Alex Whittaker explores an idyllic slice of Cornish heritage with its own sheltered modern marina …
Mylor Harbour is just up the River Fal from Falmouth, situated on the famed Carrick Roads. This is a broad and deep estuary that often feels like a Scandinavian fjord. It is listed as the third-largest natural harbour in the world. In fact, it is a geographical ria: a flooded river valley created by vast amounts of meltwater at the end of the last ice age.
For our sort of vessel, with a draught of less than 2m, Mylor is accessible at all states of the tide. In typical Cornish style, the trees and lush greenery of the Carrick Roads come right down to the water’s edge. ‘Idyllic’ is a somewhat overused descriptor these days, but frankly, for Mylor Harbour, the Fal Estuary and the Carrick Roads, it fits the bill.
Approach from sea
Mylor Harbour is situated on the western shore of the Falmouth Estuary. In fact, Mylor Harbour lies at the mouth of Mylor Creek, 2 miles downstream of Mylor Bridge village. The approach from sea is straightforward. As you pass St Anthony’s Lighthouse and Black Rock at the entrance to the Carrick Roads, you will see St Mawes on your starboard hand and Falmouth and the docks to port. Continue heading north up the Carrick Roads following the channel markers to stay in deep water. Famed Pendennis Castle, one of Henry VIII’s forts, lies on the wooded hill to port. Legend has it that it was circular so that French cannonballs would bounce off. When adjacent to St Just on your starboard hand, turn to port and head straight for the Mylor channel markers at the outer edge of the moorings. These can be hard to spot against the foot of the forest of masts of the marina moorings, but look closely and you will make out the red port and green starboard Mylor Harbour entrance buoys. Trickle between them and follow the marked fairway through the moorings and you will arrive at the entrance to the marina.
The visitors’ berth is called ‘E Pontoon’. Call ahead on Channel 37 or 80. It is clearly signposted and surrounds the eastern side of the marina. Water, electricity and fuel are all available on this pontoon. Note that the marina and moorings never dry, and that the marina and fairway are dredged to 2m below chart datum. Only if your vessel has a draught of over 2m must you take care on your approach to Mylor at low water.
The harbour and marina
Mylor actually comprises a historic working harbour, a unique horseshoe-shaped fully serviced marina and a large number of deep-water moorings. The marina offers 180 pontoon berths and there are a further 250 moorings in a vast fan beyond the marina entrance. For any keen boating person, this is all as it should be. These vast moorings reminded us of the huge summer armada moored off Abersoch. The marina feels like a river and possesses that authentic air of history and heritage. Thankfully it has not been overdeveloped, but luckily for us fussy powerboaters it does have all the modern facilities we desire. You can spend a long time at the quayside hostelry sipping a cold drink and watching harbour life go by.
Even in high summer, Mylor Harbour is relaxed and welcoming.
Exquisitely varnished Marjorie May, from the pretty village of Flushing.
Dotted around the harbour are clues to its working heritage.
This is slightly up the hill from the quay. This building is the overall reception for the harbour, as distinct from the marina office and reception on the quay.
We are utterly delighted to report that Mylor’s main public slipway is free. Truly excellent. Other council harbours and marinas take note (Mylor Harbour is privately owned by the Graffy family). We could certainly put our 24-footer into the water with its twin-axle trailer on this wide ramp. There was also a nifty coin-op washdown machine at the top of the slip. We have used similar in the Med and they are very handy. You can wash off the light fouling and salt from your hull, outboard or drive before tackling the long road trip home. The harbour also has its own chargeable slip and very convenient hoist. For many moons, we have preferred to get our own boat hoisted in, thus avoiding any salt damage to our trailer, its brakes, lights and wheel bearings.
Car and trailer parking
You may arrange trailer and car parking with the marina. There are special zones for trailers with appropriate pay machines. However, we would always advise ringing ahead in the very busy summer season to check availability.
Toilets, showers, launderette
At first glance, the white toilet and shower building looks a bit like a ‘bog block’ from a 1970s campsite. However, inside is a very different story. Most significantly, it has a disability access ramp. It is also well appointed inside. However, the high point is the truly wonderful shower arrangements. These shower cubicles have been designed by sensible boating adults well versed in family practicality, and not some big-city design house. And get this: your shower cubicle is very much more than that. It has a larger outer dry cubicle with a decent-sized shower cubicle inside that. And here’s the killer: you also have a lavatory en suite! In addition, the whole design is sufficiently spacious that dressing is easy. Unlike some tiny marina shower cubicles, you never bang your elbows on anything harsh. Furthermore, the floors do not run with water, and your Docksides, clothes and towel remain dry. This happy functionality is worth a thousand designer tiles, and a score of irritatingly fashionable mixer taps. Full marks, Mylor.
