Sennen Cove and Land's End

The route follows the Coast Path from Sennen Cove to Land's End, using permissive paths where they offer better views. The route continues along permissive paths around the headlands from Land's End to Zawn Reeth before rejoining the Coast Path to Mill Bay. The track to Bosistow Farm provides the gentlest available climb from the coast and the route then follows footpaths across the upper part of the valley and fields to Trevilley. Small lanes and paths across the fields make up the return route to Sennen Cove.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 6 miles/9.7 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Sennen Cove Harbour car park
  • Parking: Harbour car park. Satnav: TR197DB
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • The best way to see Land's End
  • Spectacular coastal scenery either side of Land's End
  • Wildflowers in late spring and early summer
  • Wildlife including seals, birds of prey and choughs
  • Whitesand Bay - huge sandy beach stretching from Sennen Cove

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. From the harbour car park, walk past the public toilets and Cape Cornwall Gig Racing Club and turn left. Walk uphill towards the row of houses until you reach a waymarked path leading up a flight of steps.

    The main Sennen Coastguard Station was built in 1812 and initially consisted of a row of eight houses, a fuel house and a store which housed the rocket cart and rescue equipment, close to the steps where the coastpath climbs the headland. The Sennen station was closed after a reorganisation of the coastguard service in the early 1980s, and the Lands End coastguard service now operates out of Polgigga, on the main road to both Sennen and Gwennap Head.

  2. Climb the steps and follow the coast path to the lookout on the headland.

    In 1891, the granite lookout was built on the cliffs at Pedn-Men-Du for use by the Sennen Coastguard. It is now owned by the National Trust and during the Summer, the lookout is open to the public and equipped with telescopes. Dolphins, Ocean Sunfish, Basking Sharks and Royal Marines have all been sighted from here. A whiteboard inside records details of recent observations.

  3. From the lookout, follow the outermost path which leads out onto the next headland (from which there is a nice view of the shipwreck) until it merges back onto the main coast path.

    The RMS Mulheim was a large cargo ship which ran aground near Land's End in spring 2003. The chief officer, who was on watch, caught his trousers on a lever on his chair as he stood up and fell, hitting his head and becoming unconscious. By the time he awoke, the ship was approaching the shoreline and was too close to be able to turn and it ran aground in Gamper Bay. The ship was carrying over 2000 tonnes of plastic scrap from cars. Most of the cargo was removed but some was lost in the ocean as the hull started to break up. Storms the following autumn finally broke the wreck in two and pushed the pieces into Castle Zawn. Some of the cargo washed up on Cornish beaches over the next year or so.

  4. Continue on the coast path around a narrow inlet then up to the headland where the coast path passes between some large boulders and a path leads off to the right towards a National Trust sign.

    Maen Castle was an Iron Age promontory fort, protected by a bank reinforced with granite boulders. It is one of only two fortified sites in Cornwall where Early Iron Age pottery has been found. There are some indications that the site may have been occupied before the defences were constructed, possibly in the Bronze Age or Neolithic times.

    The name is from Men - the Cornish word for "stone". The name "Mayon Cliff" is likely to have similar origins.

  5. Continue on the coast path to reach the first of the buildings at Land's End, overlooking the Longships lighthouse.

    The Longships Lighthouse is located just over a mile off Land's End on the highest of the islets known as Carn Bras. The original tower built in 1795 was 40ft high, perched on the 39ft high rock but despite the lantern being nearly 80ft above the sea, it was sometimes obscured by the huge waves off Lands End. A new taller tower was therefore constructed starting in 1869 and completed in 1873 and was manned until 1988. The current lantern emits a white flash seaward, but red-tinted glass colours the light for any vessel straying to the headlands to the north or south.

  6. Bear right to pass in front of The First And Last House, then follow the outermost path to pass in front of the Land's End complex. Then go up the steps to pass in front of the hotel.

    Land's End is the most westerly point on the English mainland and is consequently the last place that the sun sets on mainland England. It is 5.73 degrees west of the Greenwich Meridian and since each 15 degrees is an hour of time difference, Land's End is 22 minutes and 28 seconds behind London. It's therefore possible to drink a couple of glasses of wine watching the sun set whilst all the while it's been dark in London. The Cornish name Pen an Wlas means "End of the Earth".

  7. After the hotel, bear right down the steps then follow the gravel path until you reach a crossing of paths, before an information board at a junction further ahead.
  8. Turn right at the crossing and follow the path until it crosses a footbridge at another junction of paths.

