Cornwall is hardly famed for its frenetic pace of life so to describe Roseland Peninsula as the most chilled part of it is saying a lot. This picturesque sliver of coastline on the south west tip of Cornwall is laid-back to the hilt and rivals Kate Moss in terms of photogenic appeal. A designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it stretches from St Mawes in the south across the River Fal to the pretty fishing villages of Gerran and Portscatho and is home to some of the UK’s most secluded and unspoilt beaches. These are best explored via the South West Coast Path, which dots together a labyrinth of hidden coves, woodland, tiny hamlets and dramatic headland views.
A sunny day over Porthcurnick beach
You can easily mull away the days here by walking and pubbing but for all its timeless appeal, Roseland Peninsula is constantly developing and has plenty to offer a new audience as well. Its burgeoning arts scene is celebrated by the annual Roseland Festival and the villages are peppered with an unlikely amount of galleries and independent shops selling homemade jewellery and antiques. Foodies will delight in local, seasonal cuisine and cool new enterprises such as The Hidden Hut, which serves up seafood paella and other treats in stone’s throw of Porthcurnick beach.
All this and more is highlighted in the Good Cornwall Guide, a directory which focuses on fresh, unique and little-known experiences across the county, from hot new restaurants to chic store openings and boutique accommodation.
Where to stay
Mermaid Cottage's dining area: an oasis of luxury
As you would expect, Roseland Peninsula has many great places to stay, from Idle Rocks hotel on the edge of St Mawes harbour to the charming Lugger in Portloe. Self-catering options are equally abundant, including Boutique Retreats property Mermaid Cottage. This brilliantly appointed "boutique retreat" is based in the tiny hamlet of Rosevine near Portscatho.
Welly pegs come in useful for all those hearty coast walks
The word "cottage" is a perhaps a bit misleading for such a decadent abode. Not only is it beautifully designed - there are low-hanging retro lamps and chairs and a heated outdoor shower for post-beach wash downs - it also comes with a full complement of top notch facilities that go way beyond your average holiday cottage offering. Alongside the usual clutch of CDs, books and board games, there's a mammoth barbecue, Molton Brown products in the (three) bathrooms and a fridge that delivers cold water from an inbuilt pump. The piece de resistance is the splendid kitchen, which is packed to the hilt with cool gadgets. Designed as "a beautiful space for a budding Nigella to flex their culinary skills", it comes with a double AGA and falcon induction hob, a large granite island for food prep and a gleaming coffee machine.
The super-bling kitchen is kitted out with an armoury of gadgets
This understated glamour lends the place a distinct Gatsby air, from the sleek, whitewash cottage walls to the summer house (a great spot for reading) and the generous garden that slopes down to fields overlooking the sea. Best of all, Mermaid Cottage sleeps 10 very comfortably (it has four bedrooms), making it a great venue for either big groups of friends or a family gathering. To really push the boat out for a special occasion, you can hire leading chef Ben Quinn to cook dinner for you and your group, and accompany him beforehand as he scours the Cornish coast for fresh, seasonal catch.
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Author Daphne du Maurier (pictured here with her children) lived in Cornwall and many of her most famous works were set there
Food and drink
Chic interiors abound in The Rosevine restaurant
Cornwall is a land of plenty when it comes to food and you’ll be spoilt for choice with locally caught Dover sole, Cornish pasties served warm out of the oven, organic Roskillys ice-cream and fine local ales. The Plume of Feathers, an 18th Century inn in Portscatho, is always packed and its tables on the street outside offer a great vantage point to watch the comings and goings of the village over a pint of Tribute. The nearby Boathouse restaurant has an arty feel and serves a variety of light snacks and evening meals such as breaded place with chips. For afternoon tea, head to Hotel Tresanton in St Mawes, where you can feast on scones, pastries, clotted Cornish cream and chocolate fudge cake – not to mention a veritable treasure trove of teas.
Fresh line caught Sea Bass, anyone?
