Fal River
Walk

This is a spectacular Cornish walk along the banks of the Fal River from St Mawes to Smugglers Cottage before catching the ferry back.

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Fal River Walk

This is a spectacular Cornish walk along the banks of the Fal River and the Oyster Way from St Mawes to King Harry Reach.


The walk to King Harry Reach from St Mawes takes in the beautiful scenery along the Fal - the last remaining oyster fishery in Europe still to be dredged by sail and oar.

From the quay at St Mawes head towards the castle and then pick up the coast path North towards St Just along the shores of the Carrick Roads.

Here you’ll find St Just Church and the churchyard that Sir John Betjeman described as ‘the most beautiful on earth.'

From St Just continue North alongside St Just Creek before breaking away from the river and heading inland. The latter part of the walk is on the road so take care.

When you arrive at King Harry Reach you can jump on the King Harry Ferry and get to the other side of the river where you can catch an Enterprise Boat from the Trelissick Pontoon back to Falmouth.

NB: Please check opening times and sailing times before doing this walk.

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Walk Info

Start point

St Mawes

Distance

7 miles

Duration

4-5 hours plus time for the ferry back.

Grading

Moderate to hard

End point

King Harry Reach

On the way...

The walk to King Harry Reach from St Mawes takes in the beautiful scenery along the Fal - the last remaining oyster fishery in Europe still to be dredged by sail and oar.

Getting Back

Take the King Harry Ferry to get to the side and Trelissick Pontoon.

From here you can catch an Enterprise Boat. In peak season the boats run regularly to Falmouth, Truro and St Mawes.

Please check sailing times and Smugglers Cottage opening times before doing this walk.

More Information

Stepping off the ferry from Falmouth onto the quay the direction to head for to start the walk is left, west looking over to Pendennis headland and the nearby St Mawes castle. To get to the main car park and the toilets turn right for 50 metres and it is up on your left. Walking back to the quay continue along the road towards St Mawes castle.

St Mawes was known as Lavada or Lavousa in the 13th Century with the chapel of St Mawes going back to 1381. It is named after Saint Maudez of Brittany whilst inevitably other sources would say that the original Saint Maudus came from Wales. Originally part of the parish of St Just, St Mawes did not have its own parish church for centuries but it did have its own holy well, which cured many complaints.

The over riding task of St Mawes castle built around the same time as Pendennis between 1540-45 was to protect the Carrick Roads (Fal River) from invasion along with the larger more prominent Pendennis Castle. Both are more artillery forts that castles although St Mawes is more decorated with gargoyles, Renaissance type and ineffective gun loops and windows. One must remember that at the time of the building Falmouth as a town did not exist whilst St Mawes, Penryn and Truro did. It became a borough town in 1562 sending two elected members of the district to Parliament. 

Walk past the Tresanton hotel up the road to the Castle. Then follow the coast path up the Fal River to St Just in Roseland ignoring the path signs to your right. The church within sub tropical gardens is a site of a 5th century Celtic chapel where St Just is Iestyn son of Geraint who was the King of Cornwall (Gerrans is very close by). John Treseder set up a nursey after a visit to Australia in 1897 and originally planted the gardens. There are Gunnera, Western Red Cedars and tree ferns in amongst the native flora. 

From the church carry on up the creek and take the opportunity to visit the St Just well that dates back to around the 5th Century. Sir John Betjemen called the church “the most beautiful on Earth” and it is possibly from this angle that he made the declaration. The path carries along the creek with a path along the steep sided valley. Opposite is Messack Point where you will be walking around, care of a new path installed by the National Trust. Cross over a concrete bridge and turn left following a path between two hedges. Do not go up the steep hill. This path takes you into fields and up around a small creek and away from the waters edge. Eventually you reach a road, which you cross as this is private leading down to Messack House or up to Messack Farm. Through another two fields you then have the whole vista in front of you of the expanse of the mouth of the Carrick Roads. Spectacular views of Falmouth and Pendennis castle to the right with St Mawes hidden around the headland to your left. You have a choice of paths. Descend down to Messack Point where a group of pine trees beckon. This is a great place for a picnic and to watch the sea traffic wind its way up and down and across this busy the river. The path continues into woodland with the river on your left. 

The path veers up hill right, into woodlands until it reaches a gate after many bends in the track. With the fence on your right keep to the path and it is well signposted through fields, looking back at the great views of the Carrick Roads. Eventually you come out at a cross roads. Take the road to the left not the Private road to the Roundhouse Barns (the Americans built this road for the 2nd world War D-Day embarkation) and this takes you out to the main B3289 road. Turn left down to the King Harry Ferry. Be cautious, as there is a lot of traffic. Walk along and then left down hill for a couple of miles to the ferry.

Public transport information

Ferry from Falmouth to St Mawes.

Nearest Toilets and Nearest Disabled Toilets

Toilets at St Mawes and St Just in Roseland and on the king harry ferry.

Nearest Car parks and Nearest Car Parks with disabled provision

St Mawes.

Nearest refreshments 

St Mawes.