South West Coast Path:
Cape Cornwall to Porthcurno

23 March 2008

In which: the weather is filthy I reach the farthest west the weather improves the cliff scenery is excellent I see the Lizard and the Scillies I visit the Telegraph Museum
Time of walk: 0905 to 1445
Today's walking: 19.6 km
Progress along SWCP: 16.2 km
Estimated ascent: 950 metres

I returned to the Cot Valley and the sea by a different route from last night. The weather, which had seemed light rain in St Just seemed fiercely windy rain when I reached the coast. Very probably there was no more moisture, just it was moving at 40 mph rather than 10 mph. With short breaks, the rain continued for the first three hours of the morning.

On the SWCP there were quite a few "caves" - whether natural or associated with mining, I wasn't sure. There were plenty of mineshafts too.

Gradually drawing closer to Sennen Cove and Land's End

Looking across Whitesand Bay to Sennen Cove

When I reached the beach of Whitesand Bay, I walked across the sands rather that following the footpath inland, and thus approached Sennen Cove more directly. It looked attractive across the bay, but I canít say it particularly appealed to me on close inspection - maybe it was the rain.

Crossing Whitesand Bay

The beach at Sennen Cove

Boats at Sennen Cove

Most of the morningís walk had Longships Lighthouse in view, and with it Dr Syntaxís Head, more generally known as Landís End. I reached there at 11.15 in driving rain. There were a few hardy souls about, but it wasnít quite the tourist hotspot that I am sure it is in better weather and later in the year. In one sense it was remarkable to be as far west on the English mainland as one can go, that my gradually westward-trending steps of the last two and a half days had now to turn the corner and take me eastwards again, but it was after all just another headland, and not the most spectacular one by some margin. Take away the lighthouse and it would become even tamer. I definitely preferred Cape Cornwall.

The First & Last House (closed) on Dr Syntax's Head at Land's End, looking up to the main part of the theme park. As a result of the rain, there were few people about.

The famous signpost - you need to pay to be photographed with it.

Dr Syntax's Head - the most westerly mainland

An RAF rescue helicopter - whether it was just practice or the real thing I wasn't sure.

And I also preferred the cliff scenery to the south of Landís End. To the east of Enys Dodnan there is a great view of the rocky arch of the Armed Knight. At that point, the official and waymarked route of the SWCP takes an unaccountable short cut, but fortunately I followed the advice of my guidebook and took the coastal route around Pordenack Point and Carn Boel. The cliff scenery here was sublime. It helped that suddenly the rain stopped and the sun came out, but nevertheless this should not be missed. It wasnít as though the extra distance was particularly significant, nor did it entail any extra up and down, nor was there any great exposure. It is Open Access land (presumably owned by the National Trust) so there is even less reason than otherwise to sign people away from these delights.

The Armed Knight

Looking down across Zawn Trevilley to Carn Boel from Pordenack Point

Another view from nearby

I loved this smiling cliff formation

Frost-shattered granite on Pordenack Point

Looking back to Pordenack Point with Longships Lighthouse beyond from Trevilley Cliff

From Mill Bay looking back to Trevilley Cliff

I stopped above Mill Bay and leant against a rock for my first lunch stop. I removed my waterproof trousers, waterproof coat, gloves and hat, and for the first time put on my sunglasses and even applied some sun protection spray.

Yesterday my boots developed a remarkable knack of manufacturing grit, which seemed to get into them at a prodigious rate. I was even thinking of selling them to Tarmac, who could save a small fortune by not having to dig aggregates out of the ground. This morning they had behaved themselves, but after lunch the problem started again - perhaps the rain was suppressing the grit somehow.

Me climbing away from Mill Bay

At the Coastwatch lookout station above Gwennap Head, there was a viewfinder display. In addition to the Longships Lighthouse which had now been in view, more or less, from 9 oíclock this morning for four and a half hours of walking, I could also see the Wolf Rock lighthouse again, and for the first time could see the Lizard - three days walking away, and 22 miles in a straight line. The viewfinder also told me that the Scillies were 27 miles away, and I found that I could see something sticking above the horizon - no land but something tall, which I guess was probably Crow Rock lighthouse between the islands of St Maryís and Tresco, as I can see no church spires marked on the map. What a change in the day and the visibility since this morningís rain!

Heading for the Coastwatch station on Gwennap Head

Looking towards Wolf Rock lighthouse and the Scilly Isles, which showed up better for the naked eye than the camera

Looking the other way, with Lizard Point just visible

The two daymarks on Gwennap Head

At Porthgwarra I stopped at the top of the steep slipway and had my second lunch. The walk from there to Porthcurno continued to be delightful, with blue skies over blue seas and white waves crashing against attractive cliffs.

The slipway at Porthgwarra

Looking across Porth Chapel to Pedn-men-an-Mere

In the foreground is Holy Well

Looking down on Porth Curno. Centre-left, six or seven surfers can be seen paddling their boards. Not much surf this afternoon, though.

It was a very steep descent from Minack Point down to the beach of Porth Curno, but safely negotiated I walked into the village. I was there at 2.35pm: I checked that the cafe would still be open later, arranged my lift back to St Just, then visited the fascinating Telegraph Museum. This tells the story of the important part Porthcurno played in the British worldwide telegraph network, and was an interesting visit.

My lift back to St Just arrived promptly, and once back at the hotel I discovered that guests could have wireless Internet access, which was good news. I had an excellent toasted sandwich at a pub across the square.
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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson