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Mousehole

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Overview





Mousehole is a tiny harbour situated on the west side of Penzance Bay and on England's southwest coast, about fourteen miles northwest of Lizard Point and seven miles east of Land's End. Its drying harbour can accommodate medium or small boats that can dry out and deeper draft vessel can anchor outside in settled conditions.

Those who can enter and dry will find good protection except from the south or southeast but the anchorage is only for settled offshore winds. Access requires attentive navigation during daylight as there is a rocky island offshore and at high water for those intending on entering the harbour.



1 comment
Keyfacts for Mousehole
Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for accessRestriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: harbour fees may be charged

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2 metres (6.56 feet).

Approaches
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
August 2nd 2019

Summary* Restrictions apply

A good location with attentive navigation required for access.

Facilities
Water available via tapShop with basic provisions availableMini-supermarket or supermarket availableSlipway availableShore based toilet facilitiesShowers available in the vicinity or by arrangementHot food available in the localityPublic house or wine bar in the areaMarked or notable walks in the vicinity of this locationPleasant family beach in the areaCashpoint or bank available in the areaPost Office in the areaInternet café in the areaBus service available in the areaTourist Information office available


Nature
No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationAnchoring locationBerth alongside a deep water pier or raft up to other vesselsBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterNavigation lights to support a night approachSet near a village or with a village in the immediate vicinityHistoric, geographic or culturally significant location; or in the immediate vicinity

Considerations
Restriction: shallow, drying or partially drying pierRestriction: rising tide required for accessRestriction: may only reasonably accommodate vessels less than a specific lengthNote: can get overwhelmed by visiting boats during peak periodsNote: harbour fees may be charged



Position and approaches
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Haven position

50° 4.972' N, 005° 32.268' W

This is the position of a metal mast 3 metres high at the head of the north pier, at the entrance. It exhibits lights that indicate if the harbour is open 2 F.G. Vert, closed 3 F.R. Vert.

What is the initial fix?

The following Mousehole Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
50° 4.737' N, 005° 32.105' W
This is about 300 metres offshore and about the same distance southwest of Saint Clement's Isle. It sets up a southern approach between the island and the harbour.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southwestern England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location.
  • Best approached from the south, proceeding in midway between St Clement's Isle and the mainland.

  • Only turn for the entrance when it first opens.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Mousehole for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Newlyn - 0.8 miles N
  2. Penzance Harbour - 1.3 miles N
  3. Saint Michael's Mount - 2 miles NE
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 5.3 miles E
  5. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 7.1 miles ESE
  6. Kynance Cove - 8.4 miles ESE
  7. Cadgwith - 9.3 miles ESE
  8. Helford River - 9.8 miles E
  9. Gillan Creek - 10.7 miles E
  10. Coverack - 10.8 miles ESE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Newlyn - 0.8 miles N
  2. Penzance Harbour - 1.3 miles N
  3. Saint Michael's Mount - 2 miles NE
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 5.3 miles E
  5. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 7.1 miles ESE
  6. Kynance Cove - 8.4 miles ESE
  7. Cadgwith - 9.3 miles ESE
  8. Helford River - 9.8 miles E
  9. Gillan Creek - 10.7 miles E
  10. Coverack - 10.8 miles ESE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Mousehole Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


Mousehole, pronounced 'Mowzle', is a tiny, oval-shaped drying boat harbour formed by two enclosing piers. Saint Clement's Isle, located 400 metres east by southeast, shelters the entrance and it protects itself from winter storms by the sealing off the harbour entrance with huge oak baulks. The entrance may occasionally be closed by strong east or southeasterlies. The harbour area is encircled a tight tangle of slate-roofed cottages intersected by alleyways. Historically, an important fishing port and it still has nine small fishing boats, from 5 to 7 metres, that pot, net and angle in its surrounding area. Alongside these, the harbour is fully occupied by the fore and aft moorings of small local craft belonging to the residents of the village. The village's beauty makes it a popular family holiday destination and it makes its living today almost entirely on its tourist traffic.


