- OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
- Distance: 4.8 miles/7.8 km
- Grade: Moderate-strenuous
- Start from: Ramp next to the toilets on the North Pier
- Parking: Along road from Newlyn, Cliff car park or Pier car parks. As you approach from Newlyn, there are free parking areas along the road before you reach Mousehole Satnav: TR196PS
- Recommended footwear: Walking shoes (goes through farmyards)
- Historic fishing village of Mousehole
- Views across Lamorna Cove from Carn-du to Tater Du lighthouse
- Views across Mounts Bay to St Michael's Mount
- From the North Pier, follow along the harbour front, passing in front of the Ship Inn, until the lane ends at a junction with Keigwin Place.
Throughout the Mediaeval period, Mousehole was the major port in Mount's Bay and it had a number of fairs and markets. In the 14th century, its fishing fleet was ten times the size of that of either Penzance or Newlyn. Up until the 12th Century, the village was known as Porth Enys which translates to something along the lines of "Island Port", referring to St Clement's Isle. In the 13th century, the name Mousehole (pronounced mouzel) began to be used as well - the exact origin is unknown and various theories have been put forward including a possible Cornish name of "Moweshayle". The most well-known candidate is the cave known as "The Mousehole" which does look very much like a mouse hole from a cartoon, but made by a very large mouse! Unsurprisingly, the cave was put to good use by smugglers.
- Turn left into Keigwin Place as indicated by the coast path sign and continue a short distance to a T-junction opposite Little Keigwin. Turn left towards Tide's Reach and follow the wharf to reach the South Pier car park.
When you reach Little Keigwin, the building to the right is Keigwin House, the oldest building in the town, which dates from the 14th Century. Just before Tide's Reach, on the left, is a plaque dedicated to Dolly Pentreath, one of the last to speak the Cornish Language.
During the Anglo-Spanish War in 1595, five Spanish Galleys carrying several hundred men landed at Point Spaniard, just outside Mousehole. The English Troops stationed there fled leaving the town unprotected. Some of the local people fled up the hill to the church in Paul. The Spaniards killed any men that remained, raped the women, looted the town and then burned it to the ground. The only building left standing that has survived to today is the Keigwin House (formerly the Keigwin Arms), named after its owner who was killed there. After burning down Mousehole and Newlyn, the Spaniards followed the locals up the hill and burned Paul too.
- Cross through the car park, passing to the left of the Rowing Club, and follow the narrow path to reach a narrow lane in front of Glas Mor. Bear left onto the lane and follow it around a sharp bend and uphill to a sign for Merlin Place.
Mousehole harbour would have originally been built as a dry-stone granite construction using boulders from the beach or nearby moors stacked on their edges. Letters from the 1760s talk of repairs to the harbour involving floating the boulders into place using casks as buoys. It was rebuilt and extended in the 19th century. During this period, the stone for the quay faces was dressed, creating square blocks which were set in mortar. This was typically backfilled with rubble although older quay structures may sometimes have been incorporated within the backfill.
- Continue ahead up the path marked with a coast path sign and follow this until it emerges onto a lane. Turn left onto the lane and follow it uphill, ignoring the path leading off to the left. Follow the lane until you eventually reach a national speed limit sign with an attached coast path sign.
The Mousehole Bird Sanctuary, located on Raginnis Hill, was founded in 1928 by two sisters from the village. It became famous in 1967 after the Torrey Canyon disaster where the resulting oil spill was disastrous to seabirds and over 8000 birds were treated in the Mousehole Bird Sanctuary. The sanctuary is now a registered charity, and is still run solely on voluntary contributions. Visitors are welcomed and admission is free.
- Turn left down the track indicated by the coast path sign. Follow the stony track past Porth Enys House and continue until it ends between two gates with a path leading ahead and a waymark for the Lamorna Inland Route on the right.
On a rough November night in 1907, the Thames barge "Baltic" was on its way to Newlyn with a cargo of cement, but it ran aground on St Clement's Isle on its approach to the harbour. Mousehole fishermen rescued the crew and the captain's wife and daughter by lifting a crabbing boat by hand over the baulks that closed Mousehole harbour to winter seas and then rowing it out to the stranded ship. The ship was later salvaged and one of the crew settled in Mousehole and married the Harbourmaster's daughter.