Mylor has an amazing variety of boats in one place.
Castaways – we can recommend the steak frites.
Extra space for Castaways tables right on the quay. Dog-friendly too.
Boatyard and services
Mylor Harbour as a whole has a reputation for its provision of comprehensive boat services. On top of the third-party services, engineers and support businesses that you may choose yourself, Mylor provides its own one-stop ‘Marine Team’. Full details on their website. The idea is to offer the boat owner a complete service. However, one little consumer tableau we observed (anonymously) may prove instructive … It was early morning and we were standing by our tow vehicle where the Marine Team were mustering long before work. One Marine Team mechanic was drinking his coffee when an ordinary punter like you or I came up and needed someone urgently to look at his engine. This was at least 10 minutes before official opening time. The Marine Team mechanic immediately took ownership of the problem, put down his mug and walked off briskly with the punter to sort out the problem. Now, over the years I have often been that punter, and the responses I have received have been variable to say the least. Once more, full marks to Mylor.
The boatyard itself really amazed me. It was very unusual, and very attractive – in a traditionally boaty way. Essentially it is a linear boatyard running uphill within a picturesque wooded ravine. It’s long too – around three-quarters of a mile. Here and there were stations for boats on the hard, with metered electricity points and water. One sunny morning before breakfast, I walked all the way to the top. Here it meets the green fields and the lowing of cows. If you love being among boats and boatyards in a rural setting, this might be the best and most dramatic yard you will find.
The dry berthing offered at Mylor is where your boat is stored safely and securely ashore, and not on a floating pontoon. Essentially, you ring ahead with an agreed lead time, and the marina staff put your boat in the water for you. This offer interested us, especially if one was considering stationing one’s trailer boat at Mylor for a whole summer season.
A Mylor single dry berthing cycle consists of launch, haul-out and pressure wash. Boats stored on trailers receive 10 launch cycles per package, while vessels without a trailer receive six. Dry berthing contracts begin at 6.1m and do not include smaller craft. You also get car parking for one car – an interesting proposition if you were researching the idea of keeping your boat in sunny Cornwall for a season and just driving down to it. The Mylor website has all the details.
The fuel berth is easily accessible. Petrol and diesel available.
Mylor Harbour has many interesting nooks and crannies.
Atmospheric Mylor Boat Hire. Love it!
Mylor does have a big blue crane, which is probably used for stepping masts, but most powerboaters would be interested in the marina’s Marine Team 35-tonne hoist.
Water and electricity
All marina pontoon berths have water and electricity.
The marina Wi-Fi is free and is a fibre connection. Naturally, fair use conditions apply.
Very conveniently, Mylor has a well-stocked chandlery on site. It is on the ground floor of the aforementioned harbour reception building. This reassuring facility helps to make longer summer stays in Mylor that much more attractive – especially so since Mylor is a bit remote from other boating centres by road.
Mylor Harbour has both petrol and diesel fuel available at its easily approached fuel berth. Mylor Marina offers discounts on fuel for berth holders.
A full range of recycling options are offered. We all need to do our bit, and every little helps.
There is no shop at the harbour, but the ever-helpful Café Mylor offers staples such as eggs, milk and bread for sale. There is a village stores, but that is a long walk away (see Mylor Bridge details below).
The water taxi service costs £2.50 per trip and serves all the marina pontoons and the 250 outlying moorings. A seasonal pass costs £116 per boat. Significantly, this pass is free to marina contract holders.
Mylor Sailing School
This enterprise offers the full range of RYA courses and more. Check the website for full details.
Mylor Yacht Club
With its commanding presence above the harbour and its massive terrace, it was easy to imagine this smart new building thronging with happy, healthy yachting and powerboating types. Alas, the curse of Covid meant that we could only use our imagination. However, it is clearly a bold new facility. We really liked the building, and its little brother, the quayside marina office. Check out the MYC website:
As we always note at this point, yacht clubs are mines of local knowledge for the visiting powerboating family.
