Kennack Sands to Lankidden Cove

A circular walk on The Lizard from Kennack Sands where some of the oldest prehistoric finds have been made in Cornwall, including an entire lost Stone Age village which was uncovered by a gorse fire in the 1960s.

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The route crosses the two beaches of Kennack Sands and then follows the coast where the heather flowers are spectacular in late summer. The route then descends to Poldowrian where ornamental gardens have been created in a small coastal valley. The walk continues on the coast path to the headland at Lankidden where a short diversion leads to the sandy cove. The return route is fairly easy, on country lanes and farm tracks via Arrowan, Ponsongath and Trevenwith, descending on footpaths into the Gwenter valley and across the Kennack Towans.

The coastal path surfaces are particularly rocky on this route.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 4.4 miles/7 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Kennack Sands (West)
  • Parking: Kennack Sands car park, or in 4 small parking areas beside the road in winter TR127LZ. Ignore satnav on this one and follow signs to Kuggar to reach the T-junction then follow the sign to Kennack Sands
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Sandy beaches at Kennack Sands and Lankidden Cove
  • Poldowrian Gardens and Museum (by appointment)
  • Wildflowers and wildlife on The Lizard

Directions

  1. Make your way from the car park to the lifeguard hut at the top of the beach. Turn left on the beach and cross the top of the beach to the flight of steps over the hill.
    Note that dogs are not allowed on this part of the beach, so if you have a dog, follow the coast path instead and continue from direction 3.

    At high water, there are two separate beaches known as East and West Kennack Sands and are divided by the reef known as the Caerverracks. The path over the hill links the two. At low tide, it's possible to walk on the sand from one side to the other.

  2. Follow the steps over the hill and descend to the next beach. Follow along the front of the sea wall and go through one of the gaps to reach the path behind it. Turn right and follow the inner of the two paths to a gatepost.
  3. Go through the gap and then keep right to follow the path along the coast. Continue until the path descends steeply into a valley and splits to descend over some rocks.

    Poldowrian Gardens are on the other side of the fence.

    The gardens at Poldowrian were started in the 1960s as a few shrubs along the path to the cliff and over the decades have gradually grown. The gardens still contain wild elements of the landscape as well as colourful camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, and many other cultivated plants, and even include a pond with an island folly, reached by an arched bridge. At the time of writing, visits to the gardens were by appointment only, and there is also a prehistoric museum, opened on request, containing finds from the area.

    The return route passes the entrance to Poldowrian so if you have arranged to visit them, you can access them later on the walk.

  4. At the bottom of the valley, Keep right to stay on the coast path and follow this until it eventually emerges into a field.

    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".

  5. Follow along the left hedge of the field to a gap. Go through this and follow the left hedge a little further to reach a bench and waymark.

    Lankidden cliff castle and point is at the end of the field on your right. 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.

  6. When you reach the waymark, you can make an optional diversion to Lankidden Cove by following the coast path a short distance further to where the path descends to the beach and then return here afterwards. The walk continues inland through the gate. Follow the track to reach a bend to the right beside a gateway on the left.

    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.

  7. Keep right to follow the track around the bend and continue on the track to reach a gate beside a house.

    Cuckoos are migratory birds that overwinter in Africa and are first seen, or more often heard, in Cornwall during the spring. The cuckoo is well-known for laying its eggs in the nests of other bird species. The adult cuckoo is a mimic of a sparrowhawk - a predator; this causes other birds to abandon their nests, allowing the female lay her eggs. Although cuckoo eggs are larger than those already in the nest, cuckoos produce eggs in several different colour schemes to match those of several species of bird. Since the cuckoo chick is a much larger than even the full-grown foster parents (which they seem not to notice, assuming their offspring is just a bit portly), it needs to monopolize the food supply. It therefore methodically evicts all other eggs and chicks from the nest.

  8. 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).

  9. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until it ends at a junction.

    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.

  10. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane until you reach the track to Trevenwith Farm.

    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".

  11. Turn left down the track to Trevenwith Farm. Follow the track until you reach a fork for Poldowrian (left) and a gravel track (right).

