Visiting Mousehole: The Legendary Cornish Fishing Village

  • Post category:England
  • Post last modified:May 30, 2021
  • Reading time:9 mins read
Mousehole-beach-cornwall-on-a-sunny-day
Mousehole beach, on a sunny summer day, Cornwall, England

Mousehole is a perfect place to visit for those seeking a traditional and beautiful English seaside village. Mousehole is just a fifteen minute drive from Penzance, a larger, more bustling town, with great views of St. Michael’s Mount castle. On the way into Mousehole the view of the sea is magnificent, stretching uninterrupted beyond the giant rock pools.

Mousehole Harbour is the centre of the village, with its tiny port entrance leading to the vast Atlantic Ocean. Inside the walls, fishing boats bob gently and swimmers brave the cold but calm waters of the harbour. There is a small sandy beach inside the harbour walls and shops and cafes are close by, back up the stairs to the village. 

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Aerial view of the Mousehole Harbour. Photo by Benjamin Elliot

Behind the seafront, beautiful old world houses and narrow alleyways are great to explore. As well as fisherman Tom, there are more fascinating history anecdotes to be discovered such as the Spanish invasion of 1595. On top of the harbour walls the views are magnificent; with views of the crashing sea, a small rocky island and St Michael’s Mount far in the distance. 

Why should you visit Mousehole?

Unlike the majority of seaside towns and villages in England, Mousehole is somewhat unaffected by the tourist industry. The shops and pubs are old and beautiful, with no major high street chains and the seafront remains as it always has done. It still appears to be a traditional English fishing village and the history feels totally preserved. Mousehole is a break from the modern world and a step into old England. If, like me, you have read The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber, you will find the resemblance to the children’s book impeccable. The beautiful illustrations of the book appear all around you throughout Mousehole and so the lore of the legend comes to life.

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Mousehole harbour. Photo by Jeremy Stewardson

Shops and Cafes in Mousehole

Mousehole is small with little options for food or drink, yet what they do serve is traditional and delicious. By the harbour you can taste the greatest Cornish pasty you will ever have, served in a local cafe. It’s the perfect food for the beach! On the harbour front, you can also buy traditional Cornish fudge and clotted cream ice cream, as well as souvenirs. 

The Ship Inn sits in the most idyllic position in the village and offers a truly authentic old pub experience. Visited by both locals and tourists, it is homely and cosy with views of the harbour. The Inn has an open fire and truly feels as English and traditional a pub as you can get. You can also get traditional meals there, simple in choice yet perfectly executed. 

If you fancy some tea and cake then head to the beautiful and friendly The Old Pilchard Press Cafe.

Behind the harbour facing houses amongst the narrow streets, there are numerous independent art galleries selling paintings of Mousehole and the surrounding countryside. 

Should you want to go crabbing off the harbour walls or along the rockpools, crab lines and bait can be bought in the small shop by the harbour. 

Swimming at Mousehole Beach

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Swimming in Mousehole beach inside the harbour walls

There are two main places to swim, should you be brave enough for the cold water. One spot is inside the harbour walls, accessible from the beach. The water here is cold but swimmable, with a sandy sea floor. The sea beyond the harbour walls is far too rough to casually swim in so you must stick to the sheltered swim spots. 

To the left of the harbour, rockpools stretch far along the coastline. Right next to the harbour wall, there is a secluded man-made rockpool designed for swimming. It fills with sea water naturally and is essentially like swimming in the open ocean, just without the rough waves and currents. The views from the natural pool are uninterrupted and in a way far better than in the harbour beach. You can see the vast open ocean, St Michael’s Mount and the harbour walls. There are also numerous rock pools to explore around the natural pool, as well as some good crabbing spots. 

4 Interesting Historical Facts about Mousehole

Story of Tom Bawcock

Mousehole is most famous for the story of Tom Bawcock, a local fisherman who saved the town from starvation following a storm. In the 16th century, a famine ensued caused by the rough seas restricting the town’s ability to go fishing. Tom Bawcock braved the waters and caught fish for the entire village. It is such an important legend for Mousehole, that every year on 23rd December, the town sets up a huge display of lights along the harbour side in memory of fisherman Tom. A modern children’s book adaptation, The Mousehole Cat, builds on the story by adding a black and white cat sidekick named Mowzer. Together Mowzer and Tom brave the seas to fetch fish for the village. The cat from the book has been taken up by the village and you can now buy a multitude of items depicting old Mowzer. 

