Mevagissey and Portmellon

About Mevagissey

Mevagissey was once the heart of the pilchard industry in Cornwall. Today it is an attractive harbourside village and port with a working harbour. It provides safe haven for a fleet of a few dozen small fishing boats. The town is still the second biggest fishing port in Cornwall. Working boats land their daily catch of skate, lobster, plaice and sole here.

You can still see Fishermen mending nets on the quayside, using ancient skills and modern materials. Fishing is still very much part of life here and there are lots of boats offering fishing trips from the harbour.

Mevagissey sits at the bottom of a steep valley on an unspoilt coastline. Narrow streets lead down to the centre of the old part of the port with its distinctive double harbour. The harbour walls and nearby streets are full of shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes and galleries catering for the many tourists who now visit. These sit side by side with a number of craft workshops.

For a stunning bird’s eye view of the village and harbour walk up Polkirt Hill and at the top turn left to follow the South West Coast Path. Instead of following the path down to the harbour look to your right at the bottom of the park. Here you’ll see a viewpoint built out from the cliff. Walkout to the airy platform where the views are truly incredible, but you’ll need your best head for heights! (The access path runs at the back of Nare Court, the viewpoint is marked on the google map below – Mevagissey Viewpoint)

Water which of course reflects light surrounds Mevagissey. The same light that draws artists to St Ives is also present in Mevagissey. Walking around some days you’d believe you were in the Mediterranean.

Mevagissey Museum

On the quayside is the Mevagissey Museum, housed inside an 18th Century boatyard. This was built in 1795 for building and repairing fishing (and no doubt smuggling) boats. Most of its roof beams are made from recycled boat timbers. Open from Easter to October, it has an interesting collection of old photos and marine artefacts. It also has a display devoted to Andrew Pears a local barber who turned chemist and created the world’s first transparent soap.

World of Model Railways

Mevagissey is home to the World of Model Railways Exhibition, an impressive collection of 2,000 models and a number of different layouts with over 50 working trains.

Aquarium

In the old lifeboat house, also on the quayside, is the aquarium. This displays a collection of weird and wonderful, locally caught fish. The aquarium is impossible to miss, it’s in the light blue building with the slipway. If you are walking out to the lighthouse you’ll pass it on your way. The aquarium runs on donations and is free to enter.

Mevagissey Feast Week

Mevagissey has been celebrating Feast Week at the end of June every year, since 1792. Feast week started out as a religious festival. The modern version started in the 1960s. With something for everyone it features live music, exhibitions, floral dancing, raft races, choirs, children’s entertainment and of course eating fish.

The week is noisy and busy, and the pubs are very lively. At the end of the week, a street carnival and firework display on the outer sea wall complete the festivities.

History

The name Mevagissey (Meva-ag-issey) comes from the names of two saints, St Meva and St Issey. A hamlet was recorded here in 1313. However, there were settlements here going as far back as the Bronze Age. Two Bronze Age Burial Urns were discovered at nearby Portmellon. Several hilltop burial mounds from the same period have been found on the nearby cliffs.

Much of the town’s history is associated with pilchards, which were landed here in huge numbers. After being landed the fish were packed and salted in barrels. Many were destined for the Royal Navy who called them Mevagissey Ducks.

As well as pilchards, Mevagissey has a history of boat building dating back to 1745. It was famous for building fast ships which were used to transport the pilchards and also contraband (French Brandy etc.).

The inner harbour (the current East and West Quays) was built in 1774. The outer harbour was added in 1888. This had to be rebuilt after a blizzard caused serious damage to the structure in 1891.

The lighthouse on the southern breakwater, which is still standing, was built in 1896.

Mevagissey is recorded as the first place to have electric street lights. These were powered by generators that ran on pilchard oil. No doubt the place smelled lovely back then!!

South West Coast Path

Heading westwards along the Roseland Heritage Coast from Mevagissey, the Coast Path passes through Portmellon and then heads out around Chapel Point reaching Gorran Haven. From the Haven, you pass Vault Beach and then the path climbs up to Dodman Point. From here there are excellent views of the coastline in both directions. Walk even further and you’ll visit the sandy beaches at Porthlune Cove and Portholland before finally arriving in Portloe, a total distance of about 20km. There is no direct bus back to Mevagissey from Portloe, you’ll need to get a bus to St Austell first.

