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4th February 2016 | Regional News

Walking in The Lizard Peninsula

Not only is the Lizard Peninsular Britain’s most southerly point, but its geology and geomorphology is truly unique. With dramatic cliffs shaped by the Atlantic, the Lizard Peninsular features stunning white beaches, turquoise seas and beautiful meadows.

If you’re visiting Cornwall, then we definitely recommend the Lizard Peninsular. It’s a truly amazing place and a popular destination for walkers. To give you an insight in to the area, we contacted Martin from, who is one of the finest ramblers in the region. Today Martin shares with us all the amazing things about the Lizard Peninsular, including the best places to go on your adventure.

Lizard Peninsula 1

Lizard Peninsula 2

The Lizard Peninsula. Let’s take a walk.

If you park at The National Trust POLTESCO car park (near to Ruan Minor and Kennack Sands, SW724157) and walk down either footpath to CARLEON COVE, you will find an amazing industrial archaeological site. This was the location of The Lizard Stone Company, who spent some 60 years in the latter part of the 19th century processing serpentine that had been hewn from cliff and quarry and transported there by pack mule or dragged. You will see the remains of quite a large mill that was originally driven by water power – and later by steam. If you scramble around a bit, you’ll discover mill pools and wheel pits, bits of engine house and a chimney stack, old quays and a large serpentine base slab upon which the large circular saws cut the stone – all grooved by the blades.

It is rumoured that the reason the mill closed in about 1900 was that a large consignment of finished stone articles, such as hearths, mantles, pillars, bowels and table tops was despatched by small craft from the little quay in the adjacent pool, to a ship anchored out in the bay close by – and that ship was subsequently lost at sea in a storm, together with its un-insured cargo.

To the east of the old roofed store building, you’ll see a much older round stone structure that housed a man operated capstan to haul boats up the adjoining stone slipway, roughly hewn from the serpentine rock. This capstan house was built in about 1700 and although the actual capstan has long gone, you may still see existing examples at Penberth and Sennen Coves in West Penwith.

In the rocky cove here, note the large blocks of greenish serpentine that form such odd shapes on the left side of the beach. Serpentine has an unusual characteristic which makes it crystallise in such large pyramidal shapes.

If you have timed your walk right, you can scramble to the left around the little headland below the todden and reach a remote Little Cove, where you’ll find all sorts of weird rocks, all in close proximity to one another and containing some beautiful minerals. There is serpentine, gabbro, granite gneiss and epidiorite – a type of basalt. Look out for a beautiful wave scoured and polished rounded reef.


Beware of incoming tides. If you are sensible, always commence your explorations on an outgoing tide (preferably a spring tide) and then you’ll always know how long you safely have. If you start your explorations say 3 hours before low tide, you then know that 6 hours later, the tide will be at the same height again, but this time it will be coming in, not out!

Conversely, you may scramble in the opposite direction (south) towards Enys Head – a RIGS site – and this time be aware of the tide especially. Only try this route if you begin your exploration on an outgoing tide, as you have to come back the same way. Along this stretch, you’ll find increasingly bizarre assemblages of rocks that include serpentine, gabbro, amphibole and granite gneiss.

In particular, note that there are many veins and inclusions of beautiful crystals of talc, ankerite, tremolite, enstatite, pyroxene, chrysotile (altered asbestos) and magnetite. You may well find others – too numerous to mention here.

You will also see many faults and peculiar vein structures, dykes and sills.

Returning to Carleon Cove, you will probably be thinking that the geology here can never be really understood. It seems such a complex mix and indeed it is!

But if you are inclined, you can always obtain a good text book and learn more – for now though, it’s enough to just look in wonder and see what comes next…

From Carleon Cove, take the coastal footpath up in a southerly direction towards Kildown Point and Cadgwith Cove. As the path rises, you pass (in spring) clumps of the rare Babington Leek, waving their little heads like aliens. In late summer, you’ll also see clumps of Cornish Heath and dainty white Dropwort flowers.


Beautiful vistas open up, all the way over towards Kennack Sands and eastwards towards Eastern Cliffs, Carrick Luz and Black Head. Higher still come views in the other direction towards Hot Point, Bass Point and The Lizard Point itself – just hidden by Bass Point and its very obvious castellated Lloyds Lookout Station. You might see The Lizard Lighthouse flashing in the distance – with its 27 mile beam.

Passing Kildown Cove, note the now overgrown large amphitheatre that was once a large quarry, from where huge quantities of serpentine were once hauled away, to be shaped into fashionable and useful objects back at Carleon Cove.