    The headland at Land's End has been designated part of an Important Plant Area by the organisation Plantlife for rare species of flora. A band of coastal heath extends all the way from Sennen to Gwannap Head, but different steepnesses of slopes support different plant species.

  9. After the footbridge, keep right and follow the path onto the headland. Stay on the path to continue in the same direction (between the lines of rocks) and follow it to a corner. Turn left at the corner and follow the path along the coast until, as you approach the offshore rock, it crosses through a line of boundary stones and other paths lead back up from the cliff.

    The offshore rock, known as Enys Dodnan, provides a nesting site for black-back gulls.

    The Greater Black-backed Gull is the largest member of the gull family and a bird of formidable size, with a wingspan of nearly 6ft. Unlike other gulls, the Greater Black-backed Gull is highly predatory. Young birds are a significant portion of its diet and it tends to live amongst other seabirds where it can eat the neighbours. It has also been known to swallow whole rabbits and even eat young lambs. It often steals food from other seabirds using its large size to intimidate them into dropping it, and consequently it is sometimes referred to as a pirate.

  10. Cross over the boundary stones to stay on the cliff-edge path and follow this until it rejoins the coast path at a waymark for Mill Bay.

    Keep a look out for choughs which can sometimes be seen on the Lands End peninsula.

    The chough is a member of the crow family, with striking red legs and a red beak. It was known as the "Crow of Cornwall" and appears on the county coat of arms. The birds have a distinctive call which is perhaps best described as resembling a squeaky dog toy! They are also recognisable from feathers, spread like fingers, on their wings.

    In the 1800s, many choughs were killed by "sportsmen" and trophy hunters. Also around this time, grazing livestock were moved to inland pastures where they could be more easily managed. The result was that the cliff slopes became overgrown and choughs found it increasingly difficult to find suitable feeding areas. By 1973, the chough had become extinct in Cornwall.

    Since then, clifftops have been managed more actively which has included the reintroduction of grazing and choughs have returned to Cornwall by themselves from colonies in Wales or Ireland. The first pair settled in 2001 on the Lizard Peninsula. Since then, the birds have successfully bred and been joined by a few more incoming birds, and the population has slowly but steadily grown. Each chough is fitted with one leg ring in the colours of St Piran's flag and two other colours on the opposite leg to identify them.

  11. At the waymark, bear right off the coast path along the permissive path around the headland (which has superior views) and follow this to merge with the coast path a short distance before a line of boundary stones. Continue on the coast path to the bottom of a small gully.
  12. Follow the coast path out onto the headland to a fork where a one-way path leads out to the rock outcrops. Keep following the main path along the coast and descend into the next valley to where the path crosses a wall as it starts to rise again.

    In March 1967, the oil tanker Torrey Canyon tanker was on its way from Kuwait to Milford Haven with a full cargo of 120,000 tons of crude oil. The ship took a short-cut passing close to Land's End and struck the Pollard Rock on the Seven Stones reef. Attempts to refloat the tanker were unsuccessful and as it began to break up, the cargo of crude oil was released which at the time was the most serious oil spill and costliest shipping disaster that there had ever been. Despite efforts of the military to burn off the oil by dropping aviation fuel and forty-two 1000lb bombs (25% of which missed) onto the wreck, and incendiaries similar to napalm onto the slick, the oil contaminated 120 miles of Cornish coastline. Large amounts of dispersents were used to break up the oil which were themselves quite toxic. The environmental disaster resulted in the death of 15,000 seabirds, and tar from the spill could still be found on Cornish beaches during the 1970s and 80s. Ironically, the remains of ship in 30 metres of water have created an artificial reef which is now covered in kelp and is a haven for marine life.

  13. Cross the wall and continue on the coast path to a tall waymark.

    Tin mining was carried out at Nanjizal Cove during Victorian times and in earlier times on a smaller scale. The location on the cliffs meant that water could be drained from the mines through tunnels out to the cliffs (known as drainage adits). Not far from the stile on the coast path is an opening which was an entrance into the mine (known as an "adit portal" - the word "adit" was used for any kind of horizontal tunnel). A little closer to Nanjizel along the coast path is a gulley which is the remains of an "openwork" - an open-cast mine which was worked prior to Victorian times. The wheel pit next to the coast path in the valley was use to drive stamping (ore crushing) machinery.

