Coverack to Lankidden Cove circular walk

Coverack to Lankidden Cove

A circular walk on one of the most remote parts of The Lizard from Coverack to the white sand beaches of Downas and Lankidden Coves, where the serpentine underwater landscape provides some of the best snorkelling in Cornwall.

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The route follows Coverack beach to the harbour and Dolor Point then joins the Coast Path. The walk passes Perprean Cove and reaches the sandy beach at Porthbeer Cove then turns inland at Chynhalls Point to pass through the sculpture park on the way to the coastguard lookout on Black Head. The route continues around the rugged coast of Pedn Boar and Beagles Point to the sandy beaches at Downas and Lankidden Cove before turning inland to complete the circular route via Arrowan Common and Ponsongath.


  • The coastal path surfaces are particularly rocky on this route.
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 7.3 miles/11.8 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 103 OS Explorer 103 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Sandy beaches at Coverack and Lankidden Cove
  • Pretty harbourside cottages at Coverack
  • Terence Coventry sculpture park
  • Lookout on Black Head, open to the public
  • Wildflowers and wildlife along the Coast Path

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Paris Hotel


  1. Turn right out of the car park and follow the road to the bottom of the hill (via the path from the bottom of the lower, roadside car park). Follow the road behind the beach and towards the harbour to reach the junction with School Lane.

    The Herring Gull is the gull most commonly encountered in Cornwall and is an example of a "Ring Species". In Europe, the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull are distinct species, yet as you circumnavigate the globe, the populations become more similar until they merge in the middle as a single species.

    Despite a growth of urban populations inland, particularly around rubbish tips, the Herring Gull population has dropped to half its size in 25 years. It has been driven inland in search of food and roosting sites due to declining fish populations and lack of undisturbed coastal nesting sites. In urban areas, streetlights allow gulls to forage by night and there is no longer competition from Red Kites, which scavenged the rubbish tips in the Middle Ages.

  2. Continue ahead past the Paris Hotel to reach its car park at the very end of the road. Bear right along the wall in the car park to reach a "Coast Path" sign.

    Coverack harbour was built in 1724. The remains of an old slipway, which predates the harbour, can still be seen between the lifeboat station slipway and the harbour wall.

    Some of the buildings around the harbour, such as the gift shop, are former fish cellars or net lofts. There were originally more cellars: the Paris Hotel and its car park are on the sites of two, and one also existed in the area at the top of the harbour where the boats are now kept.

  3. Follow the coast path around the back of the Paris Hotel to a waymark at a flight of steps behind the house overlooking the bay.

    In May 1899, The American ocean liner SS Paris was off course and would have hit the Manacles if a pilot boat had not been nearby and warned the ship to take evasive action. Instead, the Paris ran aground at Lowland Point. The collision was described by an off-duty captain amongst the passengers: "I heard a tremendous crash, and, as a steamboat man, I knew we were on the bottom and that if she slipped from the rock we would be in Queer street."

    Fortunately, the sea was calm and no-one aboard was hurt. After the call for "All hands on deck", a passenger recalled: "Many came on deck in their night clothing. One man wore his drawers and his wife's fur cape, but his appearance caused so much smiling that his wife sent him down to dress, which he did in the music room, to the equal amusement of all."

    The passengers were all safely rescued from the ship which was lodged upright on the flat rocks. If it weren't for the warning from the pilot boat and the ship had hit the offshore rocks of The Manacles, it is likely that she would have sunk with great loss of life.

    Attempts were made to refloat the liner, using six powerful tugs to pull the ship off the rocks, but these were unsuccessful. Finally, a German firm successfully refloated the ship for a fee of a quarter of a million pounds, which would be in excess of £25 million in today's money.

  4. Climb the steps and follow the path past the benches to emerge onto a lane.

    In 2007, builders discovered a secret compartment in Coverack between Gloster Cottage and the house beside (Hillside), thought to be used for smuggling. The structure was built of cob and stone and within it were some remains from the 19th Century including a glass bottle, a bone-handled knife and the remains of glazed pots.

