Kennack Sands to Lankidden Cove circular walk

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.
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103
  • Distance: 4.4 miles/7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof 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 Kennack Sands and Lankidden Cove
  • Poldowrian Gardens and Museum (by appointment)
  • Wildflowers and wildlife on The Lizard


  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 main path past a granite gatepost to a junction of paths with concrete posts on the right.

    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 serpentinization. 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.

  3. Turn right to follow the path between the pair of concrete posts and then uphill 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. Carefully descend the rocks to the bottom of the valley and continue on the coast path. 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 where it ends in a T-junction with a concrete track.

    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. Turn right onto the concrete track and follow it 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 monopolise the food supply. It therefore methodically evicts all other eggs and chicks from the nest.

    In nuclear reactors, high energy neutrons are produced. If these escape from the reactor, they are biologically harmful. Materials containing hydrogen atoms are the most effective at slowing the excited neutrons down so that they can be re-absorbed within the reactor. Because of its high level of bound water, serpentine makes a very good neutron-shield and Serpentinite gravel is therefore added to make the special concrete used in reactor shielding.

  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.

    A mediaeval field system existed in the Downas valley to the right. As farming became more industrialised, the tiny fields were unsuitable for mechanised farming so hedges were removed to enlarge the fields but some of these ancient field boundaries are still visible in aerial photos as marks in the crops caused by differences in the depth and drainage of the soil caused by the hedge foundations.

  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 onto 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 shards 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 5400 BC.

  13. Continue ahead past the gate to Wild Acre and pass the cottage on the left. Continue ahead through the yard to reach a gate on the other side.

    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 terracotta 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 the one beyond this then continue a few paces further past the pond on the left to reach a junction of tracks.

    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 predates the Norman conquest and was established during the Dark Ages.

  15. Turn left to follow the track alongside the pond to a gate into a field. Go through the gate and follow along the left hedge to reach a gateway at the bottom of the field.

    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.

  16. Go through the gateway and follow the path downhill around a bend to a gate.

    The quarrying activity you can see towards the top of the hill was for serpentine. Some much deeper pits exist on the far side of the hill.

    Gwendreath quarry began with serpentine being extracted for ornamental purposes. The stone was found to split unpredictably so a high degree of skill was required to select stones suitable for creating models. From the 1930s, stone was quarried on a larger scale for making kilns due to its heat resistance. Most of the stone was sent to Nottingham by rail. The quarry reached its heyday during the Second World War and had to close in the 1960s when the Helston railway was shut.

  17. Go through the gate and then bear left to follow the footpath through the trees to the left of the field. Keep following the path until it eventually emerges from the gorse in the bottom corner of a field with a gate ahead.

    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.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path to meet the coast path.

    Broadleaf plantain (also known as greater plantain or common plantain) has rounded leaves. It grows in areas disturbed by humans or livestock such as fields and along footpaths and lanes. It was known as "white man's footprint" by some Native American people as it thrived in disturbed ground surrounding European settlements. The young leaves are edible as a salad green but become tough as they mature.

  19. Turn right and follow the 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.

  20. 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, typically in the upper reaches of rivers where they provide an important food source for trout. Unlike trout, minnows don't need gravel for spawning and their young hatch quickly which allows them to multiply wherever sufficient food is available.

    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.

  21. Keep left at the fork then immediately right and follow the 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.

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