Predannack to Kynance Cove

A circular walk through the Lizard National Nature Reserve from Predannack to Kynance Cove along the rugged Serpentine cliffs where the "great silver ship" was wrecked in 1616 and more than 700 Spanish silver coins have so far been found.

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The reaches the coast at Ogo-dour Cove, then follows the coast path along the rugged serpentine coastline to Kynance Cliff, where a path descends to Kynance Cove. The return route is along a bridleway and footpaths across the Predannack Downs where Cornish Heath flowers in the late summer.

Reviews

Just done this walk last week, despite the weather was really windy and foggy, the view is spectacular!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 103 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.7 miles/7.6 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Predannack Wollas
  • Parking: Predannack Wollas TR127EZ. Follow signs to Mullion Cove then turn left down the road to Predannack. Keep left at Teneriffe Farm to reach a car park.
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots (crosses a ford)

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Rugged coastline with small coves, islets and blowholes
  • Sandy beach at Kynance Cove
  • Serpentine rocks polished by the sea
  • Wildflowers including Cornwall's county flower
  • Wildlife in the National Nature Reserve

Directions

  1. Facing the road into the car park, turn right and follow the track marked "No cars beyond this point" to a gate across the track. Go through the gate and follow the track, crossing a footbridge over a brook, until you reach a metal Coast Path sign pointing to a path on the right.

    The settlement of Predannack was first recorded in 1196, as 'Bridanoc' and was already subdivided into two manors of Higher and Lower Predannack (Wollas is from the Cornish word goles meaning "Lower" - the "g" changes to a "w" when it appears after certain letters). During mediaeval times, Higher Predannack was the seat of the Le Petit family, who had a chapel and mansion here. The manor at Lower Predannack (Predannack Wollas) was owned by the Robartes family of Lanhydrock from at least 1696.

  2. Turn right onto the path signposted for the Coast Path and keep right to reach a gate.

    Buttercups produce a toxin called protoanemonin, which is at its highest concentration when flowering. It is thought that buttercups may be partly responsible for Equine Grass Sickness. A man in France who drank a glass of juice made from buttercups suffered severe colic after four hours and was dead the next day! Fortunately the toxin is quite unstable and drying of the plant in haymaking leads to polymerisation into non-toxic anemonin.

  3. Cross the stile on the left of the gate and follow the path a short distance to a fork. Take the left-hand (upper) path and follow this until it ends on the coast path.

    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.

  4. Turn left onto the coast path and follow this to a pedestrian gate.

    The white flowers along the coast in July and August which resemble a more compact version of Cow Parsley are the delightfully-named Sea Carrot. Unlike Cow Parsley, the flowers start off pink and become white as they open and sometimes have a single dark red flower in the centre. The Sea Carrot is technically the same species as a wild carrot, from which the carrot was domesticated, but is shorter, stouter and more splayed out than a wild carrot. The two converge the further north and east that you go in Britain: West Cornwall is therefore the pinnacle of Sea Carrot evolution. You should avoid touching the leaves of the Sea Carrot as they can make skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light which can result in blistering caused by extreme sunburn.

  5. Go through the gate and follow the path over a stream and then continue straight ahead to reach a field. Follow the path across the field to a stile.

    Water mint is a wild species of mint which grows in damp places or even in water. It can be recognised by leaves and the strong mint smell when these are crushed. It produces a ball of lilac flowers in late summer.

    Water mint will hybridise with spearmint and this creates peppermint (which itself is sterile).

    Water mint and peppermint have high levels of menthol whereas the sweeter flavour of spearmint comes from a different chemical called corvone. Menthol creates a cold feeling on the skin by activating the sensory receptors in a similar way that chilli creates a heat sensation.

  6. Cross the stile and follow the path along the fence on the right to reach another stile.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  7. Cross the stone and wooden stiles and follow the path alongside the coast and across a heath where the path forks into a pair of parallel paths. In wet weather, follow the marginally less marshy right-hand path to where they rejoin, then head to the rightmost gap in the earth bank.

    The unusual geology of The Lizard peninsula combined with its mild maritime climate has resulted in a landscape of great conservation interest, supporting over 250 species of national and international importance, many of which are found nowhere else in Britain. Consequently, over 1,600 hectares of The Lizard are designated a National Nature Reserve and managed by Natural England and others are managed by the National Trust and Cornwall Wildlife.

  8. Go through the gap and follow the path until it cuts across a headland to reach a grassy area with small patch of grey gravel in the centre where a pair of parallel paths run towards the cottage on the left and a stony path leads ahead down the cliff.

    Much of the rock on this area of the Lizard is serpentine.

    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 serpentization. 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.

  9. Follow the stony path ahead and follow this downhill to reach a crossing over the stream at the bottom of the valley.

    The serpentization process results in rocks that are quite soft. The rock is often also very colourful and may contain veins of green, yellow and red, due to iron compounds within the rocks. Its softness and attractive colours were first noticed on stiles and cattle rubbing posts which had highly polished areas where walkers or cattle had rubbed against them. An industry grew up in the 19th Century making ornamental stone, initially for quite large architectural pieces but it was popularised by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who ordered serpentine tables for their home. Over time, serpentine proved less suitable than marble for architectural purposes due to its tendency to crumble in heat and to absorb water and crack. Interior ornaments are still produced although the quarrying of serpentine is now very strictly regulated.

