Land's End or West Penwith Peninsula
In a county that is already surrounded by sea, West Penwith is a peninsula attached to a peninsula, jutting so far out into the Atlantic that it has no choice but to bend to the ocean‘s moods, alternately besieged by storms or enveloped in swirling sea mists that roll inland circling the granite carns, blurring and softening their outlines so they seem to change shape in front of your eyes. At its most violent, the sea can strip a beach of its sand in a single night or topple a quay. It pounds the cliffs relentlessly until by winter’s end it sinks into an exhausted stupor. Now everything and everyone takes their chance; yachts, swimmers and surfers take to the ocean, the beaches are suddenly busy and the cliffs bloom. But beneath the soft spring blossom, gnarled stems and wind-scoured rocks remind you that this is only borrowed time, just a brief letup before the sea wakes and the storms come battering on the cliffs again. It’s not just the sea that is quarrelsome; the cliffs and carns are equally obdurate – everywhere you look rock erupts through the surface of the land, in the fields as great earthfast boulders; in the carns and on the cliffs as great battlements. The oldest rocks here are the slates and mudstones around Mount’s Bay. They were formed at the bottom of a deep ocean about 370 million years ago. At about the same time pulses of volcanic magma were injected into the soft sediments and onto the seabed. In West Penwith this sort of volcanic rock is called blue elvan but more widely it’s known as greenstone; miners would curse it for its toughness but in the Stone Age (4000–2300BC) it was prized for its durability and used for making axes which were traded right across southern Britain and Brittany (see them in Penlee House Museum). For simplicity, we’ll call all these volcanic rocks (of which there are many varieties) basalt because they all share a common source deep inside the earth. Around the rim of Mount’s Bay this combination of slate and basalt produces a coastline of alternating coves and headlands. The soft slates tend to form tiny inlets like Prussia Cove, and the tougher basalt, promontories like Cudden Point and the Greeb. On the Land’s End peninsula itself these rocks were further toughened and hardened by the emplacement of a huge dome of molten granite about 275 million years ago. Now, after many millions of years of erosion and weathering, they have been stripped away and form only a narrow coastal fringe around the exposed dome of granite. These metamorphosed slates and basalts make up the beautifully dark and austere cliffs around Botallack and Zennor.
Much of what is memorable about West Penwith is linked with the granite. As a rock it has the very curious property of creating landscapes that are inherently theatrical and the cliffs and carns possess a dramatic grandeur far beyond their actual size. The carns, in particular, have exerted a remarkably powerful grip on the human imagination from the Stone Age to the present – a combination of the way they weather into strange organic forms (many resemble animals and the profiles of human faces) and a discernible underlying regularity which stems from the way granite magma cools, contracts and fractures deep underground. It forms a system of rectangular joints expressed on the cliffs and carns in the great cubic blocks that stack precariously one on another, most strikingly at Gwennap Head and Pordenack Point near Land’s End. A repeating pattern of faults plays out across the whole peninsula too, forming parallel valleys and closely spaced carns, giving the landscape a natural cadence and tempo. Humans can’t resist attributing this uncanny regularity to some hidden hand and so all the most distinctive rocky places in West Penwith are enveloped in stories of how they were constructed by a race of giants who delighted in knocking down and then rebuilding the carns – as if they were children playing with wooden blocks.
Clouty at Madron Well
It’s not just the dramatic carns that give West Penwith its character. Boggy groves of willow and alder form in the hollows between the carns and these watery places are brimful of atmosphere and otherworldly stillness. The Celts thought of them as very special places, portals to the underworld. Early Christians, eager to appropriate the sacred places of the old religion, turned them into holy wells, but no one could go to Madron Holy Well and think this was anything but a very Celtic kind of Christianity, a place alive with spirits. Many people are spooked by the atmosphere of the holy wells. Most are tiny, little more than boggy springs, sometimes with a few rough steps leading into the black water as if this really was a stairway to the underworld. They are said to have the power to cure sickness and as a result they’re often decorated by colourful clouties and other offerings. At Fenton Bebibell, south of Carn Galva, young girls baptise their dolls in the water on Good Friday. Alsia Holy Well near St Buryan and St Eûny’s Well near Carn Eûny Ancient Village are also good examples worth visiting.
