Top things to do in Mousehole

Coastal, Days out

Posted by Courtney Kelly on 26th September 2023

Mousehole Harbour on a sunny day with many boats anchored in the blue waters

If you’re heading to Cornwall’s south coast, you’ll probably be making a beeline for places like Penzance, Marazion and the Lizard (which you absolutely should by the way). However, you overlook Mousehole, pronounced mow-zuhl, to your detriment.

This picturesque fishing village just a few miles west of Penzance was described as the loveliest in England by Dylan Thomas, who once lived here. But you don’t have to be a poet to appreciate the olde-worlde charm of this harbour community with its clusters of granite cottages bisected by narrow streets filled with cafes, shops and artisan galleries.

From the history of the village to the best places to grab a bite to eat, our things to do in Mousehole blog covers everything you need to know about this charming spot. And if your mind is already made up, click the button below to find a cute cottage and start your holiday in Cornwall.

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A seal on St Clement’s Isle, kayaks and boards leant up against the beach wall, and a view over the harbour at sunrise

About Mousehole

It’s easy to lose yourself as you wander along Mousehole Harbour and into the quaint streets that characterise the village. It’s a place where you can slow down and even stop; nobody is in a rush here and, were it not for the incoming tide, you could almost believe that time stands still.

There are two small beaches to choose from, a sea wall where you can glimpse St Michael’s Mount in the distance, and plenty of craftspeople skilfully toiling away in their workshops offering you unique souvenirs to take home after your holiday.

Mousehole lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty meaning that wherever you decide to take a stroll, a delightful vision of serenity can be expected. And when you look out towards the island haven of St Clement’s Isle, you’ll be greeted with views of seals and sea birds.

Penlee Lifeboat Station, near Newlyn where the Solomon Browne left to try and save the Union Star

History of Mousehole

Mousehole certainly has a colourful history. Possibly the most notable moment of the last three or four centuries was the Spanish invasion of 1595. The Spaniards ransacked the village on foot whilst also showering the locale from the sea with cannonballs. The entire village was burned to the ground, except for one building, the Keigwin Arms, which still stands today and is therefore the oldest building in Mousehole.

Another interesting piece of history is that the last person to exclusively speak the Cornish language lived in Mousehole. Dolly Pentreath, who spoke no other tongue, sadly died in 1777 and although the Cornish language had a revival in the 20th century, it is not considered to be a first language, meaning anyone who speaks it also speaks English.

In more recent times, Mousehole experienced the anguish of losing its lifeboat crew whilst heroically attempting to rescue a coaster ship by the name of the Union Star, which had sent out a distress call in stormy conditions. The lifeboat, named the Solomon Browne, tragically lost all eight of its crew on 19 December 1981, and over 40 years on, the village comes together on this heartbreaking anniversary to acknowledge this loss.

Mousehole Harbour Beach at low tide with the boats lines stretched across the sand

Beaches in Mousehole

You might not guess to look at it, but Mousehole actually boasts two beaches. The first is Mousehole Harbour Beach which appears at low tide and, due to it being a working harbour, no dogs are permitted here at any time of the year.

But if you’ve come without any furry friends, it’s a beautiful spot to rest on the sand in between the anchor ropes and watch the boats. The harbour wall protects the beach from swell and wind making the waters safe and still – perfect for a paddle and a swim.

Moving north-east from here, you’ll find a second, more pebbly beach which houses the Mousehole Rock Pool – more on this later.

Things to do in Mousehole

From mesmeric walks and traditional festivals to wild swimming and spectacular Christmas lights, this petite village has big ideas when it comes to keeping you entertained.

A view from out on the water looking back at the boats in the harbour. Also, an aerial view of the harbour with its tiny opening and beautiful waters.

Mousehole Harbour

The spot that most people gravitate towards when visiting Mousehole is undoubtedly the harbour. It’s a wonderful setting that’s just begging for a photograph and you can amble along the harbour walls and take in the views of the coastline in either direction.