The harbour entrance is sealed with timber baulks during winter
Image: Michael Harpur


The small harbour's entrance is 11 metres wide and it has a bottom of clean sand with some small boulders. A depth of 2.7 metres will be found at high-water springs and 1.8 metres at high-water neaps and the foot of the South Pier, where visitors typically come alongside, dries to 1.9 metres. Boats with a long keel may dry alongside the wall but the harbour is more the domain of the bilge keeler or a boat equipped with legs.

Mousehole is a self-sustaining 'Trust Port' run for the benefit of the local community and stakeholders. Visiting yachts are welcome but scarcely do owing to the harbour drying out. The harbourmaster should be contacted before any visit so make arrangments in advance Landline+44 1736 732544, Mobile+44 7767 651726, E-mail mousehole.harbour@hotmail.co.uk, Websitewww.mouseholeharbour.co.uk. Visiting Yachts fees per night [2019] £10 (Monohulls) | £12 (Multihulls) | £15/week Overland Boats (Trailered). The anchorage outside provides good holding and some protection from the west but only in the absence of swell that tends swing around the peninsula. The anchorage is entirely open to south and southeast.
Please note

The harbourmaster does not allow speedboats or jet skis to enter the harbour nor dogs on the quays or beaches.




How to get in?
Mousehole Harbour in the west side of Penzance Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use southwestern England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location for seaward approaches. Keep a sharp eye out for pot marker buoys around the island and along the shore. Two green vertical lights exhibited on the head of the north pier, indicate that the harbour is open, three red lights exhibited from the same position indicate that the harbour is closed. But night entry, on account of the local pots alone, is highly unadvisable for strangers.


Saint Clement's Isle situated about a ¼ of a mile offshore
Image: Michael Harpur


The key feature to identify is the 8 metres high Saint Clement's Isle located about a ⅓ of a mile southward of Penlee Point and about a ½ mile north by northeast of Carn du. The low-lying black rocky outcrop can be difficult to identify as it tends to get lost against the land until much closer in. It has an obelisk daymark (unlit) on its southern highest point but its 7 metres above MHWS includes the island itself so it little more than a rectangular block. Vessels approaching from the south will see it separate from the land.


Saint Clement's Island as seen over Mousehole's North Pier
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location The initial fix sets up the preferred southern approach to the harbour and anchoring area. There are no dangers outside of 300 metres from the mainland shore here nor 100 metres from the western shore of Saint Clement's Isle. The southern approach is 250 metres wide, has at least 3 metres of water until the final approaches. Then it drys out progressively to 1.3 metres off the head of the south pier and at the entrance.

Local fishing boats will be seen using an inshore passage to the north of the island. This is a more than serviceable northern cut but best left to local knowledge and the adventurous as it is a very narrow channel with 1.5 LAT and rocky ledges on both sides.

The view southward from the north end of the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


From the initial fix sound proceeding northward about midway between the island and the shore until the entrance to the harbour is a beam. Turn for the entrance when first it opens.


Break off for the entrance when the piers just open
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location Anchor to the southeast of the head of the South Pier, between it and the island. As this is the approach channel it is important to carry a bright riding light as anything moderate will struggle to be seen against the background lights of the village.

It also makes a good tide-wait anchorage and a reasonable depth can be expected to be found in the harbour at half tide onwards. A good rule of thumb is if only three horizontal concrete layers can be seen at the top of the northern wall, about 2.5 metres will be available inside the outer end of the South Pier.


Come alongside the head of the south pier (right)
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour entrance opens to the east by northeast and is 11 metres wide. Berth as directed by the harbourmaster which, typically space allowing, is at the head of the South Pier to dry on a firm sandy bottom. Keep clear of the stone steps as the inshore fishing boats use these to land their catch. Bilge-keelers intending to dry out elsewhere should only do so with by arrangement with the Harbour Master as local moorings fill the centre of the harbour.


