Crammed into a narrow break in the dramatic rocks of the wild west Roseland Peninsula, Portloe sits at the end of a steep wooded valley in one of Cornwall’s most remote areas.
Forgotten or resilient to the modern house builders who have changed many of these coastal villages, you can walk round Portloe now and see very little change from 200 years ago. A gaggle of whitewashed cottages cling to the cliffs above a tiny slipway that still houses a few fishing boats. It is a remote and hardy spot, with instant access to stunning walking, wild cliffs, an air of seclusion and for those of us who do not live there, a sense of an older time long past.
Portloe (meaning 'cove pool' in Cornish) was established around a small fleet of pilchard boats. It was a tough and dangerous life in this remote spot. The village church was once the lifeboat house, but it was abandoned after 17 years as the boat could never be launched in stormy conditions over the waves that crash through the slit of water at the foot of the little slipway. Today the few boats that remain are dragged up the slipway as they were hundreds of years ago.
The Lugger Hotel, a small exclusive upmarket hotel, is the only real change. This building was a focal point for local smuggling during the late 19th century when landlord Black Dunstan was hanged here for bringing in French brandy and hiding it in the cellars. Uphill from the slipway is The Ship Inn, the one meeting place in a village which now no longer even has a shop. Stuffed with nautical memorabilia, this tiny former fisherman’s cottage has all atmosphere with good food and ale befitting this unspoilt and semi forgotten village.
From time to time the place has been disrupted, its untouched nature having been noted by TV and film producers looking for a rather idealised West Country back of beyond location. Portloe has been used for shooting the Dawn French comedy Wild West and in the past The Camomile Lawn, Saving Grace, Treasure Island and even in the film Irish Jam where Portloe was deemed unspoilt enough for use as an Irish village stand in.
If this is your first night on the coast path you won’t forget its wild air and remoteness, particularly as you move on to larger more tourist orientated harbour towns further round the coast. There may be no art shops, restaurants or harbours to take an evening stroll round, but of course this is its charm. At night it’s a magical spot out here to wander under the stars to the slipway and gaze out alone to sea below the dark twisted igneous rocks known here as the foreboding “Jacka”.