  5. Turn left onto the lane and from the corner, follow the waymarked path along the front of the cottages until you reach a wooden Coast Path signpost.

    In 1807, the Norwegian ship Veritas was on its way from Gothenburg to Bristol with a cargo of pit props when it collided with another vessel in the English Channel. It underwent repairs in Portsmouth and continued its voyage but started leaking badly as it passed along the Cornish coast. The rising seawater put out the fires in the boilers, so the crew abandoned ship and rowed into Coverack. Tugs were sent from Falmouth to rescue the vessel but whilst under tow in Coverack bay, the bow tilted downwards and all the water inside rushed forwards, causing the vessel to nosedive into the seabed. It stood on end, with the stern at the surface, for two days until it finally sank, landing upside down.

  6. Turn left, signposted for Kennack Sands, and follow the path until you reach a fork in the path beside a bench and with a waymark post.

    Serpentine rocks are well-known for being slippery. Part of the reason is that the serpentinization 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.

  7. Keep left to follow the lower path and continue to reach a waymark at a crossing of paths.

    In February 1912, the 2512 ton steel-hulled German sailing ship, Pindos, was near the end of her voyage from South America with a cargo of nitrates. The ship had stopped in Falmouth but had become trapped by a strong southeasterly wind. The shipping company sent a tug to tow the ship back across the channel to Hamburg. However when they cleared Falmouth, the tug's captain found it was unable to make headway against the strong wind and both ships were being blown down the Channel. The tug had to release the tow to get to safety, but the heavy towing hawser left dragging in the water made it impossible for the Pindos to steer. The ship ran aground on the Guthens rocks and the crew were rescued by the Coastguard and Coverack lifeboat. After a couple of days, a storm broke up the ship, and the wreckage is still strewn over the reef around the rocks.

  8. The route continues to the right but first you may want to explore the headland and beach. Follow the inland path uphill to reach a gate marked "Coverack Headland".

    The path to the left leads out onto the headland - Chynhalls Point and the path ahead from the waymark leads onto the beach ahead - Porthbeer. At high tide the beach is stony but as the tide goes out, a sandy beach is revealed.

    There are remains of a cliff castle on Chynhalls Point. The headland is defended via a pair of earth ramparts across the neck of the promontory with a ditch between them, thought to have been constructed around 2500 years ago. On the far side of the rock outcrop, the point slopes quite gently down to a flat area beside the sea, sheltered from westerly winds by the rocks above, which makes a rather nice picnic spot. However, no evidence of any kind of settlement has so far been found on the point.

  9. Keep right to pass the gate and follow the path to a junction of paths at the bottom of a flight of steps. Climb the steps and follow the path to emerge onto a tarmac driveway.

    Foxgloves are reliant on bumblebees for pollination and bumblebees are much more active when the weather is good. Partly, as an insurance policy against bad weather, foxgloves have evolved to stagger their flowering over several weeks, starting with the flowers at the base of the stalk and working up to the top, where the higher flowers protrude over other vegetation that has grown up in that time.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorn trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  10. When you reach the tarmac, turn right follow along the driveway until you reach a "Coastal path" sign on the right opposite a path on the left.

    Chynhalls is a typically functional Cornish place name, the gist of which is "house on the cliff".

  11. Take the path on the left and follow this to some stepping stones over a stream.

    Ivy is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Ivy is not a parasite. Since it has its own root system, it absorbs its own nutrients. It simply uses a tree for support. The main risk to trees is during strong winds when the surface of the ivy can act as a sail which, together with the extra weight from the ivy, can cause a tree to fall.

  12. Cross the stream and take the path ahead alongside the hedge. Follow this between the trees, over a stone stile and alongside a small field to reach a path leading beneath the trees on the far side.

    There is one native species of elm in the UK: the wych elm. An originally non-native European species of elm was thought to have been introduced during the Bronze Age and this has radiated into some forms that are now distinct to Britain. The main ones are field elm and the English elm.