  10. Cross the stream and bear right to join the path up the headland. Follow the path along the edge of the coast for approximately three quarters of a mile until you eventually pass through an earth bank and reach a waymark in front of a large rock outcrop.

    In Rill Cove is a Spanish wreck which is possibly the wreck from 1616 known as the "great silver ship". More than 700 Spanish silver coins have been recovered. The wreck is now a protected site, with no diving allowed within 100 metres.

  11. The onward route is to the left (in the opposite direction to the waymark arrow), keeping the edge of the field on your right to reach a waymark in front of a gateway in the top corner of the field. Beforehand, you may wish to visit Kynance Cove by following the waymarked coast path for a short distance to the right.

    Due to its popularity in Victorian times, the caves at Kynance Cove have acquired suitably Victorian names such as The Parlour, The Drawing Room and Ladies Bathing Pool. The rock stacks also have colourful names including The Lion, The Bishop, Steeple Rock and Sugarloaf Rock, and no Cornish beach would be complete without a Gull Rock. Asparagus Island, accessible at low tide, is more functionally-named - it is one of the few remaining places in the UK where wild asparagus still grows.

  12. Go through the gateway ahead to join the track and follow it to reach a gate.

    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 August and September 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.

  13. Go through the gate and follow the bridleway past the ruins of a building and between the hedges ahead to reach another gate.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. The sloe gin produced from sloes in September and October seems just as good but possibly requires a little more sugar to compensate.

  14. Go through the gate and follow the winding track across the heath and through a small stream at the top of a valley to reach a public footpath sign.

    If there has been a lot of rain, the ford can be deeper than a walking boot. There is a deep marsh just above it which makes skirting around it a bad idea. Your best bet to cross with dry feet is along one side or the other, where rocks provide some stepping stones but tread carefully as the serpentine rocks will be slippery. The simplest and safest option is take off your boots and socks, roll up your trousers and wade across, then dry off your feet on an item of clothing that will dry out easily. Then carry on smugly in your dry socks and boots.

  15. At the sign, bear right off the track onto the path and follow this to a waymarked gate. Go through the gate and follow the path across the heath and along the hedge to reach another gate.

    The building on the left is Kynance Farm.

    The name Kynance is thought to be from the Cornish word keynans meaning "ravine". Kynance Farm is at the top of the valley leading to Gew-graze whereas Kynance Cove is at the bottom of the larger valley cut by the river crossing the Predannack Downs. It's therefore possible that the names independently refer to their individual ravines rather than the farm being named from the cove, or vice versa.

  16. Go through the gate and turn right onto the track. Follow it a short distance to a waymark at the bend, then bear left off the track and follow the path to a gap in the hedge.

    Various copper mines were worked on Predannack Head, Mullion cliff and the Predannack Downs during the 18th Century. Many of these were amalgamated into Wheal Unity in the early 19th Century, which was later re-opened as Wheal Trenance. Although the usual copper ores were also extracted, the remarkable feature of this mine were the large pieces of very pure copper metal that were found. One weighed 30 tonnes and had to be cut up to get it out of the mine. The largest chunk of this, weighing 3 tonnes, was displayed in the 1851 Great Exhibition in London and is on display in London's Natural History Museum.

  17. Go through the gap and turn right, keeping left of the gap in the protruding hedge to stay in the field. Follow along the hedge on your right and continue on the path through an area of heath to reach a gate.

    To your right is Predannack Airfield and some of its derelict aircraft are visible from the footpath.

    RAF Predannack was opened in May 1941 as a satellite airfield for RAF Portreath. The waste tips of the Wheal Unity mine were used for the construction of the airfield. During the 1950s it was used for some aircraft experiments and then it was taken over by the Royal Navy in 1958. It is now used as a satellite airfield for RNAS Culdrose. The western side of the airfield is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the population of orchids, butterflies and snakes. The southern part of the airfield has a collection of derelict aircraft, which are used for crash rescue training, and dummy aircraft which are used in fire rescue training by the Royal Navy Fire Fighting School.

  18. Go through the pedestrian gate on the right of the gate and follow the meandering path to reach another gate.

    Serpentine rocks produce soils which are low in nutrients and sometimes contain metal compounds that are toxic to many plants. The areas above these rocks are consequently known as Serpentine Barrens. The flora that is found here is very specialised and often slow growing due to the limited nutrients. The resulting low growth means that it is a good habitat for lizards and snakes to "catch some rays" but this is a happy coincidence rather than anything to do with the name.

  19. Cross the stile or go through the gate if open and then turn left at the junction of paths. Follow the path a short distance to reach a stile. Cross this and follow the path between the fence and the hedge to reach another stile.
  20. Cross the stile and follow the path alongside the left hedge to reach a waymarked gate. Go through this and follow the track to a junction of tracks at a waymark.

    In August, blackberries start to ripen on brambles.

    Blackberries are closely related to raspberries and technically neither is a berry but an aggregate of many individual tiny fruits, each containing a tiny stone like a miniature cherry.

  21. Continue ahead at the waymark and follow the track back to the car park to complete the circular route.

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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