7 Best Things to Do on the Roseland Peninsula

We recently discovered Cornwall's Roseland Peninsula for the first time and loved it.  With beautiful beaches, stunning weather, and plenty to do this is a great holiday location for outdoorsy families, walkers and those looking for great views and sunshine.


Few places in Cornwall can compare with the Roseland as one of the most picturesque and unspoilt parts of the UK.  With lovely beaches and cliffs, excellent walking, delightful rivers and countryside, pretty villages and hamlets, the Roseland is the perfect setting for a family holiday.  Whether you want to walk, swim, sail, snorkel or learn a new water sport, there are ample opportunities.  Or indulge in more leisurely pursuits like bird watching, visiting beautiful gardens, or simply relaxing on the beach or your balcony with a book and a glass of local wine.

1. St Mawes

By far the most well-known destination in Roseland, the picturesque harbour of St Mawes offers shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants.  An important port in medieval times, it now has a small fishing fleet but is more tourist destination than working fishing port.  On a fine day the harbour is full of sailing boats and passenger boats playing their trade.



The village offers three fine beaches, alongside local food at the deli and cafes, some nice hotels, pretty houses, and some interesting shops and galleries.  You can pick up a Tresaure Trail map from the Roseland Visitor Centre to help you better explore this pretty village.



At the top of the long stay car park there is a great recreation ground with skate ramps, children's playground and tennis court.  Don't miss the zip slide right at the top for older kids, and there is a nature trail and some picnic tables to make your stay longer - bring a picnic or grab bits from the deli, take away or Co-op in the village.  If you don't fancy the walk, take your tuck to one of the three beaches instead.  We highly recommend chips from The Watch House.



2. St Just-in-Roseland

Located just north of St Mawes the pretty church of St.Just-in-Roseland is renowned as having the prettiest church yard in England.  It is in an idyllic setting with gardens stretching down the hillside to the tidal creek of St Just Pool, a spot where it is said that Joseph of Arimithea and the infant Jesus landed on their way to Glastonbury.



The churchyard is luxuriantly planted with sub-tropical shrubs and trees, and graves dating back centuries perched precariously down the hillside.  The 13th-Century church perches at the water's edge, with footpaths leading in all directions.  Take the path through beautiful National Trust land to St Mawes, a walk of around 2 miles.



The church itself is a delightful place to visit, described by John Betjeman as "to many people the most beautiful churchyard on earth".  It has gorgeous stained glass windows, a rich history, and wonderful touches like prayer pebbles, woollen crosses made by the congregation for people to take away, and a wonderful prayer tree outside.




There is a small car park near the church, and the recently-opened Miss V's Corrnish Teas serves coffees, light snacks and cream teas if you want to stay a little longer in this peaceful spot.


3. St Mawes Castle

St Mawes Castle is among the best-preserved of Henry VIII's coastal artillery fortresses, and the most elaborately decorated of them all.  One of the chain of forts built between 1539 and 1545 to counter an invasion threat from Catholic France and Spain, it guarded the Fal estuary along with Pendennis Castle opposite.  Although its gun ports which cover every aspect of possible approach were more likely to see off pirate attacks on commercial boats than an enemy attack.



Built with its three circular bastions forming a charming clover-leaf shape, and originally surrounded by octagonal outer defences, St Mawes was designed to mount heavy 'ship-sinking' guns.  But to honour the king particular care was also taken with its external embellishments, and the castle is bedecked with carved Latin inscriptions praising King Henry VIII and his son.



St Mawes Castle owes its fine preservation to the fact that it was little developed after its completion, unlike Pendennis Castle across the water.  In 1646 Royalists at St Mawes castle easily fell to a landward attack by Civil War Parliamentarian forces and remained neglected until partial re-arming during the 19th and early 20th centuries, evidence of which can be seen in the grounds.



On your visit to this fine example of Tudor military architecture admire the many types of guns inside and out along with the stunning sea views from the top of the castle keep.  The Tudor kitchen and the glass panel in the floor where you can look down at the 'oubliette' where prisoners (and unruly soldiers) were held captive are well worth looking out for.  Then explore the lovely grounds which stretch down to the waters of the Fal Estuary with stunning views across to Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, back to St Mawes and out to sea.

St Mawes Castle is open year round, free for English Heritage members


4. St Anthony Head

St Anthony Head lies at the tip of the Roseland Peninsula across from St Mawes and is a lovely, quiet place to visit.  A coal beacon burned on the headland for centuries, warning of the rocky bay below, the infamous Manacles Rocks found all along the Lizard Peninsula until a lighthouse was built.

The present lighthouse dates from 1834 and was the setting for the television series Fraggle Rock.  It is sometimes open to the public during the summer months.


The whole of the headland is owned by the National Trust, and includes the lighthouse and evidence of the area's strategic importance.  Vital for the defence of the Fal River it was used during both World Wars, and the WWII gun batteries remain.  This spectacular headland is also an excellent place for bird watching with peregrine falcons that nest in the cliffs often spotted high above your head.  There is a great bird hide near the lighthouse.

Located on the South West Coast Path St Anthony Head is a great place to head to from Portscatho or Place (get the ferry across from St Mawes during the summer), so lace up your boots, or take a gentler stroll from the National Trust car park*.  The South West Coast Path will also lead you to the secluded beaches of Great and Little Molunan.

* Parking is free for National Trust members

5. Walk the South West Coast Path

You might not manage the full 630 miles during your holiday, but you can certainly cover a few miles of the longest National Trail in the UK.  And why not start the path as you pass through Roseland's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?


