St Germans isn’t the kind of place you find listed in many guidebooks, nor is it the kind of destination where you’ll find many tourists. Instead, this typically Cornish village is a little off the beaten path and where you’ll find attractions such as a priory which was once the seat of the Bishop of Cornwall. Here’s a guide to the best things to do in St Germans!
A quick history of St Germans
Today, the village lies alongside the River Tiddy and boasts little by way of attractions. Instead, the charm of the place lies in its secluded nature (including a lack of phone signal). There is oodles of history to discover, as well as several wooded walks in which to lose yourself for a couple of hours.
Located close to the historic estate of Antony (where the 2010 Alice in Wonderland was filmed), the village truly rose to prominence during the 10th-century when the parish church was used as the Cathedral of Cornwall from 951 onwards. At the time, the Saxons were in charge, under the rule of King Athelstan. Nearby, there’s a holy well dedicated to St Anne.
Other attractions in the area include the hauntingly beautiful ruins of a St Michael Chapel at Rame Head, as well as the rather unusually named village of Portwrinkle alongside the British coastline. The closest stretch of sea to St Germans is that of Whitsand Bay, an area of England which is full of things to do but is often referred to as the ‘forgotten corner of Cornwall’.
St Germans Priory
Located in the very heart of the town, bordering what is now the ever so popular holiday and wedding venue of Port Eliot Estate (which also happens to be where the current Earl of St Germans resides), St German’s is best associated with Saint Germanus of Auxerre, a high ranking bishop in Late Antique Gaul who was vital in establishing the Cult of St Alban.
The priory itself is constructed in the Norman and Gothic styles and is unusual for the area in that it has two towers, rather than the usual one. While the towers are of the same height, they are of varying designs. Between the two, an elaborately carved wooden door can be found.
Consecrated in 1261, it’s often said that St Germanus found the first sacred church on site, as early as the 5th-century. During the Middle Ages, a monastery was established alongside the church. However, this was dissolved during the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.
During medieval times, St Germans Priory was located along a popular pilgrimage route and pilgrims would often traverse from the priory, all the way to St Michael’s Mount in the West of Cornwall. Other examples of history from the 16th-century within the village come in the form of pretty almshouses in the heart of the Cornish settlement.
Port Eliot, A Mansion former from a former Monastery
Today, the former monastic buildings are found within the estate of ‘Port Eliot’. Following the dissolution of the monasteries, the Eliot family purchased the buildings alongside the church. Several members of the Eliot family remain buried within the parish churchyard.
Now, members of the public can visit the estate and gardens for a fee. Should you choose to visit, be sure not to miss a selection of paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, as well as a beautiful Tudor gateway. Each summer, an annual ‘Port Eliot Lit Festival’ is held at the end of July where music, literature, fashion, food, and entertainment is celebrated.
River Lynher Bridge
The best view in town by far can be found in the form of the railway bridge which crosses the River Lynher. All dramatic arches and raised high above the estuary below, no trip to St Germans would be complete without snapping at least a quick photo of this bridge!
In order to locate the St Germans Viaduct, you should head towards the St Germans Viaduct, a railway bridge constructed at the turn of the 20th-century. The River Lynher itself is popular among local fishermen and is best-known as a fishing destination for local salmon and brown trout.