Mylor Harbour offers self-catering accommodation. We noticed the handsome white Kingsmoor Cottage, right on the quay. Details on the Mylor website.
Mylor is at the end of a very long and sensationally pretty country lane. It is quite a way to any pub or restaurant, so if you have arrived by boat, your choices may come down to eating out around the harbour. You have two choices. In the interest of journalistic integrity, we tried both alternatives for you. We could not try the yacht club since it seemed to be closed due to Covid.
Spacious Mylor Yacht Club with convenient food and retail units under.
We breakfasted at Café Mylor, situated on its own terrace with great views, just beneath Mylor Yacht Club. On a brilliantly sunny Cornish morning, it was a joy to eat out above the busy quay.
Top tip: Go for the ‘Mini Cornish Breakfast’, which was easily enough to see us through the day!
The young staff were very good indeed. As already mentioned, in the absence of a provisions shop, you can also buy a few staple foods here. They offer a click and collect service for meals too. Handy for impromptu back-deck parties.
This is both a restaurant and a pub, the latter bafflingly being called Castaways East. There is also a related range of outdoor tables on the quay, so Castaways actually offers two choices of al fresco and interior dining. We attended (without booking because we were late) on a very busy summer evening. The friendly and slickly efficient staff made a heroic effort and fitted us in. Better to book! We dined upstairs and the menu would certainly suit most crews, especially those with children and fussy teenagers. We tried the steak frites from the Castaways menu. It was very good, and not dear either at £17 each. The full menu is accessible online complete with prices: https://castawaysmylor.com/menu.
They also have a good ‘grape list’ since they are also a wine bar. The house red was very smooth, and the brandy offered with the after-dinner coffee was pukka Courvoisier. No silly prices, just good value for money. Recommended.
Coastal footpath network
Mylor Harbour is right on a network of local footpaths. Walking under the trees with glimpses of blue water on a sun-dappled pathway is one of the great joys of traditional Cornwall. It never disappoints – and, of course, it is free.
Mylor Bridge village
This pleasant Cornish village has a well-stocked shop for provisions and booze, but it is quite a way up alongside Mylor Creek from the harbour – around 1.4 miles and about 30 minutes, in fact. A bit too long for me to walk and haul back the groceries on a hot day!
Mylor contact details
Mylor Harbour, Falmouth
Cornwall TR11 5UF
Tel.: 01326 372 121
Mylor is a prime ‘staycationing’ venue for the keen powerboating family. If we were to re-station our petrol powerboat in Cornwall, Mylor would be our first choice. It has all we would need, set in an area of truly outstanding natural beauty. The secluded local beaches, which are only accessible by boat, are very alluring. The range of day boating and cruising options further afield is rich and varied. The harbour has retained its heritage and yet offers all the modern facilities we might require. We loved the marina’s simple but good eating-out options, and Mylor’s amazing linear boatyard. Most of all, we loved that almost indefinable celebration of Cornishness.
10 fun facts about Mylor
- The Fal estuary is the third-deepest natural harbour in the world.
- Carrick Roads is a ‘ria’ – a flooded river valley created at the end of the last ice age.
- St Mylor arrived in Mylor from Brittany in the fifth century.
- St Mylor Church has one of the oldest Celtic crosses in the UK.
- Mylor lies at the head of the eponymously named creek.
- Mylor was originally an Elizabethan naval dockyard.
- Henry VIII built Pendennis Castle to protect the area from the French.
- Thackeray write a novel called The History of Pendennis – no relation.
- Actor Robert Shaw of Jaws fame was educated close by at Truro School.
- Locally, St Anthony’s Lighthouse is known as ‘Fraggle Rock’.
Cruising destinations from Mylor
The Carrick Roads presents outstanding day-cruising opportunities on the marina’s very doorstep. Being afloat means that you may access these delightfully secluded bays, beaches and anchorages directly from your own boat. The madding crowd and their vehicles just cannot access these beauties to spoil your day! Key day-cruising venues from Mylor include:
St Mawes (St Mawes Castle)
The fabulous Helford River
Falmouth (Pendennis Castle)
St Anthony’s Lighthouse (Fraggle Rock)
Mylor is used by many cruising boats as a stopover en route to the Isles of Scilly.
Fowey is just over an hour away and a super day trip.
Mevagissy, Coverack, Charleston are all ideal trips of short distance.