Cadgwith Cove to The Lizard

The route follows the Coast Path from Cadgwith around the Devil's Frying Pan and Polbarrow to Church Cove. From here, the route passes a number of landmarks including the Coastguard lookout, Lloyd's signal station and the Lizard Lighthouse before reaching the most southerly point. The return route is mostly across the fields, passing the churches of St Winwaloe and St Grada and the Holy Well of St Ruan.
The footpath to Grade is closed and since the diversion is back along much of the rest of the circular route, this defeats the walk until repairs are completed.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 7 miles/11.3 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Cadgwith car park
  • Parking: Cadgwith car park. Satnav: TR127JZ
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots, or walking shoes in summer

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Pretty fishing village at Cadgwith Cove
  • The Devil's Frying Pan - a collapsed sea cave
  • Historic wireless and signalling stations
  • The Lizard's iconic lighthouse
  • Lizard Point - the most southerly point in Britain

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Make your way to the road linking the upper and lower areas of the car park and follow the path signposted to the village. Continue until the path ends on a road.

    Cadgwith Cove was originally called Porthcaswydh based on the Cornish words kas meaning a fight and wydh meaning wood, which were combined to mean "thicket", probably because the valley was densely wooded. In mediaeval times, there was little more than a collection of fish cellars around the cove used by local farmers for fishing. From the 16th Century, the cove became a permanent settlement with fishing as the main industry.

  2. Turn right onto the road and follow it around the bend, past the waymark, to reach a junction with a coast path signpost outside "Pennard". Turn left up the no-through road and follow this until you reach a sharp bend in front of "Hillside".

    Cadgwith has an anthem which has been recorded with slightly different variations of words, sometimes under the title "The Robbers Retreat". It starts with:

    Come fill up your glasses and let us be merry, For to rob bags of plunder it is our intent.

    ...which sounds promisingly Cornish, but it then mentions mountains, valleys, lillies and roses and even "the beauty of Kashmir" which has everyone confused. In fact it makes no mention of Cadgwith, Cornwall or even the coast. Nobody is quite sure where it came from, or when, or what it refers to!

  3. Cross the stile on the left of the driveway and follow the path to emerge outside a cottage named "Ruan".
  4. At "Ruan", follow the path ahead to a junction of paths and tracks with a footpath signpost.

    The coastline around Lizard Point is scattered with the remains of shipwrecks, now mostly broken into small pieces by storm waves crashing onto the exposed headlands.

    The Bellucia was in a convoy on its way to London in July 1917 with a cargo of flour from Montreal when one of the crew noticed a periscope 300 yards off the port side. His warning was too late: a torpedo from a German U-boat killed four of the crew but did not immediately sink the ship. The remainder of the crew escaped in lifeboats and rafts, and were rescued. Meanwhile the wind drove the sinking vessel onto the shore where it grounded and tipped over onto its side. Tons of flour were later salvaged by cutting a hole in the exposed side of the hull. The sea has since broken the wreck up so that the pieces now all lie underwater.

  5. Turn left at the signpost and follow the stony path along the front of "Townplace" to reach the coast. Follow the path around the Devil's Frying Pan to reach a waymark.

    The Devil's Frying Pan (also known by the Cornish name of 'Hugga Dridgee') has been created by the collapse of a sea cave resulting in a 100 metre deep funnel-shaped depression. The arch remaining from the cave forms a connection to the open sea. The origin of the name is said to be because in rough weather, the sea appears to be boiling within the cave and the central boulder resembles an egg frying in a pan.

  6. At the waymark, keep left and follow the coast path for a quarter of a mile to reach another waymark.

    Adders are easily identified by the pretty diamond pattern along their backs. Also known as vipers, these are Britain's only venomous snake though no-one has died from an adder bite in over 20 years. They are a protected species, are not aggressive, and generally only bite if trodden on or picked up (unsupervised dogs or children may attempt the latter). On warm days from late April, you may be lucky enough to witness the "dance of the adders" (a pair of adders wrestling). This was once thought to be a mating display, but is actually a larger male attempting to drive away a smaller one.

  7. Turn left at the waymark and cross the stile over the wall. Follow the path for roughly half a mile to reach a footbridge.

