On a clear July morning in St Mawes, one is likely to find the promenade alive with activity. Chandlers cafe is buzzing as early morning patrons queue for coffee and pastries. Burly young men are unloading groceries to stock the shelves of the Co-Op. The balcony doors are open at The St Mawes Hotel, and an efficient waiter is dusting down tables ready for a day of Summer Cups and Pimms. Joggers and dog walkers colonize the sidewalks and surf companies are setting up their paddleboards. The 9 o’clock ferry is leaving for Falmouth, and eager children are trawling rock pools, while a feisty Labrador is enjoying her morning swim.
Many of us are considering holidays closer to home this year, and if Cornwall is Britain’s answer to the south of France, then St Mawes is it’s St Tropez. With sea-to-sky views and pastel cottages, this postcard village has its own special charm. Buried in the land of Daphne du Maurier and Poldark, this ancient fishing port is steeped in history and rich in rumour. There is even a tale that Jesus Christ himself once lingered in St Mawes. And now troops of holiday-makers are following in his footsteps, in search of idyllic beaches and clotted cream.
Here is my guide to one of Britain’s most beloved seaside towns.
Where to stay:
Olga Polizzi’s highly publicized Tresanton Hotel still remains a frontrunner and has been heralded for putting St Mawes back on the map. Its hybrid of seaside glamour and relaxed jollity has been delighting guests since 1998. Just down the road, The Idle Rocks is perched on the sea front with panoramic views of the harbour and a mean Caipirinha. It’s the perfect spot to ‘idle’ away an evening, eating oysters and watching yachts slink back into the harbour. The Idle Rocks was bought and re-launched by Aston Martin Chairman, David Richards and his wife, who incidentally also own the slightly edgier St Mawes Hotel.
Where to Eat:
On your way back from the beach duck into Fudge and Moore for ice cream (the marmalade flavour is highly recommended) and Deli-Cious for a Cornish crab roll. The St Mawes Hotel does excellent Pizzas and Tapas, while The Watch House dishes out quality fish and chips during the day and transforms into a smart restaurant at night. After a lunch of Salted Cod at The Hidden Hut on Porthcurnick beach, amble along the coastal path for an afternoon coffee at Tatams in Portscatho. Once a public lavatory, this artisanal coffee stand now offers unrivalled sea views and lip-smacking pastéis de nata.
What to do:
With regular races and regattas, holidays in St Mawes tend to revolve around sailing. For those of us not lucky enough to have our own yachts, they can be easily commandeered from St Mawes Boat hire. The delights of Falmouth are only a hop, skip and a ferryride away. Be sure to visit the National Maritime Museum and the Falmouth Art Gallery.
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, then you’ll be pleased with the abundance of breathtaking walks and beaches. The Coastal path, punctuated by errant foxgloves and hydrangeas, offers impressive ocean vistas. Pack your sunhats and head to Carne beach near Veryan for a perfect summer’s day out (It’s where The Camomile Lawn was filmed, for any Mary Wesley fans). Visit St Mawes Castle, built by Henry VIII and now an English Heritage site. It sits on the mouth of the River Fal and was intended to guard against French invasion. Meander through the tropical garden of St Just in Roseland Church. There is an air of magic to it. One can almost see the smugglers silently floating into the hidden cove, rustling brandy and cigars in their rickety wooden boats.
With so much on offer, the To Do List is long. But if you have a more laissez-faire approach to your holiday, bagsy a chair on the Tresanton Terrace, order an aperol spritz, and get stuck into a novel.