- Follow the path ahead along the coast for nearly a mile until you enter a wooded area and reach an information board for Kemyel Crease.
On your way, you pass the old Coastguard lookout on Penzer point which was used to alert the lifeboat based on Penlee point at the other side of Mousehole.
In December 1981, a new ship - The Union Star - had just been launched in Denmark and was on its way to Ireland, having first made an unauthorised stop on the east coast of England to pick up the captain's wife and her two daughters. Near the south coast of Cornwall, the ship's engines failed and in 100 mph hurricane force winds, the ship was blown across Mounts Bay towards the rocks of Boscowen Cove.
Mousehole's Penlee lifeboat was launched with a crew of 8 and in breakers of over 60ft, attempted to pull alongside the coaster, being dropped on top of it by the waves on one occasion. After several attempts, the crew managed to pull alongside the vessel and get the captain's family and one crew member off the ship, but never made it back. There were no survivors from either vessel.
Within a day of the disaster, enough people from Mousehole had volunteered to form a new lifeboat crew. The lifeboat now operates out of Newlyn Harbour but is still known as the Penlee lifeboat.
- Follow the path through the reserve to emerge from the woodland by a reserve sign where the path passes through a wall.
The Kemyel Crease nature reserve is unusual and unmissable due to its huge conifers which form a coastal landmark. These were fast-growing salt-resistant Monterey Pine and Monterey Cypress that were planted in Victorian times to act as windbreaks as the cliff edges were used for growing bulbs and potatoes. These were planted in tiny terraced fields known as quillets which were hedged with fuchsia. The reserve contains over 100 of these tiny fields and was purchased by the Conrwall Wildlife Trust in 1974.
The thick tree cover limits what can grow beneath the canopy but the damp conditions are good for fungi. An unusual one known as an Earth Star is reported to grow here. This starts off as an unremarkable-looking brown ball and then the outer layer splits off and peels back to form a star shape, eventually folding underneath like starfish legs. These support a central globe which puffs out spores when drips of rain hit it.
As the conifers eventually die off, they are being replaced with native broadleaf trees which are able to support a more diverse range of wildlife. The Monterey Cypress, in particular, has quite a long life span so this process will be fairly gradual.
- Follow the path through the gap in the wall and continue along the coast path to a waymark at the bottom of a flight of steps.
On Boxing Day of 1977, a trawler - The Conqueror - ran aground in a severe winter storm on the rocks of Penzer Point. The ship remained on the rocks for a year, during which its cargo of frozen mackerel would have been unmistakable from the coast path! Eventually the boat was washed off the rocks by another storm and since it had been holed when it ran aground, it sank just offshore.
- When you reach the waymark, climb the steps to another waymark at the top.
There are excellent views across the bay to the lighthouse from the top and from the end of the Carn Du headland. A small path leads onto the headland from the coast path but is not recommended in wet or windy weather.
The Tater Du lighthouse was built in 1965 after a Spanish coaster capsized in 1963 with the loss of 11 lives, following a campaign from the Newlyn and Mousehole Fishermen's Association to prevent further disasters. From its construction, the lighthouse was designed to be fully automatic, being controlled remotely from the Trinity House depot in Penzance. The lighthouse also had a fog horn, but this was turned off in 2012.
- Follow the cobbled path to another waymark and then along the edge of the cliffs towards Lamorna Cove. As you approach the cove, follow the path along a garden wall to reach a waymark at a junction of paths.
In the 1800s, the son of a large stonemasonry company in London travelled the length of the country searching for accessible granite quarry sites. He finally settled on Lamorna Cove and the quarry on the eastern side of the cove opened in 1849, with quarries on the other side of the cove and in the nearby hamlet of Sheffield also being worked in the late Victorian period, with the last finally closing in 1911. Granite was blasted and then chipped into shape by hand; the ringing noise from the hand-held chisels was reported as being incessant and deafening. The blocks were then loaded onto boats via a metal two-tier metal pier which extended into the sea on the east side of the cove.
