If you are planning to visit just one fishing village in Cornwall then make it Cadgwith sheltering in the lea of the most southerly point of The Lizard.
There is a timeless air about the glorious jumble of thatched cottages hugging the slipway to the sea where the fishing boats lay on the shingle beach waiting for the tide, just as they always have been over the centuries.
Two rough hewn granite posts topped by jaunty ovoid boulders mark the entrance to Cadgwith giving it a sense of stepping back in time to a carefully guarded community unchanging with the centuries.
Cadgwith the fishing village
Cadgwith started life as a collection of fishing cellars just above the same shingle beach that is still in use today to haul the boats from the water and it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that the first cottages were built. Tucked here and there intersected by narrow lanes and alleys they follow the topography of the hillside so perfectly that they seem almost a part of the land.
The early Cornish name for Cadgwith is Porthcaswith 1358 which evolved to Por Cadgwith by 1699 : – a harbour of a thicket
Parking above the cove
We parked just above Cadgwith and walked down the footpath to the sea passed the tin chapel into the village where fishing boats and no nonsense trucks spilled over from the Fishing Cove and sturdy men went quietly about their business.
The Cadgwith Inn
We hurried on unsure about the time to the Cadgwith Inn, as Charles had a certain gleam in his eye about lunch, intent on sampling his personal favourite – a crab sandwich. He always maintains the best crabs in Cornwall are caught in Cadgwith fresh from the sea and fat from feeding on the pure waters of the cove.
In the November sunshine, walkers from the Coastal path were already picnicking on the benches but for once I felt the romance of a fire simmering in the grate call me inside.
The Cadgwith Inn is a “Singing pub” too, famous for the singers on a Friday night evocatively set just above the slipway within earshot of the sea
There are several other places to eat in Cadgwith “In season” “The Cellars” with a beautifully cobbled courtyard where two of our American guests told us about amazing Fish chowder or a simple Fisherman’s cottage selling sandwiches from the kitchen just beside the slipway.
Walking from Cadgwith
Cadgwith is on the Southwest Coast path and we walked up from the village along the cliff towards Poltesco and stopped to look back down over the village before reaching the first headland with probably what is probably an old huer’s hut.
From twin lookouts either side of the cove a lookout would watch for the shoals of herring shouting “Hevva, Hevva Hevva” to alert the fishermen below. These days the shoals have gone but fishing still continues for Crab and Lobster.
As we turned to walk back to the cove the sweet scent of violets drifted through the air as delicate as a thread of lace and it drew my attention from the sea to the tiny purple flowers nestling under the shelter of the bank – pretty good for November I think!
The Devil’s Frying Pan
Back in the cove and we would have liked to walk on towards “The Devil’s Frying Pan” (Hugga Dridgee in Cornish) the dramatic remains of a collapsed sea cave that has formed a sea lagoon bounded by an archway to the sea. Unfortunately Charles’s knee had reached its tolerance for the day but this is also a favourite spot for kayakers to explore in calm weather but beware of the wild waves of winter churning the boulders captive in the depths for the devils cooking.
We lingered instead on the Toddon – a spit of land that separates The Fishing Cove from the Bathing Beach with a natural tunnel under the rocks to connect the two.
A cross had been erected here, securely lashed to the ground, ready for the Christmas lights. We watched the waves start to build as the tide turned again bringing great rolling waves back towards the shore just as it had always done, before walking back through the thatched cottages of
Cadgwith, a village packed with fishing gear and lobster pots, Capstans and pilchard cellars, Fishing boats and pickup trucks. So I hope you have the chance to visit Cadgwith on The Lizard Peninsular.
Cadgwith – A perfect Cornish village shaking off the modern world of tourism and bustle and still settled in its unchanged unhurried pace of life, distilled over the centuries. So different to our visit to Lamorna on the Land’s End Peninsula the other week but totally utterly, charming.