Head eastwards along the Polperro Heritage Coast and the path is a bit of a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs. After passing the sandy beaches of Polstreath and Pentewan you arrive at Black Head. Continuing along the coast you pass two more beaches at Porthpean and Duporth before arriving at Charlestown. After Charlestown the walking gets much easier passing Par and Polmear, finally arriving in Fowey, total distance walked just over 20km.

OS Explorer 105 Map. The Explorer 105 Ordnance Survey Map covers this part of Cornwall. The map displays the area around Falmouth and Mevagissey, the Roseland Peninsular and the South West Coast Path. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.

Getting to Mevagissey

Mevagissey is five miles south of the town of St Austell, and 29 miles west of Plymouth. Driving here is easy, parking your car is less so. There are car parks around the harbour, but to get to them you have to drive down the narrow streets. In the summertime, these are full of pedestrians and there isn’t really room for vehicles to pass each other. Keep your sanity and park in the Willow Car Park (PL26 6SX), which is located on the left-hand side as you drive into the village. There are usually plenty of spaces and it’s only a short 7-minute walk to the harbour.

If you are using public transport the No.24 Bus Service to and from St Austell and Fowey stops at Mevagissey.

In summer a ferry operates from Fowey. The 40-minute journey crosses St Austell bay and is an excellent way to see the stunning Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the coastline. If you are lucky you might see a dolphin or a seal. If you are staying in Mevagissey this is an excellent day out and saves you the hassle of trying to park in Fowey, which gets very busy in the summer.

Beaches

Mevagissey is perhaps not the best place if you want a beach, there are better beaches only a short distance away. Of the two it does have, one is inside the outer harbour but this is small and only appears at low tide. Head east along the coast and there is the sand and shingle Polstreath Beach. Access to this rugged beach is via a long stairway.

If you walk the short distance to Portmellon, there is also a beach there, but this is often very seaweedy.

A short distance away (3km) is the sandy beach which sits in front of Pentewan Sands Caravan Park. This 700m long beach is suitable for swimming and surfing. Head in the other direction and if it’s low tide there is a nice stretch of sand at Gorran Haven.

Vault Beach a little further west is stunning, but you need to walk from the nearby National Trust Car Park to get to it.

If you are walking westwards along the South West Coast Path you might be lucky and spot a sandy cove with nobody on it.

Portmellon and Chapel Point – Photos

Places to Eat

Mevagissey is famous for its fish restaurants serving the freshest fish, all caught locally. The maze of streets behind the harbour is full of restaurants and pubs with a bewildering choice of menus. Of course, there are also plenty of pasty and fish and chip shops as well as lots of cafes.

Sea Gulls

Like a lot of seaside resorts, the gulls here will steal food out of your hand. So if you are walking around with your pasty, fish & chips or ice cream, keep your eyes peeled.

Films and TV Series

Mevagissey has appeared in several TV shows and films.

Ealing Films 1942 wartime propaganda film Next of Kin and the 1945 film Johnny Frenchman were both shot in Mevagissey. The 1953 film Never Let Me Go which has nothing to do with Cornwall was shot at Mullion Harbour, Newquay and Mevagissey.

Episode 25, So Dark the Night of the 1966 TV series The Baron, was filmed in Megavissey.

The 1972 Made for TV film Doomwatch was partly filmed in Polperro and Mevagissey.

The first episode of the television cooking series Two Fat Ladies (Fish and Shellfish) was filmed at the Sharksfin Hotel in Mevagissey. Sir Tony Robinson filmed an episode of the TV series Walking Through History (Smuggler’s Cornwall) at Polperro, Fowey and Mevagissey. Recently in 2021 the TV series Cornwall: This Fishing Life featured Mevagissey in the first episode.

Cliff Safety

Cliffs are changing all the time. Falls and landslides can happen at any time and without warning. Please stay well back from the cliff edge when walking along coast paths, and stay away from the undercliff on beaches.

Holiday Cottages

holidaycottages.co.uk help people find their perfect cottage in popular holiday destinations across the whole of the UK. Dog-friendly cottages, farmhouses or apartments, they have something to suit all budgets and requirements. Find your perfect holiday cottage in Cornwall here.

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exploring Cornwall - Mevagissey and Portmellon

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