Why visit here?
First recorded as 'Musehole' in 1284 and then 'Mosehole' in its 1266 charter, the origin of the name of Mousehole is subject to some debate. Even its pronunciation is different to how it is spelt, it is 'Mowzel' and never 'mouse hole'. Some say the name is the conjunction of the old English words mús and hol, literally 'mouse hole' that originally referred to a large hole or cavern in the cliffs to the south of the harbour. Others believe it is a comment on the small harbour itself. A local theory suggests that it is in fact derived from the small brook that runs through the town and the Cornish word 'Moeshayle', meaning 'at the mouth of the river of young women'. Others suggest the name comes from Phoenician tin merchants that came here around 500 BC, and that it is derived from the Phoenician word for 'watering place'. Another theory has it that its proper pronunciation of 'Mowzel' is derived from an old Arabic word for water.

Mousehole as depicted by the founder of the Newlyn School Stanhope Forbes 1910
Image: Public Domain
To further add to the confusion it was also commonly known by its old Cornish name 'Port Ennis', first recorded as Portheness in 1267 which meaning the 'Port of the Island'. This clearly refers to Saint Clement’s Island situated close offshore that was described in 1540 as... 'a lytle low island with a chapel yn yt'. Both names were used interchangeably in the past although a document from 1309 names Porthenys juxta Mousehole which means 'Port Ennis' next to Mousehole supporting the cave theory in that they were two separate places. Whatever the case, either literal name perfectly encapsulates the bijou harbour, cradled in the arms of its granite breakwater and encircled by a compact huddle of cottages ashore.

At the time of the Norman Conquest, Mousehole, like Newlyn and Penzance, fell within the authority of the Manor of Alverton. All early charters, fairs, landing and buildings were associated with this manorial estate. In 1230 the Manor of Alverton was granted by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, younger brother of King Henry III, to Henry de Tyes. In 1266 Edward I granted Henry de Tyes a charter for a market on Tuesdays at Mousehole, along with a fair for three days at the festival of St Barnabas. The market was confirmed in 1313, by Edward II, to his sister, Alice de L'Isle.


Mousehole by Stanhope Forbes 1910
Image: Public Domain


Supported by this charter, Mousehole became the most important settlement in Mounts Bay. By the 14th century, it was referred to as a town and was one of the two main commercial centres of the bay area, the other being Marazion. Records show that as early as 1302 pilchards were exported to France and that Mousehole dominated this trade. Records of tax collections, based on the number of fishing boats, have Mousehole contributing £5, Marazion £1 6s 8d, Newlyn £1, Penzance 12s and Porthgwarra and Penberth 12s. Becoming a port of some importance Mousehole had a new quay built in 1392 which made it the earliest walled harbour in Cornwall. The town remained the centre of power until the end of the 16th century when catastrophe struck.

Jenkyn Keigwin's house today
Image: Public Domain
Recoiling from the failed Armada, the Spanish landed a considerable force in Brittany in 1590. This was to assist the French Catholic League and expelling the English and French Protestant forces from the area and to establish an advanced base from which his navy could constantly threaten England and Ireland. The Spanish invasion of Brittany provided a convenient base for raids on Cornwall and in 1595 two separate Spanish assault parties joined forces under Carlos de Amésquita to execute their first attack. Mousehole was the first port of call for the raiding party of four galleys and 400 men armed with muskets and pike. A landing party came ashore on a rocky beach a few hundred yards to the west of Mousehole whilst the Spanish galleys came in close to shore in order to bombarded the defenceless town.

Hopelessly outgunned, the townspeople fled save for the single notable exception of a resident called Jenkyn Keigwin. He stood defiantly outside his home and was shot dead at such close range that the musket ball passed through him and sink deep into the door behind. Perhaps as a mark of respect, his house was to be the only building to survive in the entire town. All the rest of the houses were burned and two other men were killed. The Spanish then progressed to the hamlet of Paul, then to Newlyn and Penzance, reputedly burning many buildings.


