The final part of the Penwith tour will take you from Land’s End to St Ives and surely this drive must be Cornwall’s own route 66. The road contained by ancient banks twists through farmland flanked by tiny fields whose boundaries date back to the bronze age. with the sea an eve present backdrop it is not surprising it has been voted one of the nation’s favourite drives. Expect to pass through tiny hamlets and farmyards; to see remnants of the Cornish mining industry romantic now in their decay; to see villages flanked by towering moorland cairns on a winding road that will almost transport you back to an earlier era.
I am indebted to Mike McNally photography for the aerial views I am about to share with you. Mike and his wife took a scenic flight from Lands End when they stayed with us at Ednovean Farm and kindly sent us a disk of snaps of West Cornwall.
Destinations between Land’s End and St Ives on The Penwith Tour
The great sandy sweep of Sennen beach is popular with families and surfers alike with a small village tucked under the dunes and the shelter of Pedn-men-du with the coastal footpath dipping almost on the beach at times. We visited Sennen Cove last year in our Indian summer last autumn and spent a peaceful and idyllic afternoon tucked under the dunes with a blue sea in front of us stretching to the sky. We took a picnic that day but If I visited this year I think I’d try to grab a table on the terrace at Ben Tunnicliffe’s beach restaurant for a little bit of coastal chic!
Dramatic and unspoilt this the only cape in Britain faces the relentless Atlantic rollers and it is worth climbing to the top just to feel the full primal force of the sea. The one mine chimney built there was very soon mothballed as it created such a down draft to the mine that they couldn’t control it. We approached this sight last year from the St Just village taking in Ballowall Barrow in our travels with Lucy Land Rover to many of the ancient sights
It is worth turning off of the road at Botallack to visit one of the most iconic and spectacular mining sites in West Cornwall – The Crowns Engine Houses. The great granite engine houses look so idyllically romantic to visit on a summer’s day but they must have been hard and desperate place to work in during their heyday. Further along the road National Trust have a working beam Engine at Levant Mine which in itself was the scene of a terrible mining tragedy when the man engine broke. Finally the museum of Geevor mine occupies a spectacular site above the sea with tours taken by ex miners with an opportunity to visit the overground and underground workings. On the day I visited the guide recalled, with a wicked chortle, that it never did to offend the winch man. One day the cage stopped short of the surface the winch man marched around with a bucket of water and threw it over one of the miners and then calmly winched them to the surface!
Pendeen is a neat and proper granite mining village of terraced granite miner’s cottages. We turned off towards Pendeen lighthouse to park and then walked along the cliffs to beautiful and isolated Portheras Cove
This lovely beach can only be reached by walking from Pendeen lighthouse for about a mile along the coastal footpath towards St Ives. It is totally unspoilt, with not a house in sight, so do pack any food and drink you would like and be prepared to carry your entire rubbish home again. The locals are deeply committed to preserving this rare secluded spot and clear the beach of any debris washed up by the tides. We recently enjoyed a visit to this unspoilt beach of silver sands and also explored Boat Cove, with an almost Mediterranean feel, as we walked along the coastal footpath.
The great ragged promontory of granite defying the ocean is a wonderful spot to explore. Look out for the remains of the Iron Age fort as you explore the dizzying heights. We enjoyed breathtaking views further along the coastal footpath walking from Zennor to Gurnard’s head but this direction would be equally fine
A quintessential Cornish village once described by one of my American guests as just as she imagined a Cornish village should look. From the period houses clustered around the square church tower to the moors rising behind immortalised in Lionel Edwards painting of Hunting on Zennor hill to the jewel like green fields dropping down towards the sea. We parked here and walked into St Ives but be warned this is one of the toughest stretches of coastline and we gratefully took a taxi back to the car. The driver said he had dropped thee couples of that day but the next week we had some 70 year old plus guests and of course, not only did they romp over the walk they returned using the historic coffin path that cuts a straight swathe through the farmland slightly inland………..sigh maybe we are not in training!
The coastal town of St Ives grew from a fishing village to world famous artist colony and to this day art galleries line the cobbled streets and artist continues to work drawn by the intense nature of the light.
St Ives is home to The Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Garden and Bernard Leach Pottery and the sheltered sandy beaches set around the town make it a magnet for summer visitors and art lovers alike, without even mention the fish restaurants. With so much to do and limited parking, it is best saved for a special day out and reached by the little train that runs from Lelant Saltings.
We visited St Ives in October and spent a balmy afternoon wandering from the busy harbour to check out the quieter sandy beaches and do a little window shopping on the way back to the station.
The Penwith Tour.
The Penwith tour is a wonderful way to take an overview of West Cornwall and I have put together a series of blogs covering each section starting here at Ednovean Farm Near Penzance. Click any box to read previous sections