The port of Mevagissey offers a real taste of Cornish life. Situated in the middle of Cornwall's south coast, its bustling inner and outer harbours, home to over 60 fishing boats, provide an ever-changing view from the cosy fishermen's cottages that huddle around them; whilst properties elevated on the hillside around the harbour enjoy stunning sea views out across Mevagissey Bay.
Taking its name from the two saints, Meva and Issey (the conjoining 'g' coming from the Cornish 'hag' meaning 'and'), it was formed in the late 17th century with the merging of Porthilly, a small fishing hamlet, and the neighbouring religious settlement of Lamorrick. The village's museum boasts evidence that there has been human activity at the site since at least the Bronze Age, with discovered artefacts including an axe-head, an arrow and a rubbing stone.
Since Medieval times Mevagissey's primary industry has been fishing, with most of the village's population being involved with the trade in some way, whether it was net-making, salting, pressing or fishing itself. Pilchards, or 'Cornish sardines' as they are now known, were by far the biggest export of the village, with Italian and other European markets demanding them in huge quantities. The village even had a pilchard oil power station. Built in 1895, it provided lighting to the lighthouse and even nearby streets, making Mevegissey, according to local sources, the very first place in the country to enjoy electric street lighting. However, as the appearance of the delicacy became rarer and rarer in local waters during the 19th century the village's fishing industry went into decline and it was not until the 1970's that it began to bounce back, with booms in the numbers of mackerel and pollock found off Cornish shores.
With a constant flow of harbour traffic and its sea-worthy inhabitants, it was inevitable that Mevagissey would be caught up in the smuggling industry that so gripped Cornwall during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The building that now houses the village museum was itself once used to build and repair the specially modified smuggling vessels, and even features roof beams taken from broken-up and wrecked boats. The museum displays manacles and a heavy iron-claw door from the local jail, where convicted smugglers would often find themselves.
Today, Mevagissey is a fantastic holiday destination, immersing you in all things Cornish. You can experience the thrill of catching a big one with fishing trips (shark fishing is even available!) operating from the harbour. The surrounding cliff paths offer walkers breathtaking views over the village and out across Mevegissey Bay. Feast Week is an annual festival at the end of June, which sees family entertainment, including music and dancing through the streets, and culminates in a carnival and fireworks display.