Cornwall’s Lizard peninsular is not just one beautiful place, but three. The west coast is spectacularly rugged, with towering cliffs and crashing seas… the heartland is a wild and gorsey plateau… and the west coast is swathe of woody creeks and sheltered riverbanks bordered by the Helford, one of Cornwall’s best-kept secrets.
If you drive from Gweek (which marks the westerly gateway to the Lizard peninsula) and head down towards St Keverne in the south (through Mawgan, St Martin and Newtown), you will get glimpses of the water as you wind over tiny bridges. So get the OS map (Explorer 103) and find the footpaths for the real thing. You’ll find it remarkably quiet even at the height of summer… a far cry from the touristy towns and bigger beaches. Not that you’ll be short of beaches when you stay here; some of Cornwall’s best are on the Lizard peninsular… including Church Cove, Poldhu, Kennack Sands and Kynance.
Stay at Avallen Barn, our beautiful holiday cottage on the Helford to explore the area… it’s near Manaccan. Avallen sleeps up to 8 and is self-catering at its best. The photo is of Helford village, courteousy of Jeff Meadows at http://helfordriver.net (which is a very helpful website indeed).
I’m meeting Dave, the owner of Kiln Cottage in Newlyn. He wants to show me how fab his Smeg range is… but first we’ll put the world to rights on this wintersunny Cornish Saturday. We meet at pretty Perranuthnoe, at the Cabin Beach Cafe. The village is just east of Marazion, a few minutes from the main road towards Helston…the cafe is great. Literally by the beach, it offers food, drink and a happy welcome every single day of the year except Xmas day — breakfast to teatime (which can vary from 8pm in the summer to 4pm in the winter). The beach is a little gem… not big or small but lovely sand and great snorkeling along the rocks to the sides. At high tide the sand does disappear, so check tide times when you go there. When it’s working it’s a pretty good winter beach-break at low tide as well, you surfers.
A few surfers are in… it’s not really big enough, but they are clearly enjoying getting wet anyway. We amble along the beach eastwards, and scramble over gorgeous boulders. After twenty minutes of this we find a place where the cliff-path meets the shore and stride up to join it… then turn back towards the village by path, as the sun sets magnificently beyond Land’s End. The visibility amazing — crystal clear to the horizon, where you can clearly see Wolf Rock lighthouse four miles off Land’s End, where the Penwith peninsula reaches out beyond Newlyn and Mousehole. (Well we can see it with the naked eye… the camera lens can’t get it!).
Back in Perranuthnoe at 5.15 we are gagging for a pint… and hoping for one at the Victoria, but it’s shut. Winter time the pub opens for food at 5:30, damn… the menu sounds good too but hey ho. Let’s cook something up back at Kiln Cottage.
We drop into the amazingly cute Trevelyan Farm Shop and pick up ingredients for a risotto, all locally grown (well, except for the rice). Try to find it… just pull in to the little lay-by and have a look… it’s on the A394 just on the Penzance side of Rosudgeon.
Then, still craving that pint, we drop in to the Godolphin Arms in Marazion. The Gig Bar downstairs pulls us a couple of nice ones… Dave has a pint of Skinner’s Betty Stogs… and I, the new Harbour Ale… two of Cornwall’s finest. Note to self: must do a blog on the best of Cornish breweries! The sun obliges us by silhouetting St Michael’s Mount in fine style. In the photo, you can just see the amphibious ferry on one of its last runs of the day. Then back to Newlyn, light the woodburner, put on some Jazz, risotto-a-go-go.
… oh yeah Dave, the Smeg is a bit of a beaut.
You can stay at Kiln Cottage in the summer. Self catering the way it should be, for groups or up to four, dog friendly.
