Cornwall and South Devon harbours - my top five

Five West Country harbours - steeped in history, romance and folklore. Take a boat trip, or tour on foot and soak up our maritime history.

I've been lucky and have had the opportunity to visit a lot of West Country non-drying harbours hby boat, so for me, the chance to visit some of the smaller drying harbours is something really special. Conjuring up iconic images, these small drying harbours of the West Country have been developed around natural coves, with villages, or small towns either side. And of course, many are now famous all over the world, being the stage for TV and films (think Dr Martin, Turner and of course Poldark). 

St Ives isn't just home to the famous Tate gallery and many resident artists, it's still a working port with fish landed daily. Protected by thick walls, edged with a soft sandy beach, it's the perfect place to enjoy a picnic, a swim and of course sample the produce of local restaurants and cafes. Only the parking and the seagulls interfere with perfection!

Padstow, once an exposed, drying harbour but now protected by outer harbour walls, flood defences and lock gates -  if you're into the history and want more details, visit the Port of Padstow's website. Nowadays, of course, tourists love Padstow for watching its working fishermen supplying the towns gourmet restaurants, spotting visiting pleasure craft, or taking the ferry across the estuary to Rock for some watersports, more beaches and restaurants. And since The South West Coast Path runs right next to the town, it's a perfect stopping off point for those walking longer sections. Nearby are some famous historic houses too, including Prideaux Place  and just half an hour by car, Lanhydrock House and Garden (National Trust).

Further along the coast is Port Isaac; a fishing village since the early fourteenth century and once a busy port handling various imports and exports, including coal, timber, pottery and Delabole slate. Renown for its narrow streets, take a tip - park in the car park at the top of the hill and walk down to the village - you'll get some stunning views and avoid having to negotiate those very narrow streets, specifically the aptly named Squeezy Belly Alley! There's a couple of beaches - Port Isaac itself is shingle whilst neighbouring Port Gaverne is sandy, very sheltered with some lovely rock pools. Oh, and just in case you get thirsty, there's the 17th century inn and restaurant in the cove.

If you're visiting the South Devon Coast, two of my favourite harbours are Dartmouth and Salcombe. Both provide a sanctuary for sailors, particularly when the weather is being unkind, with moorings for all types of vessels. In addition, both offer a variety of boat trips and rentals but please note, the harbours are quite busy in the peak summer season, so if you want a specific time, its advisable to book ahead. Follow the links to see what's available .... Salcombe and Dartmouth. When you're not on the water, both towns have a range of wonderful shops, galleries, cafes, pubs and restaurants not to mention lovely coastal walks, castles and other historic houses - with National trust properties in both .... Overbecks near Salcombe and Coleton Fishacre on the Kingswear side of the Dartmouth estuary; it's very easy to while away several days in both.