    Vrogue Rock, usually known as "The Vrogue", lies 800 metres southeast of Bass Point and is hidden 2 metres beneath the surface and in a strong tide, disturbance of the water can sometimes be seen at the surface. Unsurprisingly, a number of vessels have come to grief on the rock as they have attempted to cut the corner by Bass Point, and it is consequently listed by the Admiralty as "very dangerous".

    In January 1859, the Czar was on its first long voyage to Malta with munitions but had to turn back due to a boiler fault. It hit The Vrogue on the way around The Lizard and ran so far over the reef that it ended up pivoting on top of it. The majority of those onboard disembarked into two lifeboats, but one of these was immediately swamped by the rough seas and moments later the ship tore in half and sank. Coastguards and Cadgwith fishermen launched boats and managed to save 6 people but 13 drowned including the Captain, his wife and young son.

    Some of the cargo still remains on the seabed next to Vrogue Rock, including a number of 68-pounder guns and their huge shot. Within cracks and gullies in the rocks, military buttons from the uniforms within the cargo and musket shot are often found by divers.

  8. Cross the footbridge and the stepping stones then follow the path up the hill, passing over a wooden stile, to reach a stone stile next to a large red and white marker at the top.

    The large red and white wooden diamond is known as the Balk Beacon and is a daytime navigation aid (daymark) to assist ships in avoiding The Vrogue rock. It was erected in 1859 and restored in 2002 by the National Trust. The Balk Beacon lines up with a painted white mark on Hot Point to indicate the position of The Vrogue rock.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the path over another stile. Continue following the waymarked path until it ends at a gate at Church Cove.

    The headland just before Church Cove is known as The Balk.

    The Balk forms the eastern boundary between the serpentine rocks making up much of the southern area of The Lizard and the ancient rocks on Lizard Point which were once at the bottom of an ancient ocean.

  10. Go through the kissing gate on the right of the gate. Turn left onto the track and then turn right onto the coast path, signposted to Lizard Point Follow the path until you reach a flight of steps in front of the lifeboat house.

    There has been a lifeboat at The Lizard since 1859. It was originally launched from the boathouse at Polpeor (the most southerly point) which was on the cliff, making launching difficult. A second station was built in 1885 that was further down the cove and in 1914, a third station was built with a slipway. The exposed location on Lizard Point needed a lot of maintenance and made launching dangerous in rough seas, so in 1961 the lifeboat was moved to Church Cove.

    In 2010, the Church Cove lifeboat station that was built at the end of the 1950s was demolished and, in 2012, was replaced with the current one which features a funicular railway line to transport lifeboat crews from the boathouse to the clifftop car park.

  11. Bear right up the flight of steps, then at the top, bear left past the building and down the steps on the other side to a kissing gate. Go through the gate and follow the coast path until it ends at a gate onto a track.

    The RNLI was founded in 1824 under the original name of the National Institution for Preservation of Life from Shipwreck. It was renamed to the RNLI in 1854. Until 1890 all the lifeboats were rowed with oars until some steam-powered boats were introduced. By 1905, petrol-powered boats were being trialled and fairly quickly replaced the bulky steam-powered predecessors. Today a fleet of over 340 lifeboats provide a 24/7 search and rescue service around the UK. The charity has saved over 140,000 lives since it was set up. In 2014 it rescued over 10,000 people, several hundred of whom were in mortal danger.

  12. Go through the kissing gate and turn left onto the track. Follow it to where it ends at a pair of gateposts with coast path signs just before the coastguard lookout.

    The National Coastwatch Institution was set up to restore visual watches along the UK coastline after two Cornish fishermen lost their lives within sight of an empty Coastguard lookout in 1994. The first station - at Bass Point on The Lizard, where the fishermen had died - opened in December 1994. The organisation, staffed by volunteers, now runs 50 lookout stations around England and Wales.

    The red wall below the coastguard lookout is another marker for The Vrogue rock which lines up with red and white marks on Lloyds signal station.

  13. Turn left onto the coast path and follow it past Lloyd's Signal Station to where the path forks just before joining a track.