Beneath the moors and under the sea, kilometres of tunnels and galleries have been hewn-out by generations of tin miners chasing the mineral veins which fill the fractures in the granite. This underworld, along with the carns and dark springs, is supposedly inhabited by the mischievous little people or spriggins of Celtic legend. Said to be the ghosts of dead giants, they guard the gold of the tomb dwellers and lurk in the dark corners of the mine galleries, liking nothing better than to create havoc, stealing the tools of the tin miner unless they were left the crimp of his pasty. The tin mines are now all closed but in many places drainage tunnels from long-abandoned workings still disgorge rust-soaked water onto the beaches and the mouths of mine shafts gape skywards. You can experience this underground world at Geevor Tin Mine Museum and in its most authentic form, at Rosevale Mine near Zennor.
If granite is a natural creator of places, supernatural stories also seem to seep from the rocks and hollows. The most distinctive rocky places like Carn Galva, Trencrom, St Michael’s Mount and the Logan Rock are peopled with stories of the supernatural and it’s tempting to think of these as faint folk memories, echoing down from prehistory, reflecting the ritual importance these sites seem to have held in the past. Six thousand years ago they were the sacred places of the Stone Age people. This was a time when man’s place in the world was changing fundamentally, moving away from hunting and gathering, from being a part of the natural world to being farmers, fixed in one place and battling to control nature instead. Stone axes were used to clear the landscape of trees and make space for crops. In this new world the axe was a symbol of your ability to master the environment (and perhaps your neighbours too). We’ve already seen that greenstone axes made in West Penwith were in demand throughout Britain and Brittany. A proportion of these were traded as purely decorative objects, highly finished but showing no sign of ever being used. We know from elsewhere in Britain (like the fells of the Lake District) that stone for making axes was often deliberately sourced from wild and dramatic sites even when more easily accessible sources were available, as if the spirit of these impressive places might be somehow captured in the object itself. You can certainly imagine places like Kenidjack Castle and the Gurnard’s Head fitting in with this thinking. The best place to see greenstone is on the beach between Penzance and Newlyn. The central granite stone at Boscawen-ûn Stone Circle may also be an expression of the axe as a cult object.
The more settled lifestyle of the late Stone Age farmers seems to have sparked a thoughtfulness about their relationship to the natural world, a thoughtfulness expressed in the design and siting of their stone circles and tombs – the quoits and cairns. They’re often located to make the most of views and alignments so that places like Carn Galva, Carn Kenidjack and The Gurnard’s Head are elegantly posed or framed for the viewer. The West Penwith landscape with its closely spaced carns, promontories and headlands presents numerous opportunities for this sort of game. It’s great fun trying to unpick these relationships, which, it must be said, are often more hinted at and suggested than overt. Other prehistoric interventions in the landscape are similarly subtle and artful, like propped stones and alignments with the sun. Small cup-like hollows hammered into some stones recall the natural rock basins at the top of many carns. Examples can be found on the top of the capstone of Chûn Quoit, at Tregiffian Barrow and on a stone east of Sperris Carn. Fifty metres north of Little Galva a large natural boulder has been turned and propped so that it aligns on the Inner Carns of Carn Galva. These interventions are so subtle that many are only now being recognised after being overlooked for generations. They come across as artistic responses, amplifying the significance of the man-made by drawing on the grandeur of the natural carns, capturing in stone fleeting moments in the solar year and counter-posing the man-made with the natural. Attitudes to the carns didn’t stand still in prehistory and while the earlier quoits tend to sit at a ‘respectful’ distance from the carns and hilltops (places presumably reserved for the spirits), later Bronze Age tombs are bolder in their setting. At Carn Creis, Trendrine Carn and Watch Croft cairns are built around the natural outcrops themselves, subsuming them into the tomb.
