Helford to Prussia Cove / Marazion to Carbis Bay

Marazion and St Michael's Mount

MarazionThe road that snakes down into Marazion is pretty narrow. I wouldn't like to see the congestion in summer. This is Cornwall's oldest town, granted a charter by Henry III in 1257, and its tin and copper were exported until the late 19th century.

There is a museum in the old fire station and a few art galleries but the main attraction is the great granite crag of St Michael's Mount, rising from the waters in the bay.

St Michael's MountIt has a spectacular battlemented castle, built in the 14th century on the site of an earlier monastic shrine. The island and its buildings are now in the care of the National Trust, and a large part of the castle is open to the public.

St Michael's MountAt high tide, small boats provide a link with the mainland but we arrived at low tide when a half-mile granite paved causeway joins the mount with Marazion. It was so windy we were almost blown across and were glad of the shelter of the harbour walls.

St Michael's Mount viewWe were shown a video before climbing up past the 'Giant's Heart' - a pretty nebulous heart-shaped bit of rock to the gusty summit with spectacular views. I reckon the present owners have got a lift secreted on the other side somewhere. The castle is nice inside and we got a tasty lunch in the café before walking back.


PenzanceIt was pouring with rain by the time we reached Penzance. The tide was still out and it looked pretty bleak. In spite of this, the town is quite pleasant. In the 19th century, nearly half Cornwall's tin was shipped from Penzance.

Market HouseAlthough it has long ceased to be a major port, the town has a harbour used by fishing boats, pleasure craft, and summer passenger ferries to the Isles of Scilly.

From the harbour car park, we walked through a shopping mall to the main shopping area of Market Jew street and Causewayhead. Beside the Market House is a statue of Sir Humphry Davy, who was born in Penzance in 1778, holding the miner's safety lamp that he invented.

Egyptian HouseLighthouse CentreWe found the novel Egyptian House in Chapel Street and went in search of the Trinity House National Lighthouse Centre which illustrates the history of lighthouse-keeping and is pretty interesting for those of us who seem to spend quite a lot of time visiting lighthouses!


NewlynBeside a shingle beach, the road runs into Newlyn where it is almost impossible to park. Narrow streets of stone cottages wind down to the harbour, the base of the largest fish landing port in England and Wales and has a fish market.

pilchardsThe last working pilchard pressing factory in Cornwall is in the town and it opens as a museum. As it is in use it smells very fishy and samples are provided!

100 years ago, artists started coming to Newlyn, attracted by the special quality of light in this part of Cornwall. (It wasn't in evidence today). An art gallery was opened in 1895 and now exhibits work by living artists as well as running classes.


Mousehole'Mowzull' is a picture postcard port with an almost all-embracing granite quay. Houses crowd around the harbour but only a small area of sand is revealed at low tide. Narrow lanes lead to hidden gardens and loads of craft shops and art galleries.

It was a major pilchard port until Newlyn developed and took over; now it is used by pleasure craft and shark and deep-sea fishing trips start there.

MouseholeHere's the history bit: in 1595 a squadron of Spanish galleons appeared off the village and 200 soldiers landed here and burnt the port and pillaged and a Mousehole fishwife called Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1777, was thought to be the last woman to speak Cornish as her native tongue. Tom Bawcock's Eve (23rd Dec) is celebrated with a fish lantern procession and Star-Gazey pies.

Merry MaidensNot far away, the Merry Maidens stone circle is one of Comwall's most famous Bronze Age memorials, dating from 2400-800BC.

There are nineteen granite stones making the circle. The name is derived from folk tales of young girls being turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.

Lamorna Cove

Lamorna CoveThis is an idyllic rocky little cove with a steep, narrow lane running down to a tiny harbour. Lamorna has a small quay which is still used for occasional fishing, but it is not well protected and boats have to be dragged up the steep slipway for safety.

Now the boulder clad foreshore is used by divers exploring local reefs and wrecks but in the 19th century, ships loaded granite from nearby quarries. It was of a high quality and used in many buildings and wharves, but because of the hazardous seas, getting ships in and out of the cove became uneconomical and the industry ceased. The hillsides around the cove remain strewn with quarries that are now derelict.


Penberth CoveMuch of this coast is owned by The National Trust, who describe Penberth Cove as 'the most perfect of Cornish fishing coves' with its stone slipway and situated at the end of a very pretty valley.

PorthcurnoIf you want to see a perfect beach with clear blue water and white sand then Porthcurno has it all.

The tiny beach is made up of ground-down shells and is overlooked by an amazing 750 seat outdoor theatre hewn into the rugged cliffs.