    In April 1872, the signalling station opened to pass messages to ships arriving in the English Channel, which removed the necessity for ships to call at Falmouth. Messages were passed using flags, which was limited to fine weather and daytime. Initially, messages back from the ships were sent by horse rider to the nearest telegraph station at Helston. Two months later the telegraph cable was extended to the station which enabled near real-time messaging. As winter approached and daylight hours grew shorter, night-time signalling was tried using arrays of coloured lights, steam whistles, rockets and guns but was not that effective, particularly right next to a massive lighthouse and huge foghorn. Despite the limitations, the savings made by bypassing Falmouth meant the station was heavily used and a rival station soon opened up next door. The resulting confusion, arising from two rival stations both signalling from shore with flags, was fortunately short-lived when the companies merged and the second station was demolished. In the early 20th Century, the station was extended by adding two additional buildings known as "night boxes" to enable night-time lamp signalling without interference from the lighthouse and were used until the 1950s when they were taken over by the Coastguard.

  14. Take the left path and follow this to merge onto the track. Follow the track until it ends at a gate into the Lizard Wireless Station.

    In 1900, Guglielmo Marconi stayed in the Housel Bay Hotel in his search for a suitable site for marine communications using wireless technology, and given the already established telegraph links to semaphore signalling station here and lack of anything tall to interfere with radio transmission, he leased a plot of land on The Lizard, at Pen Olver, close to the lighthouse. Here he built the Lizard Wireless Telegraph Station which was primarily intended for ship-to-shore communication as ships were being fitted with new Marconi radio sets.

    He also used the station for some tests. At the time, most scientists thought that radio waves would not propagate beyond the horizon. Marconi proved this not to be the case: on 23 January 1901, Marconi received a wireless signal here that was sent from the Isle of Wight, 186 miles away, thus proving that radio signals could be bent around the surface of the Earth and paving the way for modern telecommunications. After this, Marconi went on to build a larger transmitter at Poldhu which he used to send the first transatlantic signal.

    In its capacity as a marine signalling station, the wireless hut was also the first to receive an SOS signal, in 1910, from a ship called the Minnehaha which had run aground further along the Cornish coast. Based on period photographs, the station has been restored by the National Trust to almost exactly how it was in 1901.

  15. Bear left off the track onto the path along the outside of the wall. Follow the path to a waymark outside the Housel Bay Hotel.

    The steel-hulled Queen Margaret was considered by many to be one of the fastest and most beautiful sailing ships built in the 1890's. Whilst steamships didn't rely on the wind, over a long distance they could not compete with sailing ships which did not require coal or freshwater and were much faster than steamers. The Queen Margaret had a cargo of 4,500 tons of wheat from Australia and approached the signal station at the Lizard to receive orders for where to land the cargo. The ship signalled that it needed tugs to pull it against the strong headwind but could not read the answer so the captain manoeuvred closer to the shore to be able to read the flags. In doing so, the vessel grounded on Maenheere Rock. Water entering the hold caused the grain to swell which split the ship open and it became a total loss. The ship was salvaged for scrap and some of the remainder still lies on the seabed in 12 metres of water beside Maenheere Rock.

  16. Turn left at the waymark, onto the path along the front of the hotel and follow this to a pair of waymarks at a junction of paths.

    The SS Ilston was a merchant steamship armed with a deck gun during the First World War. In 1917 it was on its way from Swansea to France with a cargo of railway rolling stock. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank off the Lizard with the loss of 6 crew members.

  17. Turn left at the junction and follow the path past the Lizard Lighthouse to the gift shop on Lizard Point.

    The current lighthouse building was completed in 1751, which Trinity House describes as consisting of "two towers, with a cottage built between them, in which an overlooker lay on a sort of couch, with a window on either side commanding a view of the lanterns. When the bellows-blowers relaxed their efforts and the fires dimmed, he would remind them of their duties by a blast from a cow horn." The twin towers were described by Tennyson as "the southern eyes of England". However, since 1903, only one of the two towers has been used and the lantern has been removed from the other tower. The lighthouse is the most powerful in the British Isles: the light has a range of 21 miles and its reflection can be seen 70 miles away.

  18. After having a look at Lizard Point, follow the lane uphill, past the Serpentine Works. Continue up the lane until you reach a sign for the toilets on the right.

    The most southerly point of the British mainland - Lizard Point - protrudes far into The Channel and it is surrounded by shallow reefs which extend for roughly half a mile south of the Lizard. The individual rocks each have names: Ennach, Maenheere (furthest south) and Carligga, Carnvel, Man o' War and Mulvin (furthest west).