The West Penwith Moors are exceptionally rich in prehistoric remains, a tapestry of prehistoric settlements, field boundaries, fortifications and sacred sites from all ages. There are few places in Britain where you are more acutely aware of the presence of prehistoric man and where the divide between us and them is so insubstantial. Here you can sit beneath Stone Age (4000–2300BC) quoits of the first farmers – Mulfra, Lanyon, Zennor and Chûn – built like giant houses of cards. At Bosiliack and Tregiffian you can visit the entrance graves of the Bronze Age (2300–800BC) people, at Bodrifty Ancient Village walk among their round houses and field walls, and at the Merry Maidens, Tregeseal and Boscawen-ûn sit within their ritual stone circles. At Chysauster and Carn Eûny Ancient Village you can wander around the courtyard houses of the Iron Age and Roman-British Celts (800BC–410AD). At Trencrom and the Logan Rock you can sit in their forts.
This a landscape full of visual rhymes, a strange shape-shifting place where blocks of stone dissolve in the sea mist to take on the form of faces or animals, where the dark springs, holy wells, mine adits and tombs are all portals to an underworld inhabited by supernatural creatures. It’s a place full of places where the tombs co-opt the power of the carns, a semi-tamed land governed by the moods of the sea.
Around Mount’s Bay
Mount’s Bay begins properly at Cudden Point but we’ll take the liberty of starting a little further away so we can include Rinsey Beach, Praa Sands and Prussia Cove – favourite beaches for many Penzance families. This coastline, south of Marazion, is sometimes overlooked by visitors who are understandably keen to head for the famous beaches and scenery around Land’s End. Nonetheless there are many delights here such as the jewel-like inlets of Prussia Cove and the dramatic cliff-edge mines of Trewavas Head.For a short distance between Trewavas and Rinsey Head, where we start this book, the cliffs are granite, part of a small exposure that reaches inland to Tregonning and Godolphin hills. You immediately sense the difference that granite brings to the coast with its bold and imposing carns, a foretaste of what lies ahead on the cliffs between Mousehole and Cape Cornwall. Beyond Rinsey Head and the rest of the way around Mount’s Bay, the cliffs are a blend of slate and basalt rock. The tougher basalt tends to form prominent headlands like Cudden Point, Maen-du and Penlee Point. The softer slates, by contrast, form the many small inlets like Coules’ Cove and Stackhouse Cove – pebbly beaches backed by low cliffs. They give this coast its mood of intimacy.
Mount’s Bay officially starts as you round Cudden Point. This is a rare expanse of sheltered sea on this implacable coast. It’s here for the first time that St Michael’s Mount comes in to sight, and from now on it will dominate the bay, popping into view unexpectedly from places like Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens and even from high up on the West Penwith Moors at Ding Dong. Just beyond Cudden Point you pass the secluded Stackhouse Cove where you can swim along the great rock gullies. Then comes Perranuthnoe and the popular family beach of Perran Sands.
Next comes Marazion and St Michael’s Mount where you can wander freely between beach, shops, galleries and the Mount itself. This was a departure point for medieval pilgrims setting out on their way to the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela. Pilgrims from Wales and Ireland would land at St Ives or Lelant and cross the peninsula by foot rather than risk the dangerous passage around Land’s End. That overland route is remembered today in the St Michael’s Way, a 14.4km (9 mile) long-distance path.
The warm, south-facing fields that rise above the marshes between Marazion and Penzance are so fertile (they often crop twice a year) they’re called the Golden Mile. Nestling between the fields of flowers, potatoes and broccoli you’ll find Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, a sheltered valley full of art and sub-tropical plants with one of the best views of St Michael’s Mount. Penzance is home to most of the shops and supermarkets and all roads radiate from here. Two houses built on the profits of tin mining, Trewidden and Trengwainton, have gardens that are open to the public. Newlyn is one of the busiest fishing ports in the country, a life recorded by the painters of Newlyn School in the 19th and early 20th centuries, whose work you can see at Penlee House Gallery and Museum in Penzance.
