How to Spend a Weekend in St Mawes, Cornwall

St Mawes in south Cornwall is the perfect option for a weekend at the seaside, and you can dine in style at the Idle Rocks hotel
St Mawes in south Cornwall is the perfect option for a weekend at the seaside, and you can dine in style at the Idle Rocks hotel | © PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sara Siddeeq
3 November 2020

Voted the UK’s best coastal resort in 2020 by Which? the sedate fishing village of St Mawes is an idyllic weekend escape in South Cornwall. Two days is all it takes to savour its unrivalled scenery, explore nearby Falmouth and sample the best in Cornish cuisine. Come rain or shine, here’s how to spend a seaside getaway on the sublime Roseland peninsula.

Stay at The Idle Rocks

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Idle Rocks Hotel
Courtesy of The Idle Rocks
Perched harbourside in St Mawes, the beach-chic interiors of the Idle Rocks Hotel make this boutique spot the epitome of luxury. Owners Karen and David Richards (former Chair of Aston Martin) designed all 19 bedrooms in unique styles when they refurbished the waterfront hotel in 2012. The blend of neutral palettes and nautical shades, with bold prints and contemporary artwork creates an eclectic mix of elegance and quirkiness. The hotel’s homely and personal touches are part of what makes this place so special: guests’ names are chalked up on bedroom doors, sticks of hotel-branded rock await you on a candy-striped throw, and a bottle of local fizz welcomes you on arrival. These sumptuous rooms define classic luxury and offer blissful relaxation – listen to the waves lapping the shore, with the heavenly scent of Aromatherapy Associates around you.

Lunch at The Hidden Hut

Cafe, British, $$$
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Hidden Hut,Portcurnick Beach,Cornwall, UK,a beachside cafe and restaurant,which hosts'feast nights',here it's curry night.a UK. Image shot 2014. Exact date unknown.
© christopher jones / Alamy Stock Photo
Near Portscatho, along the coastal path (a 15-minute drive from St Mawes) you’ll find this hidden gem, serving up homestyle cooking typical of the south Cornish coast. Sink your teeth into one of the freshly-baked steak pasties, or warm your cockles with the creamy smoked haddock, bacon and corn chowder. The spinach and chickpea dhal is a favourite too, packed with fresh vegetables and a comforting medley of spices. You can’t leave without trying one of their cakes – or the handmade clotted ice cream. There’s no indoor seating, so the shack’s scrumptious offerings are to be enjoyed al fresco, in the crisp sea air overlooking the peninsula in all its natural beauty. Work off your lunch with a stroll along the golden sands of Porthcurnick Beach (or a splash in the ocean if you get lucky with the weather). This place can get pretty packed, especially in the summer months, so try and avoid peak times, as despite being called the Hidden Hut it’s possibly Cornwall’s worst-kept secret…

Take a Ferry to Falmouth

Natural Feature
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Ferry boat in the harbour, St Mawes, Cornwall, England, UK
© geogphotos / Alamy Stock Photo
There are plenty of day trips from St Mawes – by sea or land – to nearby Falmouth, Truro and St Anthony Head; scenic places well worth a visit. The St Mawes Ferry takes you on a pleasant 20-minute trip to the Prince of Wales Pier in Falmouth, where you can while away several hours perusing quaint shops and independent galleries, followed by a drink at one of the characterful local pubs. If you’re looking to stretch your legs, scale the 111 granite steps of Jacob’s Ladder for sweeping views of the harbour and estuary – it’s worth the slog. For something more leisurely, saunter along Gyllyngvase Beach’s wide crescent of golden sand: a foolproof way to experience the best that Falmouth has to offer.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

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The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK. A gardener at work among the vegetables in the kitchen garden
© Alex Ramsay / Alamy Stock Photo
Lose yourself in the Lost Gardens of Heligan’s 80ha (200 acres) of ancient woodland and tropical jungle, just 40 minutes’ drive from St Mawes. Having lost many of its caretakers during World War I, the gardens have evolved from an abandoned estate into Cornwall’s most popular and beloved botanical sanctuary. Come here for an unforgettable afternoon of exploring, with activities for all ages to enjoy. Discover the iconic giant statues and the Pineapple Pit (whose fruits have been gifted to the Queen) and if you dare, cross the 30m (100ft) rope bridge for an Instagram-worthy opportunity.

St Mawes Hotel

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The St Mawes Hotel in St Mawes, Cornwall, UK.
© Ashley Cooper pics / Alamy Stock Photo
Top pick for a tapas or Italian-style lunch is Idle Rocks’ funkier and more affordable sister property the St Mawes Hotel, at the end of the harbourside parade. After a morning of coastal hiking, this boutique hangout’s pizza and pasta dishes are a tasty midday energy booster, and the team at St Mawes aren’t afraid to get experimental – think salami, fennel and capers on a tomato base pizza, or hay semifreddo, blackberries, and a tonka bean biscuit for dessert. For something lighter, the restaurant offers sharing and grazing plates which showcase the best locally-sourced Cornish ingredients. The upper dining deck has brilliant sea views (without compromising your comfort and warmth) and its shabby-chic Soho House decor with pastel inflections and a cosy vibe make it a magical spot for a rustic lunch.

Hidden Cinema at St Mawes Hotel

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For the ultimate private movie night, look no further than the St Mawes Hotel’s state-of-the-art cinema. Showing mainstream and independent films, sporting events and special screenings, this secret spot can seat 25 people and tickets start at £10 per person, including popcorn. Take luxury movie-watching to the next level with reclining leather chairs, cosy blankets and a fully licensed bar.

Dinner at Idle Rocks

Restaurant, British, Authentic
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The terrace of The Idle Rock hotel in St. Mawes with a seaview (Cornwall, England)
© Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Showcasing the crème de la crème of Cornish cuisine, Idle Rocks’ award-winning restaurant is one to write home about. Head Chef Dorian Janmaat spent eight years under the direction of Raymond Blanc and now blends the flavours of local, seasonal produce to create tasty and imaginative plates. Begin your meal with a perfectly salty pretzel, warm from the oven, served with a tangy whipped miso butter. The impeccably-presented desserts include a caramelized apple mille-feuille – the taste of slightly burnt apple with the toasted flavour of the almond ice cream is out of this world. The three-course dinner is £60 per person, and you can expect class every step of the way, in the linen-clad, sea-facing tables and the refined, attentive service. The laidback lounge is the perfect post-dinner retreat for an aperitif or Cornish wine. Settle down by the open fire, or on a warm summer evening head out to the terrace overlooking the harbour. The food here is indisputably the best in St Mawes, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.
These recommendations were updated on November 3, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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