Mawnan Smith takes its name from the smithy that was situated in the centre of the village where two old trackways met. One led to the ferry at Helford Passage, and the other wove its way up to the St Maunanus church, on the cliff overlooking the Helford River. The village is steeped in history; in June 1944, Mawnan Smith was sectioned off from the outside world, for a few days, as American military passed through to the beach at Trebah Garden, to embark for the Normandy beaches. And if you're fascinated by the paranormal, take a stroll through the woods and watch out for the Owlman of Mawnan, a half-man and half-owl creature, first spotted in 1926. This monstrous red-eyed creature, with sharp pincers, is known to hover over the church tower, watching for prey.
The village itself is set between Falmouth Bay and the Helford Estuary. In the village square, you'll find a Post Office and shop, a hairdresser, doctor’s surgery and a Mediterranean restaurant, Casa Juan. You can visit the sub-tropical gardens of Trebah or Glendurgan – stunning all year round, or dine at the Red Lion Inn, Mawnan Smith’s thatched village pub. Pop into the Cornish Maid for a homemade lunch and then have a wander down to Durgan Beach, or hop onto the Blue Pointer and take to the river for a fishing trip.
Helford Passage is five minutes away, where you can sample locally caught seafood dishes and a pint of Cornish ale in the Ferry Boat Inn. Spend the day on the beach here, or catch the foot ferry across to Helford Village, where you can wander along the coastline to Daphne Du Maurier’s atmospheric Frenchman’s Creek. The Helford River itself has often been described as the jewel in Cornwall’s crown. Much of the surrounding region – lush valleys, sub-tropical gardens and sandy coves – is a designated area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s a place of unspoilt, natural tranquillity.
If you’re feeling energetic, pack up a picnic and hike the South West Coast Path from Helford Passage to Maenporth, stop off for an ice-cream at the Life’s a Beach café, and stroll along the cliffs into Falmouth, the third largest natural harbour in the world. Holidays in Mawnan Smith make a great base for exploring this beautiful stretch of Cornish coastline.
An authentic, centuries old smithy which has been restored as a working forge, offering you the chance to watch a skilled blacksmith, sign-writer, silversmith and furniture maker as they work and browse their unique, hand-crafted products. There’s also an exhibition where you can learn all about the history of Mawnan Smith and the restoration of its smithy.
Mawnan Craft Centre, Carwinion Road, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR11 5JF
Run by the National Trust, Glendurgan Gardens span over three valleys, filled with sub-tropical plants, exotic flowers and bright blooms. The peaceful gardens lead down to the unspoilt beachside hamlet of Durgan. Here you can take a rest and enjoy the stunning views of the Helford River, treat yourself to an ice cream, build sandcastles and watch the wildlife on the water. Glendurgan Garden offer a great day out for the entire family thanks to its impressive maze and Giant’s Stride rope swing, shop and teahouse, which serves traditional Cornish cream teas, light lunches and Children’s meals.
Glendurgan Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR115JZ (T: 01326 252020)
The subtropical valleys of Trebah Gardens offer a fantastic day out for the whole family. Four miles of footpath lead through canopies of exotic trees, plants and flowers which cascade down to a private, secluded beach on the Helford River. Here, you can take in the views, relax on the beach and enjoy a famous Roskilly’s Cornish ice cream from the Boathouse Cafe. There are adventure playgrounds and children’s trails to keep the youngest members of the family entertained, and dogs (on leads) are welcome in the gardens and on the beach all year round. As well as a visitor centre and shop, there’s a fantastic café, Trebah Kitchen, which serves locally sourced, seasonal food. Trebah is also home to an amphitheatre where you can catch music, dance, theatre and comedy performances.
Trebah Garden, Mawnan Smith, Nr Falmouth TR11 5JZ (T: 01326 252200)
Falmouth Surf School offer adult surf lessons and hire along with transport on the ‘Surf Bus’ to Cornwall’s best surfing beaches. From their base at Maenporth Beach they also offer SUP boarding, SUP Yoga and Kayaking hire and tuition, and can deliver equipment direct to your holiday cottage.
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A friendly café in the heart of Mawnan Smith where you can buy freshly baked bread and pastries, and tuck into homemade cakes, breakfasts and light lunches, as well as obligatory traditional Cornish cream teas!