Christmas lights in Mousehole Harbour
At Penlee Point the safety and shelter of Mount’s Bay recedes and the pretty village of Mousehole needs thick harbour walls to keep it safe. Like Marazion, Mousehole is a place to wander; craft shops and cafes sit around the harbour. A popular path runs over the fields from Mousehole to Lamorna Cove with its long-abandoned granite quarries and quay overturned by the sea. Inland, a group of prehistoric monuments gather around the Merry Maidens stone circle and The Pipers, the tallest standing stones in Cornwall. Beyond Lamorna the cliff path starts to become more demanding, climbing first to Tater-du and then to Boscawen Head before it dips down to sea level at St Loy’s Cove, a lovely woodland walk from the main road at Trevedran. Lastly, we take a brief look at West Penwith’s secret Celtic heart – Boscawen-ûn Stone Circle and Carn Eûny Ancient Village.
Around Land’s End
Porthcurno Beach with the Logan Rock (Treryn Dinas) in the distance
We had a brief taste of a granite coastline around Trewavas, now between Mousehole and Cape Cornwall we get the chance to see the same sort of magnificent coast but over a much longer distance. The storm-lashed granite cliffs between Penberth and Sennen are probably the most popular in West Cornwall. At Cape Cornwall the granite is replaced again by slates and basalts, but unlike the low crumbling cliffs of Mount’s Bay, these have been baked to a flinty hardness by the adjacent granite, forming the fearsomely dark and unyielding cliffs of Kenidjack Castle, Botallack and Pendeen.Penberth Cove is the last wooded valley until we round Land’s End and arrive at the crooked valleys of Nanquidno, Cot and Kenidjack. From now on all living things need to keep their heads down or risk having them blown off by Atlantic gales. Even specialist coastal plants, already the tough guys of the plant kingdom, further adapt their behaviour and become noticeably smaller and permanently ground-hugging to keep themselves out of the burning salt winds. Gorse and heather dominate the coastal heath in these challenging conditions.
The coast between Treryn Dinas (the Logan Rock) and Porthcurno is breathtaking and in quick succession we get the cliff-top theatre at The Minack, St Levan Churchtown and Porth Chapel Beach. By the time you get to the tiny cove at Porthgwarra and Gwennap Head the coast is so exposed that even the hardy heather plants are rarely more than a few centimetres tall. In the calmer spring and summer months the cliffs burst into flower. First to appear are violets and spring squill (like miniature bluebells) then thrift, sea campion and sea carrot – a healing balm of colour and softness on these wind-scoured cliffs. However, it is always on the understanding that they are on borrowed time and in the autumn the gales will return and the plants will hide again.
After Far Valley we reach Nanjizal, the best of West Penwith’s secluded beaches. This was a popular beach in the 1960s until the sand was washed away after a particularly bad storm, and although the sand often returns for a time, you’re just as likely to find a beach of bare boulders and seaweed. The cliffs then build towards Pordenack Point, reaching a crescendo at Land’s End where, on a summer’s evening, the sun sets behind Longships Lighthouse and the Isles of Scilly stand silhouetted on the horizon before on summer nights fireworks light up the sky.
Sennen is for many people their favourite West Penwith beach and Gwynver is the surfer’s favourite. Here at last the coast turns away from the gales and becomes greener. A series of splendid carns carry you on to Nanquidno, Cot and Kenidjack. These narrow valleys run almost parallel to the coast and turn at the last minute to meet the sea, so you can make circular walks inland between the valleys and the coast. They are a bit off the beaten path – good places to stroll and sit at the edge of the sea. Take the opportunity to go a little inland to Chapel Carn Brea and enjoy the views. From here you can walk inland to Carn Eûny Holy Well and Carn Eûny Ancient Village.
