Walk - Falmouth Docks Station - St Just in Roseland
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2022. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
From Falmouth Docks Station, walk down Pendennis Rise, turn right onto Bar Road. Follow this into Maritime Drive. Turn right at the roundabout and follow Arwenack Street past the Quay House into Market Street. The ferry to St Mawes can be caught from the Prince of Wales Pier.
- From the ferry landing at St Mawes walk to the inland end of the quay and turn left.
St Mawes is very picturesque, situated on a little bay between the main estuary of the River Fal and its tributary Percuil River. It owes its origin and name to a Celtic preacher who arrived around AD 550 to live as a hermit in what was then a very remote place. It had grown to a small town by the 13th century and in 1562 was granted borough status by Elizabeth I. It received the right to elect two MPs and was a notorious “rotten borough”. Its historic pilchard fishing trade has now been replaced by its role as a top-end resort.
- Walk along Marine Parade, with the estuary on the left, past attractive houses and cottages. After a little way Marine Parade becomes Lower Castle Road. Continue ahead, estuary still on the left, until a slight rise leads to St Mawes Castle.
The castle was built for Henry VIII between 1540 and 1545. It was designed as one of a pair, with Pendennis Castle opposite, to protect the strategic estuary from the threat of invasion by Spain and France. Among the earliest castles designed to be used with cannon, between them the two castles could cover the entire entrance to the estuary. St Mawes Castle was never updated so keeps its original Tudor design.
- Above the castle bear off to the left on Castle Drive. This descends past the castle car park then continues next to the estuary, ending at a gate into National Trust land.
On the opposite bank of the estuary can be seen Falmouth with the shipyard especially obvious. Falmouth’s origins lie in the decision in 1688 that it should be the base of mail boats. Ship building and repair yards followed and the modern docks and repair yards were founded in 1858. The yards can deal with quite large vessels.
- Go through the gate and continue ahead, still keeping parallel to the estuary, and pass through two further gates. Ignore the next gate, to the left of a gap in the hedge ahead, but pass through the gap then through another gate shortly afterwards. Continue parallel to the estuary through several more gates.
This part of the estuary is known as the Carrick Roads. The estuary, which was formed at the end of the last Ice Age when sea levels rose to create a huge natural harbour, is usually said to be the third largest in the world and is the deepest natural harbour in western Europe.
- This splendid length ends after passing behind a house and joining a drive. Follow the drive round to the right then go ahead past a boatyard. Keep on the signed footpath next to the sheds then climb above the creek through a little woodland to arrive at the churchyard at St Just in Roseland.
The almost landlocked bay here is St Just Pool. This was an early site of tin trading and later was used by the navy to supply ships. It was also used to quarantine vessels.
- The path enters St Just in Roseland churchyard.
This has been referred to by John Betjeman as perhaps the most beautiful churchyard in England.
It is scenically situated and planted with semi-tropical shrubs and trees, brought here by a 19th century vicar. Ahead is the church, much of which dates back to its dedication in 1261. It is on the site of a 5th or 6th century chapel, presumably founded by St Just, who as well as a holy man was also said to be a member of the Celtic royal family of the time.
- As the path approaches the church tower fork right, uphill, pass through the lych-gate and turn left.
The lane here leads to the village of St Just in Roseland. There is no pub or cafe in the village but it is possible to get a bus back to St Mawes if necessary. The village’s name has no connection with roses but refers to the area east of the Fal estuary, derived from the Celtic word “ros”, meaning heathland or promontory.
- Pass through the lych-gate and turn left then bear right up steps. Almost immediately climb steeply up more steps to the right. Cross a drive then a stile into a green lane. Follow this uphill until it turns sharp left then, just before reaching the road, cross the stile on the right into National Trust land and onto a permitted footpath. Follow ahead parallel to the hedge on the left.
There are spectacular views over the Carrick Roads from here. On the opposite side can be seen the entrance to Mylor Creek. This once contained a small Royal Navy dockyard but is now a popular yachting centre.
- Keep ahead parallel to the hedge and road.
The views ahead over the mouth of the Fal and down the coast towards the mouth of the Helford River are stunning. The headland on the opposite side of the estuary, Trefusis Point, is reputed to have beena favourite smugglers’ landing place. Henry VIII had plans to build a castle there to accompany Pendennis and St Mawes, but could never afford it.
- At the prominent water tower join the road and walk along the verge. A little way along turn right into Upper Castle Road then bear right into the entrance to the football club. Cross the stile on the left to more National Trust land and another permitted path. Continue ahead next to the hedge on the left.
- Leave the path via a kissing-gate just after crossing a stile. Turn left along the road and then immediately right, down Newton Road. This descends steeply then, nearing the bottom, bear left down the steps past the Victory Inn, turning right at the end to return to the quay and the hotel.
Return to Falmouth by Ferry.
There are a wide variety of cafes and restaurants in Falmouth and St Mawes.