Section 3. St Just to Porthcurno – Cornwall Coast Path
Distance - 11.5 miles. Grade - Moderate - What this grade means.
This morning is a gentle walk out to Cape Cornwall, the only "Cape" in England. Watch for pods of dolphins, sharks, seals and views across to the Scilly Isles. For many years this was claimed as England’s most westerly spot until newer measurements shifted the crown down to Lands End.
The South West Coast Path has now been rerouted around the headland allowing the walker a great detour up to visit the little ruined chapel and long mighty chimney atop of the headland . Built for the mine, but creating too strong a draft to be useable, it has remained as a vivid landmark to shipping. Off shore the Brisons Rocks, notorious for shipwrecks, were used as a particularly remote prison in previous times.
After passing tranquil Cape Priests Hole with its handful of lobster boats and open bathing pool in the rocks, your climb high on to the cliff tops is rewarded with Bollowall Barrow. A spectacular set of excavated Neolithic stone chambers over 3 metres high which would have been a shrine or tomb for the dead with a small entrance grave on the west side that overlooks the dramatic seas. Invariably local Legends speak of little people (fairies) dancing around the barrow on moonlit nights. True or not it’s certainly a wild and dramatic place to be buried.
Dropping back to sea level you cross the amazing large round boulders from the surreal fossilised beach at Porthnanven, better known as Dinosaur Egg Beach, before leaving lush Cot Valley on another climb up and up through heather and gorse and past gaping mine shafts in the cliffs which are now homes to colonies of bats. Pass the Natural Rock Arch at Progo Poreth Ogo “the cove of the hole”, after which glimpses of the mile long golden sands at Whitesand Bay spur you on down the cliffs.
At the end of the beach walk is the legendry surfers Mecca Sennen Cove. Still cited by many as Cornwall’s best beach, it’s well serviced with refreshments and has an air of tranquillity, being sandwiched between the pounding seas at Cape Cornwall and Lands End.
As Lands End looms, towering cliffs look out to The Irish Lady - a striking offshore rock said to be named after a sole wreck survivor who made it to the rocks offshore before she slipped back into the deep exhausted and was washed ashore. The rocks get more dramatic - The Armed Knight, Dr Syntax Head and Sharks Fin and finally, Lands end with its fantastic views towards the Longships Lighthouses and the rest of the world beyond.
You have probably heard groans about the “Lands End Experience", the commercial and crowded tourist trap just inland from here. Sure it’s a bottleneck but most of it's visitors don’t wander outside the “theme park” and they can’t take away the significance of this being the end of Cornwall and the start of the rest of the world.
Watch for the seals converging on the rocks below the lighthouse, particularly at the end of the summer when they breed. Offshore, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks are often spotted and in the air Shags, Fulmars, jackdaws or maybe peregrine falcons and choughs. It’s a dramatic spot.
Onto softer golden sands passing the remains of a water wheel, the natural arch at Tol Pedn Penwith (the holed headland of Penwith) and huge nautical landmarks on route to Porthgwarra where a paved tunnel has been hand drilled by miners through a huge boulder to reach the shore, Above the remains of the Capstan two man made caves poke out of the rock like searching cliff face eyes. There is more idyllic beach at Porth Chapel where you can pause to see St Levans Holy Well and todays final scene is perhaps the most dramatic as you reach the Minack Theatre hewn out of the cliffs above Porthcurno.