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Enjoy an easy ride along one of south Cornwall's most beautiful bays.
Minimum time 1h30
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Suggested map OS Explorer 102 Land's End
Start/finish The Godolphin Arms car park, Marazion, grid ref: SW 516306
Trails/tracks short stretch of road, track generally level, rough and bumpy in places
Landscape village, beach, seaside, townscape
Public toilets on Points 2 and 3 of the route, and in the car park at Penzance
Tourist information Penzance, tel 01736 362207
Bike hire The Cycle Centre, Penzance, tel 01736 351671
Recommended pub The Godolphin Arms, Marazion
Notes Short stretch of road at start and finish, one car park to be negotiatedWrite a review of this bike ride
© Automobile Association 2008. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
From Penzance, take the A30 past the heliport. At the second roundabout turn right, signed Marazion. The Godolphin Arms car park is signed right (towards the beach).
1 This ride is part of the First and Last Trail, the first stretch of the Cornish Way long-distance cycle route, which starts at Land's End and runs for 180 miles (288km) through the county. Marazion, where this ride starts, is Cornwall's oldest charter town, dating from 1257. Its unusual name comes from the Cornish 'marghas yow' - Thursday market. Marazion was the main trading port in Mount's Bay until Penzance overtook it in the 16th century. It's worth having a look around this attractive village before you set off.
From the pub car park cycle uphill (away from the beach) onto West End. (The Godolphin Arms can be found by turning right.) Turn left along West End and cycle out of the village. There is a parking area on the left along much of this road, so look out for people opening their car doors suddenly. Marazion Marsh lies to the right.
2 Where the road bears right to cross the Penzance to Exeter main railway line, keep straight ahead through a parking area, with the Pizza Shack (and toilets behind) on the right. Again, take care cycling through the car park.
3 Keep ahead and leave the car park to the left of the old station (now the Station pub), to join a level track that runs along the back of the beach. Follow this track, passing more public toilets on the right.
4 Take care where the track drops to meet an entrance road to a beachside car park (there are warning notices 'Give way to traffic'). Pass through the parking area and continue along the track, with the railway close by on the right.
5 Pass the heliport, from which helicopters fly regularly to the Isles of Scilly, which lie more than 17 miles (28 km) southwest of Land's End (day trips are available). Good views open up ahead towards Penzance.
6 On approaching the station the track narrows into a concrete walkway and becomes busier, so look out for pedestrians. Follow the track into the car park by Penzance railway and bus station, with the tourist information centre to the right. This is where you should turn round and return to Marazion. The First and Last Trail actually runs along the road to Newlyn and beyond, but is pretty busy in terms of traffic and is not recommended for families with young children.
There is a lot to see in Penzance, however, which developed as in important pilchard fishing centre in medieval times. Penzance, Newlyn and Mousehole (along the coast to the west) were all destroyed by Spanish raiders in 1595, but by the early 17th century Penzance's fortunes had revived on account of the export of tin from local mines, and it became a fashionable place to live. The coming of the Great Western Railway in Victorian times gave the town another boost and it is now the main centre in Penwith (the far western part of Cornwall). The harbour is always full of interest, and it is from here that the RMV Scillonian makes regular sailings to the Isles of Scilly.
Marazion - and the whole of Mount's Bay - is dominated by the rocky bulk of St Michael's Mount, accessible by foot via the 600yd (549m) causeway at low tide, and by ferry from the beach when the tide is up (weather permitting). This extraordinary granite outcrop is topped by a medieval castle, dating from the 12th century and now mainly in the care of the National Trust. Originally the site of a Benedictine priory, it has been the home of the St Aubyn family for over 300 years. There is also a 14th-century church on the rock, as well as a pub, restaurant and shops round the little harbour, and a private garden with limited opening times. Marazion Marsh, passed on the right of the road near the start of the ride, is the largest reedbed in Cornwall. An RSPB nature reserve, this area of reedbeds, open water and willow carr attracts overwintering bitterns, sedge, Cetti's and reed warblers, butterflies and damselflies. There is a hide from which the birds can be watched ( including the rare, spotted crake) and good access via boardwalks.
This level, easy, there-and-back route along the edge of Mount's Bay, with spectacular views over St Michael's Mount, is an ideal option for families with young children. With just a short road stretch at the start and finish, the ride runs along the back of the huge expanse of sands between Marazion and Penzance, originally a tiny fishing community, today popular with tourists.