Well, that’s what the T-shirt says, and we are not about to argue. As a statement of fact, Gwithian beach is the west side of St Ives bay. It stretches for three miles… all the way from the town of Hayle to the the village of Gwithian itself. Strictly speaking it’s not all Gwithian beach… at the Hayle end it has sections called Hayle Towans, Black Cliff and Mexico Towans… then north of the Red River (which flows out into the bay just north of Gwithian village, it’s Godrevy beach (that’s the little one far out on the point adjacent to the lighthouse, best for rock pools, startling geology in the contorted cliff-face, and sunset bbqs). Heck, whatever way you look at it, Gwithian is certainly one of Cornwall’s finest stretches of sand, sun and surf… the photo here is taken on my iPhone, mid November, at low tide, looking south towards Hayle. Stay self-catering at Driftwood Beach Chalet or The Bees Knees, and stroll form your front door to here in minutes…
Close to the Forever Cornwall HQ, and just a 30-minute walk from the Swallow Barn along the meandering bridle path takes us to Polcrebo Downs, between Crowan and Nancegollan. Polcrebo mine was active in the 1860s, mining tin and copper, and the records seem to show that it struggled to break even. The remaining chimney set on ragged down-land is a fine building nonetheless, and is grade II listed, to prove the point. In spring and early summer the downs bloom purple with heather, and the gorse is vivid with golden flowers even now in midwinter. The mine shaft was capped in 2003 by the local council.
Mining for tin, copper and other minerals shaped the landscape and history of much of Cornwall, and in 2006 numerous mining landscapes in Cornwall and West Devon were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring that they will be preserved for future generations.
To find out more about the history of tin mining and the World Heritage mining sites of Cornwall and West Devon visit The Cornish Mining website. When you come to Cornwall take time to visit the Royal Cornwall Museum or the fab Geevor Tin Mine where you can go underground yourself.
We awake to hammering Cornish November rain. I mean stair-rods. Horizontal. “Are we still going?” asks Georgia. “Well c’mon… what’s the worst that can happen?” say’s I, annoyingly optimistic as usual.
Well, we could get very very wet. You see, we plan to head for the Lizard for the day, to walk the most southerly section of the South West Coast Path, and this is not a good start. To be fair, rain is forecast all week.
But, an hour later we are bouncing down the A3083 from Helston and things are starting to look up.The Southerly horizon brightens, and hey-ho, the grey blanket cracks open to reveal a bluecrystal sky-scape. We shouldn’t be too surprised, for one thing we are at the point on mainland Britain closest to the equator, and for another… well, the Lizard peninsular does have a micro-climate after all.
Out intended walk is not a conventional one. Yes we aim to take in one of the most dramatic stretches of coastal scenery in Cornwall, in fact anywhere, and hope we might spot peregrine falcons, or better still, rare choughs — but we are also following up rumours that harriers have been spotted somewhere near. Of the jump-jet variety.
We start the way a Cornish walk should— by picking up pasties. In this case from Anne’s famous shop in The Lizard village (are they the best pasties you can buy? We think that they might possibly be, unless of course you know differently). We then roll down to the big car park adjacent to the lighthouse.
Heading West from Lizard point we pass bird watchers with impressive lenses on their very expensive-looking cameras. They’ve seen choughs an hour earlier, on the Easterly side of the peninsular. Choughs will have to wait for another day. And anyway, we are not disappointed for long, as we soon stumble upon a posse of Shetland Ponies who make up in friendliness and sheer damn cute-ness what they lack in scarcity value. Natural England does great work managing the habitat down here, and the ponies are all part of the strategy. They munch and trample tirelessly to create open conditions that encourages the pink thrift, blue squill and yellow vetches to grow, creating the perfect conditions for those choughs to thrive. (But don’t expect to see the ponies in the summer, they are seasonal helpers, and reward winter walkers only!).
Of course the real draw here is the landscape. It’s always beautiful. Today it is jaw-droppingly so. Passing Kynence Cove Atlantic rollers pound the granite cliffs a hundred or more feet below. Black crows and white gulls soar while kestrels hang motionless on the stiff breeze.
En route Georgia modifies her footwear. Those Scarpa boots are really really good, luckily.
Soon we near our top secret destination. Sorry we can’t tell you where it is for, ummmm, reasons of national security…
Anne’s pasties survive three hours in a rucksack very well. We retrace our steps. Thanks to Georgia for the better photos!
Our walk takes five hours in all, at a very easy pace. This walk is about 10 minutes drive from Avallen Barn on the Helford River — 20 minutes drive from Chapel Cottage near Helston. You can stay self-catering at either at any time of year.
Our self-catering cottages are all in the West of Cornwall, so when you visit by car you will very probably have crossed Bodmin Moor on the A30, passing Bolventor and the famous Jamaica Inn. The road cuts through the heart of Bodmin Moor — off to the North you will have seen Brown Willy (Cornwall’s highest point at a ‘whopping’ 420 metres) and Roughtor on the skyline, and out of sight to the South you will have skipped past Dozmary Pool, fabled as the place where King Arthur received Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (and where the sword was returned as Arthur lay dying).