At Cape Cornwall the coastal scenery changes and we move from granite onto a narrow coastal fringe of slates and basalts. If the view from The Minack is the best of the granite coast then the view from Kenidjack Castle, south to Cape Cornwall or north to The Crowns, is the best of the slates and basalts. Until now there have only been sporadic hints of mineral veins in the rocks – slots worked into the cliffs at Carn Cravah near Nanjizal and at Hermon Cliff – but at St Just, Botallack and Pendeen suddenly almost every inch of land has been turned over, crushed, pounded and turned over again in the search for tin and copper. This thirst took the miners out beneath the ocean, excavating so close to the seabed they could hear the rumble of boulders as they were rolled around during storms.
The West Penwith Moors, Zennor and St Ives
Rosemergy hamlet with Watch Croft behind
The twelve kilometre stretch of coast from Portheras Cove to St Ives is classic West Cornwall, so weather-beaten and marginal you might mistake it for an upland landscape, as if Bodmin Moor had somehow been transported to the seaside. Three distinct mini-landscapes run in parallel along this coast. First the cliffs themselves, wild and dark with a foaming sea at their bases; above them sits a narrow shelf of cultivated land where farms and hamlets cluster; and lastly rising above everything else, the West Penwith Moors, home to many famous prehistoric monuments. You can move relatively easily between these three landscapes making the walks here a fascinating mix of contrasting elements.
We start at Portheras Cove where granite appears on the coast once again. The cliffs build steadily towards the sheer faces of Commando Ridge and Bosigran Castle then, at Halldrine Cove, the granite is replaced by a narrow fringe of slate and basalt which forms the cliffs all the way to St Ives. These dark, north-facing cliffs have a strikingly austere beauty. The walk from Wicca to Zennor has some of the finest coastal scenery in West Cornwall, and the promontories at Gurnard’s Head and Zennor Head are ideal for short walks (and both end in a pub).
Standing above these dark cliffs lies a gently sloping cultivated shelf often little more than four or five fields wide. Most of today’s hamlets like Morvah, Treen and Zennor are located here. Some present-day settlements like Bosigran, Porthmeor and Bodrifty have abandoned prehistoric predecessors right next to them where you can wander around the ancient houses. There are many similar sites to explore although, as many are overgrown, it helps to have seen some excavated examples first. Bodrifty Ancient Village is a good place to start for a typical Bronze Age or Iron Age settlement of round houses and a visit to the late Iron Age and Romano-British (AD43–410) villages at Chysauster and Carn Eûny will help you understand the courtyard house settlements at Porthmeor, Trevean, Bosporthennis and Bosigran.
Carn Galva Mine
This farming landscape, laid out two to three thousand years ago, has changed little and is best appreciated from the top of Carn Galva. In prehistory the fields were actually more extensive than today, reaching on to the moors and right down to the cliff edge. The cultivation ridges and tumbled walls show up as shadows beneath the bracken in the slanting evening light. It’s particularly obvious looking over the valley from the beer garden at the Tinner’s Arms in Zennor. Perhaps the best way to see this landscape is to follow the Church or Coffin Path across the fields from Zennor Church to Tremedda, Tregerthen and Wicca.
All the time you are walking the cliffs and fields you are aware of the West Penwith Moors rising abruptly above the coastal shelf, a line of granite carns that runs all the way from Watch Croft to Carn Galva, Zennor Carn, Trendrine Hill, Rosewall Hill and on to Trencrom. Most are linked by a long-distance path called The Tinner’s Way (page 63) that passes close to many of the most famous prehistoric monuments. Three million years ago these granite carns were themselves a line of cliffs and a sub-tropical sea lapped the lower slopes of Carn Galva and Zennor Carn. The coast road (B3306) follows that old shoreline now stranded 130 metres above today’s sea level.
The views from Watch Croft and Carn Galva and the atmosphere of the less-visited Zennor Carn and Sperris Carn are perfect places for a picnic and lie in the sun. Carn Kenidjack, Chûn and Carn Galva are surrounded by supernatural stories and are the homes of giants who used to amuse themselves by playing quoits with the huge granite slabs from the tops of the carns (this is how the quoit tombs got their name). This landscape, with its elemental character, has always been a strong draw for artists. DH Lawrence lived here for a short while and in the 1940s and 1950s, St Ives and the West Penwith Moors were an international centre for abstract painters and sculptors.
