St Mawes to Penzance
Dotted with relics of the mining industry, follow the south Cornish coast and also head inland
Follow the route – St Mawes to Penzance
> From St Mawes turn north on the A3078 then the B3289, using King Harry ferry, which closes before dusk, then join the A39 and follow signs to Penryn and then Falmouth.
Visiting Penryn and Falmouth
Almost everything in Penryn is built of granite – granite buildings, a granite port and granite blocks lying around everywhere waiting to be shipped out. The narrow streets of this old town stretch up the sides of the valley in an untidy but appealing way. Further on is Falmouth, set on one of the finest natural harbours in the world. There are beaches to the south of the town, and on the northern side of the peninsula are the docks and 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Pendennis Castle was built at the same time as its twin, St Mawes Castle, to guard the harbour entrance.
Places to stay in the area
> Leave Falmouth on unclassified roads passing through Mawnan Smith, Porth Navas, Constantine and Brill to Gweek.
This lovely little stone village with two stone bridges across the channels of the Helford River is now better known for its seal sanctuary. Along the picturesque and tranquil banks of the Helford, sick and wounded seals and birds are treated. There are displays which show the work of the centre, and a safari bus will take you round the park to see the convalescent pool, nursery and exercise areas.
Places to stay near Gweek
> Travel to Garras on unclassified roads. Then take the B3293 and unclassified roads across Goonhilly Downs, south to Cadgwith and on to Lizard Point on an unclassified road and the A3083.
Attractive thatched cottages clustered round the small beach and harbour create a beautiful setting for local fishermen and tourists. Sandy coves alternate with rugged cliffs along this stretch of coast, but the most dramatic feature is the noisy, swirling water of the Devil’s Frying Pan, created when a vast sea cave collapsed.
Further on, Lizard Point is the southernmost point in England with dramatic 180-foot (55m) cliffs and a lighthouse, open to the public.
Places to stay near Cadgwith
> Head north from Lizard Point for 4 miles (6km) along the A3083, then the B3296 to Mullion.
The village of Mullion boasts a fine 14th- and 15th-century church, which contains carved oak bench-ends, well worth inspecting. The church tower is partially built of the local multi-coloured serpentine. Nearby Mullion Cove is surrounded by steep cave-pocked cliffs and has splendid views.
Places to stay in Mullion
> Drive on unclassified roads via Poldhu and Cury back to the A3083 and on to Helston.
Radio buffs should visit Poldhu Point before entering Helston, to see the Marconi Monument, which commemorates the first transatlantic transmitting station. The ancient Furry Dance takes place in Helston on 8 May, when there is dancing in the streets all day. In the past this town was a port, before the Loe Bar, a 600-foot (183m) ridge of shingle, blocked it off from the sea. Behind Loe Bar is The Loe, a pretty lake, into which, according to legend, Sir Bedivere threw King Arthur’s sword, Excalibur.
Nearby the Flambards Experience provides entertainment for the whole family. It features an award-winning Victorian village, a simulation of the World War II blitz, awesome rides and other themes.
Places to stay in Helston
> Take the B3304 through Porthleven, then along the A394 to Marazion. Take an unclassified road before the bypass, into the village.
This ancient port is famous for St Michael’s Mount, the granite island located offshore, but is a remarkable place in its own right. Cornwall’s oldest chartered town, it has the safest beach in Cornwall and some of the best windsurfing in Europe. Henry III granted the town a charter in 1257 and for hundreds of years tin and copper ores were exported from here. The small town still attracts plenty of visitors, in spite of the bypass which has reduced the amount of through-traffic.
Places to stay in Marazion
> Return to Penzance via an unclassified road to the A394.
This grand seaside town, the capital of West Cornwall, is all sunshine and stunning sunrises over Mount’s Bay and St Michael’s Mount. The old town has beautiful Georgian and Regency buildings, there’s a 19th-century seaside promenade and the jewel in its crown, a 1930s lido, recently refurbished. The water may occasionally be a bit chilly, but you can warm up afterwards in one of the town’s characterful pubs, which are welcoming and have Cornish ales and ciders on tap. Penzance is a lively spot that saw its heyday in the 19th century as a popular holiday spot.