Lamorna granite was used in many Victorian engineering projects including the Wolf Rock and Longships lighthouses, Dover Admiralty Pier and breakwaters of Portland and Alderney. A number of iconic parts of London such as The Embankment and New Scotland Yard are also built from it.
- The return route is the path to the right, just past the waymark. You may want to explore Lamorna Cove first (along the path to the left, across the bridge and in front of the cottages). To continue the walk, follow the path from the waymark to a public footpath sign then up through the quarries for about a quarter of a mile until it emerges onto another path at a waymark in front of a cottage.
The quay at Lamorna Cove was built in the 1850s. It was badly damaged in 2006 and was then smashed apart in the 2014 storm.
Harbour walls created from mortared square blocks of granite during the Victorian period very quickly become unstable when the mortar between them is eroded by the sea. The large square blocks are particularly susceptible to the hydraulic lifting effect of the sea and the receding waves can suck loose blocks out of the harbour wall.
The previous old-fashioned way of building drystone harbour walls from unshaped boulders stacked on their edges did not suffer this problem, as the hydraulic pressure would be released through the gaps between the stones and the narrow, rounded bottom of each one did not present the sea much surface area to lift against.
- At the waymark, turn right and follow the path to a track. Bear right to join the track and follow it past the cottages to reach a stone stile with a public footpath sign on the right.
- Cross the stile on the right and follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile next to the gate in the far hedge.
There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.
- Climb the stile and cross the field to a waymarked stile next to the gateway.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a waymark on the corner of the hedge. Then head directly across the field to a stile with a cream-coloured arrow painted on the wall, pointing at it.
Kemyel Crease farm are one of the suppliers to Rodda's for their Cornish Clotted Cream.
The Rodda family started making clotted cream in their farmhouse kitchen in Scorrier in 1890, which was initially just sold locally. A breakthrough came in the 1920s when William Rodda developed a technique for preserving the cream in glass jars and this allowed it to be transported to London. Department stores such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason soon made large orders, but as the Roddas only had 12 cows on their farm, they began buying cream from local farms to supplement their own herd. By the 1930s, the demand had further increased and production was being scaled up, despite the lack of electricity and water on the farm at this point. Although there have been advances in production equipment, food hygiene and packaging, and Rodda's clotted cream is now sold all over the world, the business model hasn't fundamentally changed and cream from local farms is still brought to Scorrier. The milk used in the cream comes only from Cornwall and the farms that supply Roddas with their cream also need to meet high welfare standards.
- Climb down the stile and bear left onto the track. Follow this, which turns into a lane, until you reach a public footpath sign on the right.
Cornish clotted cream is described as having a "nutty, cooked milk" flavour and now has a Protected Designation of Origin (it must be made with milk from Cornwall). The unique, slightly yellow colour is due to the high carotene levels in the grass in Cornwall.
Traditionally, clotted cream was created by straining fresh cow's milk and letting it stand in a shallow pan in a cool place for several hours to allow the cream to rise to the surface. It was then heated, either over hot cinders or in a water bath, before a slow cooling. The clots that had formed on the top were then skimmed off with a long-handled cream-skimmer.
Clotted cream is similar to Kaymak (or Kajmak), a delicacy that is made throughout the Middle East, Southeast Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Turkey. It is possible that it was introduced to Cornwall by Phoenician traders who ventured to the area in search of tin.
- Turn right off the lane at the footpath sign and cross the stile. Follow the winding path to reach a waymark and a stone stile on the left; cross the stile and follow the path through the woods over another stone stile and footbridge and continue on the path to reach a public footpath sign on the approach to some farm buildings. Continue a short distance further in the direction waymarked on the signpost to reach a second public footpath sign beside a stile.
- Cross the stile beneath the footpath sign and follow the path through a series of kissing gates through the farmyard to reach a final gate into a field.
- Once through the last of the pedestrian gates, follow along the barn on the right to reach a stile with an old cross beside it. Climb the stile and follow the left hedge to a waymarked stile next to the gate.
The inland footpath between Mousehole and Lamorna Cove was used at the start of the 20th Century for the daily postal delivery route from Penzance. After walking through Newlyn and Mousehole, the postman would walk through the three farms, crossing 15 stiles and then descend the quarry road to Lamorna Cove before climbing the valley to Lamorna village where a hut was provided for him to dry out and eat his mid-day meal before continuing on his rounds through Castellack and back to Penzance.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile next to the gateway.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge a short distance to a stone stile. Cross this and again follow the left hedge a little further this time to reach another stone stile.
- Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile a few metres from the corner of the field.
- Cross the stile and head towards the farm gate on the opposite side of the field. As you approach, make for the stile on the right side of the gate.
- Cross the stile onto a lane and bear right to the track leading between Raginnis Cottage and The Bowjy. Follow the track until it ends at some barns.
Bowjy is a Cornish word meaning cow shed and Raginnis is likely from the Cornish a-rag enys which literally means "in front of the island". St Clement's Isle is quite close and generally thought to be the one in question although there is also a really nice view across Mount's Bay to St Michael's Mount from here.
- Bear right down the path leading from the track to a waymarked stone stile. Cross the stile and continue ahead to the gateway into the next field.
Penwith is thought to be the last part of Cornwall where the Cornish language was spoken. The language was still in common use at the start of the 18th Century and Dolly Pentreath claimed it was the only language that she spoke until the age of 20. By the end of the 18th Century, it had pretty much died out. Dolly Pentreath was the last recorded speaker but almost certainly not the last. Dolly died in 1777 and a year later a letter written in Cornish with an English translation from a fishermen in Mousehole stating that he knew of five people who could speak Cornish within Mousehole. There are also accounts of a man from Marazion who spoke Cornish and survived into the 1790s.
- Go through the gateway and bear right to a waymarked stone stile half-way along the hedge opposite.
The Cornish language (Kernewek) is a Brythonic Celtic language closely related to Welsh. Although the language had completely died out in the 19th Century, a revival movement started in the late 19th century as a result of antiquarian and academic interest in the language. A number of orthographical systems came into use until a Standard Written Form was agreed in 2008. In 2009, UNESCO changed its classification of Cornish from 'extinct' to 'critically endangered'. Cornish is currently thought to be the fastest growing language in Europe with the number of fluent Cornish speakers increasing from 300 in 2000 to an estimated 3,000 in 2012.
- Cross the stile and bear right to a stone stile just to the left of the gateway.
- Cross the stile and bear right to a gate in the bottom hedge, below the telegraph pole in the middle of the field.
- Go through the gate and turn left onto the track. Follow it a short distance until a path departs from the right down some steps beneath a hawthorn tree. Turn right down this path and follow it, sticking to the main path. After various flights of steps, twists and turns, the path widens into a narrow lane. Follow this until it ends at a T-junction with a larger lane opposite Mural Cottage.
Mousehole is home to the infamous Star Gazy Pie.
Stargazy pie is a pastry-based fish pie which, by tradition, is filled with whole pilchards. The pilchards are stuffed with a mixture of bacon, parsley, onions, cider and breadcrumbs. Boiled eggs and bacon are used to cover the pilchards, which are cooked with their heads sticking out of the pastry (hence the name). This allows the oils, released during cooking, to flow back into the pie, keeping the pie moist.
According to legend, the first stargazy pie was made one Christmas in the 16th century, when Tom Bawcock saved the starving villagers of Mousehole by taking his boat out in storm-force winds to bring home a huge catch. Where the starving villagers got the eggs, bacon, pastry and other ingredients from isn't explained in legend, but nevertheless, Tom Bawcock's Eve is still celebrated in Mousehole every December 23 with a lantern parade.
- Turn left onto the lane then almost immediately right down a flight of steps beside Star Haze. Follow the path onto a narrow lane and continue until this ends opposite the Harbour Office. Make your way past the Harbour Office to reach the harbour and complete the circular route.
Mousehole's now world-famous Christmas lights were started in 1963 by a local artist, who put a string of bulbs along the quays to brighten things up for Christmas. This caught the imagination of the village and two local carpenters made frames for increasingly elaborate displays including a serpent protruding from the water in the harbour. Many of their designs are still featured although the physical frames have been replaced a number of times due to the beating they take from the violent winter weather and saltwater. On December 19th each year, Mousehole's Christmas lights are dimmed for an hour in memory of those lost in the Penlee lifeboat tragedy.
Help us with this walk
You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.