Much of the coast path follows the trails walked by coastguard and excise officers for centuries, even as late as 1913.  But with settlements along the coast dating back as far as the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as more recent wartime activity, there is a rich history to discover as you walk.

You will definitely need a guide to the walk and this comprehensive companion covers the whole Trail, while this guide covers the area around the Roseland more specifically.


In this area particularly, the path can be steep in parts, so plan carefully if you are bringing children.  But wherever you walk, be ready to spot stunning scenery, views and geology, as well as glimpses of our national heritage and beautiful flora and fauna all around.

6. Veryan 

The tiny village of Veryan has an excellent playground, small shop and post office, art gallery and adorable round houses.  The thatched cob houses were built round so that the Devil couldn't hide in the corners.


There are five round houses in all, two at either end of the village and one more in the centre, all built around 1782.  They were built by Reverend Jeremiah Trist for his daughters, with a crucifix on the top of each house offering extra protection from the Devil and his minions.  Several of the houses are now holiday cottages.


In the village the New Inn offers traditional pub fare, while just outside the village lies the Veryan Art Gallery with a lovely selection of contemporary and local art.  Nearby there is a Bronze Age barrow, Carne Beacon, purportedly the final resting place of Cornish King Gereint, and Veryan Castle, a small Iron Age hill fort.



From Veryan you can head across to the busy fishing village of Portloe or on to Carne and Pendower beaches, recommended as the most beautiful family-friendly beach on the south coast.  The military Veryan Bunkers also lie close by and are open occasionally for tours.

Also recommended: Caerhays Castle Gardens are open in spring and highly recommended.

7. Go to the Beach

Porthcurnick

Porthcurnick is a beautiful sandy beach with rock pools that harbour all sorts of creatures and varieties of seaweed.  It's a popular beach, dog-friendly all year round, and has plenty to keep you busy all day long.  There is National Trust parking on a steep hill to one side and a bigger car park along the road towards Portscatho.  From here there is a walk and steps down to the beach.

Where to eat: The Hidden Hut offers a great daily menu of hearty but modern lunches, delicious ice creams and cakes.  The salted caramel flapjack is delicious.  Toilets are available by the cafe.




Portscatho

Portscatho has a pretty little beach with rock pools, a short walk down from the parking and Co-op.  There are a couple of pubs and cafes up above the beach and toilets available.  Parking is in the village and very limited.  You'll need good brakes too!


Towan

South of Portscatho on the road towards St Anthony Head, stunning, quiet Towan beach faces south and is a beautiful spot for a day at the beach.  Sandy with rock pools exposed at high tide, there is a National Trust car park (free for members) up the footpath at Porth.

Where to eat: bring a picnic, but you can supplement it at the Thirstea tea cart between May and October.  Toilets are available in the old yard at Porth, a few minutes' walk from the beach.


Porthbeor

A stunningly beautiful beach previously reached by a long, steep set of wooden steps now largely washed away.  The cliff face is also highly unstable so accessing the beach is not advised.

Also recommended:
  • Porthluney beach in front of Caerhays Castle, a stunning family beach with a large car park.
  • Summers beach in St Mawes, perfect when the tide goes out if you are in St Mawes for the day.

Where to stay

We highly recommend the gorgeous holiday cottages from Caerhays Castle, including beautiful barn conversion Parc-an-Bounder located in the centre of the Roseland Peninsula.  You can also find other holiday cottages in the area.

Where to eat

The King's Head, Ruan Lanihorne

Surprisingly, rural Ruan Lanihorne stands on the old coach road from Penzance to London.  The grey, slate stone village church, dedicated to St. Rumon, is of interest for its austere style and Norman font, while recent restorations include the installation of a stained glass window in 1866.  The nearby creek is a haven for wading and water birds and well worth a look.


Drive past the church and The King's Head pub to find a small car park on the right.  The pub offers a simple, locally-sourced menu and is highly recommended with various awards.  We found service a little haphazard, but the food was good.


Da Bara Bakery

Well known for supplying local businesses for the past few years, Da Bara Bakery have now opened their own cafe and take away bakery on the A3078 on the way in to Roseland.  Stop for breakfast, coffee or lunch or take away delicious pastries, breads and cakes.  Highly recommended.  Open 8am-4pm Monday to Saturday in low season.

Also recommended: The Roseland Inn at Philleigh

Shopping

For food shopping there are small Co-op shops in both St Mawes and Portscatho.  The St Mawes one offers far friendlier, helpful service and a larger and better range of products and is open 8am to 7.30pm.

The Spar at the Roseland petrol station on the A3078 on the way down also has a good range of groceries.  There is also a Londis in Tregony and the farm shop next to the Roseland Inn in Philleigh offers a selection of fresh, seasonal fruit and veg.

There are also various honesty box stalls for jam, honey and eggs around, and a great vegetable stall on the road just outside St Just.  Keep an eye out as you drive around.

For other shopping St Mawes offers the lovely Fudge & Moore for fudge, chocolates, toys and gifts; plus a pharmacy, further gift shop, Fat Face clothing store, the Co-Op and a few other shops.  There is also a cash point at the bottom of the car park.

More extensive shopping, including various major supermarkets, can be found some 15-20 miles further afield.  Worth stocking up at Asda or Tesco as you pass through St Austell, or Sainsbury's if you come through Truro, although all deliver to most locations on the peninsula.  For more extesnive shopping the pretty city of Truro is recommended.


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