Let me send you a postcard from Mousehole this week, sent from the idyllic former fishing village, beguilingly set around a Cornish harbour just a seagull’s wing across Mounts Bay from us here at Ednovean Farm.
Mousehole is enchanting in the spring, buzzing quietly in the summer and from the picture perfect harbour framed by pretty, former fishermen’s cottages, to the narrow winding streets that have been part of the battle of Cornwall, Mousehole has so much to offer a visitor to West Cornwall.
I often glance across the bay to the historic village of Mousehole, set just before the last point we can see before the coast vanishes towards Land End and on a spring afternoon this week we set off with friends to explore the village once again.
Mousehole somehow holds the essence of how I imagined St Ives would have been if only it had settled in a quiet eddy and left to gently drift to one side of mainstream tourism.
In Mousehole the character of the community still echo in the narrow streets that lead from the harbour traditional, those Cornish communities o cottages and fishing lofts centred on lanes and alley that all leading down to the sea and still redolent with character and charm just waiting to be explored again.
Mousehole is famous for its Christmas light of course, shimmering around the harbour on those dark winter days of the year and each year they bring the population out to enjoy the twinkle and promise and smell the sea salt in the air once more but it was gently quite on the spring afternoon we visited, with dramatic clouds across Mounts bay.
The village of Mousehole
The homely tumble of old buildings of Mousehole tread lightly up the hillside carefully reinvented as art galleries, interspersed by smart, perfectly curated weekend cottages that jostle with local homes still reassuringly stacked with fish boxes and lobster pots.
There are rumours of ancient holy crosses and plague stones amongst the tightly twined lanes that have been trodden over the centuries and seen births and deaths of fisher folk, battles and cannon fire before an invasion by the Spanish (2nd – 4th of August 1595)
Most of the very old buildings of Mousehole were destroyed when the Spanish (led by Carlos de Amesquita) invaded perhaps as a distraction after hearing whispers that Francis Drake planned to move on Panama and as retribution for the sinking of The Spanish Armada.
Look out for the part Tudor survivor, Keigwin House, that still stands with a plaque set in the wall commemorating Squire Keigwin who fell defending his home. Investigation have pointed to a few other early buildings that may have survived that savage night when Mousehole burned.
The Spanish raid on Mounts Bay led by Carlos de Amesquita
A force of 400 Spanish made landfall on a beach to the west of Mousehole and it is said that they sighted on the tower of Paul church before forging into the village. Mousehole was then one of the two then major harbours on Mounts bay and the intention was to set up a base there as a future bargaining point.
A second force swept up into Paul, burnt down the church of St Pol de Leon, killed four men and took others captive. After two days the galleys were moved towards Newlyn and Penzance and prosaically made a wide berth of the garrison on St Michael’s Mount.
The Lord Godolphin was powerless against the Spanish and the militia fled from his side except 10 stalwart men and he was finally forced to withdraw to wait for reinforcements.
After two turbulent days for Cornwall Amesquita noticed the gathering forces assembling on the hillsides and held a Mass in field near Penzance before departing vowing to return with two years
St Clements Island
Just over the harbour wall the jagged remains of St Clements Island are now only a home to the sea birds but it was once the site of a medieval chapel until it was destroyed by storms and perhaps a home to a hermit that lit a beacon to guide the ships.
Mounts Bay would have looked quite different with twin chapels on islands peaks and again rumours hint of more islands, in that dim and distant time before the seas rose and the land of Lyonesse was lost.
How did Mousehole get its name?
As they say it’s complicated but the name was first recorded as Pertussom muris – hole of the Mouse 1242 morphing to Musehole 1284 and then Mousehole by 1302. Padel’s Place names
In truth the Mousehole was a probably a cave to one side of the village and the village name – Porthenys (Harbour of the island) became joined to it and then supplanted to become simply Mousehole (Pronounced Mowzle to rhythm with tousle)
The Mousehole cat
No story of Mousehole would be complete without a mention of the tale of Mowser the delightful Mousehole cat, who accompanied her master to sea in a terrible storm to try to bring back food for the starving residents of Mousehole.
Mowser sang to the great sea cat and soothed him with her lovely purr to allow Tom to cast his nets and he caught seven types of fish to bring back to the hungry community of Mousehole.
When the village realised that Tom had slipped way to sea in the night they lit the harbour with lanterns to guide him safely home and as he passed through the Mouse-hole into the harbour, his boat was tossed with a playful flip of the sea cat’s paw. There was such a celebration of cats and men that night and to this day Tom Bowles night is held in the village with a Stargazy Pie paraded through the streets.
A day in Mousehole made perfect by a super indulgent lunch!
Lunch in Mousehole
We were treated to lunch at the Old Coastguard just above Mousehole and soon settled beside an epic fireplace flickering with candlelight, amongst pretty tables decked with posies of spring flowers.
We eased ourselves gently into the occasion with a delicious, well chilled glass of house white, accompanied by crusty warmed bread and olives.
Starters arrived rather quickly so no snaps of my melt in the mouth “smoked haddock fish cake, pickled leeks, ginger and aioli” (£8) or Charles equally sumptuous “Smoked duck liver parfait, apple and raisin chutney with sourdough toast.” (£8.50)
But the mains arrived in well paced order and I was able to snap them “Hake, crushed potatoes, Romanesco cauliflower, spinach, curry and raisin veloute (£18)” – so succulent with a delectably crisp skin and I passed the cauliflower on to Charles to join his “Primrose Herd pork Loin, mashed potatoes, creamed cabbage, caramel apple.” (£18)
Our attentive young waitress hopefully enquired if we would like pudding as we gazed out of the window at the storm clouds scudding over the sea but I can assure you I didn’t eat for the rest of the day!
And finally this picture perfect destination is part of the route of the West Penwith Tour
The pretty Cornish Harbour of Mousehole is picture postcard perfect and is one of the destinations that we suggest on the Penwith Tour.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your postcard from Mousehole this week – why not share it to your friends to read?