  14. Continue ahead at the waymark and cross the bridge to reach a pair of waymarks.

    In order to be processed, ore-bearing rock mined from mineral veins needed to be crushed to a powder. In earlier times, millstones were used to grind down lumps of ore but later it was done using a process known as "stamping" where the ore was crushed by dropping heavy granite or metal weights to pound it against another hard surface (often a piece of granite known as a mortar stone - as in "pestle and mortar"). The crushing was automated first with waterwheels and later with steam engines. The process was far from quiet and could often be heard from a number of miles away.

  15. Bear left onto the path uphill towards another waymark with a blue arrow. Continue on the path in the direction of the blue arrow until it ends on a track.

    Once rendered into a powder, the tin ore was separated from fragments of less useful rock, usually using water and taking advantage of the heavier tin ore sinking more quickly out of a suspension than the other minerals. The slurry was sometimes run slowly down an inclined wooden board: the heavier tin fragments would settle near the top and could be scraped off whereas the fragments of lighter rock could be discarded from the bottom, and the material in the middle could be recycled into the next batch. It's possible that the Cornish mining word for the waste sludge of rock fragments - gange - is the origin of the English slang word "gunge".

  16. Turn right onto the track and follow it through the gate. Pass through another gate and continue until it ends at a third gate with a pedestrian gate alongside.
  17. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left and turn left onto the track. Follow it until you reach a waymark at a fork in the track.

    Public byways are rights of way down which motor vehicles may be driven depending on how brave you are and how expensive your car is to fix. You are also permitted to use a horse-drawn carriage, should you own one. Byways tend to be surfaced in an ad-hoc manner either with gravel or occasionally with a smattering of tarmac, but still leaving plenty of room for a good crop of grass to grow down the centre. They are conventionally marked using red waymarks or a "Public Byway" sign. There are 130 miles of byways in Cornwall.

  18. Bear left at the waymark and follow the track past a gate on the left to reach a stile on the left, just past the telegraph pole.

    The farm at the junction is Higher Bosistow. Further along the lane (after the telegraph pole that you stop at) is Lower Bosistow.

    The higher of the two farms is first recorded in the 13th Century as Bodestou. The building has been rebuilt and modified over the years but parts of the current building may date back to the 17th Century. In the 18th Century, the farm was bought by a wealthy landowning family. One of their descendants in the 19th Century decided to build a more elegant residence to reflect his perceived status and this is the Lower Bosistow farmhouse (his parents remained in the upper farmhouse).

  19. Cross the stile on the left and follow the wall on the left all the way across the field, passing one gateway, to reach a gateway in the far hedge.
  20. Go through the gateway and follow the right hedge to a stile in the corner (if there are crops in the field and the path through them leads to the gate instead then use this).

    Barley is a fundamental part of the rural culture - the word "barn" literally means "barley house". During mediaeval times, only the ruling classes had bread made from wheat; the peasants' bread was made from barley and rye.

    Barley was one of the first domesticated crops and has been dated back over 10,000 years. Consequently beer made from barley is likely to have been one of the first alcoholic drinks consumed by the Neolithic tribes.

  21. Cross the stile (or go through the gate) and follow all the way along the wall on the left to a metal gate in the far corner of the field.
  22. Go through the gate and head down the field, slightly towards the coast, to a gap in the bottom hedge.
  23. Go through the gap and follow the path to reach a stile. Cross this and the stone stile/bridge construct beyond it. Then follow the path until you reach a junction of paths with a waymark.

    Bluebells flower along the path during the spring.

    Because bluebells spread very slowly, they're considered to be an indicator of ancient woodland sites. In areas where trees are not very old, the fact there are bluebells around can indicate that there has been a wood on a site for a very long time. Even if there are no trees there at all, bluebells tell us that there was woodland there some time in the past. The bluebells along the coast are a relic of the gnarled oak woodland that used to grow here before it was cleared for grazing. There is still a patch of the ancient woodland left along the coast at Dizzard.

  24. When you reach the waymark, turn right and follow the path to a kissing gate. Go through the gate and head straight across the field to the pair of gateways opposite.

    Blackthorn trees were planted as hedges to keep out cattle and they are still common in Cornish hedgerows today. In Celtic tree lore, blackthorn was associated with evil and in the Celtic language of Ogham was known as Straif. This is thought to be the origin of the English word "strife" and a bad winter is sometimes known as a Blackthorn Winter.

