Circular walk at Land's End

Land's End

A circular walk on the rugged cliffs at the most westerly point of the British mainland with spectacular views and spectacular wildflowers.

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The route follows the coast between the headlands Pordanack Point and Pedn Men Du which offer spectacular views of Land's End in both directions. The inland section is very easy and quick, allowing the majority of time to be spent on the coast.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version)

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


  • 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


  1. Make your way to the wooden sign for Greeb Farm and Craftworks. Follow the tarmac lane from this until it ends and the path leading from it to reach the craft workshop.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

    An eye-catching characteristic of Land's End granite is the long, white crystals of feldspar within the rocks known as "megacrysts" which, the scientific evidence suggests, were formed as the magma slowly cooled.

  2. Turn right to walk along the front of the Craftworks and join the path along the upper fence. Follow this to a waymark.

    Geese migrate to warmer climates for the winter and fly in a V-shaped formation known as a skein or wedge (on the ground, a collection of geese is known as a gaggle). The V-formation allows birds behind the leader to fly more efficiently as the rising air from flapping wings of the bird ahead helps to support the weight of the one behind. This can increase the range that the bird can fly by over 70%. The birds each take it in turns to do the harder job of flying at the front.

  3. Turn left at the waymark onto the path leading slightly inland. Follow the path until you reach a junction of paths near the cliff edge.

    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 Gwennap Head, but different steepnesses of slopes support different plant species.

  4. Bear left to follow the large path waymarked to Mill Bay. Follow the path until you reach a junction of paths near another cliff edge.

    Several species of heather grow in Cornwall and are most easily recognised when they flower from July to September. The one with the most brightly coloured (purple) flowers is known as bell heather due to the bell-shaped flowers. This is the earliest one to start flowering - normally in June. Bell heather is usually interspersed with ling or common heather which has much smaller flowers which are usually paler and pinker and come out at the start of July. A third kind known as cross-leafed heath is less abundant but can be recognised by the pale pink bell-shaped flowers that grow only near the tips of the stems, resembling pink lollipops. A fourth species known as Cornish heath grows only on the Lizard and has more elaborate flowers which are mostly pale with a dark purple crown at the front.

    Gannets are the largest sea birds in the North Atlantic with a wingspan of up to 2 metres and are easily recognisable by their long white wings with black tips. Gannets can dive from up to 30 metres, achieving speeds of up to 100kph as they strike the water, enabling them to catch fish much deeper than most seabirds. To achieve this they have air sacs in their face and chest, which act as cushioning when they hit the water. Also they have no external nostrils, instead they are situated inside the mouth.

  5. Turn right at the junction and follow the cliff path to reach a slate sign inscribed with "8 Iron Age Field System".

    Granite formed as a molten blob of rock beneath the surface, underneath millions of tons of other rock. As the granite cooled, it cracked, mostly vertically due to the pressure from above. Hot water circulated through the cracks, reacting chemically with the rocks and depositing minerals. Over millions of years, the softer rocks above were eroded and the pressure from the weight of the rock above was released, causing horizontal cracking in the granite. The result is cubic blocks where the rough edges have been gradually smoothed by weathering.

  6. Keep left on the path along the coast to pass a "Bronze Age Barrow Cemetery" sign and keep left to reach a sign for a Bronze Age Cairn.

    The piles or rings of stones known as cairns, were built for a variety of purposes: some ceremonial including burials, some practical such as markers in a calendric sundial. Although much speculation has taken place, the reason for the construction of each is now unknown. When radiocarbon dating was done on nine of the cairns on Bodmin Moor, eight gave average date ranges between 2162 to 1746 BC, suggesting the early Bronze Age was the main building period. The remnants you see today are in many cases a small fragment of the original structure as the rocks from many cairns have since been "re-purposed" for use in drystone walls, buildings, roads etc. The Cornish word for cairn is karn or carn (from karnow, meaning "rock piles") and Cornwall (Kernow) itself may actually be named after the cairns that dot its landscape.

  7. From the cairn, follow the well-worn path behind the sign and over the headland until you see a path departing from the other side. Turn right onto this and follow it to reach a wooden fence then follow the rope fence to emerge onto the main path cutting across the headland.

    The island with a cave is known as Enys Dodnan and provides a nesting site for black-backed gulls. This first part of the name is the Cornish word for "island". The second may have a similar origin to Dodman Point on The Roseland, referring to the bodies washed ashore from shipwrecks i.e. "Dead Man's Point/Island".

    The pyramidal inshore rock is known as the Armed Knight. The name is thought to stem from the spire of rock protruding from the top resembling a jousting pole. According to one source, the rock was once known by the Cornish names An Marogeth Arvowed (the armed knight) and Carne-an-peul (javelin rock).

  8. Turn left onto the main path to retrace your steps towards the farm. Continue until you reach the junction of paths by the farm fence.

    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.

