St Clement's Isle - a small rocky islet once the home to an ancient hermit lies just offshore of the harbour wall. A few hundred yards along the coast from the village lies a huge cave which - so some people say - gives rise to the name of the village (Mouse Hole!).
Just outside the village, on the road to Lamorna, is Mousehole Wild Bird Hospital. Founded in 1928, the hospital became well known for its involvement in the 1960s Torrey Canyon, when more than 8000 coastal birds suffered the effects of spilled oil.
Sight-seeing boat trips out of Mousehole are available, down to Land’s End, around St Michaels Mount and up towards Newlyn. See if you can spot the local seals and dolphins – or even the odd basking shark!
Don’t miss Dolly Pentreath’s house, marked with a plaque, as you walk from the car park towards the harbour – and of course, the numerous coastal footpaths which wind their way up out of the village and along the shoreline towards Newlyn and Penzance in one direction, and Lamorna and Porthcurno in the other.
December in Mousehole is magical – with one of the most famous Christmas lights displays in the region. The entire village is illuminated with an ever-growing collection of festive lights, including the Loch Ness monster, a stargazy pie and fishing boats, which sit on the water in the harbour. There is an official ‘switch-on’ with carol singing, a local silver band and hot chestnuts – and each December 19th, the lights are dimmed for an hour in honour of the Solomon Brown crew.
Also in December is Tom Bawcock’s Eve, held on the 23rd. Tom Bawcock was a local fisherman who braved the winter seas to catch fish for the villagers, saving them all from famine. To commemorate Tom’s bravery, each year the village holds a lantern procession before everyone congregates at the Ship Inn for some stargazy pie – an interesting fish pie with the fishes’ heads sticking out through the crust!
Other events in Mousehole include the annual Carnival, held in the middle of August each year, the Lifeboat Day at the end of August, and various male voice choir concerts throughout the summer.
Out and about
Famous for its pirates (of the singing variety), Penzance is a historic port on the south facing shores of Mount’s Bay and has one of the mildest climates in the UK. One of the striking things about the town is the abundance of palm trees and gardens full of sub-tropical plants, along with the majestic sight of St Michael’s Mount out to sea, which seems to hover magically over the water. Wander the town’s streets and you’ll come across the fabulously decorated Egyptian House, the statue of local hero Sir Humphry Davy (pioneer of mine safety) and art galleries, book sellers and new age shops which add a slightly bohemian feel to the town while down at the harbour boat trips, sea safaris and fishing excursions provide some great seaborne activities.
Newlyn is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the United Kingdom, with over 40 acres of harbour. The industry is one of the most important in the county, contributing millions of pounds to the Cornish economy each year. All sorts of fishing vessels can be seen in the harbour - beam trawlers, long liners, crabbers and even small open boats used for hand-lining for mackerel in the Bay.
The port was sacked and torched by a Spanish raiding party in the 16th century, then rebuilt. Today, very little of old Newlyn remains. Many of the white painted or stone faced granite cottages, separated by steep, narrow alleys, were only saved from demolition by the outbreak of the Second World War. The medieval harbour walls are dwarfed by the hundred year old walls of the North and South Piers.
Newlyn has a few galleries and several chandlers but little in the way of high street shopping. There are a number of interesting old public houses and several restaurants. Although not as famous as those of nearby Mousehole, Newlyn Christmas lights are launched annually to the accompaniment of the Newlyn Male Voice Choir and followed by a firework display.
It is worth rising early to visit the bustling Fish Market and to see the fish being sold. The fish is displayed in coloured rectangular baskets and ticketed awaiting auction. Some of the fish are destined for local restaurants, but most are sold to buyers from various other European countries, especially to France, Spain and Portugal. The Newlyn Fish Festival is held on August Bank Holiday Monday each year, when stalls and cafés take over the quays for the day.
Apart from the natural beauty of this small cove, Lamorna is perhaps best known for the Post-Impressionist artists who came to stay here in the early part of the twentieth century. One of them, Lamorna Birch, even took his name from the place. He was born Samuel John Birch and moved to live in Lamorna shortly after the turn of the century. Before long, he was followed by other artists, many of whom were associated with the famous Newlyn School.
Lamorna Cove is at the end of a lush valley watered by a stream, running down to the sea. A few cottages and an old inn border the narrow lane. This road to the small harbour cuts through woods, unusual in the far west of Cornwall. A bus runs from Penzance to the cove, but it is best to check the timetables as the service is infrequent. There is a paying car park on the harbour and a small café, but the hamlet is basically unspoiled with very little holiday accommodation.
Not far from Lamorna are several interesting archaeological sites. These include The Merry Maidens and The Pipers at Boleigh. A walk from the cove towards Mousehole passes an old water mill and leads through the hamlet of Castallack. There are various footpaths in the area, in addition to the coastal path running through Lamorna from Mousehole to Porthcurno. This is well worth exploring, if only for the stunning views and the rugged coastline.
Described by some as being a paradise, Porthcurno, located in the far west of Cornwall has won many awards and it’s easy to see why. With gorgeous fine soft white sand washed by a sea that turns turquoise in the sun and high cliffs on both sides providing shelter, it’s an oasis of stunning natural beauty.
The large beach, popular with families, has a stream that flows down one side which is great for kids to paddle in and up on the cliffs is the internationally renowned Minack Theatre, built in the 1920s by theatrical visionary Rowena Wade and her faithful gardener, which you can visit all year round.
Logan Rock famous for its 80 ton granite rocking stone is a 30 minute walk away round the bay to the left and the fascinating Porthcurno Telegraph Museum that tells the story of Cornwall’s role in the pioneering days of global communications is located just before you get to the main car park.