Marvel at the unspoilt beauty of Cornwall to connect with nature and walk in the footsteps of pirates.
If you’re looking to shake off the last of the winter and experience some of the best the UK has to offer, look no further than St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula. Bordered by the Fal Estuary to the west and St Austell Bay to the east, The Roseland Peninsula has been designated part of Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the quality of its landscape and coastal scenery. Spring is the perfect time to explore this spectacular part of Cornwall; its pretty fishing villages, dramatic coastline and beautiful sandy beaches are at their finest when the tourists of summer are yet to arrive and you have the space to fully appreciate what the south coast has to offer.
St Mawes, St Just, Portscatho and St Anthony’s
We started our adventure in St Mawes, situated at the mouth of the Percuil River and known as the principal village on the Roseland Peninsula, boasting spectacular views of the river Fal, Falmouth town and the English Channel.
It has a rich maritime history and a fabulous castle, which stands today as the best preserved of King Henry VIII’s coastal fortresses. Its sister castle, Pendennis, is visible just one mile across the water in Falmouth.
From here, begin the 2.5-mile walk to St Just in Roseland. An easy walk, the route is beautiful, navigating along the cliffs, past a boatyard and through fields of sheep and cattle. Pristine shingle beaches along the way invite you to dip your toes in, or even take a brisk swim in the clear and tranquil waters, though they tend to be a bit chilly before April! Despite this, with the early spring sun on our faces, our adventure was proving to be almost Mediterranean and we took in the dramatic coastline of granite cliffs whilst watching the comings and goings of fishing boats and yachts.
Arriving at St Just in Roseland you are greeted by a small 13th century church, which sits above the tidal creek of St Just Pool. The waters are an azure reflection of the banks, which rise covered in lush foliage. The churchyard is set slightly higher up, overlooking the church and creek; its gardens embellished with a plethora of sub-tropical species, as well as rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, bamboos, wild garlic and bluebells.
There are also ponds with giant gunnera and small streams. The atmosphere is magical, and reminiscent of a fairy tale.
After soaking up the ambience, the route headed across the peninsula to Portscatho, famous for pilchard fishing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and well-known today for its art galleries.
A fantastic and sheltered spot for swimming in its own right, Portscatho is also in close proximity to a number of beautiful sandy beaches, including Porthcurnick, Towan and Carne.
Rest and refresh at The Plume of Feathers, a cosy pub just a couple minutes’ walk from the harbour, before catching a bus back to the starting point.
Carne, Portloe, Veryan and Mevagissey
Begin your second morning with a pleasant drive to Carne beach, home to The Nare – one of Cornwall’s only two five star hotels (along with the Headland Hotel in Newquay).
Facing south and sheltered by Nare Head rising to three-hundred feet over the bay, Carne Beach is an excellent spot for both walkers and dog-owners at low tide and is one of Cornwall’s few beaches which are dog friendly all year round.
From the beach, follow the coastal path towards Nare Head, walking right to the end to lap up the views overlooking Gerrans Bay, continuing westwards on the South West Coast Path along The Roseland Heritage Coast to Portloe, taking in spectacular views of the rugged Cornish coastline. We stopped twice along the way, once at Mallet’s Cottage, a ruined stone building at the foot of a wooded valley with breathtaking views, and then at Kiberick Cove, a gorgeous spot where fields roll into the sea and there is a beach at low tide, the perfect spot for snorkelling.
Arriving in Portloe, we realised why it has a reputation for being one of the prettiest villages in Cornwall. Its steep sided valleys shelter the small cove, where fishing boats sit on the slip, surrounded by lobster and crab pots: a quintessential Cornish postcard scene! Disney chose Portloe to film scenes for their 1949 version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, a nod to its piratical past when local fishermen would smuggle French brandy and hide it in their cellars. You may decide to stop for a drink in the local pub, The Ship Inn, where the walls are adorned with seafaring pictures and paraphernalia and the bartenders are extremely friendly.
Suitably refreshed, follow the footpath to Trewartha before taking a right to Veryan, most famous for its five nineteenth century thatched Round Houses. You must visit the ancient village church before continuing your tour eastwards.