  25. Go through the gateway on the left and follow the right hedge to another gateway.
  26. Go through the gateway and continue ahead across the field to meet the hedge opposite (or follow along the left hedge to reach it if there is a crop in the field). When you reach the hedge, keep this on your left to reach a gateway.
  27. Head between the granite gateposts and follow the path to reach a lane. Bear right onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a junction.
  28. On the opposite side of the road, to the right of the building, locate the small stile (which may be obscured by bushes). Climb this into the yard and cross the yard to the stone steps opposite.
  29. Climb the steps into the field and follow the right hedge to reach a similar series of stone steps in the corner of the field.

    Approximately half-way along the right hedge, just on the other side, is a granite cross.

    There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.

  30. Climb the stone steps and follow the left hedge to a kissing gate.
  31. Go through the gate and cross the stile. Then walk alongside the house on your right to reach a lane.
  32. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends in a T-junction.
  33. Carefully cross the road and follow the track opposite, marked with a public footpath sign. Continue until you reach a public footpath sign pointing at a path leading off to the right.

    During the spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. The plants get their name due to their triangular flower stems and, as the name also suggests, they are members of the onion family and can be used in recipes in place of spring onions or leeks. They are at their best for culinary use from February to April. By May, they have flowered and the leaves are starting to die back.

  34. Turn right down the path indicated by the sign and follow it to a stile into a field. Cross the stile and follow the path ahead beneath the telegraph pole with a white rectangle to reach a kissing gate.
  35. Go through the gate and continue ahead to a stile just to the right of the gate opposite.

    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.

    In 1981 the National Trust put in a bid for £1 million using funds from Project Neptune to buy the coastline at Lands End but this was rejected.

  36. Cross the stile and cross the field towards the row of houses to reach a stile nestled between the boulders on the right of the gate.

    The granite at Lands End is quite distinctive with long, white crystals visible in the rocks. The body of granite stretches all the way to St Ives and is the reason that West Penwith is so rugged.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms as a pluton - an intrusive igneous rock, formed from a big blob of magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth, resulting in the large crystals. Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  37. Cross the stile and follow the wall on the right to reach a kissing gate.
  38. Go through the gate and bear left onto the lane. Follow the lane until you reach a bend beside Longships Watch Holiday Cottage.

    Netting for mullet has been an important fishery at Sennen Cove for hundreds of years. In Edwardian times, up to 12,000 fish were caught at one time using seine nets hauled in from the beach. This traditional practice still continues and ten tonnes of mullet were caught in a single haul in 2015. However, the fishery has recently come under criticism as the fish aggregate in large shoals prior to spawning, and are caught before they are able to produce the next generation. It is, however, possible that the percentage of spawning fish caught by this method are sufficiently low that it is a sustainable practice. It is also possible that in the future, approaches similar to the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow might be possible to achieve the "best of both worlds" where the captured adults are allowed to spawn in controlled conditions before being harvested for food, and the young are released after the benefit of completing the most vulnerable stages of their growth in a safe environment, boosting stocks beyond the levels of "natural" spawning.

  39. Turn right to stay on the lane and follow it until you eventually reach Pol-An-Dre on the right and then a narrow drive just past this on the left.

    The bay on your left is known as Whitesand Bay, with Aire Point on the far side.

    Sennen Cove beach merges with Gwynver beach at low tide to form a mile of continuous white sand - hence the name Whitesand Bay (not to be confused with Whitsand Bay which is in southeast Cornwall, near Plymouth). In Cornish, the bay is known simply as Porth Senan (Sennen Cove). The bay is backed by nearly 100 acres of sand dunes, trapped between the headlands of Pedn-mên-du and Aire Point which form an important habitat for rare insect species.

  40. Turn left down the drive and follow it to a house. Join the narrow path departing from the right side of the driveway and follow this until it emerges onto a lane. Continue on the lane to reach the harbour, and turn left at the round building to reach the car park.

    There are good views across Whitesand Bay from the path and on a calm day you may be able to see the wreck of the SS Beaumaris.

    The SS Beaumaris was torpedoed 2.5 miles northwest of The Longships in February 1918 by a German U-boat. All the crew apart from the captain and a radio operator left the ship in lifeboats and were guided into shore by the Sennen lifeboat. The captain managed to run the ship onshore in Whitesand Bay and the top of the wreck now breaks the surface at low tide.

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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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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