Minack TheatreThis Minack Theatre was created by Rowena Cade in 1932 and the story of how a village play lead to an internationally known theatre is told in the exhibition centre.

Minack TheatreI saw it on one of the BBC's programme links with a group of ballet dancers, but it is far more impressive when standing on the little Greek inspired stage.

Museum of Submarine TelegraphyPorthcurno was once known as the 'centre of the universe', for the cove was the landing place for undersea cables that linked Britain to the world telegraph network.

The first cable was laid in 1870 and there is a huge white building in the hillside as you enter the village that is now the Museum of Submarine Telegraphy.

escape staircaseAfter a pretty dull lunch in the pub we went for a tour in the underground tunnels that included demonstrations of the original equipment and a climb up the wartime 'escape staircase' to the mast at the top of the hill.

Nearby Logan Rock is a granite boulder estimated to weigh more than 60 tons and once balanced in such a way that it could be made to rock or 'log'. In the 1820s a group of high-spirited sailors dislodged the stone, but were unable to restore it to its original position.


PorthgwarraThis is the last village that is accessible by road before Lands End. There is a steep cobbled slipway running down to a cove with a beach of sand and seaweed between sheer cliffs. On the eastern side there is a tunnel, leading to pools at low tide.

On the other side, a hole in the headland drops the full height of the cliff and the sea can be seen rushing in at the bottom. Its good luck to brave walkers from here on.

Land's End

End to endNot that long ago I visited Lands End when there was just an hotel and a few other buildings on a cliff top with a lonely sign-post pointing to America. Now it is a huge tourist complex with various attractions including shops, restaurants, exhibitions, and all that paraphenalia. What a pity. I suppose John O'Groats will go the same way by the time I revisit it.

Lands EndThe A30 justs ends in the large car park and to enter you must pay - there is nowhere else to stop.

Start,finishOf course large numbers of people have always visited because it is the very end and has a unique appeal as the 'First and Last' place in England. The road is marked with a 'Start' and a 'Finish' line for 'End-to-enders' who are asked to register their arrival and departure in the post room.

Lands EndBy-passing the razzmatazz, it remains a great beauty spot that the Romans called Belevian, or 'Seat of Storms'. The cliffs are awe inspiring with spectacular views of the offshore Longships Lighthouse, the Isles of Scilly 28 miles away and in between, according to legend, is the lost land of Lyonesse.

Last place signWe left it until late in the day to avoid the crowd and actually paid to have our town displayed on the signpost for a souvenir photograph (319 miles).

It was misty out to sea and the fog-horn from the lighthouse was sounding. The four of us stood at the 'Last Place' and admired the view before retiring to the pub as the rest of the place closed up for the day.

Sennen Cove

Sennen CoveThe coast path continues past a Bronze Age barrow and the remains of Maen Castle, Britain's earliest known cliff castle, dating from 300 BC before reaching Whitesand Bay.

Sennen Cove, at the southern end of this mile long surfing beach is a huddle of cottages, a lifeboat station, two slipways and a harbour with a huge granite breakwater. Bathing has to be done between flags that are moved frequently due to tidal movements.

RoundhouseThe lifeboat station has a little museum and we went in to see the beautifully kept boat and leave a small donation for this worthy cause.

Sennen CoveBeside the lobster pots, the most obvious building is the Roundhouse, a former windlass house that is now two art and craft galleries. I could have spent a fortune and took rather a shine to a painting that was well out of reach of my pocket.

The sea was crashing over the breakwater as the tide was pretty high but the sea wasn't particularly rough and several fishermen were patiently standing on the shore.

Cape Cornwall

Cape CornwallThe beautiful Cape Cornwall with its chimney at the summit of the headland, is the only one in England and Wales to bear the name 'Cape'.

The chimney on the summit is all that remains of what was Britain's most westerly tin mine when it was worked in the 1870s. The area has been donated fairly recently to the National Trust so at least it won't go the same way as Lands End.

Priests CoveImmediately under the cape is the small Priests Cove with a steep slipway used by local fishermen with little stone sheds and brightly painted boats.There is a small children's swimming pool in the rocks and you are asked not to remove any stones as it is an area of special scientific interest.

St Just

BotallackSt. Just-in-Penwith is the most westerly town in England and has a long history in tin, reaching as far back as Roman times. By the end of the 19th century the industry was in serious decline and many Cornish miners left to use their skills elsewhere.

The relics of the industry remain, and there is much evidence of this around here, such as the engine house stacks on the Cliffside at Botallack and the old workings at Kenidjack. Now these relics are increasingly becoming tourist attractions and some of the old buildings are being restored and are open.

