Are you looking for things to do in Mousehole? We’ve compiled a list of the best attractions in the village, so you can make the most of your time here.
Mousehole is an adorable settlement in southwest Cornwall. It has been called the loveliest village in Britain, and with its granite cottages, cobbled streets and gorgeous harbour, it certainly looks like it is straight off a postcard. It has a long history spanning back to medieval times, and it is in a wonderful location that takes in some of the best scenery of West Cornwall.
If you’re visiting this part of the country, you’ve got to add Mousehole to your Cornwall itinerary! Here is a guide on the best of Mousehole.
Why is Mousehole called Mousehole?
Mousehole – curious name for a village, right?
There are a few theories about why Mousehole is called Mousehole. Some people say that it is due to the tiny, mousehole-shaped harbour, whereas other people claim that there is a formation that looks like a mousehole in the rocks by the beach.
Another – and probably the most plausible – theory is that the name derives from the word Moeshayle, which means “young woman’s brook” in Cornish. There is a brook in town, so this probably makes the most sense!
Oh, and it does have another Cornish name – “Porth Enys” which means “port of the island” and nods to its significance as the main port of Mount’s Bay in medieval times.
How to pronounce Mousehole
And, while we’re talking about the name of Mousehole, make sure you pronounce it right!
A lot of Cornish names are pronounced very differently to how they are written. My family is Cornish, but I didn’t grow up there, so they constantly tell me that I’m pronouncing names wrong! It’s a learning curve, but I’ll get there eventually!
So, Mousehole isn’t pronounced how you’d think.
Instead, it’s “Mowzle“. If you say this right, locals will be impressed!
The way it is pronounced and the fact that Cornish would have exclusively been spoken in Mousehole for centuries makes me think that the Moeshayle theory is probably the most likely regarding how the village got its name. But it’s anyone’s guess!
Mousehole is a historic fishing village dating back to the 13th century – a market started here in 1292, and it was a popular West Cornwall fishing town. It was much more significant throughout the medieval period than neighbouring Penzance, which is much larger nowadays.
Due to where it is positioned, the seas here were particularly turbulent – which meant that the Mousehole sailors gained quite the reputation for being very tough!
Unfortunately, it also caused the village to be plunged into poverty in the medieval period, as adverse weather meant that many fishermen were unable to bring enough fish back in to feed the village.
The origins of Stargazy Pie
Tom Bawcock was a 16th century Mousehole local who sailed out in stormy weather one night and came back with a boat of pilchards. This was made into a pie, which is now called Stargazy Pie! This is commemorated every year on the 23rd December, and the tale is depicted in the children’s book The Mousehole Cat written by Antonia Barber.
In 1595, just after the Spanish Armada, Spaniards decided to attack Cornwall. They pillaged Mousehole and neighbouring Newlyn and Penzance. In Mousehole, they burned virtually every building to the ground – apart from Keigwin House.
However, locals rebuilt the village – before the houses were more or less shacks, and they managed to build proper houses made of granite, many that still stand and make up the beautiful village you see today.
A smuggler’s haven
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Mousehole was a hotbed for the smuggling trade. The most smuggled item in Cornwall was – would you believe it – salt, because it was heavily taxed, and regular people needed it to salt their pilchards to be able to preserve them for longer.
Last outpost for the Cornish language
Mousehole is also famous for being one of the last bastions of the Cornish language. Dolly Pentreath, who was alleged to be the last monoglot speaker (more information about her below!), lived in the village and died in 1777.
After that, the use of the Cornish language faded out across the region, but it was rediscovered in the 20th century, with people across the Duchy relearning it.
Nowadays, there is a Cornish language society, pubs across the Duchy host Cornish language nights, and some families are even bringing up their children speaking Cornish as a first language!
Epidemics and lockdowns
In the 19th century, neighbouring Newlyn was victim to a cholera epidemic. Mousehole responded by locking down the village – yes, lockdowns weren’t new to 2020!
When goods were traded, money was put into ‘cholera stones’, which were indented stones filled with vinegar. The coins would sanitise, and this and the lockdown efforts stopped cholera from obliterating Mousehole. Some of these stones are still visible throughout the village.
Newlyn residents didn’t forget how Mousehole shut them out, and there was some tension between the two settlements for years after.