The entrance to the harbour is so diminutive that some folks believe the village’s name derives from this tiny opening. This is certainly contested though as no one can seem to agree where the name came from.

An aerial view of Mousehole's tidal pool. The water is green and looks inviting.

Mousehole Rock Pool

As previously mentioned, a short walk north-east of the harbour will bring you to Mousehole Rock Pool; a natural tidal pool that’s perfect for a wild swim without crashing waves knocking you here there and everywhere.

It’s a great place for children to safely splash about and it’s fun to take a snorkel or two to see what sea life has crept in to take shelter from the undertow. Alternatively, just dangle your legs over the edge on a balmy day and gaze out over the water towards Mount’s Bay and Lizard Point.

Someone expertly carving wood. Wood carving can be found at the Sea, Salts and Sail Festival in Mousehole.

Sea, Salts and Sail Festival

If you happen to be in Mousehole in July (and you’re visiting in a year with an even number!), you must stop by to help celebrate this biennial festival. Occurring every other year, this free event aims to preserve the village’s Cornish maritime history by reviving old traditions such as poetry, storytelling, and wood and stone carving.

It’s a fantastic family-friendly occasion with local bands keeping spirits high and stalls providing moreish food and drink meant to remind locals and visitors alike of the heritage of this once-important fishing port.

The beautiful arc of water at Lamorna Cove, a woman walking the South West Coast Path near Mousehole, and the view from Penlee Lifeboat Station

Walks in Mousehole

In Cornwall, it’s hard to move without venturing onto a stretch of the South West Coast Path. This incredible 630-mile national trail encompasses four counties and rewards walkers with many views that are unrivalled in the UK and even across the globe.

There are a few options for you to choose from, but we’ve chosen two: one short stretch and one moderate in length.

The walk from Mousehole to Penlee Point takes you to a Site of Special Scientific Interest and boasts wonderful views from the cliffs. The walk is under 0.5 miles long in total and takes you north towards the Old Penlee RNLI station, where you can stop at the memorial in honour of those who lost their lives in the 1981 disaster.

For a slightly longer and more challenging stroll, head to Lamorna Cove from Mousehole. Lying 2.5 miles south of the village, this pretty bay sits in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with a stream that bisects the valley on its way to the sea, passing striking boulders before reaching its destination in the azure waters.

Christmas at Mousehole Harbour. Pretty lights brighten up the harbour and glisten in the water.

Mousehole’s Christmas Lights

In an attempt to instil a little Christmas cheer to combat the gloomy winter evenings, a local artist back in 1963 strung a row of colourful lights across both harbour quays.

This inspired a wonderful tradition that is still going strong to this day. Every year, the village attempts to outdo itself with bigger and better ideas for the Mousehole Christmas lights show, with illuminations brightening up the village, the harbourside and even the boats out at sea.

One year, a huge crucifix was installed on St Clement’s Isle that could be seen from the skies – there are helicopter rides available from Penzance if you really want to witness the lights in style.

The lights are turned on in mid-December and stay on from 5pm until 11pm until the first week of the New Year. They are dimmed on 19 December for one hour as a mark of respect to the crew of the Solomon Browne.

Children jumping off the rocks and smiling in the water

Coasteering in Mousehole

Being such a sleepy fishing port, you wouldn’t expect Mousehole to be the hub for an adrenaline activity. But coasteering is big business here and brings in extra tourists, which is great for the village’s economy.

Global Boarders provides one of the best services and not only is the 2-3 hour session full of exhilaration and excitement, it can also give you a glimpse into the area’s history.

The beginner’s route takes in the Old Penlee RNLI station where you can learn about the 1981 heroics. Also, as you make your way around the course sea swimming, bouldering and exploring gullies and caves, you’ll come to the highest jump section – The Spaniard, so named after the 13th-century invasion. Who doesn’t like to learn while they play?

