Round the Cape by Chris Logan
PUBLISHED: 12:39 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 17:34 20 February 2013
A walk round England's only cape
Follow a spectacular route from an undersea copper mine over Englands only cape, once considered Cornwalls most westerly point
Half a mile west of Botallack is Crowns Mine, precariously sited above a rugged rock-face lashed in winter by Atlantic gales. This is probably the most dramatic of the 18th-century Cornish tin and copper mines. Closest to the sea is the pumping house with its engine shaft alongside it and above is the winding house servicing a diagonal shaft that dropped 450ft and extended out to sea for half a mile. On rough days, miners working the rich copper lode in their narrow tunnels would hear the terrifying sound of boulders shifting on the seabed just above their heads as the sea pounded them.
This mine, like most, boasts a legend. A tin stamping-mill once stood on the cliffs where miners met after shifts to enjoy games of cards. One evening a stranger appeared and won every hand and only when the miners glimpsed a cloven hoof below his cloak did they realise who he was. This section of the cliffs is still known as Stamps an Jowle Zawn or chasm of the devils stamps. Between Botallack and Cape Cornwall you will pass the remains of Kenidjack Castle, an Iron Age hill fort with beautiful views. By 750 BC the Bronze Age had given way to this much more organised and civilised society who built hilltop settlements and fortified them by ringing them with ditches and earth ramparts. Though little is left of Kenidjack, its triple-banked defences are still visible.
The other side of Porth Ledden climb the path past a national coast watch centre that guards shipping from the menacing reef. The monument above, restored in 1985, was the crowning chimneystack of Cornwalls smallest copper and tin mine. The mine manager lived in the white house beside the path and the boiler house has become a private home. Around 5,000 years ago it was a Cliff Castle that stood on the summit and, until they were ploughed up at the beginning of the last century, defensive ramparts crossed the neck of the headland. This is Englands only cape, a piece of land separating two seas, labelled in error when it was thought to be Cornwalls most westerly point where the English Channel and St Georges Channel meet. South of Cape Cornwall, Carn Gluze (or Gloose), also known as the Ballowall Barrow, is a large chambered cairn above the sea with views down to Sennen. This burial chamber was used throughout the Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age. The chambered tomb is capped with a granite lintel, and within the cairn there is a central mound and the remains of two concentric drystone walls. In 1870, excavations under the waste tips of local tin mines revealed six cists containing an urn and fragments of pottery.
1 Visit Crowns Mine, visible from below the car park, before continuing west along the coast path between two well-restored engine houses. Join the main track for 100m before forking right along the grassy path with St Just on your left. Over the crest Cape Cornwall comes into sight beyond Kenidjack Castle.
2 From the castle descend past a sign requesting you not to disturb young choughs and to follow the footpath. Turn left at the wide track and then right at the first footpath to descend to the bottom of the valley. Turn right alongside the stream and cross the rocky beach to Porth Ledden.
3 From the slipway follow the coast path signs and after the second gate turn right. Climb steps over the wall, follow the path to the cliff at its end, and turn up steps to the tower above the coast watch observation post. Enjoy the view before descending the path on your right to the white house.
4 Join the road but turn right down steps to the lower road and follow coast path signs up the track below the golf course to join the road at Carn Glooze and pass the National Trust Ballowall barrow and chambered tomb. Continue along the road, with views of Sennen Cove and Lands End, but after passing the entrance to Bollowall Farm take a path to the left, on a right bend, and follow the footpath signs.
5 At the cluster of houses turn right on a walled track between fields. Cross the road and climb steps on the right over the wall before continuing to cross walls between small fields. Pass Kenidjack Castle, the other side of the valley, and turn left down the road past Boscean Pottery Shop before forking right along the stony path.
6 Turn left at the bottom on the wider track towards the castle on the skyline to cross the head of the valley. Stay on the main path, with Cape Cornwall on your left, before rejoining the coast path. Fork left and retrace your footsteps back to the car.
Start/parking: In Botallack above coastal mines, OS grid ref SW365352
Distance: 5 miles (8km)
Time: 3 hours
Maps: OS Explorer 102 or Landranger 203
Terrain: Coast path, returning on narrow road and on level paths through fields
Refreshments: None on route
Public transport: First service 17A and 17B between Penzance and St Just, tel 0845 600 1420
Warning: The coast path above the beach at Porth Ledden is closed because of subsidence. If the tide is too high to cross the beach return up the track to take the first path to the right and approach Cape Cornwall the other side of the narrow valley.