Just beyond, out on the right side of Kildown Point itself, you’ll see the remains of a small quarry from where excellent quality serpentine for turning was quarried. Note as you follow the coastal path, you sometimes cross lovely old stiles which contain large slabs of beautifully polished serpentine (by centuries of footsteps).

Close to Kildown Point, you crossed a boundary between serpentine and schist and it is obvious if you look down at the cliffs below that the whole structure and appearance is now quite different. It’s called Hornblende Schist because it contains the mineral hornblende – it is in fact a metamorphosed volcanic ash or dust. Hard to believe that long ago (perhaps over 500 mya), volcanoes erupted around these parts! Continuing down towards Cadgwith Cove, you now pass above the rather awesome chasm below Terrick Colt rock stack, made of Hornblende Schist.

Coming to the little black hut on the cliff top overlooking Cadgwith Cove, pause a while and try to imagine Cadgwith as it was during its heyday as a pilchard fishing village. From this Huers hut, a man (The Huer) kept watch for the shoals of fish and then hollered down to the fishermen in the cove – “Hevva hevva hevva” – who then followed his flag and shouted instructions and rowed their little boats out around the shoals, encircling the fish with large nets, which were then slowly hauled in by hand until all the boats returned to the cove with their hulls full (hopefully) of fish. Huge numbers were sometimes caught – as many as several million in one go! Down in the village, you can still see the old open courtyard (now a tea room) where the fish were salted down by the women of the village and packed in barrels for export – a valuable source of income in those days. Today, pilchards have been re-branded Cornish Sardines and some are still caught, landed and processed at Newlyn and exported, mainly to Italy. Lizard Peninsula 3

Lizard Peninsula 4

Explore this delightful little village for a while – have an ice cream, watch the boats being hauled up and listen to the local fishermen’s chatter, look in the little craft gallery, wander out to the todden between the two coves – even have a swim off the 2nd cove, with its lovely little beach. Note the lovely old thatched cottages in abundance and perhaps you’ll even notice some beautiful old paths in front of the cottages, made of hundreds of lovely water rounded beach pebbles of serpentine and schist. You’ll also notice that some of the buildings have incorporated many of the local rocks into their structure. If the tide is low, wander down onto the beach below where the boats are hauled out and towards the rocks on the lower left. Here are large outcrops of grey/green hornblende schist and if you look around carefully, you’ll find exquisite polished pot holes, showing the beautiful structure of this rock, with its many lovely colours and wonderful banding.


Now wander south again, up the steep path between the cottages and houses towards Church Cove and just a few hundred yards further on along the coastal path, you will suddenly come upon a gaping great chasm on your left called The Devils Frying Pan. Formed many hundreds of years ago by a collapsing sea cave along geological boundaries and faults, you will begin to understand how the sea always exploits such weaknesses.

Now retrace your footsteps back to the village and decide which route you want to return to Poltesco by. There are several options and they are all inland – or you could go back the way you came. Things always look different when you are walking in the opposite direction.cottages

But you could go via the little footpath that runs up from the centre of the village between the cottages to the car park high above. When you reach the car park, stay right along the stream and continue until you come out on a little paved lane. Turn right and then right again on the very next left bend, following the footpath signs towards Ruan Minor. As you pass through the village, you might notice the Methodist chapel, with its lovely stonework (incorporating granite from far away Wendron Moors!) and further on, the even older church next to the village school. Ruan contains many fine 16th century cottages and you’ll see that in the past, large pieces of serpentine were regularly used in house construction.

Take the little paved lane down the left hand side of the school and continue in a NE direction towards Poltesco. It’s a lovely walk and as you slowly wind your way downhill, the gradient gets steeper and steeper – passing on down into woodland and past several quaint thatched cottages – eventually passing the old Poltesco Mill, with it’s still functioning wheel. After you have crossed the bridge, note the ruined old buildings on your right – which are now roofless and enclose little patches of lovely gardens. This valley, having one of the only good sized flows around, had quite a few old mills working at various places over the centuries. There are at least five in this area, in various states of repair. Take the next right and you’ll soon find yourself back where you began.

About 4 miles/3 hours, not including any coastal scrambles. Do not attempt such scrambles unless you are fully aware of the tidal implications. Slippery rocks if wet. Refreshments usually available at Cadgwith and Ruan Minor.

For more information about the Lizard Peninsular, please contact Martin over at

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