County Cornwall on England’s rugged southwestern tip forms a peninsula encompassing wild moorland and hundreds of sandy beaches
The Devonshire teas were $10, the views priceless. Both were on offer at the local cafe the day we descended into Kynance Cove in the deep south of England, around the corner from the country’s southernmost spot, Lizard Point.
The Lizard, with its bracing coastline walks and at-times tired tourist shops and village green, was drawing the crowds on a sunny Sunday, but the star attraction was next door – Kynance Cove, rated by a leading UK writer as having among the very best views in the Old Dart.
From the top is a stunning view of the cove, of craggy hills sloping down to an intriguing mix of sand, rock pools and streams. Perched above this is the cafe. I’ve seen a lot of the British coastline and this is up there with the very best and worth a look next time you head into England’s southwest counties. The cafe was the ideal spot for a breather before tackling the steep climb back to the carpark.
Kynance is signposted from the main road. Miss it and you’ll be sorry as it was about the highlight of our roaming. Even a week was not enough to take in all the sights, but we gave it a red-hot go.
Giving Kynance a serious run for its money was Porthcurno Beach, around the corner from the better-known Land’s End, the most westerly mainland point of the UK. Porthcurno’s golden sand surprised and delighted. It’s not a massive beach, being framed by big cliffs, one of which we gingerly climbed on our way to have a gander at the openair Minack Theatre, cut into the cliff around the corner. A matinee send-up of the Thatcher years was drawing the numbers on the day. Afterwards, we headed down the hill to a pleasant little cafe where my wife got her wish – a baguette overflowing with crab meat.
Less impressive was the car parking. People in the know parked at nearby Sennen Cove, the westernmost settlement on the English mainland, and hiked up the hill to the End and its famous sign.
Just next to Sennen is Whitesand Bay, one of the best for surfers. A coolish arvo didn’t deter the wetsuit brigade. For us it was another walk along the beach. More golden sand was the go at Porthtowan, framed by cliffs, one of which we climbed slowly to sneak another peek at the coast with the most. A short drive to the south brings you to Godrevy with its lighthouse and lifesavers, but a collapsed stairway made it near impossible to get to the sand.
Perhaps the most dramatic setting in the area is the centuries-old St Michael’s Mount. It towers over the surrounds, off the coast in Mount’s Bay, near the cute town of Marazion. Get the tide times right and you can walk to the Mount, get them wrong and it’s wet, as we found out. No chance of walking on water on the way back, so it was a quick $4 ride in a small commuter boat.
A visit to the Mount is well worth it, even at $17 (free if you’re a National Trust member). The room displays are impressive. But be warned, it’s a bit of a climb over cobblestones. And parking next to the beach costs $7.
Nearby was the town of Penzance, which was a letdown, apart from its excellent shoe shop. There are many more appealing places, such as tiny, hilly Cadgwith, near Lizard. Among the bigger centres are Truro with its impressive cathedral, Falmouth with a pretty beach, castle and a very long shopping street, and St Ives, which is perhaps the pick. For more to do, duck down to Penzance and hop on the
Scillonian III vessel for a three-hour trip to the Isles of Scilly. We stayed at the Cornish market town of Helston for no other reason than it was central for our activities. The onebed, converted building cost about $400 a week.
The pleasant owners even provided a welcome pack that included Australian wine.
( From top) St Michael’s Mount, Marazion, in Cornwall; the view to Porthcurno from the open-air Minack Theatre; and the beach at St Ives.