  9. Bear left and follow the path along the wooden fence on your right to reach a junction of paths.

    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.

    There are three named rocks within the Longships reef:

    The innermost rocks are known as Tal-y-maen which means something along the lines of "front stone" in Cornish.
    Carn Bras, in the middle with the lighthouse, means "large rock".
    The outermost rock is known as Meinek which simply means "stony".
  10. Bear right and follow the steps down to a footbridge. Follow the path up the steps on the other side of the valley to reach a junction with another path in front of the Land's End complex.

    Well over 100 wrecks are recorded off Land's End. The reefs off Lands End were so treacherous for sailing vessels that many of the pilgrims from Ireland on their way to the continent preferred to walk from one coast of Cornwall to the other rather than rely on faith for this part of their journey.

    The 12 mile crossing from Lelant to Marazion, known as St Micheal's Way, also avoided the perilous coastline at Pendeen and the Runnelstone reef near Gwennap Head.

    The 29 mile Saint's Way crossing from Padstow to Fowey additionally avoided the hazardous reefs of Trevose Head, Godrevy and The Lizard.

  11. Turn left and follow the path below the car park to reach a viewing area with a round hut.

    The complex of buildings at Land's End is situated on Dr Johnson's Head, named after the 18th Century writer Samuel Johnson.

  12. Follow the rocky path from the other side of the viewing area along the bottom of the wall to reach another viewing area.

    The development of Land’s End as a tourist attraction began back in the mid 1850s. It was owned by many generations of a local family who oversaw the development until 1980.

    In 1982, Land's End was purchased by Welsh businessman David Goldstone for 2.25 million, outbidding the National Trust who were hoping to prevent over-commercialisation. In 1983, Goldstone introduced an admission charge which lead to riots with people lying across the road to block traffic. It was sold again in 1987 for 7 million to Peter De Savary. Two new buildings were constructed and the theme park was created.

  13. Follow the path leading from the viewing area to a junction of paths.

    Thrift is a tough evergreen plant which grows on sea cliffs and consequently it's the county flower of the Scilly Isles. To survive in this environment it needs to be able to withstand drought and salt-laden winds. Its long, thin leaves and hairy flower stems have evolved to minimise water loss.

    We assume the name arises from the sea appearing to boil as it breaks on the reef.

  14. Bear left at the junction to follow the tarmac to the white building ahead.

    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 official Cornish name Pen an Wlas means "End of the Earth". The earliest record of a name is Penwith Steort from 997 which is Old English for "End of Penwith". As the name was by non-Cornish speakers, they probably didn't realise that Penwith already meant "extreme end".

  15. Keep left to walk around the outside of the First and Last House until you reach a gravel path departing to the left. Bear left onto this and follow it to a junction of paths at a large boulder.

    The most westerly point on the British mainland is named Dr Syntax's Head after a fictitious schoolmaster hero in three popular books between 1812 and 1821. The character was portrayed with a long, pointed chin which the narrow peninsula of land resembles.

  16. Bear left and follow the path until you reach a crossing over a small stream winding between the boulders.

    The small inlet on the left is Zawn Turbis.

    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.

  17. Continue uphill on the paved path to cross the headland and reach a small path departing to the left. Keep right on the main path and follow this until you reach a granite waymark post at the remains of Maen Cliff Castle.

    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.

  18. At this point you can make a short detour to the left to the remains of Maen Castle before continuing on the coast path to the right. Follow the coast path to a junction of paths with a sign for the Coast Path on a rock.

    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.

  19. Continue on the coast path to reach the old Coastguard lookout building.

    The folk tale of how the Irish Lady rock got its name is that a ship with an Irish crew was wrecked off Land's End and the only survivor was a woman who managed to climb from the sea onto the rock. According to the tale, the locals were unable to reach her to rescue her and she died of exposure.

  20. Double back from the lookout to follow the small paved path leading inland and continue on the gritty path towards the house on the headland. Keep following the path until it ends in a gate.

    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.

  21. Pass the gate and bear right onto the track. Follow this until you reach a sign on the right for The Cornish Way, immediately before the track ends in a junction.

    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 coast path 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.

  22. Turn right onto the Cornish Way and follow this for about a mile until you reach a gateway on the right leading onto a road.

    Between Bude and Land's End, National Cycle Routes 3 and 32 are collectively known as the Cornish Way, stretching for 123 miles.

  23. Head towards the road and immediately bear right onto the small path running alongside the road. Follow this back to the Lands End complex to complete the walk.

    The reason that Cape Cornwall could once have been thought to be be most westerly point of the British mainland it that is almost is. The tip of Cape Cornwall is further west than the coastguard lookout overlooking Sennen Cove and the shipwreck near Land's End.

    In fact, the longitude of Cape Cornwall's most westerly point is approximately equivalent to the exit from the Land's End coach parking area. The most westerly point on Dr Syntax's head is only about 450 metres further west than this.

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