Cornish Maid, The Square, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 251202)
A small and friendly, family run restaurant serving delicious mediterranean food that changes with the seasons. The chef sources high quality local ingredients along with specialist products from overseas to create beautifully presented, tasty meals. See website for opening hours, well behaved dogs welcome.
Casa Juan, The Square, Mawnan Smith TR115EP (T: 01326 250174)
A thatched traditional inn in the heart of Mawnan Smith just minutes from the South West Coast Path and a pretty stroll through the woods to Maenporth Beach. Here you can sample local ales and ciders in the raftered bar along with enjoyable food from light lunches to a evening menu packed full of fresh local Cornish produce. A great spot to stop off when walking or visiting nearby Glendurgan or Trebah Garden. Children and dogs welcome.
The Red Lion, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth TR11 5EP (T: 01326 250026)
An upmarket bar and restaurant with striking views over Maenporth Beach and out to sea and great food to match. The restaurant is welcoming and relaxed whether you’re looking to celebrate something special, are hungry after a day at the beach or are walking the South West Coastal Path and pop in with a dog in tow.
The Cove Bar & Restaurant, Maenporth Beach, TR11 5HN (T: 01326 25 11 36)
Cafe and beach shop right on the sand at Maenporth beach. The cafe serves a great selection of freshly prepared food including crab sandwiches and delicious cornish cream teas, along with ice creams, coffees and lots more. And if you’ve forgotten your bucket and spade you’ll find one in the beach shop along with other beach toys, wetsuits and souvenirs. Cash only.
Lifes a Beach Maenporth Beach, Falmouth (T: 01326 251209)
Found between Maenporth and Mawnan Smith, this is a small, pretty sandy beach with some shingle and rocks accessed by footpath from the road. It’s a five to ten minute walk, meaning the beach itself is often quiet and uncrowded with lovely swimming. No amenities though and the walk isn’t suitable for buggies or those with limited mobility. Also known as Woodlands Beach. Dogs allowed all year round.
A pretty sheltered cove in a secluded setting surrounded by low cliffs and woodland, Bream Cove consists of a sand and shingle beach dipping down to clear water with excellent swimming and snorkelling. At low water rock pools are exposed which children will love to explore and it’s possible to scramble over the rocks to the sandy beach next door at Gatamala Cove. There are no facilities here and no car park, but there are parking spaces on the nearby road between Maenporth and Rosemullion Head close to the Meuden Hotel, with access to the beach via footpath. Dogs welcome all year.
A quiet and secluded shingle beach on the Helford River in between the villages of Durgan and Mawnan. Access is via a short woodland walk from Durgan and then a steep path down to the beach, which means it’s rarely crowded and ideal if you prefer peace and quiet to cafes and facilities, of which there are none. The water is safe for swimming here and there are rocky outcrops to explore and jump off. It’s worth bearing in mind though that while there is a large beach at low water, with the highest tides it’s completely covered. Dogs welcome all year round.
A scenic sweep of golden sand flanked by cliffs, this family friendly beach looks out across Falmouth Bay towards Pendennis Castle and the lighthouse at St Anthony Head. There’s plenty of sand and shallow water which is great for children and excellent facilities, including a cafe selling great food and beach equipment, plus toilets and car park. Maenporth is also a lovely spot to launch a kayak or paddleboard, both of which can be hired on the beach during summer months. Dogs allowed from October to Easter Sunday.
Owned by the National Trust, the scattering of cottages that make up the tiny village of Durgan form a pretty backdrop to this sand and shingle beach. With stunning views in both directions over the Helford River, Durgan has strong boating links and there is a slipway running down to the beach and moorings offshore. This south facing beach is a peaceful place to relax on the sand and watch the boats go by while children play in the rockpools. If you forget your bucket, spade or net you can borrow one from the National Trust Fish Cellar building which also sells teas, coffee and ice creams during the summer months. Like many of the beaches along the Helford, Durgan Beach is almost entirely covered during the highest tides so keep an eye on the tide times. There is no parking in Durgan itself, however, there is a carpark on the main road and signposted path to the village and beach. Dogs welcome all year round.