The North Quay dates back to the 17th-century
Image: Eugene Birchall via CC BY-SA 2.0


Mousehole was by far the worst hit with only with Keigwin’s house remaining. Unlike Penzance and Newlyn the town never fully recovered from the raid. Its market was discontinued after the incursion and the burgeoning Penzance, already the customs port for the whole Mount’s Bay area gained the August fair in 1614. The village was subsequently rebuilt but its size and status remained inferior to those of its near neighbours of Penzance and Newlyn from that point onwards.


The South Quay was added in the 19th-century
Image: Michael Harpur


The village only recovered when fishermen and fish merchants moved their businesses to Newlyn and Mousehole in the late 17th-century and early 18th. Whilst parts of the old wharf date back to the 13th-century the North Quay was established to protect boats at this time. By the late 18th-century, five pilchard seines and 55 boats were operating out of the harbour. But it remained highly exposed as the island provided little protection. This was exemplified during a bad storm in 1771 when a pig's sty with its stone trough was carried off into the sea by the force of the waves. A subsequent violent 1817 storm, cast the trough back onto shore again after being missing for about forty-six years.


Houses overlooking the harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


The harbour needed further protection and the South Quay was then added in the 19th-century. With the added protection Mousehole finally became a bustling port, full with pilchard fishing boats. At that time it was a 'drift' pilchard fishery during the summer and early autumn after with around sixty boats fished in the North Sea. When its fleet was in it was possible to walk across the harbour from one moored lugger to the next.


The 13th-century quay can still be seen around the harbour area
Image: Michael Harpur


It remained a busy port crowded with local fishing boats until as late as a hundred years ago. But in the early 20th-century, the pilchard shoals had disappeared and consumers had lost their taste for the oily fish. Alongside this came the large scale harbour development of Newlyn that changed the dynamics of the area. This was the final blow for Mousehole as the boats soon departed the small harbour for the better access, protection, deeper waters, and infrastructure available at Newlyn, which consequently expanded rapidly.


The entrance to the Mousehole Harbour
Image: Michael Harpur


But the fishing industry left behind a tight tangle of slate-roofed cottages and alleyways huddled together around the inner edge of the harbour. This and the picture perfect protective arms of its granite breakwaters left something that Dylan Thomas described as the ‘loveliest village in England’. It was no idle passing comment and he frequented the Ship Inn and, in July 1937, he celebrated his honeymoon in what was then the Lobster Pot pub - now converted to holiday homes. Seeing his perspective Mousehole reinvented itself as a seaside town and totally gave itself over to tourism.


Streets of Mousehole
Image: Michael Harpur


Today a handful of boats maintaining the village’s fishing heritage today, the majority moored fore and aft are for leisure rather than work. Its tea shops and galleries are a world away from the fishing industries warehouses and cranes of Newlyn. The village is a hot spot for second home ownership and it is estimated that more than half of its houses are now used as holiday lets or second homes. This is very understandable as it is one of the jewels in the crown of Cornwall. Its stunning collection of yellow-lichened houses, draped with jasmine, fuschia and built from the local finely grained Lamorna granite are more than desirable.

Portrait of Dorothy Pentreath
Image: Public Domain
These were all constructed after the 1595 invasion of the marauding Spaniards. Only Keigwin House, with its granite-pillared porch, now a private residence tucked away in the back streets, survives from the 14th Century. A plaque outside reads… 'Squire Jenkyn Keigwin was killed here 23rd July 1595 defending this house against the Spaniards.'

Another commemorative plaque can be found on the wall of a cottage in Brook Street and close by the harbour. This is dedicated to Dolly Pentreath, a native of Mousehole who died in 1777, she reputedly was the last living person to speak Cornish as her native language. Often cited as the last native speaker of Cornish before its revival in the 20th-century, her defiant last words were reported to be 'Me ne vidn cewsel Sawznek!' which means... 'I don't want to speak English!'.

