Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall

It was a bright and sunny morning as we pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and after tucking into some tasty bacon sandwiches we were back in the car for another day of sightseeing.  Our starting point was to be Land’s End, the headland that sits at the most westerly point of England and juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

The entrance to Land's End, Cornwall
The entrance to Land’s End from the car park

It was 9.15 a.m. when we arrived at the car park which charges £7 for all day parking.  The Land’s End attractions don’t open until 10.00 a.m. but as the car park is open earlier, it’s a good idea to get there soon to be able to enjoy the nature undisturbed.  There is no additional charge to enjoy a walk on the cliff tops along this wild and rocky coastline.

Rugged Land's End coastline
The rugged Land’s End coastline

We were so lucky to have arrived in good weather as the area is exposed and is often blowing a gale.  There are numerous walks available, each of them on well maintained footpaths.  We began with a stroll in a northerly direction on the 200 feet high granite cliff tops, admiring the rugged coastline.  Cormorants and guillemots could be seen perched on the rocks, sheltering from the large waves of the Atlantic crashing onto the shore.

Rocky coastline at Land's End
The rocky coastline at Land’s End

It’s sometimes possible to see the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles away but it didn’t appear visible on our visit.  It’s hard to believe that looking out to sea, after that small group of islands, the next landfall is America.

 

The iconic Land's End signpost
The iconic Land’s End signpost

Thinking of distances, we’d just arrived at the iconic Land’s End signpost which has been a familiar sight since the 1950’s.  Visitors can pay to take home a unique record of their visit as hometowns, distances or a personal message can be slotted into the vacant section of the signpost.  There’s normally a large queue but as we were there so early, we had the place to ourselves and could snap away happily.

The First and Last Inn, Land's End
The First and Last Inn, Land’s End

Continuing, it was just a short uphill walk to reach the whitewashed First and Last Inn which is one of the most legendary hostelries in Britain.  This inn has been a haven to smugglers and ship wreckers since the 17th century.  The smugglers may have long since gone but it’s still a welcoming pub with its low beamed ceilings and roaring fires.

Rocky outcrops of the coast of Land's End
Rocky outcrops of the coast of Land’s End

There are some fine views of the coastal landscape to be had from near the inn and walkers then have the choice of continuing along the coastal path to Sennen Cove, around 30 minutes away, or taking the loop trail back towards the visitor centre.  We selected the latter, and then decided to continue along the cliffs in a southerly direction.

Dramatic rock arches off the Land's End coastline
Dramatic rock arches off the Land’s End coastline

Along here the weathered action of waves and wind has produced some dramatic rock arches, rugged cliffs and sea stacks.  The stunning Enys Dodman rock formation can be seen after following the path for around 15 minutes.  This coastline is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and enjoys the same protection status as a National Park.

Llama at Greeb Farmstead, Land's End
Llama at Greeb Farmstead, Land’s End

We returned via Greeb Farm which is a 200 year old farmstead typical of those that were once to be found along this part of the coast.  It’s now one of the Land’s End visitor attractions and home to a collection of small animals, sheep, goats, llama, pigs and miniature ponies.

The Land's End Hotel on the clifftop
The Land’s End Hotel high on the clifftop

From there, we wandered back towards the Lands End Hotel where guests were enjoying unrivalled views whilst sipping their morning coffees.  Back near the visitor centre, the attractions had sprung into life.  These buildings were added in 1998 and feature interactive exhibitions and family entertainment.  Of particular interest was the End to End Story which celebrates the amazing stories of the many people who have completed the 800 mile challenge between John O’Groats and Land’s End raising much needed money for charities.

View from the entrance of the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno
View from the entrance of the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

On returning to the car, the previously deserted car park was now starting to fill up as we set off for Porthcurno, our next destination of the morning.  Roads in this part of Cornwall were not built with the car in mind and are extremely narrow and winding so we cautiously made our way along through Sennen to the village of Porthcurno.

The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno
The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno

For such a small place, Porthcurno has much of interest, with our first stop being at the Minack Theatre which offers free parking to visitors.  Tickets to explore this famous 700 seat theatre built into the cliffs are £6 for adults and half price for children.  Along with most other attractions, it’s best to pre-book a timed entrance slot to avoid disappointment.

The Minack Theatre, seating and stage
View of the seats and stage

It is one of the most remarkable theatres in the world and although it looks as if it’s been there for ever, it’s actually less than 100 years old.  It was planned and built by Rowena Cade and since its first performance in 1932 the Minack has evolved into a spectacular open-air theatre.

