Cornwall Coast Path - Porthleven to St Keverne

The Lizard Point
The Lizard Point
This is a long stretch of around 30 miles. Much of it is wild and deserted, especially once you reach the remote Lizard Peninsula, and there are limited options for refreshment and accommodation. The rare mild climate and unusual serpentine geology of Lizard Point, Britain's most southern extremity, has given rise to a wealth of plant life that can be found nowhere else in the British Isles. The very last speakers of the Cornish language lived here on the remote Lizard Peninsula, and the unusual and often sinister place-names and mass cliff top burial sites are a reminder of the harsh storms that have wrecked countless ships and taken numerous lives.

Porthleven October Storm
Porthleven October Storm
Porthleven is a lively place, with excellent surf and a number of bars, restaurants and pubs. Go around the back of the harbour and up Mount's Road, a cul-de-sac, to pick up the path as it leads down to the massive shingle bank known as Loe Bar. Behind Loe Bar is Loe Pool, the biggest natural lake in Cornwall. In the distant past this massive lagoon was the estuary of the River Cober, which flows through Helston, until it was cut off from the sea by a build up of rocky sediment, although nobody quite knows how the huge sand bank came about. Longshore drift is the obvious explanation, with rocks and sand being transported by the prevailing wave patterns. There is a mystery, however, in the fact that the shingle is 86% flint, and the nearest onshore source of this is East Devon, some 120 miles away.

Legend has it that Jan Tregeagle accidentally created the bar when sand he was forced to carry sand from Gunwalloe to Porthleven as a penance for wrongdoing and some of it spilled from his backpack. Do not attempt to swim on the seaward side of Loe Bar as the combination of a severe undertow, freak waves and strong currents have proved a dangerous combination in the past.

HMS Anson Memorial - Loe Bar
HMS Anson Memorial - Loe Bar
The coast between Porthleven and Gunwalloe, which includes the land around the infamous Loe Bar, forms part of the historic Penrose Estate. The estate was given to the National Trust in 1974, the largest property ever to come to the Trust in Cornwall. It is an exposed and treacherous piece of coastline and countless ships have been wrecked here, including a huge frigate that beached on Loe Bar in 1807 during a storm that left more than a hundred sailors dead. When the National Trust acquired the land they also acquired what is known as the 'right of wreck', which entitles them to benefit from any ship that comes to grief in the immediate waters. The nearby Halzephron Cliff, whose name translates to Hell's Cliff, marks one of the places where drowned sailors from the wrecks were buried, in shallow, unmarked graves that can just be distinguished as hummocks on the ground.

On to Dollar Cove, that takes its name from an 18th century shipwreck involving a boat supposedly laden with silver dollars. Various groups have attempted to recover the dollars but so far none of them have been successful.

Gunwalloe - Church Cove
Gunwalloe - Church Cove
Gunwalloe Church Cove was the scene of yet another high-profile shipwreck, which had grave political consequences. When the St Antony, the King of Portugal's treasure ship, went down in 1527, the angry King accused local magistrates of stealing almost all of his treasure.

At Poldhu Cove, where new dunes have been recently established by the National Trust, the path follows a private road towards the old Poldhu Hotel, before branching right in front of some buildings.

Soon after leaving the cove you will pass the Marconi monument, which commemorates the fact that Marconi chose this spot from which to transmit the very first transatlantic wireless message, in December 1901.

A decent beach at Polurrian Cove leads up to Carrag Luz cliff, which offers superb views all the way back across the bay to Penzance.

Mullion Harbour and Cliffs
Mullion Harbour and Cliffs
The harbour at Mullion Cove was built in the late 19th century as a response to the sharp decline in the pilchard industry. With the help of their new harbour, local fishermen turned successfully to crab pots and lobster pots, an activity that continues today. However, the fate of the harbour hangs in the balance. Because of Mullion's location, facing right into the teeth of winter south-westerly storms, the harbour walls cost a huge amount of money to maintain (around £1 million was spent over the past ten years), and it is an expense that the National Trust are finding increasingly difficult to justify.

The wild coastal scenery of Predannack Cliff has been lately much improved by the introduction of cattle and Shetland ponies. A huge increase in floral diversity has been recorded, and the occasional chance meeting with one of these animals as you walk the path seems a small price to pay for maintaining native wild plants that may otherwise be lost. Look out for the cliff waterfall at Ogo-dour Cove.

Kynance Cove on The Lizard
Kynance Cove
The path cuts across the neck of Vellan Head, although it is well worth a detour for the great views. The cliffs here are ideal for walking; flat, high and dramatic. At Pigeon Ogo sheer walls plunge 200 feet. 'The Horse' is an impressive jagged ridge, and The Rill has a place in the history books. It was from here that the Cornish received their first warning of the arrival of the Spanish Armada.

When Tennyson visited Kynanance Cove in the mid 19th century he was struck by the 'glorious grass green monsters of waves'. Little has changed. A gorgeous white sandy beach with clear turquoise waters is backed by cliffs riddled with arches, caves, stacks and blow holes. An outcrop of Serpentine Rock begins here and it is this quirk of geology that truly gives the Lizard Point its distinctive character. Labelled 'Serpentine' because it resembles snakeskin when wet, this is the largest outcrop of his unusual ancient igneous rock in the country. In Cornish the name Kynance (kew nans) means ravine, and to the west of the cove a series of interconnected caves, only explorable at low tide, are a dramatic testimony to centuries of coastal erosion.

Lion Rock and Lizard Point
Lion Rock and Lizard Point
The path continues through the delightful pistol meadow, where there are more hillocks formed by the mass burial of drowned sailors, and on along the cliffs to Lizard Point. This is the furthest south you can go in Britain, but it is almost the exact opposite of the other Land's End (the furthest south-west you can go) except in geographical extremes. Bought by the National Trust in 1991, Lizard Point is home to two cafes, a small shop and two serpentine workshops, as well as an extremely well-located youth hostel.

Poltrean Cove is closely followed by the Lion's Den, a dramatic conical hole in the cliff top created by a collapsed sea cave in 1847.

Housel Bay Beach
Housel Bay Beach
After Bumble Rock, Housel Bay and Housel Cove comes the Marconi Wireless Station. It was here that Marconi tested the technology for his successful transatlantic transmission from Poldhu. Not far away, around Bass Point, is yet another testament to the Lizard's historical involvement with communications technology. The Lloyd's signal station was set up by Fox and Co. shipping agents in 1872, and handled the landing of the 460-mile Bilbao Submarine Telegraph cable.

At the aptly-named Devil's Frying Pan, the brave amongst you can go over the top of this exposed natural arch and then climb down to the bottom of the pit. Alternatively go down the steps, across the car park and out the other end to pick up the path again.

Cadgwith
Cadgwith
Cadgwith comes with refreshments and a nice beach. To find the path again go up the hill and turn right just after Veneth Cottage. On past Enys Head and through the golf course until you reach Kennack Sands, where there are seasonal cafes. The path leads along the top of the two beaches, or you can walk along the sand at low tide. Make sure to take the smaller, coastal path, and not the larger path that leads inland at the end of the beach.

Carrick Luz leads to a dramatic descent and ascent at Downas Cove. At Black Head there are stunning views along the whole of the South Cornish Coast.

Coverack Harbour
Coverack Harbour
On to Coverack, a small and appealing place that gets very busy in the summer. Coverack marks the half-way point of the entire coast path, and a short walk along the cliff top will bring you to St Keverne.