Dolly Pentreath lived in Mousehole

Mousehole was also home to Dolly Pentreath, the last known person to speak Cornish fluently as a first native language. Dolly was a poor fishwife (although unmarried) selling fish in Penwith and Penzance and spoke mainly Cornish, learning only a little English as an adult. She passed away in 1777 and there is a memorial to Dolly in the village. 

Spanish invasion of Mousehole in 1595

In 1595 the Spanish invaded Mousehole, burning most of the houses to the ground. There is only one remaining Tudor building left in the village, Keigwin House. Outside the building a plaque remembers Jenkyn Keigwin, the Squire who owned the property and died defending the building from the Spanish. Once a pub, the building is now a private residence. It now stands as the oldest house in the village, built in the 14th century.

Tragedy of Penlee lifeboat

Tragically in 1981, the Penlee lifeboat sent from just outside Mousehole sank, along with the coaster vessel Union Star it was trying to save, during hurricane winds and waves 60 feet high. The lifeboat rescued 4 people but 16 were killed in all including 8 volunteer lifeboat men. In commemoration, every year on December 19th, the village turns all of its Christmas lights off in remembrance of the lifeboat disaster. 

Places to Visit Near Mousehole

Penzance is an obvious and easily reachable location to visit near Mousehole. Unlike Mousehole, Penzance is relatively built up and touristy. It offers more restaurants and more activities such as Trengwainton Garden and the stunning open air Minack Theatre. 

St. Michael’s Mount is also an amazing place to visit. A magnificent castle built on an island, connected to the mainland by a small causeway. The castle is quite magical; when the tide is high the causeway is submerged and it becomes fully cut off from the mainland. 

Final thoughts on Mousehole, Cornwall

Mousehole is a far journey from nearly anywhere in England, yet it is worth the journey for those seeking a traditional and quaint seaside experience. Not only is Mousehole beautiful, it offers fabulous swimming spots and wonderful food. It is also surrounded by beautiful countryside and near enough to Penzance to fit both places in one outing. You are guaranteed to have more than enough options for activities and you will be sure to return.  

How to Get to Mousehole and facilities

How to Get to Mousehole by Car

You can use the postcode for the Parade Car park which is TR19 6PS for your satnav to get to Mousehole, Cornwall. The car park has approximately 100 spaces and it overlooks the sea too, which is a nice bonus. It is a 5 min walk (0.2 mile) to the Mousehole harbour too which is pretty close.

Mousehole is at the end of the A30 right on the southern coast of England. Parking is very limited in the village and can be tricky as the streets are narrow. It may be best to park outside the village and walk in or there are many buses from Penzance which may be easier still.

You can also park along the North and South Quays. They operate on a pay and display system – for £1.00 per hour or £3 for the whole day. Please keep in mind that parking along the Quays may be suspended during winter and also any time in summer at the discretion of the Harbour Master. 

The funds raised from the car parks are used entirely towards the maintenance of the harbour, beach, quays, car parks and the toilets etc

For information on Mousehole Harbour authority and facilities, you can visit – 
http://www.mouseholeharbour.co.uk/visitors/car-parks/

Toilets at Mousehole

There are two public toilets at Mousehole, which are run and managed by the Harbour Authority on behalf of the community at Mousehole. 

South Quay toilets –  6 Gurnick St, Mousehole, Penzance TR19 6SE

Only open during the summer (March – September)

How to Get to Mousehole by Bus

The M6 bus service from Penzance bus station goes directly to Mousehole Harbour and takes 22 minutes.

How to Get to Mousehole by Train

The best way to get the train to this small fishing village is to get a train to Penzance. The most popular trains to Penzance are from Bath Spa (BTH) taking 4 hours 27 minutes, from London Paddington (PAD) taking 5 hours 29 minutes and from Plymouth (PLY) taking 1 hour 50 minutes. From Penzance, you can then get the bus to Mousehole (see How to Get to Mousehole by Bus above).

Mousehole Photo Gallery

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