Walking the far western coast of Cornwall to the 'First and Last' edge of England.
Distance 6.4 miles (10.4km)
Minimum time 3hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Good coastal footpaths. Can be rocky in places
Landscape West-facing coast with low cliffs and golden beach
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 102 Land's EndSW 369314SW 344250
Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas. Notices indicate
Parking St Just main car park on Market Street, opposite St Just Library. Large free car park
Public toilets St Just free car park, Sennen, Land's End
Notes The No 15 service bus runs between Land's End and St Just. Four buses each way weekdays, six on Sundays
1 You start at St Just's Market Square and go down Market Street, to the right of the Commercial Hotel, and past the free car park and Library. At a T-junction, turn left and follow Bosorne Terrace, keeping straight ahead at a junction by a memorial park. Where the road curves left at another junction, keep right and follow a lane signposted 'Unsuitable for Motors.'
2 After ¼ mile (400m) the lane ends by a seat. Go right from here and follow a hedged-in track. At a junction go left and downhill past Brook Cottage, then turn right down stone steps and follow an enclosed path across a stream to reach a junction with a track.
3 Turn right here, then left onto a lane that leads down a narrow valley to the sea.This is Cot Valley, a sheltered enclave on an otherwise bare and windswept coast. As always in the St Just area, this landscape was heavily mined for copper and tin from as early as Tudor times.
4 From the mouth of the valley, at Porth Nanven, you cross the stream and follow the coast path uphill. To the left of the coast path are the gaping vents of old mining 'adits', tunnels into the cliff face created by early miners excavating veins of rich ore. It is dangerous to enter these adits. Offshore lie the rocky islands of the Brisons, said to have once served as a castaway prison for criminals.
5 For the next few miles (km) the path picks a delightful way past boulder-crammed beaches and above crumbling cliffs, then descends almost to sea level. Soon you are on the the great surfing beaches of Gwynver and Sennen. Here the Atlantic swells race in across a vast expanse of clean, flat sand and the air positively fizzes with ozone.
6 At Sennen Cove follow the seafront walkway to reach the lifeboat house and the Round House Gallery, a circular wooden building that once contained a huge capstan used to haul fishing boats onto dry land.
7 Beyond here, go through the car park then climb steadily uphill to the rocky headland of Pedn-Men-Du, where the National Trust has a seasonal information centre. From here the coastal footpath follows the edge of the cliffs to the 'First and Last' headland in England and to the relentless celebration of the Land's End Experience.
Most people reach Land's End by car and must first run the persuasive gauntlet of the commercial 'Land's End Experience', a welcoming party of themed exhibitions that lies between car park and cliff edge. The real Land's End experience is overpowering, of course. Towering granite cliffs rise up from an always restless sea. This savage headland was Belerion to the Romans, the 'Seat of Storms', a murderous place for sailing vessels caught against its unforgiving coastline. Offshore lies the Longships Lighthouse on its sliver of rock. Far to the south west, on clear days, you can pick out the tiny profiles of the Isles of Scilly. Beyond all this is the Atlantic, and then America.
Land's End is spectacular enough, but leading away to either side of the headland are the long corrugated north and south coastlines of the ever-widening Penwith Peninsula, coastlines that often outclass Land's End for drama and beauty. By way of taking the long view towards Land's End this walk follows footpaths from the old mining town of St Just and then along an exhilarating stretch of coast that runs south to Sennen Cove and to Land's End and faces due west into the bracing Atlantic.
The section of coast from Porth Nanven to Aire Point has some remarkable examples of raised beach. These are sections of wave-cut platforms that are now above sea level. Their exposed surfaces are peppered with sea-polished boulders and pebbles. The phenomenon is the result of an upward tilting of Northern Europe after the ice caps melted during the post glacial period, thus easing pressure on the land mass. The finest example of a raised beach is the seaward cliff face on the north side of Porth Nanven. Don't go too close to raised beaches as they are usually unstable.
St Just was once at the heart of Cornish coastal mining and is an attractive town to explore. Its central square is surrounded by shops and a number of pubs and is flanked at one corner by a handsome granite church with 15th-century features. Around the church are several fine old cottages and buildings. As a major centre of Methodism St Just also has an imposing Wesleyan church from 1833, that once served a congregation of over 2,000.