Another wonderful Autumn drive from The Captain’s House in Falmouth.
Where better to start a road trip than at the End? We headed South West from Falmouth as far as it is possible to go by car to Lands End. There’s a whole experience here, a signpost with lots of distances to major cities on it, and the landscape is beautiful, but it was blowing such a hooley that we could barely get out of the car – so we mentally ticked it off the list and drove slightly up the north coast towards Sennen Cove – a beautiful long beach, waves crashing on rocks at the end. The weather was getting worse, adding spectacle to the backdrop but not exactly encouraging exploration on foot.
So on we drove – diving off the A30 and past Land’s End airport towards St Just with its quaint town square, which we drove straight through as we’d seen “Cape Cornwall” on the map which sounded intriguing. A short drive down a single track road brought us out to a National Trust car park overlooking a small cove with fishing boats pulled up on the sand, and the cape itself towering ahead of us. The rain had stopped so we headed up to the top, making our way across a muddy field and past St Helen’s Oratory – a tiny ruined mediaeval church – and over a stone stile. The rain had stopped maybe, but as we hit the ridge the wind slapped us in the face with bits of sea foam and did its level best to take us off our feet. We hunkered low to the ground as we made our way up the short path to the top of the cape. It was too windy to go all the way to the end but we reached a suitable vantage point looking back where we had come and we were rewarded with an incredible panaroma – storm clouds and huge rollers away to our left up the coast and the sun shattering off infinite wave tops all the way to Lands End in the south.
Back in the car on onwards along winding roads, past Wheals (mines), castles and lighthouses rich with history – we could have stopped a hundred times, but we needed a pick-me-up so soon found ourselves in Zennor, where we stopped at the MooMaid café and ice cream parlour, perched next to a bridge over a tumbling brook doing its best impression of a raging torrent. A couple of excellent coffees and an enormous bun courtesy of Baker Tom (it wasn’t really ice cream weather) and recharged we continued on our way to St Ives.
St Ives is a tourist hub – with its picture perfect harbour, magnificent lifeboat, art galleries (both the Tate the Barbara Hepworth museum and sculpture garden) and cream teas galore. Most importantly for us was the award winning Harbour Fish and Chips, eaten on a bench watching the tide entering the harbour and lifting the boats off the sand. After lunch we headed North from St Ives along the cliff road past Carbis Bay, briefly following the railway as it headed through the excellently named Lelant Saltings station, and then through Hayle out towards Gwithian with its huge sandy beach and grassy dunes to explore. From there headed into the National Trust managed North Cliffs – another stunning drive (and doubtless beautiful walks too) before emerging to Portreath with it’s unusual beach/narrow harbour layout – the waves by now relentlessly hammering the harbour walls. With a final climb up the road to the lighthouse we found a car park looking back past the town and all the way down the spectacular coastline we’d just travelled. From Portreath it’s a 35 minute drive back to the south coast and the safe harbour of Falmouth.