For most people when they think of a Cornish holiday, the coastline is the first thing that springs to mind; you are either an ardent north coast fan or a committed south coast enthusiast. Most people have a favorite haunt in Cornwall that they like to stay at on sequential holidays, if not the same house then within that specific area and even the first-timers to the county are likely to pick a well-known coastal location. So, what about visiting West Penwith?
There is a part of Cornwall where the north and south coastlines meet and that is most famously known as Land’s End but there is a whole peninsula known as the Land’s End Peninsula which is well worth exploring in its own right.
The area itself is quite sparsely populated and not as overrun with visitors as some places so a good choice if you are seeking to avoid the tourist throng in high summer. The peninsula is surrounded by dramatic high cliffs and has remote areas of moorland in the center. Land’s End Peninsula is surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, it includes the very well-known fishing harbor of St. Ives but also some much more remote locations which escape much of the tourist traffic.
Beaches and coves
West Penwith has some of the finest and most spectacular beaches in Cornwall and these include:-
- Porthcurno – famous for the Telegraph Museum which is located just by the main car park with cables that still run beneath the beach and out to sea, if its the beach you are interested in then Porthcurno will not disappoint. Soft, white sand borders a turquoise ocean with shelter on both sides from high cliffs, Porthcurno really is a little piece of paradise
- Penberth Cove – Penberth is a tiny fishing hamlet with a small pebble beach which welcomes dogs all year round, ideal for an evening stroll and you can also explore into the wooded Penberth Valley near the cove
- Lamorna – a small and beautiful cove at the end of a steep and lush wooded valley with a central stream that runs down to the sea, Lamorna was made famous by the post-impressionist artists who came to stay here in the early 20th century. There is a pub at the top above the cove and a few cottages and so the area is basically unspoiled as far as tourism goes but the road down to the cove is steep and narrow and can become busy with traffic in high season. For this reason, the area is best approached on foot via the coastal path which you can pick up at the pretty harbourside village of Mousehole on the way to Porthcurno. The views are stunning and will make your approach much easier than trying to gain access by car
- Sennen Cove – a surfing hotspot, Sennen Cove has wide golden sands with plenty of room for families and a small harbor with a lifeboat station which has a museum, perfect to keep small children amused when the sun goes in. The Penn-men-du is a promontory at the southern end of the bay which protects the cove from westerly Atlantic gales and the lookout point from Pedn-men-du is spectacular. Sennen is a friendly, relaxed beach with good access and lots of space
Away from the coast
Penwith has a remote and timeless feel which you can really experience if you visit any one of the ancient monuments on the peninsula at sunrise or sunset or in the middle of a ferocious Cornish storm. This part of Cornwall contains more ancient monuments and sites than any other place in the UK.
Penwith has a rich and ancient history which is still very evident in the landscape and near Lamorna Cove, there are several interesting archaeological sites. The Merry Maidens of Boleigh also less well known as Dawn’s Men is a neolithic stone circle situated just two miles from the village of St. Buryan and near Lamorna. The stones lie in a gently sloping field and make the most beautiful sight and are close to another area of significance, Tregiffian Barrow, an ancient burial chamber. The stones are truly circular although 19th-century restoration has slightly altered the position of some of them.
Chysauster Ancient Village is a late Iron Age courtyard of houses located near Gulval and about four miles from Penzance. The village had eight to ten houses and it is possible to walk around the whole settlement to see what the village would have looked like when it was originally occupied. Set on a hillside, Chysauster has fabulous views across the countryside and out to sea.
Art lovers artists will enjoy the history of Lamorna and the artists that flocked there around one hundred years ago captivated by the famous Cornish light and the beauty of the place. If the theatre is what you are after, visit the world-famous Minack Theatre sitting just above Porthcurno Cove. Built into the cliffside in 1920 and still regularly hosting outdoor productions – just don’t forget to take a cushion.
Popular places to stay
There are pretty Cornish cottages and houses located everywhere for the holidaymaker to choose from. One nice location to stay in West Penwith is the pretty village of Mousehole (pronounced ‘Mousel’) which is a charming harbourside location with quaint streets and picturesque cottages just a very short drive from Penzance. Mousehole is located on one side of Mount’s Bay and on the other side is Marazion another popular destination offering fabulous views of St. Michael’s Mount. Take a boat over to the island or walk along the causeway when the tide is out.
It’s easy to overlook West Penwith as just a meeting place of the two coastlines, famous for Land’s End but with not much else of interest. Think again. West Penwith boasts some of the best beaches in Cornwall and has wild and remote moorland to allow you to really get under the skin of the real Cornwall place away from the tourist hotspots.