Sheltered bays and green fields along the Cornish Riviera
Lofty headlands, broad bays and cliffs punctuated by delightful coves line the Cornish coast as it runs northeastwards from Zone Point to the abandoned port of Pentewan. Mevagissey has the narrow streets and boat-packed harbour of a traditional Cornish fishing village. There are miles of clifftop paths, while sailing enthusiasts can cruise the sheltered waters of Carrick Roads and creeks where woods reach down to the water.
Built on steep slopes at the end of a peninsula flanked by Carrick Roads and the Percuil River, St Mawes is a popular but dignified little holiday resort whose delightful setting and mild climate, which have earned this part of the coast the description of the Cornish Riviera, attract many retired people. Its sheltered harbour becomes a floating forest of masts during the holiday season, and low tide reveals several small, sandy beaches.
The main road which forms a triangle round the town passes St Mawes Castle. Built between 1540 and 1543 to guard the eastern approach to Carrick Roads, the castle has three bastions which form a clover-leaf around the low central tower. Though apparently impregnable, the castle capitulated to Cromwell’s forces in 1646 without a shot being fired – because its guns faced seaward…
There is a sailing club, and boat trips and fishing trips are available.
Although it no longer has a ferry link with St Mawes, this hamlet on the Percuil River is a popular base for small-boat sailors. The lane which runs down to the river from Gerrans passes a National Trust parking area where views of the river’s upper reaches are framed by cornfields and woodlands. It is a delightful spot for a picnic.
There is a sailing club, and a regatta is held in August.
The grounds of the Place Manor Hotel sweep down to a sheltered little bay at the mouth of the Percuil River. The ebbing tide reveals a beach of fine shingle. It is a pleasant spot, but parking space is very limited.
ST ANTHONY HEAD
A lighthouse completed in 1835 and marking the entrance to Carrick Roads is reached by a 3 minute walk from the National Trust car park on the headland. There are superb views across Falmouth Bay. Black Rock, a navigational hazard in the days of sail, is an eye-catching feature in the sea between the headland and Pendennis Point. The rock used to be marked by a tall mast with a red
HIGH LIGHT Poised 65 /( above the sea, the 225,000 candlepozoer light on St Anthony Head guides shipping entering Falmouth harbour. banner, but it was topped with a conical, granite-based beacon early in the 19th century.
The path from the lighthouse to Car-ricknath Point passes an attractive little beach with low-tide sands.
A 2 minute walk from the National Trust car park at Porth Farm leads to a beach of coarse sand and fine shingle, punctuated by low rocks where many pools are left by the falling tide.
The car park is also a good starting point for a 4 mile coastal walk. The route passes the beautiful Froe Creek, whose northern bank is shaded by a beech wood where herons nest.
Narrow streets typical of Cornwall’s fishing villages run down to Portscatho’s tiny harbour, which dries out at low tide. The beach faces due east and has patches of sand between outcrops of rock. To the north, steps lead down from a clifftop car park to more extensive sands at Porthcurnick.
This beautiful beach, backed by low cliffs, was presented to the National Trust in 1961 after funds had been raised by local people to save it from commercial development. The sands, patchworked with areas of rock, are crossed at their western end by a stream which flows down from the wooded Pen-dower Valley. Its waters meet the sea near a derelict kiln where, in the 19th century, limestone was burned to make fertiliser.
There is a clifftop car park near Pendower House and another, on the far side of the stream, which is approached by a narrow lane from Veryan. The beach is sheltered by the impressive bulk of Nare Head, whose highest point is more than 300 ft above sea level.
An excellent viewpoint in fine weather, fte headland’s summit is a 15 minute walk from the National Trust car park above rocky Kiberick Cove. It can also be reached by car, but the track is very rough. Came Beacon, between the headland and Veryan, is an impressive Bronze Age mound. Legend pinpoints it as the grave of a Cornish king who was buried with a golden ship.
Gull Rock, half a mile from Nare Head, is a nesting place for cormorants, shags, guillemots, razorbills and other sea-birds. It is the most prominent part of a reef which claimed many sailing ships. They included the Hera which went down in 1914 with a loss of 19 lives.