Food and drink in Mousehole

Even though it’s moderate in size, Mousehole packs a punch when it comes to eateries. Read on to discover places to go where you can not only fill your belly but, once again, learn some absorbing history about the village that just keeps giving.

Famous Stargazy Pie with fish heads sticking out through the top

The Ship Inn, Mousehole

As Mousehole pubs go, this one cannot be missed. Situated directly opposite the harbour to take in the breathtaking views, this is the kind of village pub that has everything and was a favourite of Dylan Thomas.

Award-winning beers, a traditional menu with vegan options, an open fireplace and even live music in the evenings – what more could you ask for?

You can bring your dog along to the Ship Inn and even ‘paw’ them a pint of Proper Dog, St Austell Brewery’s dog-friendly beer.

If you’re looking for a meal with a story, order a Stargazy Pie, the origins of which belong to the 16th century when food was scarce in the village around Christmas. A brave fisherman, Tom Bawcock, took to the sea to drag in a huge catch to feed the villagers. The dish was the result of a rush to start feasting and culminated with a pie with fish heads and tails poking through the crust!

Friends clink their glasses as they enjoy cocktails together

The Old Coastguard, Mousehole

There aren’t many Mousehole restaurants but the Old Coastguard, a Victorian maritime inn that doubles as a restaurant, is worth visiting for the sea views alone.

Sit on the terrace and enjoy a cocktail in the sun – stay here to eat if you wish, or move to the sea-facing restaurant to eat tapas, locally caught fish, and fine dining-style meat dishes amongst the local art which you can purchase.

There are also lots of options for vegans on the menu, no matter which course you prefer. Dogs are welcomed into the bar side of the restaurant and a children’s menu is available upon request.

French baguette sandwiches filled with meats, cheeses and salad on a wooden chopping board

Mousehole Deli & Kitchen

Overlooking the harbour, this wonderful deli gives you the convenient option of dining in or taking away. Whether you want to buy some Cornish ingredients to create your own masterpiece in your self-catering cottage or you want to see how the locals do it by reserving a table in the deli restaurant, you can be sure that only the best ingredients are being sourced.

We recommend sitting down at a table and letting the deli team do the work for you, while you chat and admire the sweeping views over the water.

A woman with nice nails holding a fragranced candle

Shopping in Mousehole

This is village shopping at its best; you’re not going to find any big brands here and that’s the way the villagers like it.

If you need some household essentials, head to the village shop which also has post office facilities. Here, you can grab the basics such as bread, milk, fruit and vegetables. If you need to do a bigger shop, there’s a convenience store in Newlyn and larger supermarkets in Penzance.

When it comes to craft stores, gift shops and galleries, Mousehole has your back. The Mousehole Shop has arts and crafts supplies and sells beautiful pieces by local artists. Sandpiper Gallery and the Tyler Gallery also sell local artworks.

If you’re only after something small to give the grandkids upon your return, head over to Seawitch Stores for fragranced candles or Cat and Mouse which sells all manner of cute souvenirs and keepsakes.

A Cornwall Council car park sign

Parking in Mousehole

There are a few options for parking in Mousehole. However, before we go any further, it is our recommendation that, if able, you park on the outskirts of the village and walk in, or get the regular bus from Penzance. The narrow streets of the village are prone to bottlenecking which doesn’t make for a pleasant start to your visit.

If you do drive into the village, some Mousehole parking options include Quay Street Car Park, Wharf Car Park or parking on the harbour wall itself. Be warned though, if the harbour wall is full, you will have to reverse out the way you came.

Self-catering holidays in Cornwall

Now that you’ve read our things to do in Mousehole blog, we’re convinced you won't be overlooking Mousehole on your next trip to the south coast of West Cornwall. With over 100 cottages to choose from in this quaint fishing village, you’ll have no trouble finding the right one for you and your group.

From properties with enclosed gardens to cottages with open fires and even those with swimming pools and tennis courts, our collection of holiday homes in Mousehole has everything you need.

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.