After Dolly Pentreath, the 16th-century fisherman Tom Bawcock is probably the other most celebrated former resident of Mousehole. He archived fame during a very stormy winter that kept all the fishing boats in the harbour. As Christmas approached, the villagers who relied on fish as their primary source of food, were facing starvation.

On the day before Christmas Eve and resorting to herculean efforts, Tom Bawcock set out in his boat to fish in what was a severe storm. Against all odds, he managed to catch enough fish to feed the hungry village and lifted the famine, reputedly landing seven types of fish. The entire catch was baked into a pie, which had the fish heads poking through in order to show that there were fish inside.

A Stargazy Pie
Image: Krista via CC BY-SA 2.0
Ever since then, the fabled local fisherman is remembered in the Tom Bawcock's Eve festival held on 23 December. This is celebrated every Christmas by a celebration of lanterns and lights and the traditional ceremonial, and symbolic, eating of the iconic Stargazy Pie on the eve. This is a mixed fish, egg and potato pie cooked with Cornish sardines, herring or mackerel, heads protruding, looking skywards Star-gazy, before it is baked in the oven.

Despite being a very popular tourist destination to which summer visitors flock in droves, Mousehole has retained its original character and charm. Made up of winding narrow streets and tiny granite cottages it harks back to simpler times. Without doubt, its tight-packed knot of slate-roofed cottages and cob buildings make it one of the most picturesque hamlets in Cornwall. Likewise, its granite harbour walls, somehow seem to embrace the sea and show fortitude and the tentative relationship between the town and the bay. It is truly a beautiful village to behold and an absolute joy to visit.


Mousehole Harbour as seen from its 13th-Century quay
Image: Michael Harpur


From a boating perspective, Mousehole is the final port for boat cruising westward along the south coast of England. It is the type of place that truly makes the case for the bilge keeler who will be in their element here. But in suitable conditions, an overnight stay anchored outside in deep water is a total delight. Should an auspicious weather window occur, it is not a place that should be overlooked.


What facilities are available?
Freshwater at the inner end of the quay and a coin-operated shower is available at the South Quay - no refuelling facilities nor power points are available. The harbour has two public conveniences, one on the North Pier that includes disabled facilities and the other on the South Pier (Gurnick Street). The slipway is at the southern end of the harbour leading to a car park.

A well-stocked village shop and a post office will be found in its narrow streets. Being a tourist magnet there is plenty of choice for eating ashore, including cafes, a very good fish and chip shop, a good pub (The Ship Inn), a good hotel (The Old Coastguard) and several good local restaurants within walking distance of the harbour. The harbourmaster can advise on most things and can be visited at his office behind the clock tower.

Almost everything else is obtainable in Penzance which is available via a regular bus service, the 6/6A from Penzance (20 minutes, half-hourly Monday to Saturday, every hour on Sunday) that leaves from the harbourside clock tower. The 345 (two daily Monday to Friday, one on Saturday) travels via Newlyn, Mousehole and the Minack.


With thanks to:
eOceanic


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Please zoom out to see the 'initial fix' for this location.
The above plots are not precise and indicative only.




Mousehole Harbour, Cornwall, England
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Then entrance to Mousehole Harbour
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Saint Clement's Island as seen over Mousehole's North Pier
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Saint Clement's Island as seen from Mousehole
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Cenotaph overlooking the harbour
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The slipway at the south end of the harbour
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


The Ship Inn overlooking the harbour
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur


Narrow streets of Mousehole
Image: eOceanic thanks Michael Harpur




Saint Clement's Island and Mousehole Harbour




High altitude view of Mousehole Harbour and Saint Clement's Island



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Add your review or comment:


Ron Lub wrote this review on May 21st 2019:

Nice anchorage in 10 mtr clear water (sand) with notherly wind 12 Kn perfect place good holding
Didn't visit the village, but next time we do..

Average Rating: ****

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Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.