Not all those who wander are lost.’
These words are etched into the very DNA of the Southern Peninsula of Cornwall. With the Atlantic Ocean outstretched to the horizon, the sunset cleansing the crystal waves in a topaz glow; the sheer towering granite cliffs constantly beaten by the thrashing waves, forever scarred by centuries of mining, Cornwall styles the idea of being anything but lost.
There is a peacefulness, a familiarity of home combined with the intoxicating appetite for a new adventure. Each step across this vast and impressive coastline leads to something new; an undiscovered beach or an unreachable cove. And as the gentle sea breeze washes over your face, the faint reminder of the magic and mythical stories, which construct the patchwork foundation of Cornwall, leave you desperate for more.
Walking the paths forged by millions beforehand, you become a wanderer and pilgrim of the sights and sounds Cornwall offers up. And there are plenty to quench your exploratory thirsts.
What becomes clear across this naturally expressive peninsula, is that Cornwall is an English haven – a slice of tropical turquoise ocean and white sands a plenty, mixed with the harmony of British spirit. And nestled within soaring cliffs either side, rests a beach which exemplifies the above – the spectacular Porthcurno.
This once fishing port was eventually lost to the waves and replaced by white speckled shell sands. It is a tourist hotspot, and with a small car park, spaces fill up quickly so the earlier you arrive the better. With a steady walk down to the sea, spectacular views of the Atlantic glimmer, especially on warm summer days. Once you’re there, your feet bathed in the crystal-clear ocean, Porthcurno transforms into a beach unlike anywhere else in the world.
Whether it be high or low tide, this Cornish gem has a fearsome ocean current. Due to the angle of the beach, Porthcurno can produce intimidating wave after intimidating wave. Yet as the azure waters retract revealing the adjoining bays which vanish at hightide, the tropical seas of the Caribbean seemingly emigrate to the coast of Cornwall.
But Porthcurno isn’t all about the waves and beaches. There is an aspect to this place which has historical significance to the entire UK. The Cable Office effectively connected the country to the rest of the world through underground cables which stretched to India, America and other locations. Throughout World War II Porthcurno was vital for communication with the cables consistently considered at the risk of attack. The award-winning Porthcurno Telegraph Museum details the history and implication of the cables and how vital this stretch of Cornish coastline was to Britain’s wartime defence.
Away from the cables, perched amongst the clifftops sits The Minack – Cornwall’s most famous open-air theatre. Built in 1932, you would be forgiven for mistaking its iconic stone stage for a Greek fortress, yet here is where some of the Arts most famous plays have been performed for over 80 years.
These dramatic plays aren’t just contained within the theatre, the broad coastline boasts mother nature’s drama, most notably – Logan Rock. The 80-tonne boulder attracts the adventurous few who wish to ascend the cliffside climb to stand atop it. An impressive and breath-taking view of Porthcurno is the reward for those who are successful in their attempt.
Just before Logan Rock is its namesake pub. Logan Rock Inn dates back to the 16th century, meaning it has stood for more than 400 years. Hugely popular for its delicious and sought-after food, it demonstrates Cornwall’s homely aptitude for entertainment and a kind welcome. Their menu offers a cacophony of traditional British meals, including Steak and Ale Pie, Fish and Chips to name a few. It is also in walking distance of the coastline which provides stunning locations for fans of photography.
One such location is Porth Chapel, a small secluded bay a short walk from Porthcurno. The stunning beach is much quieter than its neighbours but boasts impressive surf and peaceful surroundings. A 15-minute walk also leads to Porthgwarra and unrivalled coastal views.
Cornwall is renowned for their small fishing ports like Mousehole and Penberth Cove, both offer a unique look at the Cornish culture with the latter becoming a staple location for BBC One’s Poldark series. The tranquil nature of Penberth attracts many visitors and similarly to most locations across the southern peninsula, it is a photographer’s haven.
