- Start: Car park above Sennen Cove, OS grid ref SW359262
- End: Car park above Sennen Cove, OS grid ref SW359262
- Country: England
- County: Cornwall
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub:
- Ordnance Survey: OS Explorer 102, Landranger 203
- Difficulty: Medium
Enjoy an invigorating Christmas walk from Land's End to Sennen Cove and the popular sands of Whitesand Bay
The End of the Land
Enjoy an invigorating Christmas walk from Lands End to Sennen Cove and the popular sands of Whitesand BayLands End, Englands most westerly point, was once a desolate, windswept and lonely place that the Romans named Bolerium, meaning the seat of storms. On a clear day the Isles of Scilly are visible on the horizon, 28 miles westwards, but this is the only land between here and the American continent, over 3,000 miles away. Arthurian legends, however, tell of the lost land of Lyonesse, once attached to the Isles of Scilly but swept away by the sea, and sailors are said to have heard sounds of bells beneath the waves and even to have glimpsed the spires of churches rising from the seabed. The Longships Lighthouse lies just one mile offshore. The light of the original 1795 lighthouse could not be seen in high seas as it had only a 12-metre tower built on low rocks. A new, higher tower was built a century later but within 30 years, despite the 19-mile range of its light, a ship driven onto the rocks almost demolished it.
The views out to sea may not have changed but the area certainly has. In the early 1800s the only permanent building was a small house where visitors could tether horses, but by the 1850s this had become a hotel. The building of the Penzance railway created an influx of tourists who needed refreshments and souvenirs. Another surge of tourists arrived after the Second World War, but little was invested in conserving the site and retaining vegetation and wildlife. In 1987 Peter de Savary purchased and redeveloped the site as a theme park, improving its appearance, upgrading structures and adding buildings for exhibitions and administration, and it is now run by Heritage Attractions Ltd.
At the highest point of the well-worn path back to Sennen Cove look for the remains of Maen Castle, an Iron Age cliff castle dating back to 500 BC. Before descending from the cliffs enjoy the view from Maen Fort, used by coastguards until the 1940s and now refurbished as an information point. Sennen Cove lies below Maen Fort just one mile from Lands End. Its name comes from Sinninus (St Sennen), the patron saint of the Lands End parish church originally founded in AD 520, and the meaning of Sen-nan is Holy Valley. In the 19th century the village was an agricultural and fishing community and the thatched cottages and houses of fishermen surrounded the harbour. This still has a small fleet of fishing boats, but a fleet of pleasure boats has been added, for Sennen too now depends on tourism. Visitors flock in summer to enjoy the pretty village, laze on the golden beaches of Whitesand Bay and surf the large waves that sweep in from the Atlantic.
1 Descend the road and take Marias Lane, to the left. At the end of the cul de sac follow the Cornish Way, signposted Lands End 1 mile. Swing left beside the road and cross it next to the gate. Turn right and take the first footpath to the left.
2 Cross heather and gorse to a blue waymarked sign and descend to Greeb Farm. Pass the animal enclosure to climb the path from below the craft shop and turn right along the cliffs on the Red Path to the Lands End complex and Dr Syntaxs Head, its most westerly point.
3 Continue on the coast path over the rocky outcrops of Mayon Cliff and down from Maen Castle to Maen Fort, overlooking Sennen Cove. Descend the paved path to the harbour and pass the lifeboat station before following the promenade above the rocky beach.
4 At its end stay on the slipway past the beach caf and follow the eroded path above the sand through Carn Towans. Detour onto soft sand below the lifeguards hut but return to the path below two log cabins above a pillbox. Pass under several steep cliffs and descend to Gwynver Beach.
5 Follow the path above the beach and below a clump of trees but, after crossing a step in the wall before Tregiffian Vean Cliff, fork right to climb the narrow path to the ridge. Fork right again at the gates between walls and stay left of Gurnard Farm. Descend the driveway and turn right along the marked footpath to join a narrow roadway and pass houses.
6 Head right down the road to Escalls, and as you enter the hamlet turn right down a track that becomes walled. Follow a left turn between houses, with views down to Sennen Cove, and when the grass field of the car park comes into sight look to take the partly concealed footpath crossing the head of the valley. Start to climb the other side but take the middle path at the junction and follow it across the field to the car park.
Start/parking: Car park above Sennen Cove, OS grid ref SW359262
Distance: 7 miles (12km)
Time: 4 hours
Maps: OS Explorer 102, Landranger 203
Terrain: Mainly paths but some minor roads. A short detour over soft sand needed owing to path erosion beside Whitesand Bay
Refreshments: Pubs and cafs in Lands End and Sennen Cove
Public transport: Bus service 1, 1A and 504 from Penzance,
Toilets: In Lands End and Sennen Cove