Drive south from the bustling metropolis (by Cornish standards) of Helston on the A3083, and before long you could be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to an alien planet…
Once past the sprawling RNAS Culdrose base the road winds and weaves its way towards the most southerly point in the UK, with smaller roads splitting away to the left and right, leading to tiny villages on both the east and west coast of this rugged finger of rock that juts out into the Atlantic, pointing the way to the Bay of Biscay. At some points you can see for miles across the flat peninsula, making out the antennae of the Goonhilly Ground Station, communicating with deep space and giving the landscape an even more surreal appearance. But you don’t come to the Lizard Peninsula to just drive around! As with most areas of Cornwall, the best way to explore this historic, beautiful area is to pull on the walking boots and set off on foot.
The unique scenery and rare geology of the Lizard creates a haven for plants and flowers that you may not have encountered anywhere else in the UK. Pretty fishing ports nestled among the backdrop of towering granite sea walls, battered over millennia by Atlantic gales, restaurants specialising in the freshest, locally caught seafood, and secluded sandy beaches all make for a stunning and fascinating landscape. Countless ships have run aground just off of this coastline over the centuries, many caught out by the rugged, unforgiving coastline during a storm. With pretty, picture-book villages, cosy pubs and harbour walls stacked with lobster pots, this is truly an idyllic setting in which to wander. Get those legs pumping, and those spirits soaring!
The South West Coast Path circumnavigates the whole of the lizard, a 40-mile section of this epic national trail, but there are dozens of short routes and circular walks that hop on and off of the path, meaning you can always find a walk to suit your physical capabilities. We have selected a handful of walks that highlight the beauty of the Lizard, and won’t cause too many blisters (this small selection of walks has been taken from the website www.iwalkcornwall.co.uk. Please visit their site for an extensive list of lovely walks around Cornwall, of all levels of difficulty).
Before setting off, there are a few simple things to remember. They may seem obvious, but forget any one of them and it could take the shine off your glorious coastal stomp:
- Always take a bottle of water. Beaches often have taps that you can use to refill, or you can ask in any café and hotel if you’re stuck.
- Wear shoes that are comfy and sturdy. They don’t need to be hiking boots; hard-wearing outdoor trainers can be fine. Flip flops are not advised!
- Take snacks (especially if going with children)! Ok, if you’ve got kids, you’ll probably never go anywhere without a bag full of snacks, but it’s amazing how much of a boost a handful of nuts, a banana or an energy bar can give. It might keep you going that little bit further…
- If taking dogs, make sure you are familiar with the Countryside Code. Particularly in a field/enclosure with sheep, where it’s an offence for a dog to be “at large”, so dogs should be on a lead. Some beaches have dog bans in place, though some only for the high season.
- It’s a good idea for one of your party to have a charged phone handy, just in case (though looking at Facebook/Tik Tok/Instagram etc when walking around this stunning stretch of coastline is STRICTLY prohibited!!)
- Bring a camera, otherwise no-one will believe you when you tell them you have just seen a pod of dolphins, or a Cornish chough or the BEST sunset EVER!
- Know where you are going, and tell someone else your plans. With the ocean as guide, it is not easy to get lost on these routes, but it is very possible. A friendly local will always help you find where you are headed, but let others know the route you are taking before you leave as a back-up plan!
- Stop and look around once in a while. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said ‘Life is about the journey, not the destination’, and sometimes you need to just stop and take time to soak in the sheer, jaw-dropping beauty of the Lizard Peninsula. Leave enough time to allow for multiple ‘staring at the scenery’ stops.
Here are a few suggestions for walks that you could try (you can of course make it up as you go along!). Many of these are easy to hop on to straight from Polurrian’s gardens. Enjoy!
MULLION THREE COVES
This walk descends to Poldhu Cove via the Marconi Centre on the site where the first transatlantic broadcast was made. The walk then follows the coast path past the Marconi monument to Polurrian Cove. The route continues along the coast to Mullion Cove via the cannon that was found in the bay during Victorian times. The walk then follows the valley back to Mullion via Ghost Hill, named after the will-o-the-wisps in the marshes, and via the church and Old Inn.
THE LIZARD AND KYNANCE COVE
This walk winds through Lizard to the lighthouse and the old lifeboat station at Polpeor Cove, then follows the coast to Lizard Point. The route then crosses the boundary where the ancient rocks of the headland give way to serpentine rocks ejected from the Earth’s mantle in a continental collision. The route continues past a shipwreck on Pentreath beach to Kynance Cove, where the multicoloured rocks have been sculpted by the sea into islands. The return route to Lizard is across the serpentine heathland where the stone stiles have been polished by the boots of many generations of walkers.
MULLION TO PREDANNACK
The walk follows the valley from Mullion to Polurrian Cove then follows the coast path to Mullion Cove. From here the path enters the National Nature Reserve and follows Mullion Cliff past Mullion Island to Predannack Head. The route departs from the Coast Path at Ogo-dour Cove and follows an ancient route from Predannack Woolas to Trenance marked by a mediaeval cross. The final stretch is along back lanes through Mullion to end beside the Old Inn and church.
POLDHU COVE TO CURY
The walk follows the coast from Poldhu Cove to Church Cove and Dollar cove where the seabed still contains treasure. The route then passes along Halzephron cliff to Fishing Cove and heads inland to the Halzephron Inn. The walk then follows footpaths across the fields to Cury and descends into the river valley at Chypons. The return route passes through the edge of Mullion and meets the coast via the Marconi Centre.
COVERACK TO LANKIDDEN COVE
The route follows Coverack beach to the harbour and Dolor Point then joins the Coast Path. The walk passes Perprean Cove and reaches the sandy beach at Porthbeer Cove then turns inland at Chynhalls Point to pass through the sculpture park on the way to the coastguard lookout on Black Head. The route continues around the rugged coast of Pedn Boar and Beagles Point to the sandy beaches at Downas and Lankidden Cove before turning inland to complete the circular route via Arrowan Common and Ponsongath.