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At the very heart of Cornwall's south coast, stretching from Lostwithiel in the east across to the Roseland Peninsula in the west, the Cornish Riviera encompasses the dramatic 'alps' and pits of the China Clay mining area, secretive valleys hiding the silent remains of their industrial heritage and rolling countryside with small farms their fields leading down to rounded cliffs on the coast.

There are fishing harbours and beaches aplenty along the great sweep of St Austell  Bay and Mevagissey Bay leading down to the quiet creeks of the Roseland Peninsula. To find out more, follow the links below.

St Austell

St Austell is famous for its China Clay which brought prosperity to the town in the 18th Century. You can explore the history of Cornwall's mining heritage at the Wheal Martyn Museum and Country Park which offers a fascinating day out for all the family.

St Austell lies just inland from the south coast of Cornwall with its large sandy beaches and spectacular coastal walks and is only a mile from Charlestown with its Shipwreck and Heritage Centre, tall ships, beaches and rock pools. The Georgian harbour at Charlestown was created by Sir Charles Rashleigh to allow the transport of the valuable China Clay (called 'white gold') to the potteries of the north and across to Europe.

The town centre of St Austell has a variety of shops, local and national, with a modern shopping centre, White River Place, and a popular 4-screen White River Cinema, a Tenpin Bowling Centre and a range of pubs, restaurants and cafes.

At the historic core of the town is the fine Holy Trinity Parish Church and opposite, the Italianate facade of the Market House.

The town has the benefit of a Leisure Centre with Sports Hall, Swimming Pool and Squash Courts. Looking for a map of St Austell? Try the Interactive Town Guide!

Mevagissey & Gorran Haven

Mevagissey's narrow streets and steep valley sides lead everyone to the harbour at the centre of the village.  The distinctive, twin harbour provides a safe haven for the many fishing boats bringing back their catch - skate, lobster, plaice, mackerel, sole and more. Pubs, cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops cluster around the harbour and line the quaint streets.

The fascinating history of the village can be seen in the Mevagissey Museum on the harbourside. Stacked to the gunwales with memorablia and local artefacts, the Museum brings the history of the village to life.  Also on the harbourside is the local Aquarium. Recently restored and renovated, it has a superb collection of fish from the local waters.

The picturesque village of Gorran Haven has a sheltered anchorage with a lovely sandy beach in the lee of the spectacular 400 foot high Dodman Point.  Always a favourite destination for families, Gorran Haven is surrounded by and cared for by the National Trust ensuring its conservation for future generations.  Truly a 'haven', the village has a number of small shops and eating places to satisfy the visitors' needs.

From Gorran Haven, there's easy access to the cliff and coastal path leading around to Vault Beach and on to Porthluney or Caerhays Beach and to the gardens at Caerhays Castle famous for its Camellias and open to visitors from February to May.  

The gateway to the Roseland Peninsula, Tregony, is a short distance inland but, for many coast path walkers, it's Gorran Haven that signals the start of the Roseland as they enjoy the creeks, coves and beaches on their way down to St Mawes.

Lostwithiel

The Cornish Riviera blends a glorious coastline with a lush and historic interior, probably seen at its best in Lostwithiel. Easily reached by road, but more picturesquely approached by river from Fowey, past Lerryn whose wood was the inspiration for Wind in the Willows, and St Winnow, one of the film locations for the Poldark television series.

In its buildings and ruins, Lostwithiel holds a mirror to 800 years of change, impacting far beyond Cornwall's borders. With the building of the Duchy Palace c.1300, it became the most important Stannary town - for the assay of tin - in Cornwall.  At the time, Lostwithiel was a thriving, international seaport trading in lead, hides, wine salt, wool, cured fish and dried fruits as well as tin.

The Duchy Palace housed the Courts, the Duchy & Stannary administration, tin smelting houses, coinage hall and the famous Stannary (Tinners') Parliament.  Other fine buildings still in evidence include the fine Tudor Bridge and the Guildhall which houses the borough's museum.  Nearby, overlooking the valley and town, Restormel Castle welcomed the first Duke of Cornwall - the Black Prince - and witnessed one of Charles I's victories over the Roundheads.

Lostwithiel has a fine reputation for the quality of its angling. The River Fowey is famous for salmon, trout, flounder and bass.

Fowey

Fowey is situated at the mouth of the River Fowey, with a large, deep-water harbour providing safe anchorage for  merchant ships collecting china clay, timber and other exports.  The  Port of Fowey has been of great maritime importance for centuries.

Today in Fowey, there is much to attract the visitor; charming streets with fascinating shops, river and coastal walks, sailing, river cruises, the angler's paradise of river or sea fishing, and a wide selection of cafes, pubs and restaurants to suit all tastes !

During the summer season a veritable flotilla of leisure boats and yachts, locals and visitors, of all shapes and sizes are moored in the harbour.  The Fowey Regatta during August is probably the highlight of the sailing and town's year with events on the water, in and around the town - and in the air when the RAF's famous Red Arrows acrobatic team give their fantastic display above the Fowey Estuary.