    Also, even without any wind, the tidal race around the headland can reach 5-6 knots. The combination of these factors makes it the single greatest hazard for shipping in British waters. The Admiralty still advises navigators to stay at least three miles away from the Lizard in rough weather.

  19. Turn right and follow the path signposted to the toilets to reach an information board on the edge of the National Trust car park.

    The "National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty" was founded in 1895 when snappy names weren't in fashion. Their first coastal acquisition was Barras Nose at Tintagel in 1897. Five years later, Tintagel Old Post Office was their first house to be acquired in Cornwall. The National Trust now has over 4 million members and owns over 700 miles of British coastline.

  20. Cross the car park to the entrance on the right of the hut (marked No Exit).

    Project Neptune was started by the National Trust in 1965 to purchase and protect large portions of the British coastline. By 1973 it had achieved its target of raising £2 million and 338 miles of coastline were looked-after. The project was so successful that it is still running although mainly focused on maintenance. There is still an occasional opportunity when privately-owned coastal land is sold. A particularly notable one was in 2016 when the land at Trevose Head was put up for sale and successfully purchased by the National Trust.

  21. Bear left across the lane from the car park to a pedestrian gate to the left of the lighthouse entrance. Go through this and turn left, following the left hedge parallel to the lane to reach another pedestrian gate.
  22. Go through the gate and turn right to continue along the lane. Follow it a short distance to a bend where a path departs ahead.
  23. At the bend, follow the path ahead until it ends on a concrete-surfaced track in front of a gate.
  24. Turn left on the track and then almost immediately right onto a path departing from the track. Follow the path a short distance to a drainage channel crossing it with a step to the left leading to a gate.
  25. Turn left up the step and go through the kissing gate. Follow the left hedge to the gateway.
  26. Go through the gateway and bear right across the field diagonally to meet the right-hand hedge; as you approach, head for the protruding corner to the right of the white house. Follow the hedge around the corner to reach a gate.

    The village of Lizard dates from early mediaeval times. It was recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 which at the time was held by Richard and had 1 hide, 4 wild mares, 3 cattle, 20 pigs and 60 sheep. The relatively small amount of beef available in mediaeval times is notable. It would have been eaten mainly by the wealthy landowners and the peasants would have kept a pig. At this point in time, a pasty, based on the meat of the gentry and on potatoes from undiscovered South America, would have been a decadent and futuristic fantasy.

  27. Go through the gate and follow the left hedge to another gate.
  28. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow this until it ends at a junction.

    The settlement of Tregaminion was first recorded in 1302. Other than the obvious tre, meaning farmstead and implying an early mediaeval origin, the origin of the name is not known. There is another small settlement with the same name on Gribbin Head near Fowey, very close to where Daphne Du Maurier lived.

  29. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane until you reach another junction signposted for Church Cove and the Lifeboat Station.
  30. Turn right down the lane to Church Cove. Follow the lane to the entrance into the churchyard.

    The settlement of Landewednack was first recorded in 1268. The lann in the name is the Celtic word for an enclosed cemetery. The rest of the name is assumed to be a saint's name.

  31. Go through the churchyard gate and follow the grassy path between the tree and the church tower to a gap in the bushes.

    The church was founded in the late 6th or early 7th century and is dedicated to St Winwaloe, the son of a Cornish prince who was an Abbot in Brittany. The current building dates from the 12th century, from which the Norman doorway remains. The church was rebuilt in the thirteenth century when the porch was added and in the fifteenth century with a new window in the tower.

  32. Continue though the bushes and down some steps to reach a gate on your left into the cemetery. Pass the cemetery gate to join the track ahead and follow this until it ends at a waymarked stile next to a gate.
  33. Cross the stile and head straight across the field to the brow of the hill until you can see a pile of rocks on the right, then bear right between the scrub and the rocks and continue ahead down the hill to reach a waymarked stile in the fence.

    At this point the route passes over the last of the ancient rocks of Lizard Point before returning to serpentine rocks for the remainder of the route.

    Serpentine is not a single mineral but a broad group of minerals formed when minerals rich in iron and magnesium react with water in a series of chemical reactions known as serpentization. Rocks containing these minerals are known as Serpentinite. The name is due to the resemblance of the patterning in the rocks to the skin of reptiles.

