Walk - Land's End Hostel - Pendeen to Zennor
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.
- Take the bus from Land’s End Hostel to Pendeen. Disembark in the centre of Pendeen near the Post Office. To get to Pendeen change buses in St Just. A Western Greyhound 504 goes from Lands End to St Just. The First in Devon and Cornwall 10A bus goes from St Just to Pendeen. The whole journey will take about 1½ hours depending on the wait in St Just!
- Alighting the bus in Pendeen follow the road to Lower Boscaswell and from there to Trewellard Bottoms Join the Coast Path as it continues past Carn Ros and climbs above Pendeen Old Cliff to the road leading to Pendeen Watch lighthouse. Turn left on the road and walk past the lighthouse to carry on along the path ahead, dropping down Pendeen Cliff and then turning right to climb steeply upwards. Fork left to traverse the hillside above Portheras Cove bearing left above the beach to ascend the hill beyond.
Pendeen was the birthplace of the Cornish prehistory scholar William Borlase, and has its share of prehistoric features, including the Pendeen fogou. Dating from the Iron Age, Cornish fogous (caves) were underground chambers and passages. Their purpose is unknown, but it is thought that they may have been places of either storage or refuge.
Pendeen Lighthouse was built by Trinity House in 1900 to warn shipping of the dangers of rocks around Pendeen Watch. It was automated in 1995 and an automatic fog signal was installed. The lighthouse is monitored and controlled via a telemetry link from the Trinity House Operational Control Centre in Harwich.
- Fork left as the path heads inland towards Wheal Rose, and follow the Coast Path along the wall around the fields to the path leading inland to Morvah.
- Carry on ahead along the Coast Path as it makes its way through a landscape of granite outcrops and disused mines. Ignoring the network of paths around the patchwork of fields inland, follow the Coast Path along the top of Trevean Cliff to drop into the valley below the towering headland at Bosigran.
This is another important site, with many layers of history sitting on top of one another. Flints have been found from the Late Stone Age, and there are the remains of cairns and a cliff castle from the Bronze Age. There are clearance cairns and hut circles, as well as settlements and field systems, from the Iron Age and the Romano British culture which followed it, as well as medieval fields and settlements.
- Passing the remnants of these past communities, the path pulls up through the rocks around Bosigran Castle and carries on around the seaward edge of the fields beyond. Above Porthmeor Cove it drops to the stream in the valley below, climbing the other side and heading out towards Porthmeor Point.
Continuing along the front of the fields, the paths pulls out towards the sea once more and passes above Treen Cliff crossing the path which heads inland from Gurnard's Head.
Beside Gurnard's Head is an Iron Age promontory fort, Trereen Dinas, thought to date from the second century BC. In front of the headland is a ruined chapel, partly fallen into the sea, named Jane Chapel (from the Cornish word 'yein', meaning 'bleak'. As with all these ancient chapels there is a well attached.
Follow the South West Coast Path around Treen Cove and on past the disused mine to skirt around the front of the fields beyond.
West Penwith has been designated an Environmentally Sensitive Area, covering over 9000 hectares of its wild moorland, extensively farmed grasslands, sheltered valleys and coastal cliffs.
Managed by the Rural Development Service, Environmentally Sensitive Areas are designed to protect traditional farming landscapes considered to be at risk. Participating farmers receive grants to maintain and enhance the landscape, heritage and wildlife. Key to this are using cattle to graze rough areas and maintaining existing field patterns, some of which were in existence 5000 years ago and are considered to be the world's oldest man-made structures still in continuous use.
Capital payments are made to encourage farmers to rebuild Cornish hedges, restore traditional buildings, protect archaeological sites and restore habitats such as coastal heathland and maritime grassland, and something like 90% of the eligible area is being protected in this way under the voluntary scheme.
The entire coastal strip is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a wide diversity of rare plants, animals and birds, some of them nationally rare species. The exposed granite cliffs along the coast encourage wildflowers like thrift and sea aster in their crevices and stonecrop and kidney vetch on their outcrops, with seabirds such as fulmar, shag and kittiwakes nesting around them.
On the grassy slopes, wild carrot, sea campion and ox-eye daisy thrive in the salt-laden air, as do wild thyme and bird's-foot trefoil in the heathland above. Here, bluebells provide a splash of colour on the thin soil between the gorse and bracken, and heather runs riot in a blaze of purple in the summer months. Rare snails and beetles live among them, while nationally scarce butterflies such as silver-studded blue and pearl-bordered fritillary flutter above.
These are good nesting grounds for smaller birds, such as stonechat, whitethroat and sedge warbler, while the disused mines provide a home for bats and peregrines and ravens wheel overhead. Sometimes you can even spot a chough, Cornwall's national bird, once almost extinct but now making a comeback thanks to conservation work.
Down in the coves, limpets and barnacles are plentiful on the rocks, and grey seals breed along here, with haul-out sites on the offshore islands.
- Rounding Boswednack Cliff the Coast Path continues around Porthglaze Cove and heads out around Carnelloe Long Rock before pulling back up around the old mine workings on the headland and heading inland again and then curving north east again to cross the tops of Carnelloe and Trewey Cliffs. Crossing the stream on Trewey Cliff, climb steeply to a T-junction on the path at the top. Turning left takes you towards Zennor Head. Turn right takes you to Zennor.
Here the Norman church stands on the site of a sixth century Celtic church and is famous for its carved medieval bench-end depicting the Mermaid of Zennor. In good mermaid tradition she enticed a local lad into the sea, and he was never seen again. The bronze dial on the south side of the church tower shows her with an inscription dated 1737. On the windswept moorland above the village are the Zennor and Sperris Quoits, two Neolithic (Late Stone Age) chambered tombs topped by massive granite slabs. These are just a couple of the thousands of prehistoric monuments of international importance which litter the peninsula’s rocky outcrops.
Travelling back to Trevescan from Zennor, the quickest return journey is via Penzance. The Western Greyhound 508 bus travels into Penzance in just under half an hour. From there the Western Greyhound 501 takes just under an hour to travel to Land's End.