  13. Join the path leading beneath the trees and follow this to emerge from the trees into the sculpture park.
  14. The route continues on the path currently directly ahead, but first you may want to explore the sculpture park. Follow the path to reach a private path joining from the right and continue ahead to reach a pedestrian gate. Go through this and follow the path out onto the coast to reach a crossing of paths with various metal signposts on rocks.

    The Terence Coventry Sculpture Park consists of around 30 sculptures, mostly of animals from the rural environment. Their creator gave up an art career to work as a farmer and eventually returned to his passion, incorporating the influences of working on a Cornish coastal farm.

    More about the sculpture park.

  15. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the coast path to reach a junction of paths, just before a footbridge.

    The cattle breeds known as Devon were also the traditional breeds used in Cornwall until recent years. The South Devon breed, affectionately known as "Orange Elephant" or "Gentle Giant", is the largest of the British native breeds: the largest recorded bull weighed 2 tonnes. They are thought to have descended from the large red cattle of Normandy, which were imported during the Norman invasion of England. The other breed, known as "Devon Ruby" or "Red Ruby" (due to their less orange colouration), is one of the oldest breeds in existence, with origins thought to be from pre-Roman Celtic Britain.

  16. Bear left to cross the footbridge and continue via more walkways to reach a kissing gate. Go through the gate and follow the path to reach a stile beside a National Trust Chynhalls Cliff sign.

    Lizards are cold-blooded so they need to bask in the sun to warm up to their "operating temperature" which is around 30 Celcius. They usually do so with an area of cover nearby which forms an escape route from predators. You're therefore likely to encounter them in sunny spots on footpaths and footbridges. Once they spot you, they will usually make a hasty escape - they can move pretty quickly once they are warmed-up. During winter they hibernate as in cold temperatures they are too slow to catch any food (insects, spiders etc. which are also less numerous over the winter).

    Over recent decades, the kestrel population has been in decline and is now about half of what it was at the start of the 1970s. The exact reasons are not known but it's strongly suspected it is connected to a decline in vole numbers perhaps due to changing farming methods. Reduced availability of nesting sites (e.g. in old trees) may also be a contributing factor.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the path to the Black Head lookout.

    A lookout was built on The Lizard's Black Head during the Napoleonic Wars to spot invading French vessels but by the end of the 19th century this had fallen into ruin. During the First World War, a new lookout was built. The first version, known as "Hotel Cecil" was somewhat improvised out of driftwood, rocks and turf with a galvanised iron roof. In 1915, this was replaced with the present structure which remained in use until 1987. It is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. Inside there is information not just about the lookout itself but also the local wildlife and geology.

  18. Follow the path along the coast from the lookout to reach a stile with National Trust signs either side for Black Head and Beagles Point.

    The 1500 ton steel sailing ship, Gunvor, was on its way back from Chile in April 1912 when it ran into fog off the Cornish coast. The vessel ran head-on into the cliffs of Black Head with such force that the steel masts bent over and the whole ship swung in against the rocks, ending up parallel to the cliffs. Where the ship came to rest, the bowsprit extended over an area of dry rock so the crew were able to escape along it and use a rope ladder to get to the shore. The remains of the wreck lie under the cliffs but have been broken up to a large degree by the sea.

  19. Cross the stile and follow the path until you reach a junction of paths beside a wall with a metal Coast Path sign on a stone.

    In 1917, the Camarthen - a steamship of over 4,000 tons - was entering the Channel on a return journey from Genoa when it was holed by a torpedo from a U-boat. A trawler attempted to tow the sinking vessel to the shore but the Camarthen grounded off Beagles Point (recorded elsewhere as "Eagle Cove") to the west of Black Head and was lost.

  20. When you reach the junction, turn left and follow the rock path downhill to the footbridge. Cross this and continue up the steep path to the rock outcrop. Then follow the path along the coast to reach a stile.