  34. Cross the stile, carefully cross the slippery rocks in the stream and the stile opposite. Then follow the path a short distance to a junction of paths at a waymark. Turn left at the waymark and when the path enters a field, follow the left hedge past a gap in the wall to reach a stile next to the gateway in the corner.

    The slippery rocks in the stream are Serpentine.

    Serpentine rocks are well-known for being slippery. The reason is that the serpentization process produces soft minerals such as talc. These minerals have a plate-like structure that have strong chemical bonds within a layer, but the bonds between layers are weak so that the layers glide over each other. Rocks composed almost entirely of talc are known as "soapstone" as they are so slippery. Also, because the minerals are quite soft, foot traffic causes the surface of the rocks to become polished.

  35. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile.
  36. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile below a footpath signpost.
  37. Cross the stile and turn left onto the track and follow this to join a concrete track which ends in front of the house. Turn right onto the track in front of the house and follow the track past a footpath sign to a stone stile on the left of the gate.

    The farmstead of Trethvas is thought to date from the early middle ages and was first recorded in 1277. The origin of the place name isn't known but it could be from the Cornish words vos, meaning "dwelling", and possibly treth, for "beach", as it lies above the sandy beach at Parn Voose Cove.

  38. Climb the stile and follow the path along the top of the wall until it ends in a similar stone stile.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onwards, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

  39. Climb down the stile and bear right slightly across the field to a gateway in the hedge.
  40. Go through the gate if open or cross the stone stile on the right if not. Then follow the track ahead to reach a crossing of tracks and turn left to reach a lane. Bear left to join the lane and follow this until you pass some houses on the left and reach a track on the right, just after the garden wall on the left ends.

    The settlement of Gwavas was first recorded in 1300 and comes from the Cornish for "winter dwelling".

  41. Turn right down the track and follow it to the gate into the churchyard.

    The track is hedged with blackthorn trees.

    In Autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  42. Go through the gate into the churchyard and follow the path around the other side of the church to the church door. Continue past the church to the bench and then turn left and follow along the edge of the churchyard to reach a gate leading to a stile.

    Built of serpentine, the church dates from around the twelfth century but was extensively rebuilt in 1862, so that only the tower and font remains from the original. In the 13th century, it was known as the Church of The Holy Cross. The story associated with this is that a nobleman was shipwrecked on the Lizard on his way back from a pilgrimage in Jerusalem where he had stolen a small section of Christ's cross, which he donated to the church here in thanks for his rescue. The church inventory from 1533 mentions that the relic was kept in a silver box. However, by 1310 the church had been rededicated to St Grada the Virgin, about whom virtually nothing is known. A tiny door in the North wall was opened during baptisms to allow evil spirits to leave the church. Due to its remote location, the church was used as a filming location for a Dr Who episode in the 1960s. However, it was originally surrounded by a small hamlet known as Treveglos which was still present in the 17th Century.

  43. Go through the gate and cross the stile into the field. Follow the left hedge to reach a stone stile in the far hedge.
  44. Cross the stile and continue ahead to pass to the left of the nearest telegraph pole. Continue ahead to reach a stile in a wooden fence protruding slightly into the field from the left hedge.
  45. Cross the wooden stile and a stone one directly after it. Then take the right-hand path and follow this to turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane past two junctions to the right and continue in the direction signposted for Kennack Sands to reach a public footpath sign just before the bridge over the river.

    When you emerge onto the lane, a short distance to the left on the opposite side of the lane is the Holy Well of St Ruan.

    The holy well of St Ruan is covered by a building made from serpentine and arched with granite. The building probably dates from Victorian times but the well itself could have been used in ceremonies dating back beyond Christianity.

    The saint to whom it is dedicated is said to have been accused of being a werewolf by his wife, on which she blamed the death of her baby girl and the ravaging of local sheep. According to the story, Ruan was arrested but proved innocent by the King's hunting dogs, which the story states would have reacted to a wolf.

  46. Turn right at the footpath sign and cross the stone stile. Follow the path on the left of the track to reach a gate as the track comes out of the trees.
  47. Go through the gate and follow the fence on the left to join a path across the field. Follow this over a stile and then go up the steps on the right to return to the Cadgwith car park.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

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