On the Water

Checkout some of the county’s most picturesque ferry routes, reduce your carbon tyre track and see Cornwall from a different angle.



Overland: 35 mins / 16.1 miles

Over water: 15 mins/C02 emission saved 5.06kg

Boat: Peak times Lady Diana.

Built: 1980, Isle of Wight. Capacity: 38 passengers

Background: Before the advent of the motor car, Polruan was, and is still affectionately known today, as “Little Russia” due to its isolated position on the east side of the Fowey Estuary so the passenger ferry across the harbour has been providing a vital link between the village and the town of Fowey and the rest of the county for many centuries. Records reveal that back in the 1500s the then owners of the ferry were granted exclusive rights to the route in perpetuity, a right which the present owners, the famous boat-building Toms family, continue today

What to see: Amongst the grand houses of Fowey that tumble down to the harbour, you can spot Place House, a fairytale-style 16th century stately home that appears through a dense canopy of trees. Either side of the harbour there is a ruined medieval blockhouse between which a chain was once stretched to repel sea borne invaders and perched on the promontory looking out to sea is St Catherine’s castle built to defend the town by Henry VIII

Timetable: Daily 7:00 to 22:55 (reduced service in winter)

Fare: £1.50



Overland: 1 hour/29.9 miles

Over water: 20 mins /C02 emission saved 9.40 kg

Boats: The Queen of Falmouth. Built: Fraserburgh, Scotland Capacity 100 passengers. The May Queen Built: Rhyl, Wales Capacity: 100 passengers. Duchess of Cornwall. Built 2008, Falmouth, Cornwall. Capacity: 100 passengers

Background: Earliest reliable records state that in the mid 1800s there was a 30 ft sailing boat that took passengers, their produce and livestock across the Carrick Roads to the market in Falmouth taking over an hour, whilst today the classical built wooden hulled ferry does the trip in just a few minutes carrying over 100,000 day trippers a year.

What to see: The estuary here was created after the Ice Age when the river valley flooded, and it’s huge; the third biggest natural harbour in the world. Perched overlooking the water is the sixteenth century St Mawes castle built to defend the coast and on the opposite side Falmouth’s 450-year-old Pendennis castle, both built on the orders of Henry VIII

Timetable: 8:30 to 17:15 (reduced service in winter)

Fare: £4.50 Adult



Overland: 23 mins/13.5 miles.

Over water: 15 mins /C02 emission saved 4.24 kg

Boat: The Black Tor Built: 2004, Portsmouth, Hampshire Capacity: 65

Background: Crosses the tidal River Camel over to the village of Rock, supposedly named because a quarry located in the village once provided the ballast for empty ships setting off from Padstow harbour. Early evening the Rock Water Taxi takes over until midnight with the Mary-Marie, a new ferry complete with canopy and heating to keep revellers warm and dry as they ply the water between the area’s trendy pubs and restaurants.

What to see: Out to sea the infamous Doom Bar, a sandbank at the mouth of the estuary responsible for over six hundred shipwrecks over the last two centuries. And the estuary here simply teems with wildlife so be on the lookout for Osprey, Little Egrets on the mudflats, Shellducks, Mute Swans and the occasional Bottlenose Dolphin swimming by.

Timetable: 7:50 to 19:50 daily (reduced service in winter)

Fare: £3.00 Adult return/ Evening taxi £6:00 Adult return



Overland: 27 mins / 11.8 miles

Over water: 12 mins /C02 emission saved 3.71kg

Boat: Plymouth pilot The Helford Ferry. Built: 1978, Plymouth, Devon Capacity: 12 passengers

Background: Since the Middle Ages the north and south banks of the Helford River have been connected by a ferry providing the link to markets in the area for farmers who used to take their carts across on the ferry whilst their horses swam alongside. Today the ferry runs on demand during the summer months with passengers calling the ferry by means of revealing a yellow disc to the boatman.

What to see: The Helford River has status as a Special Area of Conservation. Creeks and streams join the river providing a habitat for over eighty species of rare and commercially important fish and the romantic wooded scenery around here was inspiration for Du Maurier’s novel “Frenchman’s’ Creek”. The Duchy Oyster Farm at Port Navas rears the renowned shellfish in a quiet creek and the lush gardens of Trebah cascade down the valley to meet the water.

Timetable: Everyday 9:30 to 21:30 (High season)

Fare: £5.50 Adult return


Overland: 57 mins / 25.7 miles

Over water: 8 mins /C02 emission saved 8.08kg

Boat: The Northern Belle. Built: 1926, Roger’s Shipyard Cremyll, Cornwall Capacity: 157 passengers.

Background: Ancient documents record that there has been a ferry crossing the River Tamar between Stonehouse in Plymouth and the tiny village of Cremyll since at least 1204. Long before Brunel’s iron railway bridge was built, the ferry ride here was known as the gateway to Cornwall and now provides the daily link into Plymouth for commuters from the Rame Head area.

What to see: Out to sea the Plymouth Breakwater constructed in the 1840s from over four and a half million tonnes of quarried stone holds violent storms at bay. On the Cornish side, the imposing Mount Edgcumbe House, rebuilt after a disastrous fire during WWI, sits in 800 acres of sweeping parkland that run down to the sea. The house is home to the national camellia collection.

Timetable: Everyday 6:50 to 20:30 (slightly reduced service in winter)

Fare: £1:50 Adult


CO2 calculations based on average petrol consumption/emission per mile according to latest government figures.