Picturesque St Mawes (from the Celtic St Maudez) on the Roseland Peninsula, is a very special spot to book your luxury holiday home in Cornwall – but it really needs a car to travel around and make the most of this delightful area.
Perched at the end of the beautiful Roseland Peninsula opposite Falmouth, sits this charming village (with a reputation for being one of the ‘hippest’ places in Cornwall and indeed, the UK) known as the capital of Roseland. This lovely compact fishing village sits surrounded by gentle hills and the sea.
Facing south across the Fal estuary, the village retains a strong sense of community, all centred around the harbour and waterside. With its cobbled narrow streets and delightful arcade collection of shops, galleries, and restaurants, it is an ideal destination to relax, enjoy the sea air, eat fabulous seafood and explore.
The easiest route to Cornwall by car is to join the M5 to Exeter. Then take either the A30 over Bodmin Moor (usually the fastest route) or the A38 and B3212 via Plymouth. Either way, you are skirting the edge of dramatic Dartmoor. .
By train, the journey is more protracted. The number 50 bus serves Tregony, Portscatho, St Just and St Mawes from Truro, but it only runs every 2 hours and does not run late into the evening.
If arriving in Truro by train you will need to take an additional 5 minute bus ride from the railway station down to the bus station from where the number 50 departs. Alternatively, travel to Falmouth by train and then take the ferry across to St Mawes.
There is a long stay car park behind the Rising Sun in St Mawes.
Debit/credit card payments are accepted at the meters.
Quay Car Park is a short stay car park in the centre of St Mawes on the quay.
For takeaway fish and chips or moules try The Watch House for harbourside dining (it becomes a smart restaurant at night). It serves classic cod and chips, and uses locally sourced seafood in dishes such as curries and pastas.
St Mawes may be tucked away, but it is a foodie village. With much of the village framed by the harbour, local restaurants and cafes focus on freshly caught seafood, with fish dishes featuring prominently on the menus of many eateries. Set in an area of unrivalled Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by secluded coves, lush countryside, scenic cliffs, charming creeks and tranquil beaches, it is a beautiful place to explore, but also to dine out.
The Hidden Hut above Porthcurnick Beach has feast nights, ‘bring your own drink and cutlery’ events, a real foodie adventure. If you have a sweet tooth that craves scrummy sweetness, look no further than down on the harbour to Fudge and More.
Why not enjoy a boat trip along the Fal, stopping off for a pub lunch, or try a culinary cruise on Tethra?
This place is gloriously pretty, looking out over the Fal, with steep, narrow and, in places, cobbled streets to the harbour. Traditional pastel and whitewashed cob cottages are still there along with some superbly smart houses. In nearby Falmouth, you can soak up the independent galleries and shops, then return back to the peace and tranquility of St Mawes.
Pop off with the children on a little fishing trip aboard the Madeline Rose.
You will find coves, creeks, rural villages and inland woodland near St Mawes, so it is a perfect centre for your stay.
There is also a ferry across to Falmouth which takes you to the waterside right by the centre of town, and offers informative commentary en route.
St Mawes Recreation Ground, with a skate and scooter ramp, will appeal to the children wanting to burn off some energy, so don’t forget to pack their kit.
Attractive to the boating and yachting fraternity, St Mawes has numerous moorings and anchorages, plus local sailing clubs which are very active.
The estuary is more of a boating, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) spot than a surfing mecca. These activities are fun, easy to learn and appeal to all age groups. SUP dates from old Hawaiian practices used by Polynesian watermen, but it takes most people only around 2 hours or less to become proficient. For more information, check out Get on Board SUP.
Or try St Mawes Sit on Kayaks. Kayaks are great for paddling, either alone or as a twosome. You get guidance where needed, a perfect activity for all age groups.
The Square Gallery, St Mawes is located in the arcade next to the entrance to the main car park in St Mawes, home to works by contemporary painters, printmakers and makers. It puts locally crafted items, paintings and prints on display, many of which take clear inspiration from the surrounding area.
St Mawes does not have miles of golden sand, but has small rugged beaches hugging the shoreline.
The two small beaches here are fine for rock pooling: Tavern Beach, looks towards the harbour, with a garden area behind it; while Summers Beach, with views of the estuary, is tranquil and natural.
There is a steep incline at Tavern Beach so be careful if swimming. Legend has it that St Mawes sat on a rock in the cliff here to preach to villagers, but was repeatedly interrupted by a seal! Close to St Mawes Castle, where you can park, Tavern beach is dog-free; but there are also no lifeguards.
Summers Beach is minutes away from the large car park. It is larger than Tavern Beach and south-west facing. Mainly pebbles, it has rock pools and a wooden platform floating in the bay which children enjoy swimming off. For more comfortable seating, try the sea wall. There is also a slipway to launch small craft. No dogs in summer allowed, and no lifeguards available, however.
Check out this selection of independent shops which add to the unique character of St Mawes. They sell everything from designer clothes to unique souvenirs and gifts. Along the harbourside and tucked into the narrow winding streets are an array of these local small businesses.
A lovely little gift shop on the waterfront in St Mawes, just along from the harbour, is Grace & Favour. Superb kids’ clothing, gifts and many other items. Perfect if you are looking for that special present!
St Mawes Sea Food brings fish from trawler to trailer, with fish caught on the Celestial Dawn. Zero food miles – and fish doesn’t come any fresher. Meanwhile, Mr Scorse is a gourmet deli for sandwiches, gin and wine.
Lamorran House Garden is a gem which celebrates the diversity of foliage, with tantalising views of the sea; it is largely (as it is frost-free) Italianate in design.
Reel Fishing Trips is a little different, where you will be able to observe nets being pulled up and spend a couple of hours understanding more about the life of a fisherman.
Originally, St Mawes was part of the 16th century coastal defences so it has a small but splendid castle commissioned by Henry VIII, owned by English Heritage in a Tudor military style. It is well-preserved, with epic views from the keep and an oubliette where prisoners were held. It is severe, but with fabulous views down to the Fal.
Despite the harshness of the castle, the rest of the area is rather lush, with lovely inland areas plus a fair smattering of coastal scenery. On your walk, why not visit St Just Church, one of the prettiest in Cornwall reached via the coast path from St Mawes castle? It takes around 45 minutes but the walk is level. Or you can travel by speedy water taxi.
St Just to St Mawes circular walk: A circular walk on the Roseland peninsula to the castle at St Mawes from the Celtic Holy Well and subtropical gardens of St Just church, along Carrick Roads. Here, Europe’s only fishery entirely under sail, fish for oysters using traditional methods. It is a moderate walk of about 6 miles.
St Anthony Head walk. St Anthony is a National Trust property. This circular walk from St Mawes follows the Carrick Roads, so you enjoy some spectacular views.
Some years ago, St Mawes became something of a hotspot with its hotels Idle Rocks and St Mawes. There is even a St Mawes Monopoly Board, perhaps indicative of the rise in property prices here, though it is a limited edition.
Local sailing clubs and tennis courts appeal to not only visitors but people who want a lifestyle change, too, so a strong community exists here.
A hidden secret is the 25-seat St Mawes Hidden Cinema held at the hotel for movie nights and live arts.
Waterside, positioned within the gulf stream, the climate is mild here all year round, so that the summer might even feel like a trip to the Mediterranean, with flora and fauna to match. Pack a picnic and get outside.