    The county flower of Cornwall is the Cornish Heath - a plant that most people (Cornish included) have never heard of let alone seen. The only place in England that the shrub grows is on the Lizard Peninsula and it looks fairly unremarkable until late summer when it produces the most beautiful tiny lilac-coloured flowers. It is easy to distinguish from other heather flowers by the dark ring around the ends of the pale flowers.

    Two of the narrow inlets in the bay are named "Zawn Carve" and "Zawn Vinoc".

    According to "The Z to Z of Great Britain", there are just over 40 place names in Britain that begin with the letter Z; over three-quarters of them are in Cornwall. One of the main reasons for this is that the Cornish word for "coastal inlet" is zawn, and coastline is something that Cornwall has rather a lot of.

  21. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach a footbridge.

    Lankidden Point is a dyke of hard, grey gabbro rock which protrudes through the surrounding blacker serpentine rocks. The rock stack on the end is called Carrick Lûz, which is Cornish for "grey rock".

  22. Cross the bridge and follow the path through the remains of a stile. Continue on the path to reach a gate.

    At high water the beach consists of serpentine boulders, but as the tide goes out a sandy beach is revealed with numerous rockpools along the edges.

    The underwater landscape between Downas Cove and Lankidden Point has been described as one of the best snorkelling locations in Cornwall both due to the marine life and the underwater serpentine rock formations.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the path to emerge onto a track with a waymark.

    The path to Lankidden Cove departs from the left after the coast path passes through a blackthorn hedge, and just before the coast path descends into a dip.

    Lankidden Cove is almost covered at high tide; as the tide goes out, a white, sandy beach is revealed. The beach is sheltered by the point and high cliffs and faces south, making it a sun-trap. Access is from a steep path that ends with a climb down rocks using a rope.

  24. Turn right at the waymark and follow the track through the gate. Continue to where it ends in a T-junction with a concrete track. Turn right onto this and follow it to reach a gate beside a house.

    Just before you turn right to go up the track, Lankidden cliff castle and point is at the end of the field on your left. There is a grassy area at the end of the point overlooking Carrick Luz that is a nice spot for picnics on a calm, sunny day.

    On Lankidden point are the remains of a cliff castle in the form of a single well-preserved bank and ditch across the headland. The structure dates from the Iron Age and isolates an area of approximately one hectare on the end of the headland.

  25. Go through the gate and follow the track a short distance further until it ends on a lane.

    The settlement of Arrowan was first recorded in 1312. The name is thought to be based on a Cornish word, although exactly which is uncertain. One possibility is harow which is similar to the English word (i.e. farming implement to break up soil).

  26. Turn left onto the lane and follow it for about a quarter of a mile until it ends at a junction.

    Common fleabane grows in damp areas and produces shin-height flowers resembling a large yellow daisy during July and August.

    The leaves have a scent reminiscent of carbolic acid (phenol). The plant was therefore thought to be an insect repellent without too much thought given to what pollinates it. It was kept in houses in the hope of driving away fleas, hence the name. The genus name also derives from the Latin word for flea.

    The word "farm" has the same origins as (e.g. law) "firm". Both words are related to the mediaeval Latin word firma meaning "fixed payment". Its original use in English was to do with contracts and leasing (which is why "to farm out" means "to subcontract"). In fact the word "farm" had no association with food production until the 19th Century. In the 16th Century it began to be applied to leasing of land and the association with farmland developed from this.

  27. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane for roughly half a mile until it also ends in a junction.

    Ponsongath was formerly Ponsangath and there are still some road signs with the old spelling. The name is from the Cornish words pons - "bridge", an - "the", and kath - "cat" (which mutates to gath when placed after an). The gist is "pussycat bridge".

  28. Turn left at the junction, signposted Helston and St Keverne, and follow the lane a short distance to another junction. Turn right at this, signposted St Keverne, and follow the lane for roughly a quarter of a mile until you reach a public footpath sign on the right.

    Purple loosestrife usually grows in damp places such as next to a stream and can be spotted from spikes of bright purple flowers in August-September.

