Helford to Prussia Cove / Marazion to Carbis Bay

cottageWe rented a cottage from the National Trust in the remote village of Cadgwith and spent the week with Helen and Gary.

cottageThe cottage was splendid, within a few metres of the coast path and the 'Devil's Frying Pan' where at high tide waves foam through a natural rock archway and into a collapsed cave.

It was a lovely peaceful place to come back to each evening and sit beside a roaring log fire


HelfordOur starting point was the Helford River, the lanes along the south shore of which are narrow with high hedges, blind bends, and sudden gradients.

The picturesque village hugs an inlet on the estuary with thatched cottages is described in Daphne Du Maurier's novel Frenchmans Creek. We had to park at the top of the hill and walked down to the ford in the centre.

St Anthony-In-Meneage

St AnthonyWe negotiated the narrow lanes to see the church at the centre of the village which was supposedly founded by shipwrecked Normans grateful to have reached dry land. This legend may be true, as the church tower is built of granite from Normandy.

PorthallowThere is also the quaint idea that the 'dog door' was made to allow the local poultry to nest up in the belfry.

There is a small shingle beach and an even narrower road leading south around Gillan Creek, towards the hamlet of Porthallow. There is a vineyard south of this village where you can taste the wine and cider.


PorthoustockThe beach is now used by divers as a base from which to explore the nearby Manacles reef, the treacherous rocks a mile offshore that have caused more than a hundred shipwrecks. Huge rusted loading stations overshadow the bay because stone was shipped from here until the local quarry closed in 1972.

Once the haunt of smugglers, five men from here brought home 218 barrels of brandy in 1762.

St Keverne

St KeverneThe village has a square, rare in Cornwall, and the church spire has long been a landmark for ships negotiating the Manacles as it stands on the high plateau of the Lizard.

Inside the church, there's a shipwreck window and in the churchyard, there is a memorial to the 106 lives lost when the liner Mohegan was wrecked in 1898.

In the wall there's a memorial stone to the village blacksmith Michael Joseph, leader of the first Cornish rebellion in 1497. They were protesting against Henry VII's punitive taxes but the march was routed on its way to London and Joseph was subsequently hung, drawn and quartered.


CoverackThe Coverack lifeboat rescued many from the Manacles. Here too, smuggling was a regular way of life. Crab, mullet and monkfish are now landed at the harbour, once a busy pilchard port.

There's a large, crescent-shaped beach in the sheltered bay, ideal for swimming and windsurfing in good weather, but somehow feeling lonely. When we arrived, it was high tide and as we drove towards the harbour the waves were coming over the car.

The coast to the south is wild and unspoilt, rising to the 230 ft Black Head. We had to head inland across Goonhilly Downs.

Goonhilly Down

MenhirThe 100 acres of heathland surrounding Goonhilly was purchased by the Nature Conservancy Council in 1976 as Cornwall's first nature reserve.

There are rare heathers, adders and lizards, and a 6,000 year old standing stone called a menhir weighing about 15 tonnes and dragged here from at least 20 miles away!

GoonhillyThe BT owned Goonhilly satellite earth station is the largest in the world with over 60 dishes on site. Able to transmit to every corner of the globe via space, and through undersea fibre optic cables, Goonhilly handles millions of international phone calls, emails and TV broadcasts.

The new visitor centre had just opened so we went in for a guided tour of the highly secure hallowed ground. It is a very slick operation and interesting too. The Cyber café was a particular draw for some of us!

Kennack Sands and Carleon Cove

Kennack SandsBack on the coast, Kennack beach is the largest on the peninsula's east coast with holiday parks and the opportunity to see seals, sharks and dolphins offshore.

Carleon CoveNow deserted, Carleon Cove used to operate a pilchard fishery until the mid 19th century. The pilchard cellar buildings were later extended to accommodate a steam engine, used to power machinery for cutting and polishing serpentine, and a stream was deepened to allow flat-bottomed barges to ferry the products out to ships.


CadgwithOur home for the week, this village is a prime example of the 'ideal' Cornish fishing village with thatched stone cottages standing on steep slopes of a narrow valley, with small boats used by fishermen who catch lobsters and crabs on the shingle beach.

Boat tripsThe fishing fleet landed a record 1,798,000 pilchards in 4 days in 1904. A turf-topped mushroom of land known as The Todden, separates the two little coves. There is a bench looking out to sea on the top.

CadgwithOur cottage was a steep 5 minute walk up from the village. The road through the village is almost impossible steep bends. When the car stalled on one of the corners I nearly got out and walked!!

South West Coast Path

Coast Path signThe South-West coast path stretches from Poole to Minehead and is most scenic around here with high cliffs, rocky inlets and beaches.