Another great spot for dining out is The Rosevine Hotel overlooking the bay of Porthcurnick. Its elegant restaurant comes with a relaxed seaside ambiance, with wooden flooring, chic lighting and furniture in pale, natural hues. The menu is seasonal and changes daily, including dishes such as Cornish crab cakes and potted pork with caramelised onion and rye toast. Book a table in the evening as dusk sets in, so you can watch the lights come on across the coastline below.
The Hidden Hut is Roseland Peninsula's latest hot spot for seaside cuisine
For something a little less formal, the aforementioned Hidden Hut is definitely worth a visit. Grab one of the bean bags that are scattered round the hut during the day and order a Focaccia roll, Cornish pasty or chocolate brownie made fresh every morning. Watch out for the special bring-your-own-plate “feast nights” held here featuring everything from slow-roast Moroccan lamb to lobster and chips, cooked outdoors on giant, wood-fired grills.
Mmm, paella. We want MORE
For self-catering, pop by Curgurrell Farm Shop between Veryan and St Mawes, where you can pick up crab, lobster, fresh fish such as line caught sea bass, local garden produce and homemade jams.
Roseland Peninsula: four great walks
Wild coastal paths and secluded beach = our kind of walk
- The Nare Head walk (walkingbritain.co.uk): A seven-mile circular walk starting from the village of Veryan past Kiberick Cove and Portloe
- St Mawes headland (falriver.co.uk): Pass St Mawes Castle and wooded paths to Polyn and Porth Creeks (plus great views of Falmouth beach) on this 3.5-mile round walk
- Portscatcho to Carne beach (cornwallinfocus.co.uk): A gentle walk along the South West Coast Path from the village Portscatcho past The Hidden Hut on Porthcurnick beach
- Fal River walk (falriver.co.uk): A seven-mile romp from St Mawes along the Fal River; the last oyster fishery in Europe still to be dredged by sail and oar
Things to see and do
The iconic St Mawes ferry runs a daily service
Start off by drinking in some sea air with one of Roseland Peninsula’s spectacular coastal walks, many of which include pub stops along the way. From Portscatho or further along the coast at Porthcurnick beach, take a left to follow a walk along the cliff tops to the tranquil and uncrowded Porthbean beach. From here, you extend the walk by taking a path upwards from the beach through fields, an ancient barrow known as “Round House” and Treluggan Cliff to Nare Head near Carne beach. You can also follow the South West Coast Path to the right of Portscatcho towards the headland, or explore the village itself with a sail school, Spindrift art gallery and painters who regularly gather on the small harbour to capture the sea view.
St Mawes, the largest village in Roseland Peninsula, is another jewel its crown. The harbour in this thriving fishing port is a fabulous spot for swimming, paddling or watching the boats come and go with some fish and chips on the beach. As with all of Cornwall, this area is something of a promised land for water sport enthusiasts, and in summer months especially, the coastline fills with windsurfers, kayaks and yachts. It's worth bearing in mind you can get a paddle board or bike delivered straight to wherever you're based at Cornish hire company Go By Cycle.
Henry VIII built himself a rather nice pad in St Mawes
History buffs can explore St Mawes castle, a coastal fortress built by Henry VIII and the 13th Century St Just in Roseland church. There’s a flurry of great independent shops to mooch around, including the Deli-cious deli (with fresh pasties and Roskillys clotted cream) and Fudge & Moore for handmade treats.
Want more? The St Mawes ferry is a historic service that runs seven days a week all year round to nearby Falmouth for just £9 return. Enterprise Boats run a seasonal service to Truro (Easter to October) or hop aboard the King Harry Ferry for trips up and down Fal River.
Getting there and away
Wave bye bye to city life
Roseland Peninsula is about a four hour car journey from London or you can fly to Newquay, a 55-minute drive from St Mawes, from £60 with flybe. A wonderfully romantic alternative, however, is to get the overnight sleeper train to Falmouth and cross on ferry from there. The Night Riviera offers one-way fares from £49 for a single berth.
Good Cornwall Guide (GCG) is a little guide filled with events that only locals hear about, tried and tested experiences, together with a directory of awesome boutique accommodation - the GCG talks about the 'real' special spots here in the county and in particular there are lots of characters behind it all.
Photos: Good Cornwall Guide, Rex Features, Getty Images and author's own