Bordered by the Fal Estuary to the west and English Channel to the south, The Roseland Peninsula has been designated part of Cornwall’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the quality of its landscape and coastal scenery.
Despite being a floral delight in the spring and summer when hedgerows are full of wild flowers, the name Roseland, has nothing to do with the favourite blooms of many an English garden. It actually comes from the Cornish word Ros, meaning promontory. And there’s several promontories to choose from, The Dodman at the eastern end, Nare Head overlooking Gerrans Bay and St Anthony Head at the mouth of the Carrick Roads.
Although only a short drive from St Austell and Truro, its maze of lanes deters many from exploring far from the main centre of population at St Mawes. But those feeling adventurous will soon find themselves driving down narrow lanes to lovely wide-open beaches, staying on out of the way campsites and at farm shops selling super fresh produce grown in nearby fields.
When most of Cornwall is busy, here’s a place you can escape the crowds, especially if you’re willing to swap wheels for feet. The South West Coast Path isn’t as tough here as it is in other parts, country lanes not as busy, but the welcome in pubs is just as warm.
St Mawes: Curving around a sheltered bay, a haven for yachtsmen, and with a handful of quality hotels, a popular place to stay, St Mawes is the largest settlement on the Roseland. As well as the boutique shops and galleries, you can visit St Mawes Castle, built for Henry VIII to guard the entrance to the safe harbour between here and Falmouth. It’s a Tudor time capsule waiting to be explored, whilst its grounds offer great views of the water and are an ideal place for a picnic.
Alternatively, take the Place Ferry across the river and enjoy a walk around the headland to St Anthony Head with its distinctive lighthouse and military defences. The views are fantastic and a good place for spotting dolphins.
St Just in Roseland Church: Built in the 13th Century and set in gardens that tumble down to a pretty creek. The poet Sir John Betjeman stated it was ‘to many people the most beautiful churchyard on earth’. High praise indeed! As well as the sub-tropical plants, the path through the churchyard is lined by granite blocks, carved with a collection of Bible verses commissioned in the early 1900s. Walk down to the creek and see what birds you can spot, in what is, one of the most tranquil spots in the area.
Caerhays Castle: Not a ‘real’ castle in historic terms, Caerhays was built in the early 1800s and came into the hands of the Williams family in the 1850s. By the early 1900s the family were busy developing the castle grounds into one of the finest gardens in Cornwall, which can now be visited every spring.
Full of colour thanks to huge rhododendrons and azelias, it is the camellia that the family are most well known for, having created a hardy variety in 1923 that has now been hybridised 1000s of times around the world. Below the castle Porthluney Beach is a favourite of locals and visitors alike.
Veryan: Leading Inland from the coast, the Roseland is a patchwork of small farms and wooded valleys. One of these is Veryan, famed for its round houses. These small thatched whitewashed curiosities were built by the village vicar around 200 years ago and can be found when entering the village from two directions. The vicar placed a cross on the top of each cottage to stop the Devil from coming into the village. A mile from the village is The Nare Hotel, one of only two five star hotels in Cornwall, and with its feeling of unstuffy elegance, somewhere to relax and unwind away from the cares of the world.
Portloe: Nestled in a steep-sided valley, descending down to a little cove, Portloe is often considered the jewel of the Roseland Peninsula. These days, most of the fishing boats have gone, as have the fishermen, but it still a pleasant place to walk around on a sunny afternoon. Those feeling energetic might enjoy the walk west along the South West Coast Path to Nare Head.
Don't miss our next blog in this series when we visit the Tamar Valley.