A coastal adventure along the tip of the Roseland
Naturally we’re supposed to keep our features as unbiased as possible, but St Mawes is without a doubt one of my favourite places in Cornwall – tying for the top spot with St Ives – so I can’t help but be a little biased. You’ll lose the urge to go abroad after visiting this coastal village, where aquamarine waters sweep up to the harbour overlooked by quirky whitewashed cottages adorned with potted flowers.
The village was once a busy fishing port and is home to a wealth of maritime history, but none as exciting as Henry VIII’s castle perched on the hilltop at the village edge. St Mawes Castle was built in the mid-1500s, opposite Pendennis Castle on the other side of the Fal estuary at Falmouth, to guard the Carrick Roads. It’s said to be one of the Tudor King’s best preserved coastal artillery fortresses, and one of the most elaborately decorated.
This circular walk from St Mawes to St Just and back passes by the castle and it’s well worth spending an hour or so exploring the building and its beautiful flower-laden grounds that look out to the
village harbour, the sail boat dotted sea and the bustling port of Falmouth. Audio tours are a great way to soak up the fascinating history of the place.
Park up at the main car park in St Mawes’ village centre to begin this moderate three-hour walk (two hours if you’re a speedy walker and don’t stop to admire the scenery). Be sure to wear practical footwear, as parts of the walk can get very muddy after a downpour. There are lots of great places
to eat in the village so it’s worth heading off in time to get back for lunch or dinner.
The walk kicks from the harbour towards St Mawes Castle, so head up along Lower Castle Road then take the coastal path that stretches right, downwards from the castle, with the water on one side and some extremely luxurious houses on the other. The coastal path soon turns wilder, passing through fields that run adjacent to the Carrick Roads. Follow the edge of fields through a number of styles and kissing gates straight on till you reach a small harbour at the edge of St Just in Roseland.
Heading uphill from here, you’ll come to St Just in Roseland church, arguably the most beautiful in the county and sitting within the most stunning churchyard garden I’ve ever seen filled with sub-tropical and native plants. This 13th century that overlooks St Just Creek; legend has it that Joseph of
Arimathea brought Jesus ashore to Cornwall here.
The church and its glorious gardens were built on the site of a fifth century chapel and dedicated to St Just in 1261. His name is said to derive from Jestyn, son of Geraint, the eighth century king of Cornwall. Winding paths slope down various levels towards the church, taking you beneath towering pink camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons, past palm trees, gunnera and bamboo to name just a few of the varieties that fill this garden with colour all year round.
It’s easy to spend far longer than anticipated exploring the nooks and crannies of this enchanting garden, so once you’ve quite satisfied your curiosity, head back up towards the top entrance by the public toilets and cross the road where you’ll see a National Trust signpost pointing upwards. Follow the steps and head through the gate signposted as Church Town Farm. Follow a pathway running between the Carrick Roads and the A3078, which you’ll come to after about half a mile – a large, looming water tank marks the sport, so you can’t miss it.
From this point, cross over the main road and 50 metres on turn left onto a driveway and veer right
through a gate that now reads ‘private’. From here, head left immediately, and continue along the track that leads to the Bosloggas River and a barbed wire alley running through the woodland – the beauty of this spot is worth the potential peril of the questionable choice of fencing. Steps and stiles lead down to Polingey Creek and back up onto a wooded path with views across Polyn and Port Creeks that were once rife with smugglers.
The pathway will lead you to a boat yard – take the road upwards and then the fi rst left that leads to a busy main road. Take a right turn onto here then the nearest left across the road will lead you back down to St Mawes, where fish and chips on the beach is best followed by ice cream from Fudge & Moore.