Penlee lifeboat disaster
This rugged coastline has caused tragedy in recent years as well. The Penlee Lifeboat Disaster happened on 19th December 1981. The Union Star was a nearby coaster that was in distress, and in response, a lifeboat was sent from Mousehole.
However, after saving four people from the ship, the lifeboat was also caught in the storm. Tragically, eight lifeboat staff died in the event, as did eight others from the Union Star.
The Mousehole Christmas Lights are dimmed every year on the 19th December to commemorate the people who died in this accident.
Nowadays, Mousehole is a fishing port, but most popular for a holiday destination. It has been called the “loveliest village in England” (although there’s a strong argument that Cornwall isn’t England – more on that in another post!).
After the Grenfell Tower fire in London, Cornwall – and Mousehole in particular – invited victims and relatives for a free holiday in an initiative called Cornwall Hugs Grenfell. Guests spent a week in the village, doing sea-based activities, and they made strong connections with locals. There’s a street in Mousehole named Grenfell Street to commemorate this.
The village is 30% lived-in properties and 70% holiday lettings. This has caused some issues in the village – our tour guide told us that despite growing up in Mousehole she now lives in neighbouring Penzance because it is much cheaper – but the tourism economy does bring a lot of money into the village.
If you are visiting, make sure that you support local businesses and take some time to learn about the fascinating historical tales and culture of Mousehole!
Things to do in Mousehole
This walking tour is certainly one of the best things to do in Mousehole.
Elaine is a Mousehole local and is an absolute mine of information about the village. Her walking tour will take you around the tiny weaving lanes of the village, past some of the most glorious views, and she’ll tell you some fascinating Mousehole tales.
It’s well worth doing the walking tour to see the village and learning about its fascinating and complex history. Elaine will even tell you some interesting stories that she experienced firsthand while growing up in Mousehole!
The tours cost £10 per person and either focus on village history or local shipwrecks. They leave at set times, but you may also be able to arrange a private tour.
Explore the streets of Mousehole
If you do the walking tour, Elaine will take you through the streets of Mousehole – however, if you don’t, make sure that you factor some time to just walk around the village.
The weaving streets are narrow and historical, and there are charming buildings to admire at literally every step.
Don’t miss the plaque outside the house where Dolly Pentreath lived, and Keigwin, only house that remains from before the Spanish burned down the village. Also, keep a look out for cholera stones, which still exist in a few places around the village!
Another thing to watch out for is banana plants, which genuinely grow in Mousehole – the weather is warm enough!
Nowadays, Mousehole’s backstreets are a labyrinth of cute houses, galleries and shops. It’s easy to get lost in the granite maze of historic houses – but definitely do it; it’s one of the best things to do in Mousehole!
The Historic Harbour
Mousehole Harbour is a lovely place for a walk around, especially if it’s a sunny day! You’ll enjoy epic views of Mounts Bay, which encompasses Newlyn, Penzance, Marazion and the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount.
You can walk along the harbour walls to take in a view of the village behind you or look out to sea towards St Clement’s Island, which sits 350 metres offshore. This island used to be the home of a historic chapel, but nowadays, it has been taken over by birds and marine animals. A seal colony lives here, so you might see some if you’re lucky – or maybe some other marine life.
Don’t go to St Clement’s Island, even if you have a kayak or boat – locals have advised against it, as it upsets animal life. However, there are boat tours that you can do to see the wildlife safely and responsibly (more on that below).
Mousehole Harbour Beach
There are many sandy beaches around Penzance, and Mousehole Harbour Beach isn’t the most famous. However, it’s still a nice sandy bay, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic or catch some sun.
There is no lifeguard service at Mousehole Harbour Beach, but the water is very calm in the harbour – just watch out for fishing boats. You can also enjoy the historic harbour by taking a kayak or stand up paddleboard out.
It’s also in a perfect location next to many of the village’s best cafes and restaurants, so you can easily get refreshments!
Visit The Mousehole Shop
There are plenty of boutique stores in Mousehole, perfect if you want to find some souvenirs from your holiday in Cornwall. The village used to be self-reliant – you’d find multiple greengrocers, bakers and butchers within the town, so people didn’t even need to travel to nearby Newlyn for supplies!
Nowadays, the shops are much more tourist-focused, but they are still well worth perusing.
