Drive into St Mawes on a sunny day and you’d think you were in the Mediterranean. The village sits on the gulf stream and enjoys mild weather all year round. St Mawes is full of villas, whitewashed cottages and lush gardens with exotic plants. The village is at the end of the Roseland Peninsula. The Peninsula is home to some of Cornwall’s most exclusive seaside villages such as Portloe, Portscatho and Porthholland.
St Mawes is named after the 5th Century Celtic Saint Maudez.
The village was once a busy fishing port and still has a small fishing fleet, supplying a wet fish shop open on the St Mawes harbour quay.
Foodies will enjoy St Mawes, the restaurants and pubs around the seafront serve superb fish and shellfish dishes, it also has a number of excellent delis and cafes.
Water surrounds the village, it looks out over the Carrick Roads and westwards to Falmouth. In the other direction, it looks across the Percuil River to Place Creek and St Anthony Headland. Carrick Roads is a waterway which was created after the last Ice Age. This was a valley which flooded as the ice melted and sea levels rose. This created one of the world’s largest natural harbours.
Of course, being surrounded by water makes it very popular with sailing enthusiasts. St Mawes has three boatyards and lots of moorings and anchorages for visiting yachts. The local sailing club here is very active, organising racing events and evening functions for both locals and visitors. Yachts and sailing dinghies as well as most other watercraft are available to hire.
Rare and exotic plants thrive in the warm, humid climate here and there are a number of spectacular gardens in this area. These include The Eden Project, Trebah Garden, Trelissick Garden, Glendurgan Garden, Enys Gardens, Lamorran House Gardens and the Lost Gardens of Heligan.
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Getting to St Mawes
There are a number of options to get to St Mawes. The No. 50 bus service runs several times a day from Truro to St Mawes. There is a regular all-year-round ferry service from Falmouth to St Mawes. Of course, Falmouth is well connected on the rail and road networks.
If you are driving to St Mawes there is a long stay car park behind the Rising Sun pub (TR2 5DT). The parking meters accept card payments. There is also a short stay car park on the quay.
Places to Visit and Things to do in St Mawes
St Mawes Castle
St Mawes Castle was built in 1543 by Henry VIII and is an excellent example of an artillery castle built in the shape of a cloverleaf. It was built after a confrontation in Falmouth Bay with Spanish and French warships. The castle is under the management of English Heritage and sits just to the west of the village facing across the River Fal.
Across the bay on the opposite bank is Pendennis Castle which has a better defensive position, so this became the main fort in the area. The castle at St Mawes wasn’t really developed any further, although it was an important gun emplacement up until the end of WWII.
The castle is open daily except on Christmas and New Years’ Day. Entry is free if you are an English Heritage member.
St Just in Roseland
The St Just in Roseland churchyard has been described as being one of the most beautiful in the world. This can be visited via a pleasant two and a half mile walk, heading north along the Carrick Road shoreline, starting at the castle. In the churchyard are winding paths through bamboos and a stream which runs down to the nearby creek. The churchyard at St Just is open every day.
Boat Trip to Place Creek
During the summer months, a small passenger ferry runs across the Percuil River from St Mawes to Place Creek on the St Anthony headland. From the jetty you can walk all around the headland, enjoying the splendid views. Also worth visiting is the St Anthony Church, two secluded beaches at Great and Little Molunan and the 19m high St Anthony Lighthouse built in 1834. The lighthouse marks the entrance to the Carrick Roads and warns ships of Black Rock in the Falmouth Harbour and the offshore Manacle Rocks. It is automated and open to visitors during the summer months.
Ferry tickets are available on the main quay.
The Roseland Peninsular has very low levels of light pollution. This means that on clear nights there are spectacular views of the night sky. Even with the naked eye, you can make out Mars, Venus, Saturn and Jupiter and many of the common constellations. You should also be able to make out the Milky Way. Look overhead and running in a north-south direction you’ll see what looks like a long thin cloud, this is the Milky Way.
If you want a guide to where the constellations and planets are located you might find it useful to buy a planisphere.
South West Coast Path
Strictly speaking, the South West Coast Path doesn’t pass through St Mawes but rather just touches the harbour, probably briefly for a lot of walkers. The guidebooks recommend getting the ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes and then getting the ferry from St Mawes to Place Creek to continue the onward journey on the coast path.
The Coast Path goes eastwards from Place Creek to Portscatho passing St Anthony Head, Porthbeor and Towan Beach along the way. In a westwards direction the Coast Path heads out from Falmouth to Pendennis Point where there is a castle and excellent views across Carrick Roads to St Mawes. The path continues to Maeporth around Rosemullion Head to reach the Helford River and another ferry journey.
OS Explorer 105 Map. The Explorer 105 Ordnance Survey Map covers this part of Cornwall. The map displays the area around Falmouth and Mevagissey, the Roseland Peninsular and the South West Coast Path. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
St Mawes only has two small beaches, which are located on either side of the harbour. These beaches are very safe places to go swimming and also launch sailing dinghies, windsurfs and kayaks. Summers Beach or Freshwater Beach is sandy and close to the main car park. Tavern Beach is close to the castle.
There is a dog ban on Summers Beach from 1st July to 31st August between 10 am and 6 pm.
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