeared into the waves after falling in love with a mermaid who visited the church as a mysterious, beautiful woman.

Don’t be fooled by the size of this village; this is one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall and absolutely worth a visit. One of the best ways to reach Zennor is on foot. Therefore follow the South West Coast Path from vibrant St Ives to enjoy breathtaking sea views before arriving in this picturesque village. The church stands opposite a historic pub. Dating back to 1271, the original owners constructed The Tinners Arms for the masons who built the interesting church.

In the last 18th century, Zennor was one of the last bastions of the Cornish language. Today, the village continues to feel like a time capsule. To summarise, enjoy time in one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall, a place of history and charm.

Polperro

Polperro is an idyllic village on the south coast of Cornwall, 16 km/10 miles from Looe. The village exudes a timeless atmosphere with its old fisherman’s cottages and a pub, The Three Pilchards, dating back to the 1500s.

A network of very narrow and winding roads winds its way through the village, so cars are not allowed in Polperro. Park at the main car park and enjoy the walk into one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall. Due to its charm, Polperro can be very busy. Aim to visit in the shoulder seasons, around late spring or early autumn, to experience Polperro at its best.

This village is not only known for its picturesque aesthetics but also for its fascinating smuggling history. Common across Cornwall, smuggling thrived in Polperro from the 18th to the early 19th century. As you explore the village, you’ll be greeted by a lovely sheltered shingle beach overlooked by whitewashed cottages, providing a perfect spot to admire the fishing boats bobbing in the harbour.

Polperro captures the essence of a quintessential Cornish village. Step back in time for an enchanting glimpse of beauty and history.

Mevagissey

Located on the coast of south Cornwall, in an AONB, is Mevagissey. Its impressive harbour offers picturesque views back to the village. Sometimes mistaken for a town, the old part of the village is built on the steep hills surrounding it. These houses resemble pastel tiers from the harbour, creating the sense that this is indeed one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

Despite its coastal location, there is little of a beach in Mevagissey. However, you do not need to travel far along the Cornish coast to enjoy spectacular sandy beaches.

Mevagissey is said to be named for two saints, St Meva and St Issey. Each summer, the village comes alive with the celebration of Feast Week. This lively event adds to Mevagissey’s vibrant atmosphere. Don’t miss this pretty village for a lovely day in Cornwall.

St Mawes

Set against the stunning backdrop of the sea and perched on the idyllic Roseland Peninsula is St Mawes. Considered one of the country’s most expensive places to buy property, St Mawes is a delightful destination to spend a day or two. A charming fishing village, enjoy time exploring this whitewashed village, popular today with yachts and other pleasure boats.

The roads of this lovely village are narrow, so it is best to park in the main car park and walk in. Alternatively, the ferry to St Mawes from Falmouth is one of the best ways to arrive. Taking approximately 20 minutes, this short ride offers a great view of the village and St Mawes Castle as you approach.

St Mawes Castle is an impressive landmark in this village of pretty pastel cottages dotted with thatched roofs. With its unusual clover shape, the castle is one of the best-preserved examples of King Henry VIII’s coastal artillery defences. Across the water from the impressive Pendennis Castle, the two guard Carrick Road, still imposing 500 years later.

St Mawes is a charming spot, recognised as one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall. Discover St Mawes as you enjoy a lovely walk through the pastel-hued village to the castle before the scenic ferry takes you onto your next adventure.

Portloe

Another village located on the renowned Roseland Peninsula is Portloe. Small, Portloe comprises a couple of pretty streets and a tranquil harbour. Yet what it does have surely makes it one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall.

With a history in pilchard fishing, this past can still be seen across the village. Whitewashed stone buildings, stacks of crab pots, and a few picturesque boats pulled up on the shingle beach tell the story of Portloe’s past and present.

After a pleasant day in this idyllic village, enjoy a night in The Lugger, an upscale hotel on the water’s edge. Alternatively, enjoy your drive out of the village as you climb steeply up and out of this lush green valley.

Cadgwith

Nestled on the south coast of Cornwall, Cadgwith is a village worth a visit. Located east of Lizard Point, the most southerly point on the mainland is Cadgwith. Ideally situated for hikes along the iconic South West Coast Path, this village is also located within an AONB.

As you wander this small, peaceful village, soak in the whitewashed stone cottages and quaint thatched roofs. Cadgwith’s heritage as a fishing village with roots in the Medieval period is evident, with crab pots and boats dotted along the shingle beach. The beach is the perfect spot for a swim, but be cautious as there is no lifeguard here.

Walking through the village, it is no wonder that Cadgwith starred in the 2004 film Ladies in Lavender. One of the prettiest villages in Cornwall, Cadgwith feels like a peaceful step back in time.

Discover the Prettiest Villages in Cornwall

Wilderness England Departure DatesAvailabilityStatusPriceBook
Sailing – Cornwall

19th Apr - 22nd Apr 2024

5 place(s) leftGuaranteed 660Book Now
Wilderness Walking – The Coast of Cornwall

1st Jun - 7th Jun 2024

4 place(s) leftGuaranteed 2,595Book Now
Wilderness Walking – The Coast of Cornwall

10th Aug - 16th Aug 2024

1 place(s) leftGuaranteed 2,595Book Now
Sailing – Cornwall

27th Sep - 30th Sep 2024

3 place(s) leftGuaranteed 660Book Now
Wilderness Walking – The Coast of Cornwall

28th Sep - 4th Oct 2024

7 place(s) leftAvailable 2,495Book Now
Sailing – Cornwall

11th Apr - 14th Apr 2025

8 place(s) leftAvailable 660Book Now
Sailing – Cornwall

18th Apr - 21st Apr 2025

8 place(s) leftAvailable 660Book Now

Meet the Author: Alex Boag-Wyllie

Born in the Scottish Highlands, I was lucky enough to spend my early childhood playing on beautiful, sweeping beaches and learning to ski (or, more often, fall over). My father’s job kept us on the move though, and I was soon just as at home amidst the rolling Wiltshire downs, the dramatic Yorkshire Dales and the expansive East Anglian coast. I’ve had almost 40 bedrooms to date across the UK, so I’m your gal if you need a good cafe recommendation (almost) anywhere in the country; if I haven’t been there yet, you can be sure it’s on my trip list…

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