Walk - The Lost Land of Lyonesse

4.8 miles (7.7 km)

Land's End car park - TR19 7AA Land's End

Moderate - Some rugged stretches of Coast Path and inland footpaths through fields that may be muddy, with plenty of ups and downs.

At Land’s End, the dramatic granite pillars and buttresses of England’s most westerly point look out over a turbulent sea, where the land divides the English Channel from the Atlantic Ocean. Some people believe that ahead lies Lyonesse, the site of King Arthur's final battle with Mordred. This circuit of the headland also travels inland across a patchwork field system dating back thousands of years.

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Lands End Hostel and B&B

Family run boutique Hostel and B&B, 1/2mile from Lands End. Great for walkers, cyclists, Lejog. Close to The Minack, St Just Airport & Sennen.

Sunnybank House B&B, Sennen

A friendly family run B&B situated close to the SWCP, Land’s End, Minack Theatre and Land’s End airport.  Free WiFi. Evening meals available with prior notice.

Sea View House

Long standing B&B offering comfortable accomodation, conveniently situated for Coast Path.

The Studio, Treen

The architect designed Studio, is located on the West side of the Penberth valley in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 8 Minutes walk from the Coast Path.

Treen House B&B

Newly renovated vegetarian/eco-friendly B&B in an unspoilt, magical location.  All rooms en-suite. Use of guest lounge.

The Old Post House B&B

The Post House in St Just retains many original features. The rooms are comfortably tranquil with a classic French vintage style. Facilities include free wifi, flat screen TV, hairdryer, tea and coffee facilities and bottled water.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the Land’s End car park head past the visitors centre and the toilets, taking the path on the left beyond to pick up the South West Coast Path. Turn left to follow the Coast Path southwards, past the animal centre and craft workshops. From here it travels behind a series of small coves, or 'zawns', until it comes to Mill Bay, (also known as Nanjizal). Hugging the edge of the cliff, it continues to Lower Bosistow Cliff, where a path heads away to your left, just before the Coast Path drops to the valley.

A mile and a half 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.

  1. Turn left onto this path and follow it inland, above the valley, to where another path joins from below.
  2. Turn left here, following the footpath straight across the field to the far corner and continuing along the right-hand hedge of the next field, to carry on ahead through the third. Turn right at the far side of this field and follow the hedge to the top left-hand corner. From here a path leads around the right-hand side of the first buildings at Trevilley.
  3. After the track curves sharply to the right, go through the farmyard on your left and into the left-hand field, to follow the path alongside the hedge, carrying straight on ahead to pass between the houses to the road at Trevescan.

Halfway through first field is a medieval wayside cross, known as the 'Trevilley Cross'. The Tithe Map refers to the field as 'Park an Grouse' ('Field of the Cross'). Like other crosses nearby (see the Sennen, Nanjizal & Bosistow Walk), there is a Latin cross on one side and a crucifixion on the other. At 5, a detour along the road ahead and a short distance along the main road beyond it will take you to another wayside cross. The Trevescan Cross, at the side of the road, has a Latin cross on each face.

  1. Turn left along the road through Trevescan, past the cafe with the postbox in its wall, and walk to the A30.
  2. Crossing the road, take the footpath opposite, along the drive to Treeve Moor House. Follow it through the field to the right of the house, heading diagonally across it to the far corner. Cutting across the right-hand corner of the next field, continue straight ahead across the one beyond, carrying on alongside the fence and on down the drive beyond.
  3. At the junction walk past the holiday cottages on your left, to Maria's Lane, beyond the cycle path. Turn left here, heading downhill past 'Sharkfin'. At the right-hand bend beyond, take the National Trust path on the left and follow it to the Coast Path.
  4. Turn left on the Coast Path, following it along Mayon Cliff and then Trevescan Cliff, back to Land's End.

According to Arthurian legend, King Arthur's men fled west across Lyonesse after the Battle of Camlan, in AD 537. Arthur's men reached the Scilly Isles as the sea rose to engulf the land joining them to the mainland; but Mordred's men were drowned.

Romantic poet and Arthurian buff Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote of the event:

'Then rose the King and moved his host by night
And ever pushed Sir Mordred, league by league,
Back to the sunset bound of Lyonesse -
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
The phantom circle of a moaning sea.'

There is a tradition that Lyonesse lay between Land's End and the Scilly Isles. Lethowsow, as it was known in Cornwall, was a fertile land and its people prosperous. There were many villages and 140 churches, and Victorian geologist John Hawkins mentions historical rumours that buildings could be seen in the sea on calm days. There are tales of the sound of distant churchbells carrying across the sea, and of fishermen finding artefacts in their nets, although none of these exists today.

There are submarine forests all around the south west coastline, and after storms or at particularly low spring tides, fossilised tree stumps can be seen in various places. In Mount's Bay there are also the remains of ancient stone walls. Penwith's field systems date back to prehistoric times, and they are the world's oldest structures still in use. In AD 240, when sea levels were some 20 metres lower, Roman historian Solinus referred to the Scilly Isles as a single island, which he called Siluram Insulam.

There is evidence that over the centuries the sea has gradually swallowed up portions of wooded coastline, especially during stormy weather. It is possible that there was a disastrous flood in the sixth century, as Arthurian storytellers would have us believe; but some historians say that Lyonesse was swallowed up in 1099, 450 years after Arthur's time. They point to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which tells of a catastrophic event on St Martin's Festival (11 November) of that year, when 'the sea-flood sprung up to such a height, and did so much harm, as no man remembered that it ever did.'

Between here and the Scilly Isles lie the Seven Stones, an underwater granite reef nearly two miles long and a mile wide. Its seven peaks appear above the surface as the tide drops, and traditionally it was called 'The City', meaning the lost capital of Lyonesse. It poses an enormous threat to shipping, and today there is a lightvessel marking its location. Over the centuries 71 shipwrecks have been recorded here, but the actual total is thought to be nearer 200.

The reef was responsible for the worst oil spill on Britain's coastline, when the Torrey Canyon was wrecked on the rocks in 1967. Sailing from Kuwait via the Canary Islands to Milford Haven with a full cargo of crude oil, skipper Pastrengo Gugiati made the disastrous decision to take a shortcut around Land's End.

After the ship was wrecked, Blackburn Buccaneer strike aircraft were sent from RNAS Lossiemouth to bomb it to the seabed, and Hawker Hunter jets were sent from RAF Chivenor to set the oil alight to clear the slick. Exceptionally high tides put the fire out, and further air strikes were needed before the slick was burnt out.

One of the world's most hazardous and difficult sites for lighthouses is Bishop Rock Lighthouse, 4 miles west of the Scilly Isles. It stands on a rock ledge 46m long by 16m wide that rises sheer from a depth of 45m. It was first built in 1858 at a cost of nearly £35,000. During one particularly powerful storm, waves rolled up on the side of the lighthouse and tore away the 550lb fog bell from its fastenings on the gallery. In 1881, £66,000 of additional work extended the granite foundation providing protection from the Atlantic swell. The old lighthouse was encased with new 1 metre thick walls.  This present tower is 40 metres high and was automated in 1972. Its light flashes every 15 seconds and can be seen for 20 nautical miles. 

Parking

At Land's End and Sennen Cove

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