Devil's Frying PanWe walked from Cadgwith to Lizard Point on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. The sea was a deep turquoise and the path meandered up and down around the headlands.

At tiny Church Cove there is just room for a slipway and an old boathouse. There was a pilchard fishery here once and you can still see the fish cellars built around a courtyard.

lifeboat stationAround the corner we came across the lifeboat station at Kilcobben Cove, with a cliff lift down to the boathouse. A memorial board lists many of the people that have been saved by these brave lifeboat men.

Bass PointAround Bass Point, we reached the National Coastwatch lookout station - one of 20 located around our shores and also manned by volunteers.

Hounsel BayOn the clifftop, overlooking Hounsel Bay, is the white castellated building of the old Lloyds Signal Station (now owned by the National Trust) and the Lizard Wireless Station which is the oldest surviving one in the world where Marconi conducted his experiments and was the first station to receive an SOS transmission from a ship.

Lizard pubWe were glad to find a pub and chip shop in Lizard village.


Polpeor CoveWe returned to Lizard Village the next day, where the local serpentine rock is polished and made into ornaments. It became very popular in the 19th century, after Queen Victoria visited Cornwall and ordered serpentine items for Osborne House, so I decided to buy a serpentine lighthouse as a souvenir.

Most southerly pointWe went down to the most southerly point where below the high cliffs stands the dilapidated former lifeboat station on the beach of Polpeor Cove. The Lizard peninsula is lashed on three sides by waves that have caused many shipwrecks. It is owned by the National Trust and therefore keeps its natural beauty - unlike Lands End.

Lizard lighthouseThe lighthouse, dating from 1751 succeeded one that was built in 1619, and whose proposed erection had drawn protests from local people afraid of losing a major source of income from looting wrecks!

Kynance Cove

Kynance CoveTo get to Kynance Cove we had to drive along a toll road to the National Trust car park. We couldn't believe our luck as we arrived at exactly the right time to see the lowest tide for 36 years, the sun was glorious and there were few people about. As we descended the valley and the steep steps, we passed artists painting the scene.

Albert RockHere is the largest outcrop of serpentine rock in Britain, where the golden sands are completely covered at high tide. We were able to explore the caves to the west bay where the Devil's Bellows is transformed into a spectacular blowhole by the surging sea at high tide.

A giant of rock on the beach is known as Albert Rock, after a visit by Prince Albert and the royal children and Asparagus Island is so named because wild asparagus used to grow there. We stayed for a while and watched the surf as it is a truly beautiful place.

Mullion Cove

Mullion is the largest village on the Lizard. The Cove has a pretty working harbour, protected from the winter gales that rage across Mount's Bay by two stout sea walls.

Mullion CoveThe harbour was completed in 1895 and financed by Lord Robartes of Lanhydrock as a recompense to the fishermen for several disastrous pilchard seasons. You can still see the old pilchard cellar and net store.

The cove used to have a lifeboat station and in the six years up to 1873 there were nine wrecks under Mullion cliffs. Inland are the remains of Wheal Unity copper mine, which operated until 1919. A large copper boulder from the mine is in the Natural History Museum, London.

There are plenty of smuggling tales too. In 1801, the King's Pardon was offered to any smuggler giving information on the Mullion musket men involved in a gunfight with the crew of HM Gun Vessel Hecate. Most of the shore around the small cove is owned by the National Trust, as is Mullion Island, a nesting site for guillemots and kittiwakes. The slipway leads to an area of sand from which a tunnel through the rocks leads to another tiny beach.

Polurrian Cove and Poldhu Cove

Polurrian CoveFrom Mullion Cove you can see a large clifftop hotel that overlooks Polurrian Cove, with steep steps leading down to the sandy surfing beach.

Marconi MemorialPoldhu is a popular sandy beach, almost entirely edged by a low stone wall and backed by a small stream where the National Trust has erected staves to stabilise the sands.

On the cliffs between the two coves is the Marconi Memorial, near the spot from which the first radio message across the Atlantic was sent in 1901.

Church Cove

Church CoveIt was quite a drive around the narrow lanes to get around to the other side of the lovely sandy Church Cove. We passed Gunwallow Fishing Cove and Halzephron Herb Farm and parked beside a dilapidated farm - all that remains of a large settlement that existed here from the 9th to the 11th centuries.

Church of St WinwaloeAt the foot of Castle Mound is the predominantly 15th century Church of St Winwaloe, whose detached bell tower is built right into the rock. The rock which forms the mound is severely eroded and granite has been deposited in an attempt to prevent the sea from isolating the church completely.

There is an eerie looking statue in the graveyard who appears to be welcoming you into the church.