The Mousehole Shop is one of the best places to visit in Mousehole. This gorgeous building stands out amongst the others – with charming turquoise windows and doors contrasting against the stunning walls. Inside, you can purchase memorabilia and souvenirs to commemorate your time in Mousehole.
Eat at some of the best Mousehole restaurants
There are countless charming restaurants in Mousehole, perfect for grabbing a spot of lunch while you’re in town.
- Jessie’s Dairy serves (as you may have guessed) ice cream but is also a popular place to grab a Cornish pasty! They also cater for dietary requirements, with vegan ice cream and vegetarian pasties available.
- Pam’s Pantry is a tiny cafe that is famous in the village for its Cornish cream tea. Remember to put the jam on first!
- Janner’s Fish and Chips is located right by Mousehole Beach and is a popular takeaway place, especially in the summer.
- 2 Fore Street is the best place in the village for a sit-down meal.
- Hole Foods is a cafe serving breakfast, coffee and lunch, and has a beautiful view over the harbour!
Visit The Ship Inn
The Ship Inn is the only real pub in Mousehole and popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s an excellent place to learn about Mousehole’s culture, as the walls are adorned with images of the village, past and present.
If you are in Mousehole during Christmas time and like seafood, make sure to visit the Ship Inn on the 23rd December to try Stargazy Pie.
This is a local speciality, made famous after Tom Bawcock took to the seas on a stormy night and came back with enough fish for everybody to eat. His catch was put into a pie, and the way the pilchards were set in the pastry – with their heads protruding and eyes looking up to the sky – has given the pie its name ‘Stargazy Pie.
Dorothy Hartley described Stargazy Pie as “like a fishy sausage roll with heads protruding”. To me, it doesn’t sound all that appetising, but hey, it’s a Mousehole staple!
Visit art galleries
Cornwall is a popular place for art, and the charming village of Mousehole is no exception. Due to its proximity to Newlyn, where the British Plein Air movement was founded (Plein Air means completing an entire painting in the fresh air), and its prime position on the stunning Cornish coast, Mousehole has seen its fair share of artists over the years!
The Tyler Gallery sells both ceramics and beautiful paintings of Mousehole’s seascape. So if you are entranced by the beauty of this village and want to commemorate it, Tyler Gallery is the first place to look! Prince Charles even bought one of the ceramics here.
The Sandpiper Gallery sells local artwork, including landscape paintings, jewellery and ceramics. You will certainly find unique souvenirs here, but it’s equally a lovely place to browse and learn a little more about Cornish art culture.
Boat trips around the coastline
Cormorant Cruising run boat trips from Mousehole around Mount’s Bay. This is your chance to look at the gorgeous village from another perspective – the water!
Run by local skipper Neil Brockman, these tours will enable you to see some of the best scenery in West Cornwall and learn a little more about the village and its surroundings.
Mousehole’s entire history centres around its seafront location, so the best way to learn about it is definitely getting out into the sea!
Pop Into the Mousehole Bird Hospital
The Mousehole Bird Hospital is a lovely place to visit. It started in 1928 with an injured jackdaw and has grown into a place where injured birds are rehabilitated before they are released into the wild (if they are well enough).
The sanctuary has grown substantially in the last 100 years, especially in 1967 when the Torrey Canyon Disaster injured thousands of birds, causing 8000 of them to need hospital treatment.
While all birds which can be released are, some of their injuries mean that they will not survive in the wild. When this is the case, they are offered a permanent home at the sanctuary.
You can visit these birds and learn about the fantastic efforts of the owners to protect land and seabird life around Mount’s Bay.
Entry is free, but donations are accepted and encouraged. The bird hospital is open from 10 am – 4:30 pm every day.
Note: due to the current situation, the Mousehole bird hospital is currently closed to the public. I will update this page when they reopen. If you want to visit a similar place in the meantime, check out the Gweek Seal Sanctuary.
Go Swimming in the Mousehole Sea Pool
On the eastern side of Mousehole, there is a pebble beach leading to Newlyn. This isn’t as popular as Mousehole harbour beach (pebble beaches rarely are!), but there is one main reason why I recommend visiting.
There is a small sea pool to enjoy on the shorefront, which traps some of the seawater as it rolls in and provides a safe swimming spot.