The Minack Theatre from above
Looking down at the Minack Theatre

The Minack (meaning rocky place) is built into the cliffside with steep steps and terraced concrete and grass seating. It’s a place I’d long wanted to visit as the small town where I live is home to a talented amateur dramatic company who are regularly invited down to The Minack to perform their plays.  Performances are staged from April to October each year whilst the theatre is open to visitors at other times.  Names of past productions are carved into the stone steps and seat backs providing a reminder of the wide variety of performances that have taken place.

Rowena Cade, creator of the Minack Theatre
Rowena Cade, creator of the Minack Theatre

The theatre has a stunning natural backdrop but is sheltered from the worst of the weather permitting performances to go ahead.  Rowena Cade created the theatre from her own garden and it is a joy to behold.

The Minack Theatre garden
The Minack Theatre garden

The steeply terraced garden reflects the nature of the site and being sheltered allows for the growing of tender plants.  From an information board we discovered that there is usually something in flower for much of the year.

Porthcurno Beach viewed from the Minack Theatre
Porthcurno Beach viewed from the Minack Theatre

From one corner of the theatre there are absolutely beautiful views of Porthcurno beach which made us feel as if we were somewhere in the Mediterranean rather than in the far south west of England.  In the turquoise blue sea we even spotted a seal near the shoreline and spent some time watching people surfing in the bay.

PK Porthcurno, Telegraph Museum
PK Porthcurno, Telegraph Museum

Leaving the theatre, we moved our car nearer to the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum where we were heading next.  There are two car parks serving the beach and museum which are close together.  The larger one charges a daily rate of £6.50 but as we didn’t wish to stay so long, we opted for the smaller car park slightly further away where we paid just £2.10 for a two hour stay.

Map of undersea telegraph cables from PK Porthcurno
Map of the undersea telegraph cables from Porthcurno

PK Porthcurno is the world’s only dedicated museum of global communications.  It documents the story of our inter-connected world in the very place where it all begun.  The telegraph museum was recently refurbished and is offering free admission until 31st March 2021.

Working machinery on display at PK Porthcurno
Working machinery on display in the museum

It owes its unique heritage to the remote beach at Porthcurno, which became internationally famous as the British termination of early underseas telegraph cables, the first of which landed in 1870.  This was part of an early international link stretching all the way from the U.K. to India.  By the 1930’s Porthcurno was the largest cable station in the world with the capacity of receiving and transmitting up to two million words a day.

Working at the Porthcurno Telegraph Station
Working at the Porthcurno Telegraph Station

Reading about this fascinating museum prior to our visit, it piqued our interest and we couldn’t resist exploring it for ourselves.  The museum is located in Eastern House, the former telegraph facility which was built in 1904 as the heart of the operation.

Porthcurno Museum
Exhibits at the PK Porthcurno Museum

After passing through the entrance hall/ gift shop area we set off on our voyage of discovery.  It’s newly styled galleries tell the story starting with the first practical use of electricity to how we communicate today using fibre optic cables that still run beneath the sea.  There are samples of cable designs, exhibits documenting the history of submarine cable laying ships as well as a working collection of equipment.  A second gallery chronicles Cornwall’s history at the forefront of global technology from Victorian times through to the Second World War whilst a third documents the stories of the Cable & Wireless staff who worked at Porthcurno and at other cable stations around the world.

The underground secret bunker at PK Porthcurno
Entering the underground secret bunker

Our self guided tour continued underground through a series of tunnels into the secret WWII bunker which was dug out to house the entire telegraph operations.  The allied communications were protected by armed guards and bombproof doors. The bunker has been preserved as it would have been whilst in use and is very interesting to see.

The Porthcurno Cable Hut
The Porthcurno Cable Hut
Inside the Porthcurno Cable Hut
Inside the Porthcurno Cable Hut

Our tour ended with a trip to the Cable Hut which stands a short distance away on the edge of Porthcurno beach.  It was to this small, unassuming hut that undersea telegraph cables came ashore from all corners of the world.  The Porthcurno cable hut is the only one of its kind in the world complete with fixtures and fittings.

Porthcurno beach taken from near the Cable Hut
Porthcurno beach taken from near the Cable Hut

Visiting PK Porthcurno had more than lived up to expectations and I would highly recommend combining a visit to the telegraph museum with a few hours on its idyllic beach and a visit to the Minack Theatre.

St. Ives town centre
St. Ives town centre

Having thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Porthcurno we hopped back in the car and headed to St. Ives, taking us approximately 35 minutes. With its congested, narrow streets finding somewhere to park can be difficult but we struck lucky and found some unrestricted street parking along Treverbyn Road just a ten minute walk to the town centre.  Large car parks are also available, one of which operates a park and ride service for an additional charge.