Aside from the man-made ports Cornwall proudly boasts more rugged out-of-reach bays like Porth Nanven, hidden away within Cot Valley near Cape Cornwall. The almost deserted cove is sheltered by an alcove of towering cliffs and large boulders, each one uniquely shaped by the dramatic currents.
Cornwall provides seascapes unlike anywhere else on Earth. Each sunset which caresses the shoreline, or dowses the cliff face in auburn hues electrifies the camera lens, coaxing photographers to this spectacular part of England time and time again.
And like a siren song delicately seducing the summer air, one place which attracts more than just photographers, is Sennen Cove. A famed hotspot for surfers, many travel to this iconic coastal village to experience the colossal surf its shoreline boasts. It is also where the Sennen Cove Lifeboat is housed and launched from, which for those lucky enough to witness is a real thrill.
If Sennen Cove proves one thing, it is the traditional can exist alongside the modern. Within walking distance from each other are two staples of the coastal village - The Roundhouse Art Gallery and the RNLI Lifeboat Station. The wooden Roundhouse dates back to 1876 and houses the man powered capstan wheel which was originally exposed to the elements. Originally used to winch fishing boats up the slipway, the Roundhouse was transformed into an art gallery in 1997.
The Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station is regarded as one of the oldest in Cornwall. Established in 1853 the first boathouse was extended years later to house a larger lifeboat. Over 166 years later the station is regarded as one of the most prominent in Cornwall. There have been ten different lifeboats since the boathouse of 1853 with the most recent commissioned in 2010.
Food is also an appeal for visitors to Sennen Cove. The small village has The Old Success Inn and the Surf Beach Bar for those seeking scrumptious food and hearty entertainment.
Perhaps one element emblematic of Cornwall more than most, besides the coastline and beaches, are the numerous Tin Mines left behind from the peninsula’s industrial days. The most iconic is Botallack, a cluster of 14th century mines which stand teetering on the cliff edge. The heritage site is hugely popular and is a draw for visitors, more so now than ever as Botallack became the backdrop of BBC’s Poldark.
Just a short drive from Botallack is Pendeen Lighthouse. Built in 1891, the stunning concrete tower stands proudly along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Designed by Sir Thomas Matthews, it continues to operate today and has guided many ships to safety, away from the treacherous reefs beneath the waves.
A large expanse of the southern peninsula of Cornwall has claimed many ships throughout the centuries, and the iconic Land’s End is no different. The most westerly point of England, this headland has been written about as early as 1769, and tourists have been visiting here for over 300 years.
Just offshore from the mainland sits Longships, a cluster of small rocks which houses the infamous Lighthouse and has become synonymous with Britain’s coastline. Surrounding these rocks are numerous shipwrecks with many officially documented, though it is believed that thousands have been lost around this area.
Whilst Land’s End may be the most westerly point of England, Lizard Point is its most southernly. This rocky part of the coastline is exceptionally hazardous for ships and it was here, from the granite cliffs, that the first sighting of the Spanish Armada was seen at 3 pm on 29 July 1588.
Throughout the ‘Lizard’ area there are many picturesque beaches and coves, the most notable and popular being Kynance Cove. This stunning beach is owned by the National Trust and the small adjoining carpark is filled very quickly. A small café sits amongst the cliffs and sells both food and beach equipment.
he cove’s accessibility is determined by the tide, and a high cliff walkway is used in case of high tide. Due to Kynance’s dramatic coastline and ferocious waves, it has become a hotspot for photographers and filmmakers.
The beaches and coves which line this peninsula have come to shape Cornwall’s past, present and future and actively ensure that tourists continue to flock to this coastline. But alongside the history which tells the story of Cornwall, there is a magic, mystery and intrigue which adds a unique component, one which is unrivalled. In part two, we will explore these mystical elements which make Cornwall so much more than just a beautiful coastline.
Thanks to The National Trust© for all their wonderful help throughout our series, and to the numerous communities around Cornwall.