A Picturesque Peninsula - St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula
PUBLISHED: 10:28 26 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:45 20 February 2013
The beautiful Roseland Peninsula is not an area of the county that you would find yourself in accidently!...
The beautiful Roseland Peninsula is not an area of the county that you would find yourself in accidently! You have to make a determined effort to go there since it is far away from any major through route and is almost severed from the rest of Cornwall by the River Fal, which effectively defines its northern border.
The peninsula, with its spectacular coastline, is a mixture of towering granite cliffs, dramatic headlands, secret coves and sandy beaches and is protected from the worst of the prevailing storms by Lizard Point, some 15 miles to the west. Inland the countryside is gentle and pastoral, densely wooded in parts and with numerous streams wending their way through delightful valleys to the rivers and creeks of the Fal Estuary.
The King Harry Ferry was established in 1888 and bridges the River Fal at Trelissick just north of the village of Feock. The current chain ferry (one of only five remaining in England) is around five years old and the short crossing of the river provides the perfect introduction to the delights of Roseland. If you choose this route you might like to explore Trelissick, which is just 300 yards from the ferry slipway. This National Trust property has some lovely estate walks among exotic plants and handsome trees, with views over quiet creeks and the Fal. There is a third route into Roseland, which, if you are travelling from the west of the county or planning a visit from Falmouth, makes a lot of sense.
A car is not the ideal way to see Roseland, so consider parking in Falmouth and taking the foot passenger ferry to St Mawes, which is the peninsulas principal town. The 20-minute crossing of Carrick Roads takes you close to the docks and some big ships at anchor and gives a wonderful view of both St Mawes and Pendennis Castles. Incidentally this ferry is part of a much larger ferry network known as the Fal River Links, with boat services connecting Falmouth with Place and Tolverne on the peninsula and Trelissick, Malpas and Truro. Ticket offices in Falmouth and St Mawes sell excellent value combo tickets, which enable you to hop on and off any number of services, allowing you to explore the area.
St Mawes is a wonderful little town and, unlike the smaller settlements on Roseland, it has facilities including banks, hotels, galleries, restaurants and a variety of shops and good restaurants. It retains its Cornish charm, so whether you are sitting on the harbour wall eating a pasty from the Harbour Bakery, or enjoying a fine lunch on the terrace of the Idle Rocks Hotel you can be sure of a smile and a warm welcome from the locals.
St Mawes Castle dominates the skyline. The town owes its importance to the circular castle which, together with Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, was built by Henry VIII in 1542 to defend the approaches to Carrick Roads. The guns of St Mawes Castle have never been fired to seaward in anger, so it was certainly a fine deterrent to potential invaders! The castle is owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit.
Other coastal settlements to visit are Portscatho on the eastern side, a former pilchard fishing port, as is Portloe, further east still beyond Nare Head. A particularly fine stretch of the South West Coast Path connects the two and there are a couple of wonderful safe family beaches Pendower and Carne. Between the two beaches you will find the Nare Hotel, one of Cornwalls finest. If you are walking the path and your timing is right, lunch at the hotels Quarterdeck restaurant overlooking Gerrans Bay is a must!
Inland the Roseland has some superb scenery and two small settlements that are well worth visiting. The first is Veryan, just a couple of miles from Portloe or Carne Beach. It has a fine Norman church (St Symphorian), a good pub (the New Inn) and an excellent general store and post office, as well as a collection of beautiful period cottages. But it is probably best known for its five round thatched houses two at each entrance to the village and one at the centre. Apparently they were built by the Revd Jeremiah Trist in the 19th century, one for each of his daughters. Surmounted by a cross, they were round so that the devil had no corners in which to hide!
My final must visit is the tiny church of St Just in Roseland. This 13th-century church is close to a secluded creek off Carrick Roads and is surrounded by sub-tropical plants, magnolias, palms and tree ferns. The descent through the churchyard (described by John Betjeman as the most beautiful on earth) is so steep that the lych-gate is level with the top of the church steeple! On my recent visit, the roof of the church was being restored and the parishioners were appealing for funds to complete the job.
St Mawes and Roseland events
St Mawes Summer Art Exhibition
St Mawes Fish Festival
Heritage Open Days: free access to various properties. Visit heritageopendays.co.uk
Falmouth Oyster Festival: further information from falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk
Roseland Festival: further information
Information on all events from:
The Roseland Visitor Centre,
St Mawes. 01326 270440, stmawesandtheroseland.co.uk