I use the term ‘swimming’ lightly – it is a tiny sea pool, nothing like the one in Bude, but if you just want a place to splash around on a hot day, it’s worth visiting!
Gaze at the amazing Mousehole Christmas Lights
Mousehole has one of the best Cornish light shows, and it sees a second wave of tourism around the festive period.
At Christmastime, the entire village lights up with fun, playful lights, some of which reflect into the water.
The Christmas light tradition began because Mousehole can be a foreboding place in the winter, with bad weather, turbulent water, and long hours of darkness. So local volunteers decided to lighten up the mood by installing one of Cornwall’s best Christmas light displays!
It’s an amazing place to visit at Christmas to get into the festive spirit, and you can enjoy Stargazy Pie at The Ship Inn on the 23rd December too!
Walk to Paul and find the grave of Dolly Pentreath
Paul is Mousehole’s neighbouring village, sitting about half a mile inland. You can walk to Paul, either up the road (traffic is minimal) or by taking pathways through fields. It is uphill all the way, but the walk isn’t too long, and it is very scenic.
Paul is famous for being the final resting place of Dolly Pentreath, famous for being the last monoglot Cornish speaker and died in 1777. Nowadays, you can find a memorial dedicated to her here, written in both English and Cornish.
However, while Dolly Pentreath has been rumoured to be the last monoglot Cornish speaker, this is debated. There have been lots of instances of certain people speaking Cornish into the 18th century and beyond. What we do know is that it was somewhat buried after the 18th century, to be revived again in the 20th.
In the graveyard, you’ll also see headstones from various naval disasters over the years, which hammers home how dangerous Mousehole’s sea can be.
The Cholera Field is also located in Paul – this is a collection of gravestones of the people who sadly succumbed to Cholera in Newlyn in the 19th century.
Lamorna is close to Mousehole and another village worth visiting while you’re in West Cornwall.
With subtropical plants and a small beachfront, Lamorna Cove is a popular spot for artists due to the area’s natural beauty.
It’s a tiny place, but it’s well worth stopping by to enjoy the coastal views or hiking on the South West Coast Path.
Walk the coastal path
The South West Coast Path spans along the Cornish coast and it is one of the best things to do in Cornwall.
It passes through all Cornish coastal villages, including Mousehole. You can do a segment of the coastal path on either side of Mousehole.
The path that leads from Mousehole to Newlyn and Penzance and onto Marazion is mainly tarmacked and very easy, with beautiful views over the seafront. This route also benefits from being connected with buses, so if you get tired, you can easily take a bus back to Mousehole or onwards to Penzance or Marazion.
The other direction is much more rugged and wild but incredibly beautiful, with spectacular views over this deserted section of Cornish coastline. Walking from Mousehole to Lamorna Cove and back is 4.6 miles or 7.6 kilometres – here are instructions for the return walk.
You could also walk further along the South West Coast Path towards Porthcurno, home to the Minack Theatre and Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. To return, you can take a bus from Porthcurno to Penzance and either get the M6 back to Mousehole when you reach Penzance or disembark at Long Row and walk 30 minutes back to Mousehole.
Things to do near Mousehole
Penzance is very close to Mousehole – you can easily walk there in under an hour – and it is the furthest west major town in Cornwall. Although it’s not quite as touristy as charming Mousehole, it’s a nice place to soak in local life.
There are plenty of things to do in Penzance, including another walking tour around the historic town centre, the Penlee House Gallery and Museum, the Penzance Lido, and nearby Polgoon Vineyard.
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is located in Marazion and is one of the best things to do near Mousehole. Sitting on a tidal island, this National Trust site and the medieval castle has a long history involving legend, spirituality and conflict.
You will need to walk over the tidal causeway or take a boat to visit the island, and you can either buy a ticket for the castle, the gardens, or a combi ticket which means you can see both. Of course, if you’re a National Trust member, you can explore the island for free (although you still may need to reserve your time slot).
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are located in nearby Penzance and are a wonderful place to have an afternoon stroll. Home to thousands of sub-tropical plants, these gardens overlook Mount’s Bay and are a fantastic way to enjoy Cornwall’s milder climate.
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens are open from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, and you do not need to prebook tickets.