The rocky harbour, overlooked by the 17th-century Lugger Hotel, is almost as narrow as the streets of this pretty little village. The cove has a slipway and is still used by a few small fishing boats. There are memorable walks along the cliffs to Nare Head and Portholland.
Cottages whose double doors defy winter storms raging in from the south-west overlook East Portholland’s beach of shingle and low-tide sand. A narrow lane runs over the cliffs to West Portholland, where an old lime-kiln stands on the rocky shore.
This safe, sandy beach, sheltered by wooded cliffs, is watched over by the towers of Caerhays Castle, which stands on the site of a medieval manor house. The castle dates from 1808 and is the work of the architect John Nash, whose most notable works included London’s Marble Arch and Brighton’s Royal Pavilion.
The building ruined the Trevanion family, who had owned the Caerhays estate since the 14th century. The last of the line is said to have gained belated revenge for his financial plight by shooting at his ancestors’ portraits. The castle is private, but its grounds are occasionally opened in aid of local charities.
A narrow, sunken lane with a 1 in 5 gradient plunges down to this small, sandy beach on the eastern rim of Veryan Bay. There is space for a very limited number of cars, but ample parking is available at Penare, little more than a 5 minute walk away.
The headland, clad with gorse and bracken, was fortified during the Iron Age and is a major landmark on Cornwall’s southern coast. A 15 minute walk over National Trust land with superb views leads to a granite cross erected by a local clergyman in 1896, ‘In the firm hope of the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the encouragement of those who strive to serve Him’. The path passes the ruin of a small stone building where coastguards sheltered in the 19th century.
Dodman Point was the graveyard of many ships which missed Falmouth in the days before radar. The rector who set up the granite cross spent the night of its dedication on Dodman Point, praying for shipwrecked souls.
The walk along the cliffs to Gorran Haven passes Bow or Vault Beach, whose sand-and-shingle shore is reached by scrambling down a steep path.
This is said to be the place where Sir Henry Treworth of Bodrugan spurred his horse over the cliff to escape from his enemies in 1485, after supporting Richard Ill’s ill-fated cause at the Battle of Bos worth.
Fishing trips and boat trips are available.
Signs on the lanes which run steeply down to this rock-clasped cove of sand and shingle warn that the road is sometimes washed by high-tide waves. Buildings facing the beach are fronted by walls 3 ft thick and have gateways with slots into which boards are fitted to keep the sea out. There is a boatyard, with a slipway running down to the beach. The road northwards climbs a headland which provides splendid views of Mevagissey. There are sailing boats for hire.
Picturesque old buildings flank the steep and extremely narrow streets of this ancient
The narrow village streets lead to a sandy beach whose southern end is sheltered by a small breakwater and overlooked by ‘cellars’ once used by fishermen. The clifftop path to Chapel Point gives fishing port, which seethes with visitors during the holiday season. Established in the Middle Ages, Mevagissey developed in the 18th and 19th centuries when its inner and outer harbours provided shelter for a large fleet of boats whose main catch was pilchards. Many were cured and exported to Italy. Another important customer was the Royal Navy who called the fish ‘Mevagissey Duck’. Smuggling was a popular and profitable sideline for many years, and the men of Mevagissey once boarded a Customs’ cutter to rescue captured colleagues.
Shops selling everything from fish-and-chips to souvenirs and antiques now account for much of the village’s trade, but fishing boats still share the sheltered harbours with fleets of pleasure craft.
There are museums and an aquarium. The Mevagissey Museum is in an old boatyard, dating from 1745, and has roof supports made of ships’ masts. Boat trips and fishing trips for sharks and other fish can be arranged.’
The village of Pentewan nestles at the foot of a steep hill and looks southwards over a broad, sandy beach backed by tents and caravans. Ducks patrol the abandoned harbour built by a local landowner in the 1820s. The dock closed shortly after the First World War, choked with silt swept down from the clay workings near St Austell, the very workings it was built to serve. Its gates remain, together with rusty winches, bollards and mooring chains, and other relics of the venture.
PLACES TO SEE INLAND 18th-century house and gardens, house some afternoons in summer, gardens weekday afternoons in summer; Probus Gardens, gardening and landscaping displays, most days.