Penzance to St Mawes
Discover the north Cornwall coastline and then head inland to undulating countryside
Follow the route – Penzance to St Mawes
> From Penzance, drive south along the coast for a mile (1.6km) to Newlyn, and a little further to Mousehole.
Really a suburb of Penzance, this is a lively and colourful fishing port, once famous for its artist colony. The Newlyn Art Gallery shows contemporary work.
Further along the coast is Mousehole. Pronounced ‘mowzel’, this delightful old fishing village consists of a semi-circle of colour-washed and granite houses round its harbour. Some of the roofs are specially weighted down to combat strong sea winds. Dolly Pentreath, supposedly the last person to speak Cornish as her native language, died here in 1777.
Places to stay in Penzance
> Continue on an unclassified road to Lamorna.
Lamorna is a holiday centre. The tempting golden sand of its spectacular cove is surrounded by steep blocks of granite cliffs and rocky outcrops.
> Join the B3315, then at Trethewey turn left on to an unclassified road to Porthcurno.
Porthcurno’s beach of almost- white sand is overlooked by a remarkable theatre in the cliffs. The Minack is Britain’s equivalent to an ancient Greek theatre, set 200 feet (60m) above the waves. It was created by Miss Rowena Cade, who cut it out of the cliffs in 1931. The theatre can seat 750 on its granite terraces.
Places to stay nearby
> Return to the B3315 and continue for another 4 miles (6km), then join the A30 to Land’s End.
Visiting Land’s End
England’s most westerly point, Land’s End is 873 miles (1,405km) from John O’Groats, Scotland’s most northerly town. On a fine day the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles (45km) away, can be seen, along with Wolf Rock Lighthouse and the Longships Lighthouse, only 1 1/2 miles (2km) offshore. Land’s End is the setting for wild coastal walks and amazing rock formations.
Further along is the small village of Sennen, the battle-ground of the last Cornish fight against invading Danes. Sennen Cove has a good sandy beach and excellent bathing.
Places to stay near Land's End
> Continue with the A30, then left on to the B3306 for 5 miles (8km) to St Just.
Visiting St Just
This enchanting village and its neighbourhood are rich in antiquities. St Just is noted for the contents of its large medieval church: a stone of the 5th or 6th century inscribed with XP, the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ, and the shaft of a 9th-century Hiberno-Saxon cross. Abandoned and ruined mines litter the countryside north of the town.
At Botallack, along the B3306, is a deep mine which extended out beneath the sea, and at the Geevor Tin Mining Museum at Pendeen, a little further on, you can take an underground tour of this preserved mine.
Places to camp near St Just
> Keep going along the B3306 to Zennor.
Zennor, named after St Senara, is a grey stone village huddled round its restored 12th-century church in a wild, bleak landscape. The writers D H Lawrence and Virginia Woolf both lived here in the 1920s. Zennor Quoit, to the southeast, is a chambered tomb dating from about 2000 BC.
> A further 5 miles (8km) along the B3306 is St Ives.
Visiting St Ives
St Ives was a prosperous pilchard port in the 19th century, but is now more noted for tourism, with its two fine sandy beaches and many excellent museums and galleries. It preserves its old- world charm: quaint houses and narrow streets cluster round the 15th-century church. Be sure to visit the wonderful Tate Gallery, the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Leach Pottery.
> Take the main A3074 for 3 miles (5km) to Lelant.
Lelant has a fine Norman and Perpendicular-style church with a 17th-century sundial.
Places to stay near St Ives
> Follow the A3074, then the B3301 to Hayle.
During the 18th century, Hayle developed as a port for the copper trade, but now it is a small industrial town with a good sandy beach, though there are still a few boats to be seen in the harbour. Paradise Park, just off the road before entering Hayle, is a conservation theme park with otters and endangered species of birds. There is also a first-class falconry display.
Places to stay near Hayle
> The B3301 runs along the coast to Portreath.
Portreath’s tiny harbour cottages cluster around the port and the 18th-century pier, at the foot of windswept cliffs. It is a marvellous place to go walking along the coast path and there are spectacular views from Reskajeage Downs.
Places to stay in Portreath
> Turn inland along the B3300, then left on unclassified roads for Porthtowan.
Porthtowan is a pleasant little place with a sandy beach and magnificent cliffs to north and south. If you have time, walk up on to the cliffs for fantastic views inland and over the Atlantic.
Places to stay in Porthtowan
> Follow unclassified roads, then the B3277 and A390 to Truro.
Truro is a quiet town with a blend of old and new buildings. Lemon Street has many fine Georgian structures, and Walsingham Place is a beautiful early 19th-century crescent off Victoria Place. The whole town is dominated by the cathedral, which has three spires and was built on the site of a 16th-century church. The Royal Cornwall Museum in River Street is considered the finest in Cornwall and there is also a fine art gallery and concert hall.
Places to stay near Truro
> Follow the A39 and then A390 eastwards, then turn right along the A3078 for St Mawes.
Visiting St Mawes
Smart shops and houses and many narrow old streets make this an interesting place to wander round. You should try to visit St Mawes Castle, built by Henry VIII in the 1540s to guard the mouth of the Fal estuary. The views across Carrick Roads, a stretch of sea, to Falmouth are particularly impressive. Trelissick Garden, north of St Mawes, boasts a fine collection of exotic plants from all over the world.