Trains to St Ives
St Ives Harbour
Avoid driving into St Ives in the summer – the train is a much better option. Trains from Penzance, stop at St Erth where you will usually have to change trains. Alternatively there is a large car park at St Erth Station.
There aren’t many parts of the coast you can’t get to by bus. Open-top buses run between Penzance, Land’s End and St Ives in the summer. Most buses in West Penwith are operated by First Kernow.
For accommodation, beach guides and up-to-date local information on go to the Visit Cornwall website. It has a particularly good What’s On section for local events and festivals. Also has information on dog-friendly beaches.
Welcome to West Cornwall Centre, next to Penzance Train Station. T: (01736) 335530
Visit St Ives Information Centre, The Guildhall, Street-an-pol, St Ives. T: 0905 252 2250
Places to visit
St Michael’s Mount
St Michael's Mount
The castle itself and the gardens are not open every day so check opening times before you go, but you can wander around the harbour at anytime where there is a cafe and shop. A seasonal ferry service operates when the causeway is covered.
Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens
Tremenheere Sculpture Garden
Contemporary sculpture set in subtropical gardens with great cafe and views over Mount’s Bay.
Penlee House Gallery and Museum
Permanent exhibition of Newlyn School of painters plus visiting exhibitions. Displays of archaeological and historic objects from West Cornwall. Large children’s playground in park and lovely terrace cafe. In Penlee Park.
Exchange Gallery, Penzance and Newlyn Gallery
An annex to Newlyn Art Gallery shows changing exhibitions of international contemporary work.
Beautiful subtropical gardens in the heart of Georgian Penzance.
Leave from Penzance Harbour to view St Michael’s Mount, the coast to Lamorna, the Minack and to watch seals, sharks and other wildlife. Tickets from Penzance harbour. Occasional trips also leave from Mousehole; check boards at the harbour.
Mature garden with magnolias, camellias and huge tree ferns. Children’s trail and lovely cream teas. On A30 Penzance to Land’s End road just beyond the Newlyn/Trereife crossroads.
National Trust woods and garden containing many unusual rhododendrons. Lovely walled garden tea room. Follow signs from Madron/Heamoor Roundabout on A30.
Chysauster Ancient Village
Chysauster Ancient Village
Classic excavated Romano-British village. Bring a picnic. Take the back road to St Ives (B3311) through Gulval then turn off at Badgers Cross.
There are afternoon and evening plays throughout the spring and summer. The visitor centre is open during the day but check their website as it can be closed if there’s an afternoon performance. Cafe in the visitor centre has spectacular views. Bring a picnic, cushions and rugs for performances.
Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno
Porthcurno has been an important landing place for the global network of undersea cables since 1870. Visit the underground tunnels built to protect the telegraph station during World War Two, lots of hands-on exhibits, shop and cafe.
Lots of interactive displays to keep children happy plus gift shops, restaurants and cliff walks. Watch the sun set over the Longships Lighthouse and the Isles of Scilly. There are evening firework displays in the school summer holidays.
Geevor Mine Museum
The last working mine in West Cornwall and is much as it was when it closed in 1990. It tells the story of mining in West Cornwall. You can pan for tin in the mill and there are tours of the underground workings plus cafe and gift shop.
A working steam-powered beam engine typical of the sort that raised ore, transported miners and dewatered the tin mines. Check National Trust website for times when the engine is up and running.
Open-top bus ride
A spectacular trip along the coast between St Ives and Land’s End.
Rosevale Mine, Zennor
A private tin mine near Zennor. Will show groups of 15+ around the workings by appointment. Contact email is on their website. This is as near as you’ll ever get to being a tin miner. Only for the fit and sure-footed.