Narrow streets in St. Ives, Cornwall
Narrow streets in St. Ives, Cornwall

St. Ives is a charming seaside town with steep, narrow streets leading down to the harbour.  We hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we popped in one of the inviting cafes for a panini and coffee before starting our tour of the town.  Fore Street is the town’s main shopping street which houses lots of lovely little shops and cafes including green grocers which are sadly becoming something of a rarity on our high streets.

St. Ives harbour
St. Ives harbour

The focal point of St. Ives is without doubt its pretty little harbour with its sandy beach and bustling seafront shops and cafes.  When we arrived the tide was out  but with the spring tides, the view soon changed as the tide came in rapidly.

The Wharf, St. Ives
The Wharf, St. Ives

We wandered the cobbled streets with their quaint fishermen’s cottages now home to cafes and galleries.  St. Ives has long been favoured by artists but since the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden opened in 1976 followed by Tate St. Ives in 1993, the town has gained worldwide notoriety and boosted tourism in the area.  Our visit to St. Ives was all about enjoying the outdoors and breathing in the fresh air.  The town is located on a narrow peninsula surrounded by four sandy beaches all within walking distance of the centre, each with its own charm and character.

Views along the coast from St. Ives
Views from the coastal path

We strolled through the Down-a-long, the old part of town, built on the narrow ridge of land separating the island from the rest of the town.  Along here we found a jumble of cobbled streets lined with whitewashed cottages, many of them now attractive holiday lets and small independent shops.

Porthgwidden beach, St. Ives
Porthgwidden beach, St. Ives

Walking along the coastal footpath, it didn’t take us too long to reach the small beach of Porthgwidden which is midway between the harbour and Porthmeor.  Despite not being as popular as the town’s other beaches I thought it looked very pretty with its sheltered position surrounded by a row of two storey beach huts.

Porthgwidden beach from the clifftops
Porthgwidden beach from the clifftops

After a little more uphill walking we had reached the island which confused me at first as it’s not really an island.  It’s actually an imposing headland jutting out into the sea from the spit of land separating the harbour and Porthmeor beach.  In ancient times there was a promontory fort on its hilltop but it’s now the location for the coastguard lookout.

The coastguard lookout, St. Ives
The coastguard lookout, St. Ives

It’s definitely worth making the effort to climb to the top of the headland as there are splendid views all around.  We also came across the tiny chapel of St. Nicholas which dates back to medieval times.  This simple, single roomed granite building was constructed to look after passing sailors.

Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives
Porthmeor Beach, St. Ives

From there, Porthmeor beach came into view with its long stretch of golden sand.  It’s home to the iconic Tate St. Ives building which overlooks the bay.  The beach attracts surfers as it faces the full force of the Atlantic Ocean yet is sheltered for swimmers and sun worshippers close to the shore by the rugged headlands surrounding it.

St. Ives harbour
St. Ives harbour

We then took a different route back to the harbour where we strolled along Smeaton’s Pier.  Along here we watched some fishermen hauling in their catch and noticed how quickly the tide had come in since we arrived.  The harbour is sheltered by a pier at both ends and a haven for its colourful small fishing boats and pleasure craft.

St. Ives harbour beach
St. Ives harbour beach

St. Ives harbour beach is also very popular as it’s in the centre of town and backs onto the Wharf with its many bars and cafes.  It’s also good to know that the harbour beach shares the same fine golden sand as the town’s other beaches even though it is also a working harbour which adds to its undoubted charm.

St. Ives seafront and harbour
St. Ives seafront and harbour

It was then time to climb up the steep roads back to where we had left the car and return to our hotel in Camborne reflecting on what a lovely day we had just enjoyed.

 

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Land's End, Porthcurno and St. Ives, Cornwall

 

73 thoughts on “Day 3. Land’s End, Porthcurno & St. Ives, Cornwall

  1. Pingback: Day 10. Fowey & Lanhydrock Estate, Cornwall – Love Travelling Blog

    1. Thanks Andy. It’s hard to believe that this remote spot in Cornwall is where communications all started. We’ve all come a long way since then. The Minack Theatre is unique and it must be awesome to attend a production there. Hopefully one day …

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  2. Pingback: Day 4. Porthleven, Lizard Point & Helston, Cornwall – Love Travelling Blog

  3. jasonlikestotravel

    Another wonderful day and wonderful read. I had no idea there was so much to do in and around Lands End, I figured it was just a popular starting point for walking.

