Tucked away on the South-West Cornish coast, St Mawes has long had its admirers.
It’s the home of a trio of high-end hotels and has been voted one of the UK’s hippest communities by website TravelSupermarket.
Former F1 team owner Frank Williams has a home there and the place is a favourite of royalty and politicians.
Hotspot: The average house in St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula is £994,000
If that’s not enough, this tiny community of 800 people is now Britain’s property hotspot where house prices have soared an eye-watering 48 per cent in a year, according to the Halifax index.
This makes it one of the UK’s most expensive areas, alongside the likes of Sandbanks in Dorset and the second-home haven of Salcombe in Devon.
Not hard to see why. First, it’s in a beautiful stretch of Cornwall on the Roseland Peninsula, separated from much of the rest of the county by the River Fal.
The rolling countryside, sheltered coves and pretty beaches are a sharp contrast to the craggy coastline of North Cornwall.
And, as it’s a hefty six-hour drive from London or the Midlands, it exudes a sense of isolation and peace.
St Mawes is on the Roseland Peninsula, separated from the rest of the county by the River Fal
Second, the village itself is understated and charming. The 19-room Idle Rocks hotel, owned by another ex-F1 team owner — David Richards and his wife Karen — is an elegant seafront building.
Stroll up the hill — past the vintage Shell petrol pumps that have been preserved outside a former garage, and past the St Mawes Hotel, also owned by the Richards — and you reach the pristine whitewashed Hotel Tresanton.
This is run by Olga Polizzi, daughter of catering tycoon Lord Forte; it’s a favourite of Prince Charles and Tony Blair.
Then there are St Mawes’s houses. They are not cheap, with an average price of £994,000 according to Zoopla.
It’s not only the picture-postcard location that makes them valuable: they also tend to be much larger than those found in most Cornish ports.
Instead of converted fishermen’s cottages, you will find a mix of old and new houses, often detached on large plots.
But the most striking thing in St Mawes is that it has little of the tourist frenzy found in Cornwall’s honeypots such as St Ives, Padstow, Newquay or Truro.
Instead, it’s generally quiet with a few tourist galleries, a butcher’s shop and a Co-op. And there’s a real upmarket Continental vibe.
‘Since the first lockdown there’s been a trend of second homeowners moving down, often permanently.
‘There are actually fewer holiday homes here than a year ago, many who own them now stay here full-time, or at least most of the time,’ says Mark Wilson, director of estate agency H. Tiddy, which has a 50 per cent market share of sales in the village.
He says that across the Roseland Peninsula he’s sold about £40 million of homes this year alone.
But not everyone is happy. There are campaigns across Cornwall to limit the number of second homes and cut back on Airbnb short-lets to reserve the maximum number of homes for local people.
‘St Mawes in the summer is like the South of France,’ according to one local
Peter Green, one of the fishermen in the recent BBC Two series This Fishing Life, says of his hometown: ‘St Mawes in the summer is like the South of France.
Come here in winter and see the contrast, see the empty houses, see the dark roads where there are no lights on anywhere.’
Meanwhile, some staff working in the village’s pubs and restaurants complain that they have to live in Falmouth (a 40-minute scooter ride away) to find affordable homes to rent.
So will the end of the maximum stamp duty holiday and the relaxing of Covid restrictions change the picture?
‘I’m contacted by potential buyers every day, undeterred by the end of the main duty holiday and wanting to work from here rather than London,’ says Mark Wilson. St Mawes, it appears, for good or for bad, is firmly on the map.
On the market… Pricey pickings