You could spend the afternoon delighting in the joys of traditional Mevagissey, a historic fishing village which still boasts a working harbour. Here, you can wander the narrow streets, perusing the many gift shops, craft workshops, galleries, cafés and pubs. You can’t stop here without feasting on a Cornish pasty, locally caught fish and chips, or if you fancy a treat, dining out in one of its well-renowned seafood restaurants.
Falmouth, St Anthony Head, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Charlestown village and Shipwreck Centre
If you have any time to spare, or don’t want to spend as much time on the coastal path, there is plenty to see and do nearby.
For £10 you can catch a return ferry from St Mawes harbour to Falmouth and spend the day exploring its bustling high street and fantastic range of restaurants. Falmouth also has a number of beaches popular for swimming and Falmouth Maritime Museum holds a number of exhibitions each year.
Another option is catching the Place Ferry, which runs from April to October, and walking to National Trust’s St Anthony. Take the coastal route (signs show you the way) past the two secluded beaches of Great and Little Molunan. Its lighthouse, marking the entrance to the Carrick Roads, keeps ships clear of the infamous Manacle Rocks and was the setting for the television series Fraggle Rock. You can stay at Sally Port Cottage at St Anthony’s lighthouse with Rural Retreats.
Alternatively, Charlestown Shipwreck Centre is an excellent place to visit for adults and children alike. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Shipwreck Museum holds the largest private collection of shipwreck artefacts in Europe. Not only this, but Charlestown is a fabulous place to visit in its own right. To this day the port remains unspoiled and retains much of its Georgian character. It is also a popular location for film and television, including the Cornish drama Poldark.
Near Mevagissey, you can also find the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Rediscovered 29 years ago after being lost during the First World War, Heligan has since been restored to become one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK and holds a number of events all year round.
Our highlights – Don’t miss
Veryan Round Houses
Veryan has five roundhouse cottages each with a thatched roof and topped by a cross. Dating back to the nineteenth century, the cottages were built by the Vicar of Veryan church, Samuel Trist, for each of his daughters. Legend has it they were constructed without any corners, so the devil couldn’t hide in them!
The Hidden Hut
This adorable beach cafe can be found on the South West Coast Path on the Roseland Peninsula – look forward to what could quite possibly be the best Cornish pasty and Rocky Road you have ever tasted! ►hiddenhut.co.uk/
You might enjoy taking the King Harry Ferry across the Fal River directly to National Trust’s Trelissick, and joining in with their weekly 9am Saturday parkrun – but be warned there’s a very steep hill in the middle of the course! ►parkrun.org.uk/trelissick/
The Nare Hotel
This luxurious country house by the sea is an exceptionally rare gem where the memories will stay with you a lifetime. Family-owned for five generations this remarkable hotel with rooms and private suites has an outdoor pool and hot tub, indoor spa pool, two hotel boats, a classic car and direct access onto Carne Beach. ► narehotel.co.uk
Where we stayed St Mawes
Chapel House East
This is just one of Portscatho Holidays wonderful self catering holiday homes on the beautiful Roseland Pennisula. This beautiful three-bedroom property is located in the heart of St Mawes – a perfect base for exploring the local area offering a luxurious home-from-home coastal stay.
The beach is just a pebble throw away, or step outside your front door and stroll into the village. Leave your car behind and hire a bike, or kayak, or take the ferry taxis across the water for an eco-friendly day of adventure simply messing about by the water.
There’s a well-equipped kitchen, breakfast terrace, spacious bright living room and balcony with stunning sea views of St Mawes Harbour and St Anthony Head.
Dining out? You can find traditional harbourside fish and chips at The Victory Inn, or if you’re feeling flush try the A’ la Carte Menu at the award-winning Idle Rocks. For a cosy night in we ordered woodfired takeaway pizzas from St Mawes Hotel – delicious!
To book your stay with Portscatho Holidays – a family run business that dates back more than 50 years visit: ►portscathoholidays.co.uk