Methodist chapelThe town of St. Just has survived the decline and is an interesting place to visit. At the centre is a natural grass-covered amphitheatre called Plen an Gwary, meaning 'playing place', where medieval miracle plays were performed until the 17th century and it is still used.

A festival of music and dance takes place in July ending with Lafrowda Day when there are street processions.


Levant Beam EngineOne of these restored buildings is the Levant Beam Engine. The National Trust is responsible for the country's oldest steam engine housed in the engine house of the old Levant tin mine.

These engines were developed by Richard Trevithick and other Cornish engineers from the 1790s but the mine was the scene of a disaster in 1919 when the 'man engine', which carried the miners, collapsed and 31 men died.

Portheras CoveThe Pendeen Watch Lighthouse stands on a slate promontory above sandy Portheras Cove and has guided ships for almost a century. This is one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in Britain but now wrecks are rare.

LighthouseThe lighthouse is open in the summer courtesy of the Trevithick Trust who maintain a number of interesting properties in Cornwall.

Geevor Tin Mine only ceased production in 1990 and is now also a museum with underground tours. Its displays include a model of the ill-fated man machine from Levant and a dazzling collection of iridescent minerals found in the mines.


Carn GalverWe drove through deserted moorland and stopped at the old chimney of the Carn Galver mine. The coast path was now a mile to our left, following the rugged cliffs towards Gurnard's Head. Only footpaths lead to it from here.

Zennor is at the heart of ancient West Cornwall amidst a network of Iron Age fields separated by granite 'hedges' up to 7ft thick. An hour's walk along a track southeast of the village leads to the largest surviving chambered tomb in Britain, dramatic Zennor Quoit. The backpacker's hostel, which was once a chapel, was advertising the best chocolate cake in Cornwall - except it was closed.

Mermaid chairSt. Senara's Church is famous for its 4th century bench end carving of a mermaid, derived from the legend of a young chorister whose exquisite voice so enchanted a mermaid that she spirited him away to the watery depths.

Plague stoneIn a former mill, beside a stream with a turning waterwheel, the Wayside Museum tells the village's history and outside is a plague stone. During outbreaks of cholera this was filled with vinegar to disinfect the money passed between outsiders and villagers.

In the Second World War, D. H. Lawrence and his German wife Frieda lived in Zennor while he worked on Women in Love. They were ordered to leave because of suspected pro-German sympathies.

St Ives

Porthmeor BeachAnother ten miles of moorland took us to one of the great West Country resorts with narrow, cobbled lanes and sandy bathing and surfing beaches. A mild climate, warmed by the gulf stream and almost frost free winters makes it possible to grow semi-tropical plants, so the town is a blaze of colour during the summer months.

Cars without permits are not allowed in the town centre as it is so difficult to negotiate. We found a car park above Porthmeor Beach where surfers were out on the waves.

Tate GallerySt.Ives has an international reputation as a centre of art. The town has been a major artists' colony since the 1880s, attracting talents as diverse as Whistler, Nicholson, Lanyon and Sickert. Among some 30 art galleries, the focus is the Tate Gallery, St Ives, which exhibits the work of modernist local painters. We walked down some steps and went into this impressive building that opened in 1993.

SculptureThe Tate also manages the Barbara Hepworth Museum, a memorial to this sculptress who lived and worked in St. Ives at her Trewyn Studio until her death in 1975.

St IvesWe wandered along the beach, past the outdoor shower, over the headland overlooking St. Ives Bay to an outdoor café beside a tiny bay. The winding street lead us to the harbour with its small lighthouse, turquoise water and rows of small fishing boats.

For many centuries seining for pilchards was the lifeblood. Men called huers would watch for the shoals and cry 'hevva' so the boats would go out with the seine nets., surround the fish and haul them into shallow water. The last seine was shot in 1924 and the pilchard shoals have gone.

St IvesI wanted to buy a picture, so we wandered around the galleries and then went in search of Cornish pasties for lunch. There is so much to see that we will come back when we resume the trip.

Carbis Bay

Carbis BayA walk over the cliffs leads to a privately owned beach with a large hotel and row of terraced beach huts where visitors are welcome. At low tide, when the sand is exposed, it is possible to walk to Porth Kidney Sands and Lelant, about 1½ miles away.

Railway viaductLelant lies on the Hayle Estuary, the salt flats providing ornithologists with a variety of birds. It was a thriving seaport in the middle ages that prospered until gale-driven sands blocked the estuary in the 15th century.

BearsWe spotted a railway viaduct, part of the scenic, single track rail link to St.Ives that follows the side of the estuary. The line was laid, at great expense, in 1877 with some of the most beautiful views from any railway in the British Isles.