The Loe

Loe BarA large shingle barrier called Loe Bar developed in the 13th century and separated from the sea from a now completely freshwater lake. The marshes and water-tolerant trees at the northern end of the lake are a winter refuge for wildfowl and it is surrounded by the woodlands of the Penrose Estate with a network of footpaths around the Loe and Carminowe Creek.Loe Bar memorial

The coast off Loe Bar is dangerous and many ships have come to grief including the frigate Anson, which was beached in 1807. More than a hundred men died while a crowd watched helplessly from the land and a memorial has been placed near the spot.


The River Cober was once tidal, before it was cut off from the sea by Loe Bar and flows through Helson. We found ourselves driving through the town every day as all roads radiate from it. It was one of the four Cornish stannary towns, where for centuries tin was brought to be assayed and stamped. With the mining boom in the 18th century the town became very wealthy.

HelstonIt became a coinage town during the reign of Edward I and more than 100 mines have been worked in the district over a long period of time. The word coinage comes front the French 'coin', meaning corner; because the quality and value of tin was assessed by cutting off a corner from a block for testing. It was then stamped, taxed and eventually sold. Local miners would assemble to have their tin tested and weighed in the 'coinage hall', hence the name of Helston's main thoroughfare: Coinagehall Street.

The imposing Guildhall has been a market house and Magistrates' Court and today it is the Town Hall. There is a small folk museum in the old butter market and a splendid cannon taken from HMS Anson.

Flora DayHelston's yearly festival, Flora Day, is held in May. To mark the coming of summer, the town is wreathed in flowers, and hundreds of dancers weave in and out of houses along the hilly streets performing the 'Furry Dance' behind the Helston Band playing the famous Flora Dance tune. At midday there's the principal dance with invited participants in top hats, tails and ball gowns.

The origin of the dance are certainly pre-Christian and was connected with ancient spring festivals all over Europe. Nowadays it's flowers all over the town, music and high spirits - and a few drinks I suspect.


PorthlevenThere is a deep harbour and steep narrow streets, built by London industrialists in 1811 to export tin and import mining machinery. It took 14 years and the workforce included many prisoners from the Napoleonic wars. In 1855 a deeper inner basin was created which was protected by the massive timber baulk gates still in use today.

Trade increased dramatically and from the 1850s, the boatbuilding industry became a major employer. The large slip saw the launch of clippers, schooners and yachts destined for ports around the world. The two cannon either side of the harbour were once fired in anger at Napoleon's navy during the battle of Brest and come from the frigate HMS Anson.

Porthleven canonThe harbour dries out at low tide and sunken wrecks and a local reef make the area popular with divers. Every summer, great pilchard shoals some as much as 15 miles square used to swim into Mount's Bay and large catches were regularly recorded. Boats still fish for crab, lobster and crayfish from here.

Porthleven clock towerIn 1883 the building at the end of the harbour with its 70ft clock tower, was built as a Literary Institute by William Bickford-Smith. In 1989 it was pictured in the National news when the tower was engulfed by enormous waves. The waves were not so large today but they still managed to soak Andrew as we walked to the end of the pier.

Rinsey Head and Praa Sands

We drove along another high-hedged lane and on to a very rough track down to a tiny car park. The car tyres survived - just - and we set off to walk along another part of the coast path to the bracken-clad Rinsey Head where waves pound the granite cliffs below.

Rinsey HeadWe arrived at Wheat Prosper, a restored 19th century engine house of a disused tin and copper mine with its tall, round chimney.

Between here and Hoe Point, high dunes enclose the long crescent of Praa Sand with its holiday village. The western end of the beach is sheltered from westerly winds by the cliffs; but strong currents make bathing unsafe at low tide.

Praa SandWe walked along a concrete ramp to get a cup of coffee at a deserted café and sat outside watching the sea. The surf here can be pretty dynamic and even in winter one can usually see people in the water. All the necessary paraphernalia for surfing was for hire but there were no takers today.

On the other side of Hoe Point is a tidal beach called Kenneggy Sands that is quite hard to get to.

Prussia Cove

Prussia CoveThe name is not original and is named after a notorious 18th century smuggler, John Carter, the self styled King of Prussia who modelled himself on Frederick the Great. The name stuck, but there are actually three little coves; Piskies Cove, Bessy's Cove and King's Cove. It is a very pretty place with a group of old cottages and houses standing on the top of a dark rock face that slides ominously into the sea. There is not much beach, especially at high tide, and what there is consists mainly of pebbles.

The cliffs wind their way past jagged Cudden Point, and on to Perran Sands where a steep flight of stairs leads down to a beach where a sandbank sometimes forms just off shore that can make swimming hazardous. There were a group of canoeists taking a lesson on the beach.