    The Minack Theatre looks incredible, that’s definitely going on my bucketlist! Haha. The beach at Porthcurno looks gorgeous too.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That beach at Porthcurno with its azure blue sea could easily be mistaken for the Mediterranean apart from the sea being much colder! The Minack Theatre is unique and delightful and I was aware of it because a friend has performed there several times as our amateur theatre is invited down for a week every two years. Hopefully one day I’ll be there to see a production, that would be amazing. Hope you get to visit too!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For a town of its size St Ives is blessed with an inordinate amount of beaches. I would love to visit one day and take one of the most scenic train routes between St Erth and St Ives. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d also like to take that scenic rail route along the coast Aiva, hopefully we’ll manage to fit that in next time we visit that part of Cornwall. I enjoyed St. Ives and although I’m sure it gets very busy in summer, there are numerous beaches to spread out on. Hope you get to visit before too long and that your week is starting well. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I would have thoroughly enjoyed this outing, Marion. I visited Land’s End and St. Ives very briefly with my Dad when I was in my teens. He was no walker, preferring his motorbike, and I missed out on all those lovely walks! 🙂 🙂

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    1. The rugged Cornish coastline is very scenic Jo. I was about 10 the last time I was there so was well overdue a visit and really enjoyed our stay. I’d really like to see a performance at the Minack Theatre sometime too.

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    1. Thank you Hannah for taking an interest in this post. The rugged Cornish coastline is beautiful and even in mid-October the sea was azure blue and could easily be mistaken for the Mediterranean if it wasn’t so cold. The Minack Theatre is stunning and hopefully next time I visit I’ll be able to watch a production there. Best wishes, Marion

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have been lucky enough to see a production at the Minack Theatre, many years ago. It was part of Chaucer’s ‘Pilgrims Progress’ and I have to say it was amazing! If you get a chance to go, please do! I’ve also enjoyed some bracing cliff walks from and around Land’s End. I feel there is something quite mystical about this area but maybe not so much in High Season. Fabulous photos, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ve stirred a faint memory of me reading an illustrated ‘comic’ book all about the subterranean cables when I was quite young. Interesting to see where they terminate! They were a godsend for Australia, especially when the telegraph connected from Darwin to South Australia (Australian Overland Telegraph Line if you wish to look it up – a massive engineering feat).

    I loved all the insights into this part of Cornwall. One day …

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Excellent report. I presume the distance between Lands End and America is in km. That’s about the distance between east and west Australia then. Quite a distance Christopher Columbus had to travel in his rickety old ship over tempestuous seas for that same approximate distance. Of course the Vikings had been doing that long before Chris had the inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. winteroseca

    Have you read The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson? It’s about his adventures in England and it’s such a laugh! You should read it since you’re exploring the English coasts

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Stunning photos! I thought the theater was a classic Roman construction until I read your description. Lovely. Kelly

    On Sat, Mar 6, 2021 at 12:02 AM Love Travelling Blog wrote:

    > Little Miss Traveller posted: “It was a bright and sunny morning as we > pulled back the curtains in our hotel room and after tucking into some > tasty bacon sandwiches we were back in the car for another day of > sightseeing. Our starting point was to be Land’s End, the headland that > sits ” >

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Another beautiful post on a beautiful part of the world Marion. We always like to go to the furthest point on land we can when we visit a place and Lands End looks like a great spot. Even the name shouts forlorn. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment on this post Allan. The rugged Cornish coastline is splendid walking country whilst the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum and the open-air Minack Theatre nearby are unique attractions. Hope you have a good weekend. Marion

      Liked by 3 people

    1. The rugged Cornish coastline is stunning and visiting the Minack Theatre and the Porthcurno Telecommunications Museum were both extremely interesting and to be recommended. Thank you for taking the time to comment and I hope your weekend is going well.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. This is such a beautiful part of the country isn’t it. I visited a few years ago and caught the bus around to various places – I couldn’t believe it was squeezing down the narrow country lanes!! Very interested to read the history of Porthcurno though, that I didn’t know! If/when I get down there again, I am definitely checking out the telecommunications museum, it looks fascinating!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment on this post. The rugged Cornish coastline is beautiful and I do hope you get an opportunity to visit the Porthcurno Telecommunications Museum as it’s a hidden gem. Have you already visited the Minack Theatre that’s around the corner from there as it’s lovely too? Hope you have a good weekend.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I haven’t visited the Minack Theatre, it was on the list but we didn’t make it. We were a bit limited on time and as we were travelling around by bus we couldn’t quite work it into our schedule. I’d love to go though – hopefully next time 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of this info, it makes me want to get out there again and explore !

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, the Land’s End looks to be something out of a fantasy novel, especially with its green, surrealist jagged cliffs. The Minack Theatre truly does look unique, as I’ve seen my fair share of theatres, but not one with greenery covering it! This looks to be a special place in Cornwall, and I’ll have to make the trek over there should I be in the UK someday again!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. This tip of Cornwall is indeed stunning Rebecca with its dramatic cliffs and coastal paths. The Minack Theatre is truly unique and hopefully I’ll get back there to see a performance one of these days. Hope you have a good weekend and thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      Liked by 3 people

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