Land’s End is a definite must-visit in West Cornwall – it’s the furthest southwest point in the country! It’s a meaningful place for anyone travelling around the UK or hiking the South West Coast Path, as you can stand on the end of the country and enjoy the fantastic sea views of crashing waves around you.
The Land’s End landmark attraction is a popular place with families, as there are lots of kid-friendly amusements. You could spend all morning here!
The Minack Theatre is one of the most popular places to visit in Cornwall. The theatre was built virtually single-handedly by Rowena Cade in the 1930s, and it resembles a Roman amphitheatre. With the backdrop of the Cornish sea, it is stunning.
It’s also worth visiting the Telegraph Museum and Porthcurno Beach while you’re in Porthcurno.
Sennen Cove is one of the best surfing beaches in Cornwall, and it’s easy to access from Mousehole.
Although it is a cove, the beach is long and expansive, with huge waves, making it a popular surf spot in this part of Cornwall. Ensure that you follow lifeguard directions for bathing and surfing, as they will designate the safest places.
It is a 24 minute drive to Sennen Cove, or you can take the M6 bus to Penzance and then change to the Land’s End Coaster to reach the town.
Where is Mousehole?
Mousehole is located on the south coast of West Cornwall, about 3 miles or 5 kilometres from Penzance or 10 miles from Land’s End.
How to get to Mousehole
If you are driving to Mousehole, you can take the A30 past Penzance, exit for Newlyn and continue along this coastal road until you reach Mousehole.
The A30 connects to the M5 at Exeter (which you can take for Bristol or Birmingham) or the A303 at the end, leading to the M3 and M25 (for London).
It’s also very easy to get to Mousehole by public transport. First, simply take the train to Penzance – there is a direct service from London, Reading, Exeter, Plymouth, Par, St Austell, Bodmin Parkway, Truro, St Erth and other stations in Cornwall. Then, hop on the M6 bus to Mousehole. This is the most regular bus I have found in Cornwall – it leaves every 20 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes.
If you fancy it, you can also walk from Penzance to Mousehole in around an hour.
Where to park in Mousehole
Parking in Mousehole is… difficult, to say the least!
The main car park is on The Parade as you drive into the village from Penzance. Parking here means that you can avoid the narrow roads of Mousehole, which is a definite perk.
However, the machine only takes cash – so be prepared for that – and there have been multiple reviews of people saying they have received a fine, despite paying in full. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a worse reviewed car park on Google!
There is a small car park called ‘Church Car Park’ in the village itself, however, this means that you will need to drive through the village. Or, there are sometimes spaces on the harbour walls, but this means that you will need to park on the harbour itself.
Other options are parking on the road from Newlyn or on the road that leads up to Paul. Free on-street parking is available at specific points in both of these locations, and this means that you don’t need to risk driving into the village and don’t need to worry about potentially getting fined.
My other suggestion, which we did, would be to park in Penzance and get the M6 bus in. Penzance Harbour Car Park isn’t cheap, but it’s easy to get to, you can pay on the card before you leave, and I haven’t heard of anyone getting fined when they have already paid.
Of course, if you are staying in Mousehole, you will want to park as close to your accommodation as possible. Your guesthouse or holiday home may have designated parking, or if not, the owner will be able to advise you, so I recommend contacting them.
Where to stay in Mousehole
- The Old Pilchard Works is a popular bed and breakfast hotel with a near-perfect rating on Booking.com. The rooms are bright, comfy and modern, and the host, Tracey, will do anything to make a stay comfortable. A delicious breakfast is served at the Old Pilchard Works each morning, and it is located in the heart of Mousehole. Click here to read more about them.
- 9 Chapel Street is a luxury apartment that is perfect for couples. It has a deluxe bathroom, kitchen and living area, as well as a comfortable bed. All furnishings are modern, and it is right in the centre of the village. Click here for more information.
- Cobbles Loft is perfect for a family, with two bedrooms that can accommodate up to five people. One bedroom at Cobbles Loft has a double bed, and one has a bunk bed. With beautiful ocean themed furnishings and luxury furniture, there’s all you need for a comfortable stay here! Click here to read more.
The finest Mousehole attractions!
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Mousehole – a surprising amount for such a small village! If you’re interested in history, charming villages and beautiful surroundings, Mousehole should definitely be on your Cornwall bucket list.