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Lifesavers at the Lizard

A walk round Britain's most southerly point where coastwatchers, lighthouse keepers and lifeboatmen stand guard.

Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)

Minimum time 4hrs

Ascent/gradient 220ft (67m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Coastal footpaths, inland tracks and lanes. Please take note of path diversion notices at any erosion repair areas, 3 stiles

Landscape Spectacular sea cliffs backed by open heathland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 103 The Lizard

Start/finish SW 703125

Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas

Parking Large car park at centre of Lizard village. Donation box. Can be busy in summer

Public toilets By car park at Lizard village


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1 Walk past the public toilets at the bottom end of the car park and go along a surfaced lane signed 'To Caerthillian and Kynance Coves'. In 50yds (46m) bear right at a junction and go along a track, signed 'Public Footpath Kynance Cove'. After a few paces, at a public footpath sign, bear off left behind a chalet and go up some steps, then follow a hedge-top path.

2 Descend steps and go through a grove of privet. Negotiate two more sets of steps then bear slightly right across a field towards the just visible roof of a house. Go over a step stile to reach a surfaced road.

3 Follow the road past the house, called Carn Goon. In a few paces bear off right along a track. Reach a T-junction with a wide track and cross this to reach the bottom end of the National Trust car park for Kynance Cove. Pass in front of a National Trust information kiosk, then turn right and follow a track to Kynance Cove.

4 Walk back up from the cove to where a path goes off right, signed 'Coastal Path To Lizard Point'. Follow a cobbled and stepped path steeply uphill, then continue along the coast path for about 1¼ miles (2km). Pass above Pentreath Beach and Caerthillian Cove and continue to the rocky Lizard Head and then to Lizard Point and a car park and cafés.

5 Cross the car park and follow the coast path past the lighthouse. Descend steeply into Housel Cove and ascend just as steeply, ignoring a link path inland to Lizard village. Pass the old Marconi Wireless Station, at Pen Olver, the old Lloyds Signal Station and then the National Coastwatch Institution Lookout at Bass Point.

6 Follow a track past houses, then bear off right and follow the narrow coast path past Hot Point and on to the modern lifeboat house at Kilcobben Cove.

7 Go down steps on the far side of the lifeboat station and follow the coast path to Church Cove. Follow the public lane inland past Landewednack Church and continue steadily uphill to a junction with the main road on a bend beside a granite cross and a seat. Go left along Beacon Terrace to reach the car park.

Lizard Point's far south location can make it a place of sun and warmth although the sea is still in control here. For some distance offshore, reefs and sandbanks create massive 'overfalls' where, in stormy weather the sea becomes chaotic and dangerous. On the high ground of Lizard Point stands one of the most strategically important lighthouses in Britain. A coal-fired Lizard Lighthouse was built in 1619, but was short-lived, and it was not until 1752 that a more substantial lighthouse was built. It was first powered by coal and then, from 1812 onwards, by oil. Today's light uses electricity and has one of the most powerful beams in Britain.

The route of the walk first leads to the picturesque Kynance Cove then winds its way along the coast path to Lizard Head and then to Lizard Point. In Polpeor Cove on the western side of Lizard Point, and seen clearly from the coast path, stands the disused lifeboat house of the old Lizard lifeboat. This was a bold location; the launching slipway faced into the teeth of southerly and westerly gales and too often it was impossible to launch the lifeboat, though epic missions were carried out over the years. In 1961 the lifeboat house was closed on the opening of a new lifeboat station at the more sheltered Kilcobben Cove near Landewednack's Church Cove to the east.

The Lizard was also famous for its connections with radio communications, a technology that has played its own crucial part in search and rescue at sea. East of Lizard Lighthouse, the route of the walk leads past the little wooden building of the old Marconi Wireless Station. From here, in 1901, the first wireless transmission was sent by Guglielmo Marconi. The letter 'S' in Morse code was sent from a, now demolished, 164ft (50m) aerial. It was received faintly - but almost immediately - over 2,000 miles (3,240km) away at St John's, Newfoundland, where the aerial had been attached to a kite. Within sight of the 'Marconi Bungalow', as the little building is called, is the ugly, white-painted building of the old Lloyds signal station on Bass Point. The original station was established in 1872 to take note of all shipping that passed the Lizard. In front of the Lloyds building is a one-time coastguard lookout that is now manned by members of the National Coastwatch Institution. Just over ½ mile (800m) further on is the spectacular location of the Lizard-Cadgwith Lifeboat station, the modern successor to lifeboats that were once stationed at Cadgwith, Church Cove, and Lizard Point. The record of service boards outside say everything about this ultimate expression of the service to mariners by local people over the years.

What to look for

Look for two garden escapees which thrive here. Monbretia (Tritonia crocosmiflora) has rich orange flowers, the Hottentot fig (Carpobrutus edulis) has large pink or yellow flowers and a wide-spreading mat of fleshy leaves.

Where to eat and drink

At Lizard Point car park the Polpeor Café, billed, with good reason as 'the Most Southerly Café in England' does a tasty selection of food including Cornish pasties, Cajun chicken and home made steak and kidney pies. Ice creams and drinks are also on sale. There are reduced opening hours in winter. You can eat and drink just by stepping off the coast path through the delightful cliff-side gardens of the Housel Bay Hotel on the east side of Housel Cove. A menu is posted alongside the path. Dogs are not allowed in the hotel and restaurant areas. The Top House Inn at Lizard village is an attractive and well-run, popular, traditional pub that has an excellent selection of bar meals as well as offering sandwiches of all types.


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