Walk - Sennen Cove & Land's End
Walk information provided with help from Natural England. Map reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2020. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100022021.
- The first section of the path climbs from the tiny granite fishing harbour at Sennen and provides stunning views over Whitesand Bay northwards towards Cape Cornwall and the Brisons.
Sennen Cove still has a small fishing fleet and a few pleasure boats, but it does not offer anchorage to sailors from elsewhere, because of the dangers posed by the frequent heavy swells. The rocky headland at Land's End divides the Atlantic ocean from the English Channel, which makes the sea particularly turbulent in windy weather. Victorian artist John Ruskin described it as ‘an entire disorder of the surges’.
The first lifeboat was stationed at Sennen Cove in 1853. In 1919 a new slipway was built for the station’s first motor lifeboat, which was launched by trolley. Since 2009 Sennen Cove has operated an all weather boat and an inshore lifeboat.
The first headland after Sennen Cove is Pedn-mên-du ('Black Stone Headland'). At the top of this moderately steep section, the National Trust has refurbished a former Coastguard Lookout. This was built in 1891. The building was renovated and secured exactly 100 years after it was built by two members of the Coastguard Team, Colin McClary & Roy Coatman! This is open from Easter to October and contains displays and information about the local area as well as a telescope available for use.
- The walk continues along granite clifftops criss-crossed by well-preserved prehistoric field boundaries, past an impressive Iron Age cliff castle and a number of Bronze Age burial cairns.
Pass Maen Castle, an Iron Age cliff castle, or promontory fort, some 2,000 years old. On the rocks beneath it are the remains of the RMS Mulheim, which was wrecked in the bay below and broke in two before the swell drove it into the inlet here at Castle Zawn.
The heathland in this section is spectacular when in flower, and is home to a variety of birds, butterflies and other wildlife, whilst the cliffs are popular nesting sites for fulmars, shags and other seabirds. Peregrine falcons and kestrels can often be seen hunting here, and during the summer it is worth scanning the water below the cliffs for basking sharks and cetaceans.
A mile and a half further out to sea, the Longships Lighthouse guards the busy shipping lanes around Lands End and there are usually some interesting ships to be seen making their way up or down the Bristol Channel. On 30th June, 1791, Trinity House gave a lease to Lieutenant Henry Smith by which he would erect a lighthouse on the Longships, and which fixed the rental at £100 and the term as 50 years. A tower was soon established on Carn Bras, the largest of the Longships Rocks. The circular tower, designed by Trinity House architect Samuel Wyatt, had three storeys. The lightkeepers used the top storey as a bedroom under the wood and copper lantern. The lantern held 18 parabolic metal reflectors. None shone towards the land, as metal sheets blocked the windows in that direction.
Soon after lighting the tower on 29th September, 1795, Smith was declared "incapable of managing the concern" and Trinity House took it over. The lightkeepers on the Longships led a primitive existence, cooking their meals in the lantern by the Argand lamps. The lighthouse was manned by four men, two of whom were on duty at any one time, working one month at a stretch. They received £30 per annum and free food at the lighthouse, but when ashore they provided for themselves. During storms, the lantern was so often under that Henry Smith’s tower was replaced by the present grey granite circular tower built by Sir James Douglass, Trinity House engineer, in 1875. The tower is 35 metres high, 35 metres above the sea at high water. Its white light and red lights isophase every 10 seconds and can be seen for 15 nautical miles. Its fog signal sounds once every 10 seconds.
- The Coast Path continues through the remains of further prehistoric fields to Land’s End and its wide-ranging views. Refreshments, parking and other facilities are available all year round at the nearby hotel and visitor centre.
The walk to Land's End is about a mile and you may choose to return by public transport or by walking back the way you came.
Land’s End is associated with the mythical Cornish land of Lyonesse, believed by some to be the fabled lost world of Atlantis (see the Lost Land of Lyonesse Walk). Dr Syntax's Head, the headland at Land's End, is named after a cartoon schoolmaster published in Rudolph Ackerman’s 'Poetical Magazine' between 1809 and 1820. The adventures of Dr Syntax as he went in search of 'the Tour', 'Consolation' and 'A Wife' were written in verse by Dr William Combe and illustrated by the famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson.
The alternative return leg of the route uses part of the National Cycleway Route 3 - the "First and Last Cycle Trail" - and gives a total walk of 2½ miles. This section is well surfaced and level enough for wheelchair access for most of its length.
Sennen Coastguard Station was built in 1812 and consisted of a row of 8 houses, a fuel house and a store which housed the Rocket Cart and Rescue Equipment. Mr Phillips of Mayon Farm supplied a team of horses to haul the cart. A building, which now forms part of the cove Mini Market, was used to house the Revenue Cutters which were manned by the Coastguard Service for the purposes of preventing smuggling and for saving life at sea.
- At the old Coastguard cottages at the end of Marias Lane either follow the tarmac road back down to Sennen Cove, or rejoin the Coast Path at Mayon Lookout and walk back down the Coast Path to the harbour.
Several pubs and cafes in Sennen Cove. Refreshments at the Land’s End Visitor Centre.