    The settlement of Poldowrian, which is now a small farmstead, was first recorded in 1250 and is thought to date from the early Middle Ages. It is located in a valley with a small stream and the name is based on the Cornish word dowrven which means "watering point".

  12. Keep right at the fork to join the gravel track. Continue to where a track departs to the left through a gate for Wild Acre and the main track continues ahead.

    In 1967, a gorse fire at Poldowrian consumed acres of the clifftop vegetation, despite the best efforts of the couple who owned the farm to beat out the fire. The next morning, a prehistoric settlement was revealed which had been buried beneath the gorse for thousands of years. Flint tools, arrow heads and pottery sherds were found in and around a Bronze Age roundhouse which was surrounded by a system of tiny, irregular fields. A hazelnut was also found which has been radiocarbon dated to 5400BC.

  13. Continue ahead past the gate to Wild Acre and pass the cottage on the left, then immediately bear left to keep the cottage on your left and cross the grass to a waymarked wooden gate.

    A number of prehistoric implements are have been found on or near Kennack sands ranging from stone-age implements fashioned from the local rocks and imported flints, an iron axe and a figure made from teracotta with white skin and prussian blue hair. Some of the stone implements were found in a deposit laid down in the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago.

  14. Go through the gate and bear left to the larger of the two gates at the bottom of the field.

    The farm at the end of the track is known as Trevenwith. It is from the Cornish word tre, for farmstead, and the second word could be either fynwedh, meaning "far end" (of the track) or menweyth, meaning "made of stone". The first record of the settlement is from 1250 but as the name starts with Tre, it is thought likely that it pre-dates the Norman conquest and was established during the Dark Ages.

  15. Go through the gate and follow the path through a waymarked gate into a field. Follow the left hedge along the top of the field to reach a gap in the hedge.
  16. Follow the path into the next field and again follow along the left edge of the field to reach a waymarked gate in the far hedge.

    On a clear day from the top of the field, you can see a white rectangular building on the headland in the distance which is Lloyd's Signal Station, located on Bass Point.

    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.

  17. Go through the gate and follow the path to meet the Coast Path.

    At Kennack Sands, it is reported that a local man with a metal detector found a 14th Century Belgian gold coin, known as a mouton d'or which has been dated between 1355 an 1383 and valued at £1000. Another was found in a rockpool by a holidaymaker during the summer of 1960. It's possible that these are from a treasure wreck in the bay that so far has not been discovered by divers.

  18. Turn right and follow the Coast Path over the bridge on your right. Continue on the main path until you reach a couple of stone steps on the right.

    The walls along the beach at Kennack Sands are anti-tank defences constructed during World War 2. There were originally three gaps in the longer eastern wall allowing infantry access but parts of the wall have now collapsed where it crosses the stream.

  19. When you reach the stone steps, turn right down these and follow the path across a footbridge. Continue until you reach a fork in the path.

    If you look carefully in the pond, you should be able to see minnows swimming around beneath the plants.

    Minnows are a species of small carp that live in oxygen-rich streams and ponds. When minnows are injured, special skin cells release a chemical which warns others of the presence of a predator. The evolutionary advantage of this to an individual minnow is not understood as it's already too late for the minnow being eaten and the cells require extra energy to maintain them so are, if anything, a disadvantage to the particular minnow who is carrying them. One possible explanation would be if other minnows in the shoal were relatives and therefore carrying similar genes then the sacrifice would be "worth it" (genetically), but studies have found that other minnows in the shoal are often unrelated. So it appears that minnows are simply nice.

  20. Keep left at the fork and follow the coast path back to the car park.

    Somewhere beneath one of the beaches, runs one of the high-speed telecommunication cables linking London and New York. These are fibre-optic cables carrying laser signals for both telephone and internet traffic. The laser signal fades along the length of the cable so there are laser amplifiers every now and then along the length of the cable. As there is nowhere to plug these in on the sea bed, the cable contains its own 10,000 volt power supply. There is little risk of electrocution by digging sandcastles, though, as the cables are buried very deep under the beach.

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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