We had a fine day walking in early October, starting at the car park in Minions. First we headed for the ‘Cheesewring’ – dramatically sculpted from granite by wind and rain, taking in Daniel Gumb’s ‘cave’ en route. Daniel Gumb was a stone-cutter on the moor in the very early 1700s – he was also a self-taught mathematician. Rather than paying to rent accommodation in Minions village he made his home right by the quarry in a series of cave-rooms that he chopped into the hillside of Stowe’s Hill, on which the Cheesewring sits. Here, they say, he had three wives and nine children. His name and the date 1735 are carved into one of the stones, and on this roofing stone is inscribed a proof of Pythagoras’s theorem.
… perfect territory for Poppy. Lunch was late summer Cornish tomatoes (black ones!), Baker Tom’s foccacia bread (possibly the best outside Italy) and some wonderful Blue Horizon cheese from the Treveadoror Farm at St Martin’s, which happens to be just moments from our very own Chapel Cottage...
Pushing on Northwards past grazing sheep, granite slopes, and marshy stream-beds we came upon a bizarre abundance of mushrooms…
… followed by stumbling across a Bronze Age village — as one does…
The final push, back in a straight line and over Twelve Men’s Moor. The precarious rock-stack on top provided a welcome respite, although musing over the kinetic potential of several hundred cubic metres of granite may not suit everyone.
Walking Bodmin Moor is worth a drive especially on a fine day in Spring or Autumn. It’s very different from cliff-path walking though, if that is what you are familiar with. Very few paths are marked, and whilst you can just wander if you wish, you will be rewarded by getting the OS Explorer’s map of Bodmin Moor (no. 109). History ooozes from every rock and blade of grass, and you can easily plan a walk that takes in a bronze are burial mound and some hut-circles, a deserted Medieval village, and 18th century mine workings… not to mention some of the most breathtaking views anywhere in Cornwall.
Wear stout boots, take a rain proof, make sure your dog behaves, be prepared to cover far less distance than you think you will… and go make some memories! Oliver Howes has an information-rich website Oliver’s Cornwall that will whet your appetite more and help you to plan.
All photos are by Harriet, except this last one of Harriet on Twelve Men’s Moor — which is why it’s the worst one!
We strike out with two dogs, thick socks and a camera on Sunday afternoon and head for Godolphin hill. It’s one of our favorite Cornish walks at any time of year and usually it is the panoramic view that takes in a sweep of the far-West from Mount’s bay to St Ives bay and Gwithian that draw us. No today though, as opaque Autumn mist steals up from Land’s End like a sea-ghost. Today we are just after wind-on-skin, and space. We are not disappointed.
We start our walk in the National Trust car park for Godolphin House (OS map ref 600/318). The house itself, a fairly recent NT acquisition is a gem — but we’ll visit another day. The hill oozes history, with over 400 separate archaeological features from Bronze Age enclosures to 19th-century mine buildings. We proceed gently over farmy fields then climb gently over styles and between windbent trees.
On the way home (and moments from the Swallow barn) a red Ford Fiesta rolls around the corner.
“I have cows comin!” announces the woman within, with a Cornish country smile. She sure does. And they’re lovely. We tuck the car into a gateway, wishing we had some ground clearance and four-wheel-drive.
In August, Ian and Catherine and their 8 and 12 year-old were amongst our first guests at newly-renovated Wildwood. They told us about the best walk of their holiday. It’s a circular walk of 3-4 hours and starts at Perranuthnoe on the South Coast of Cornwall, two miles East of St Michael’s Mount. Start at the Perranuthnoe car-park. Follow paths behind the village to Trebarvah, then to Trevean Farm, then to Rosudgeon, then to Higher Kenneggy and down to Prussia Cove for lunch, “swimming au naturel and then back along the coastal path to Perranuthnoe — perfection of landscape – quintessentially Cornwall”. Thanks for the detail Ian!
Image: Prussia Cove by Kernowseb
If you are looking for dog-friendly pubs try the Doggie Pubs website. The Ship Inn at Mousehole is one right on the harbour front and great food. For a beach slightly further afield try Perranporth – a big open stretch of sand with authentic surfers bar The Watering Hole right on the beach — they even let dogs drop in. A warm place to watch the fantastic waves in October! Thanks to Justine, Mark, George, Scarlett, Pat and Frank, and Freddie the dog who stayed at Wildwood.