Walk - Lands End Youth Hostel - 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.
- From Lands End Youth Hostel cross the stream and turn left onto the small track at Rosewell Cottage. At the lane follow it as it heads towards Porth Nanven. A short way along the South West Coast Path meets up with the lane. Continue on the path to Porth Nanven.
Porth Nanven is at the mouth of the Cot Valley and is part of the Aire Point to Carrick Du Site of Special Scientific Interest. With its lush sub-tropical vegetation, it is a place beloved of birdwatchers. They come hoping to see a rarity like the Yellow-billed Cuckoo sighted in 1999. Known as Dinosaur Egg Beach, Porth Nanven is an important geological site. It is illegal to remove the large round boulders which fell from the cliffs above. They piled up on the wave-cut platform after falling sea levels left the old beach stranded above the modern-day one. Many visitors assume that the weirdly shaped boulders are the work of the sea, which they are, but the sea of 120,000 years ago. Sea levels have changed several times since then and are now much lower than they were. This caused the ancient beach to be suspended in the cliff high above the present level. Stand on the beach and look back towards the cliff, and you will see a wall of the rounded rocks waiting to break away and join those on the beach of today.
After crossing the stream at the end of the Cot Valley, the path is well marked but care is needed to follow the zig-zag path up the cliff, north of Gribba Point.
- The main path sweeps inland. Fork right before Nanjulian, and continue on along the Coast Path on the open ground southwards. Carry on ahead along the shoreline as the path travels past more rocky outcrops beneath Nanjulian and Gurland Cliffs.
The sweep of Whitesand Bay extends some distance ahead, and at Trevedra there is a sandy beach, with paths heading inland across the Coast Path.
Whitesand Bay beach is popular with surfers. Often, particularly at high tides, the beach is divided into two. Gwynver beach to the north is popular for its typically better surfing waves. Sennen Cove beach to the south is popular for its size, facilities and surf schools, At the south end, at Sennen Cove, there are toilet facilities, a surf shop, a restaurant, and two car parks, one in a large field above the cliff, and another beside the beach. Dogs are banned on the beach from Easter Day to 1st October every year.
Follow the Coast Path which runs along the dunes behind the beach. At Carn Towan, you can either walk along the beach to Cove Hill and on to Sennen Cove or follow the path, making your way through the beach car park and onto Cove Hill.
Sennen Cove still has a small fishing fleet as well as a few pleasure boats, but it does not offer anchorage to other seafarers, because the frequent heavy swells make it a hazardous destination. Visit it on a windy day, and you will see why!
- The path leaves Sennen Cove through the car park above the slipway. Take the South West Coast Path as it climbs westwards towards Land End and provides stunning views over Whitesand Bay northwards towards Cape Cornwall and the Brisons. At the top of this moderately steep section, rounding the headland of Pedn-mên-du, the National Trust has refurbished a former Coastguard Lookout.
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 Maen Castle, an impressive Iron Age cliff castle and a number of Bronze Age burial cairns.
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.
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.
The granite around Land's End was formed some 275 million years ago. You will notice that the granite around here has very large white feldspar crystals in it: a sign that the magma cooled down very slowly after it was intruded.
The action of the sea on the hard granite has resulted in the large rectangular blocks and long narrow buttresses in the cliffs here, forming a classic castellated coastline, the best and most spectacular of its type in Britain. As the Atlantic hurls its massive breakers at the cliffs, the compressed air resulting from the impact is forced into the lines of weakness in the rock, resulting in new caves, fissures, blowholes and zawns.
- The Coast Path continues through the remains of further prehistoric fields to Land's End and its wide-ranging views. Refreshments and other facilities are available all year round at the nearby hotel and visitor centre.
Land's End is England's most westerly point, and looks out over the mythical Arthurian lost lands of Lyonesse. It is a great place for wildlife, and in spring and summer it is a riot of colour when the gorse and heather are in bloom, and the pink thrift and white sea campion grow in banks between them. Dolphins and basking sharks can often be spotted offshore, and sometimes a chough, Cornwall's national bird, once down to the last breeding pair but now flourishing again.
Take the bus back to St Just. The Western Greyhound 504 bus leaves Land’s End car park and takes no more than 20 minutes to reach St Just.
If alighting from the bus at Kelynack, turn off the B3306 and follow the road through the farmyard and past the sign "Unsuitable for motors" . Although narrow the road is tarmaced and in good condition all the way to the hostel entrance. Follow this road without making any further turns until you reach the gate with "Letcha Vean", YHA and Hostelling International signs.
If alighting at St Just walk past the library away from the town centre along Market Street. Turn left following Bosorne Terrace past a chapel and recreation ground. Turn right down a narrow lane passing cottages and an old well. Where the lane ends turn right down the footpath following signs for YHA.
Several pubs and cafes in Sennen Cove. Refreshments at the Land’s End Visitor Centre.