    The common name is thought to be the result of a 16th century mistranslation of the Latin name. Attempts were then made to make "loose strife" fit with reported uses for the plant to try to rationalise the wacky name. The Latin name is now thought simply to refer to the name of city in Thrace (Greek-Turkish border) which perhaps had the plant growing along its watercourses.

    Willow trees are usually found in wet places including riverbanks and waterlogged ground. Common species include grey willow and goat willow but these often hybridise so they are more often known by the more broad-brush collective term "pussy willows" (due to their catkins). In January the fluffy, grey male catkins appear and and turn bright yellow in March when they release their pollen. Then in April, the fertilised female catkins develop into woolly seeds. In early May, air can be filled with the downy seeds that look a bit like dandelion seeds.

  29. Turn right at the footpath sign and follow the track for about a quarter of a mile until just after a building the track bends to the right, and, from the corner, a small path leads ahead from a wooden gate marked "Coverack path".

    In marshes, micro-organisms thrive in the wet mud and use up the supply of oxygen. To survive being partially buried in mud with low oxygen levels, many marsh plants have therefore evolved snorkels: air channels in the stem which allow oxygen to reach the base of the plant. This is why the leaves of reeds feel spongy.

  30. At the bend just past the house, keep left and follow the path around the wooden gate. Continue until the path ends on a gravel track.

    Cow parsley, also known by the more flattering name of Queen Anne's Lace, is a member of the carrot family. Over the last few decades, cow parsley has substantially increased on roadside verges: there is more than half as much again as there was 30 years ago. The reason is thought to be to an increase in soil fertility caused by a few different factors. In the more distant past, verges were grazed or the grass was cut and used for hay. Now when it is cut by mechanical devices, it is left to rot in place forming a "green manure". In the last few decades there has also been an increase in fertilising nitrogen compounds both from farm overspill and from car exhausts. Whilst this extra fertility is good news for cow parsley and also brambles and nettles, it is causing these species to out-compete many other wildflowers along hedgerows.

    A stone hand axe, some pebble tools and quite a lot of prehistoric flints have been found in the fields in this area.

  31. Continue ahead onto the track and follow it until it ends at a junction.

    On the downs ahead are the remains of a prehistoric field system and 5 Bronze-Age hut circles.

    The low stone walls remaining as hut circles were once the foundations of a round house. The granite foundations were likely to have been set into cob (mud and straw) walls which provided insulation and draft exclusion over bare-stone walls. A conical thatched roof on a timber frame rested on top of the walls. Heating was via a central fire which required some care with the thatched roof - presumably roof fires were not unheard of! These buildings varied in size from a just over a metre in diameter up to 10 metres. Some had walled enclosures attached and a few also had internal partitions.

  32. Turn right at the junction and follow the track to Polcoverack Farm.

    The settlement of Polcoverack was recorded in 1262 and is thought to mean "Coverack cove", based on the name of the stream that meets the sea there. The name Coverack itself is from the Cornish word gover for "stream".

  33. At Polcoverack Farm, keep right to follow the track past a shed and along a wooden fence to a T-junction opposite a metal gate.

    In English we often add a -y ending to a noun to turn it into an adjective; for example "rock" becomes "rocky". For many of the nouns imported from French, we add "-ic" (acidic, magnetic, artistic...). The equivalent in Cornish is to add -ack or -ek to the end of the word. Thus meynek is "stony" (men is stone), stennack means "tinny" (sten is tin).

  34. Turn right and keep following the track, which eventually becomes a lane, until it ends opposite the beach in Coverack; then turn left to complete the circular route.

    375 million years ago, the rocks on Coverack beach were a molten state around 10 kilometres below the seabed; they were pushed to the surface by the huge pressure created by two colliding continents. The rocks on the beach include the actual junction between the Earth's crust and mantle, known as the "Moho discontinuity". To the left of this, in the direction of Lowland Point, the rocks are gabbro, formed in the oceanic crust. To the right, towards the harbour, the darker rocks are serpentine and originated in the earth's mantle. At the junction between the two, there are boulders with bands of one rock type forced through the other.

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