Fowey's most famous resident is probably Daphne du Maurier who took a great deal of inspiration from, and set her novels in, the beautiful landscapes of the Fowey Estuary. From 'Mandalay' to 'Jamaica Inn', you can follow the locations of the du Maurier novels and learn more about du Maurier's life and work whilst enjoying a guided walk with local Blue Badge Guides.

Celebrating her literary achievements and also the Arts in general, the Daphne du Maurier Festival is held in Fowey and the surrounding area in May each year. The main events are held in a Festival Village - with 600 seat Marquee & 160 seat Theatre - approached from the Main Car Park

The Clay Villages

Early in the 18th Century, William Cookworthy discovered China Clay at Tregonning Hill, near St Austell.  This was to be the basis for the wealth of the town and surrounding villages for the next two centuries.  The China Clay was predominantly 'won' from pits in the area to the north of St Austell; around St Dennis, St Stephen, Stenalees, Nanpean, Foxhole and Carthew

There was a strong bond between the men of the clay pits and works. Many local families had several generations all working together in the pit. Boys often started work at the pit or works where there brothers or father also worked.  It was very common to find men from one village all working at the local pit and spending their off duty time socialising together.

This strong community bond still lives on in the clay villages today and has helped to create some villages with very strong collective identities; numerous Male Voice Choirs and Silver Bands are the strong legacy of the bonds within the China Clay community.

The China Clay Country Park  at Wheal Martyn, Carthew, north of St Austell has an impressive exhibition of the China Clay communities and their lifestyles through the generations. The works at the museum in Carthew were carefully restored in 1975 to give an idea of what they originally looked like. The historic trail shows how the clay was refined a hundred years ago before mechanisation radically changed the processes. The visitor finishes the ascent of the hillside site at a vantage point, overlooking the modern workings showing the huge scale of the modern industry.

Luxulyan

Luxulyan Valley, now a peaceful woodland scene, was once filled with the sounds of industrial machinery, driven by the ingenious water powered systems fed via the Treffry Viaduct bringing water in leats from Bodmin Moor.  The Valley's thickly-wooded terrain was once an important resource for making the charcoal that was needed in large quantities for smelting tin from rich alluvial deposits on the moors to the northwest. Nearby at Prideaux, charcoal-burning platforms can be found.

The steep granite strewn slopes surround the fast-flowing River Par contain an extraordinary concentration of early 19th century industrial remains, unique in South West Britain. It is also unusual within Cornwall in that it represents the landscape realisation of one man's vision - Joseph Treffry (1782 - 1850) who was one of the greatest single mines adventurer in Cornwall at the time.

Copper mining was booming and Treffry built a canal to link his Fowey Consols mine to the port of Par.  A tramway, using an inclined plane, towards Luxulyan enabled him to develop granite quarries in the valley.  The tramway was later extended to the north coast at Newquay where the, now closed, line reached the harbour via a tunnel.

Friends of Luxulyan Valley arrange a number of special walks and other activities through the year

The Roseland

'Roseland' derives from the Cornish 'ros' - land jutting out to sea. However, the Lizard, further west and Britain's most southerly point, protects the Roseland Peninsula from the prevailing winds and creates a sub-tropical paradise.

The former port of Tregony is its northern gateway into a lush moorland delta of ancient villages and home to thousands of birds. Below the King Harry Ferry is the great estuary of the River Fal, known as the Carrick Roads, swinging around Zone Point and the old pilchard port of Portscatho to the broad sweep of Gerrans Bay.

The Fal estuary is one of the world's greatest natural harbours and has ensured the Roseland's place in history. Several villages grew rich on naval patronage and the pilchard boom.  Henry VIII recognised its importance by building the famous "cloverleaf castle" at St Mawes.  St Anthony Head is the site of a battery manned almost constantly from the Napoleonic Wars until 1945.

The probing fingers of the Fal have created a varied panorama of wooded banks and tall cliffs, secluded creeks and sandy beaches.  See the riverside church at St Just, then take the coast path to St Mawes - or to the twin villages of Gerrans and Portscatho - before viewing the famous roundhouses at Veryan.

Charlestown

A mile or so from St Austell, at the nearest point on the coast, lies the bijou port of Charlestown.  This Georgian harbour village was created by Sir Charles Rashleigh to allow the transport of the valuable China Clay to the potteries in the north and across to Europe.

Before the harbour was constructed ships would be drawn up on the beach to be loaded. Boats arriving empty would contain 'ballast' to maintain a seaworthy condition. Generally, the ballast would be stones from the last port that they'd visited. This ballast would then be thrown out on to the beach at Charlestown, in preparation for loading up with China Clay. As a result, the beaches at Charlestown are kaleidoscopic view of the world's geology, with pebbles from a mulititude of locations.

China Clay was exported in barrels so the services of a Cooper, Blacksmith, Carpenter, Chandler, Rope-maker etc were all required within the village. Today, you can discover the heritage of the village in the Shipwreck & Heritage Centre or, during the summer months, enjoy a guided walk and learn more of the China Clay industry - its history and today's industry.

The harbour at Charlestown is the home port for a Square-Rigged sailing ship.  Much in demand for film-work, often  the harbourside at Charlestown is taken over by film companies and magically transformed into '18th Century Dover' or a London quayside.

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Last updated 27th March 2017