Upon leaving Lands End and leaving the south coast behind us, we once again turn our footsteps to the north and north east as we head back up Cornwall’s north coast.
Our first stop is the vast expanse of Sennen Cove. Silvery fine white sand, this beach gets very crowded at the height of summer, but being so large, it is more than easy for everyone still to find a spot of some peace and quiet despite the crowds, if you are prepared to walk far enough away from the carpark/s. The actual village itself boats a lifeboat station, a pub and one or two cafes and art galleries, the most famous of which has to be the Roundhouse, which used to store the winding gear for pulling the fishing boats up the very steep slipway. The actual harbour, if you can call it that, is protected from the thousands of miles of watery expanse of the north Atlantic Ocean rollers by a low granite quay wall, in which leeward side, gives small protection to the small fleet of boats which still dare to breach the treacherous high seas off Cape Cornwall and Lands End. You can enjoy superb surfing at this beach which has a tremendous backdrop of majestic moorland hills sweeping down right to the beach. On the hill are dotted many fine cottages and holiday homes. The beach is not just great for swimming but a whole variety of sports for those so inclined. Nearly always windy here it makes a superb location for kite flying.
Just around the corner up the coast is the more remote surfers paradise beach of Gwenvor, where nearly all year round, you will find a wave to surf. A little along the coast from here is the county of Cornwall’s second most westerly point on mainland Britain, Cape Cornwall, altogether more peaceful than the over crowded and touristy Lands End. Dramatic scenery and incredible cliff top walks here await you. Just in from Cape Cornwall is the village of St Just, formerly a small tin mining town. Looks a little bleary at first sight, but with an acquired taste, you might draw the conclusion that it does in fact have a charm all it’s own. One or two restaurants, a pub or two, a bakers, shops for the essentials and several art galleries, it’s a good place to grab a bite to eat, or indeed use the library for delving deeper into the history of Cornwall around this area.
Close to the village of St Just is the visually stunning Cot Valley with a very pretty cove at the very bottom of the road where there exists very limited parking. The rocks here have great historical value and an information board at the top of the cove will tell you a lot more about the natural history of this area.
Starting to head eastwards up the coast, you drive through Pendeen and Botallack, tin mining country and home to the Geevor Tin Mine where you can take an underground tour of the mine which closed down about 20 years ago. There is some fascinating history with this area and you would be wise to read a good book on the subject before visiting. There is so much to be learned that I cannot even attempt to here put it all into words, henceforth I am just covering the bare essentials. Of particular note though is the bravery and skill of the tin miners here in days long ago. This area was known for the submarine mines, that is the mine workings that actually went out below the seabed, under the Atlantic Ocean. One can only imagine the treacherous working conditions of these men, indeed, at the Botallack tin mine, the story goes that in 1831 there was a terrible accident when the ladder collapsed killing all the men as wood splintering, all the apparatus for extracting the tin and ascending and descending ladders plummeted into the bowels of the shaft.
Further up the coast is Zennor. A very ancient hamlet that feels like stepping back in time to the bronze age. There is a story here of which I know little but the legend revolves around the Mermaid of Zennor, and in the church there, there is a wooden stool dating from hundreds of years ago, called the Mermaids Chair and inscribed, carved with the figure of a mermaid on either flank. The tiny fields around this area are very small and have changed very little through hundreds of years. The boundary walls are all of rough hewn granite. Just above Zennor is a stretch of wild moorland that certainly does not look as though it belongs in the 21st century. The road heading eastwards from here twists and turns and in places is particularly narrow. Many fine old cornish rambling cottages and farms still eke out an existence in this wild and windswept beautiful place.
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