Cornwall is famous for its pretty harbour towns, and Charlestown on the south coast is one of the prettiest. TV location scouts are well aware of this, and with its original Grade II harbour and its tall ships, it plays Truro in BBC’s Poldark. So what is there to do on a day out in ‘C’Town’?
The harbour at Charlestown was built in the late 18th century, and was the brainchild of local businessman, Charles Rashleigh – the place was even named after him (Charles’ Town which later became Charlestown). At that time it was used to export copper and china clay from the industrial areas around St. Austell, but now although it’s a working fishing port it’s a sleepy little place – perfect for a wander with an ice-cream on a sunny day.
We bought an ice-cream each from the Kelly’s shack on the road leading downhill to the harbour, and enjoyed them as we walked across the pebbly beaches either side of the thick stone harbour walls. Were we really in Cornwall? When the sun is out, the different shades of blues and greens may make you think you’re on an Ionian island, not St. Austell Bay.
One free thing to do in Charlestown is to watch and be entertained by the local youths jumping off the harbour walls, despite the ‘danger of death’ warning signs. It did look great fun, and a good way to impress the girls. I’m sure if I’d have grown up down here, in the absence of a row of shops or a football pitch to hang out by, I’d have been one of the naughty boys jumping into that harbour every day after school.
As well as featuring in the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland and Dr. Who, Charlestown’s claim to fame is its setting as the bustling city and port of Truro in Poldark. When the film crew are in town, they don’t need to dress the harbour up (or down) too much, because it has that olde worlde feel anyway. There are usually one or two tall ships in – the harbour is actually owned by a company called Square Sail, who provide the tall ships and the period harbour location for the film industry.
After strolling around the harbour, the beaches and the cliffs, we fancied a sit down with a cuppa. The terrace at the back of Wreckers was a right little suntrap, where we had a view of the tall ships, the harbour jumpers and the big fat seagulls trying to steal tourist’s ice creams.
Charlestown is only about two miles from the ‘gritty’ (i.e. rough) town of St. Austell, but is like stepping into another world. If you’re not lucky enough to find a free parking space on the single road leading downhill into Charlestown, there is a large pay and display carpark at the end of that road that costs £2.50 for 24 hours – pretty cheap for Cornwall. The Shipwreck and Heritage Centre museum near the carpark might have been worth a look, but we ran out of time – there’s our incentive to go back one day.