Tate St Ives and Hepworth Museum
Changing exhibitions of modern art from British and international artists, guided talks of the galleries, family activities, cafe and shop. Nearby at Trewyn Studio on Barnoon Hill, you can visit the studio, garden and home of Barbara Hepworth. Many of her sculptures are on display along with drawings and letters. You get a strong sense of the connection between her work and the landscape of West Penwith.
Leach Pottery, St Ives
Bernard Leach came to St Ives in 1920 with Shoji Hamada and set up this studio pottery using techniques he had learnt in Japan. His work can also be seen in the Tate St Ives.
St Ives Museum
Lots of objects from the history of St Ives including a captivating history of the Hain Steamship Company which operated from the town for over 100 years. Started in the days of sail, it trained many local boys to become seamen and captains. The company reached its peak before the First World War – controlling a fleet of forty ocean-going steamships.
Boat Trips from St Ives
To watch seals at the Carracks (map page 81) and for trips across the bay to Godrevy Lighthouse. Call Visit St Ives Information Centre or check the boards near the lifeboat station. Boat hire here also.
Learn to surf...
At Sennen and Porthmeor (St Ives) beaches
Day-trip to St IvesParking in St Ives is a nightmare in the summer. Instead visit by train. You’ll probably have to change trains at St Erth or you can park at St Erth Station.
The Best family beaches
Praa Sands and Perranuthnoe are the most popular family beaches with parking, cafes, life guards and loos but they will be busy in the school summer holidays. The beach at Marazion is flat and sheltered but lacks the excitement of Praa Sands and Perranuthnoe. Rinsey and Prussia Cove are a 10 minute walk from parking and have no facilities. Further around the coast Porthcurno and Sennen are the most popular family beaches with parking, loos, cafes and lifeguards. - be sure to arrive early to guarantee parking. Sennen has an overflow car park on Mayon Green. The best small family beaches are Porth Chapel and Gwynver, both involve a bit of a trek and have no cafes or loos. Summer parking for Porth Chapel is in a field just before St Levan Church, it’s then a 10 to 15 minute walk down the valley. For Gwynver, follow the signs to Tregiffian from the A30 before Escalls Methodist Church. It’s a steep (but straightforward) walk down to the beach from the car park. The main beaches in St Ives are Porthmeor, which is popular with surfers, and Porthminster, which is more sheltered and good for young families (and right by the train station). There’s a small beach at Porthgwidden and young children will be happy on the Harbour Beach. Dogs are allowed on Bamaluz Beach. All have cafes and loos nearby. Portheras Cove is the only other easily accessible family beach in this section – it’s popular with locals but never busy; no facilities. Park at Chypraze Farm. Don’t sit below the unstable cliffs and wear beach shoes even when swimming because metal fragments from the wreck of the Alacrity lie just under the sand.
More remote beaches
in the rocky gullies at Stackhouse Cove or in a natural rock pool the size of a swimming pool at Rinsey Pool. A large sandy beach is exposed at low tide at Pedn (Treen) Beach. A really stunning location. Park at Treen, follow the track past the camp site to the coast, take the lower path on the left. The last part of the descent down the rocks is a little tricky and only for the sure-footed. Pedn is an unofficial naturist beach. Nanjizal is more secluded and is good if the sand is there. Neither have facilities. Small children like the sea pool at Priest’s Cove at Cape Cornwall. Porth Nanven (Cot Valley) has some sand at low water. The small beaches on this section, Treen, Veor Cove, Porthzennor are a real scramble from the cliff-top and only for the very sure-footed. You can get down to the rocky coves below Tregerthen Cliff and Treveal.
Apart from all the beaches, St Michael’s Mount, picnic at Carn Eûny Ancient Village and its fogou, Trencrom Hill and the woods at its base, St Loy Woods. fireworks at Land’s End on a summer’s evening, the harbour beach at Mousehole.
Must see ancient sites
Madron Well, Boscawen-ûn circle, Lanyon Quoit, Mên-an-tol, Carn Eûny and Chysauster.
These extracts are from the Land's End Guidebook