The Lizard Peninsula

The Lizard Peninsula, Britain's most southerly point on the mainland. The Lizard is not named after some mythical dragon, one suggestion is that the name comes from the Cornish "lezou", or headland.

The peninsula has been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and as a site of special scientific interest. A large proportion is owned by the National Trust and as a result it has remained mostly unchanged and unspoilt.

The Lizard Peninsula Cornwall UK
[click a point on the map] Coverack Goonhilly Earth Station Helston Porthleven Gunwalloe Mullion Lizard Point Cadgwith St. Keverne Click Here for Met Office 5 day weather forecast for The Lizard Peninsula

With the sea on three sides and the Helford River to the north the Lizard Peninsula is almost an island, a high plateau surrounded by the sea, with numerous hidden little coves and beaches. The south west coastal path winds its way around most of the Lizard making it popular with walkers.

This surprisingly large area tends to attract visitors who want to get away from it all, it is the scenery that inspires people, to write, paint, take photographs and generally relax away from everyday life.

Along the east coast you will discover wooded valleys and a scattering of hamlets and fishing coves, the picture book communities of Cadgwith and Coverack, and the charming inland village of St Keverne.

Little villages such as St Martin, Porthoustock, Porthallow and the safe family beaches, Kennack Sands and Coverack are all well worth a visit. Fishing boats still set sail each day from coves such as Cadgwith and Coverack where there is a sheltered bay, ideal for most watersports.

These villages once the haunt of smugglers and the occasional pirate, now attract windsurfers and divers who come to explore, the many shipwrecks around The Lizard's coastline.

Click here to go Scuba Diving Shipwrecks of The Lizard

On the west coast, Porthleven is the most southerly port in mainland Britain, a harbour full of yachts and fishing boats. At Gunwalloe - Church Cove you will find a beautiful church set amongst the sand dunes. Mullion is a bustling little inland village which has shops, inns, cafes and restaurants, craft shops and art galleries, not forgetting the quaint harbour at Mullion Cove. Click for Lizard Map

HELSTON - Gateway to The Lizard Peninsula

The bustling market town of Helston lies midway between Falmouth and Penzance at the junction of the A394 and A3083, which serves the Lizard Peninsula to the south. Ideally located for exploring South West Cornwall, Helston has plenty for visitors of all ages. As you explore the town you'll see a mixture of Georgian and Victorian architecture, one outstanding feature being The Monument at the end of Coinagehall Street, built in 1834 to the memory of Humphry Millet Grylls. A Helston banker and solicitor, his actions kept open the local tin mine, Wheal Vor, and saved 1200 jobs.

Walking up Coinagehall Street, you'll pass the Blue Anchor, a thatched building, originally a monks' rest house, which became a tavern in the 15th century. Miners received their wages in the pub, which is possibly the oldest private brewery in the country, call in and enjoy the local brew, Spingo! Further up, you'll find one of the oldest buildings in Helston, the Angel Hotel, the former town house of the celebrated Godolphins who represented Helston in Parliament for many years.

A plaque on the wall of one Wendron Street cottage marks the birthplace of Bob Fitzsimmons. Born in 1863, he was the first man to be world middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight boxing champion. He retired in 1914 and died in Chicago three years later.

By the traffic lights is the imposing Guildhall. Over the years this has been a market house and Magistrates' Court; today it is the Town Hall with the Council Chamber on the first floor. The ground floor is still called the Corn Exchange and here you might be tempted inside by coffee mornings, craft markets and jumble sales. Behind the Guildhall you'll see a splendid cannon taken from HMS Anson, wrecked at Lee Bar in 1807. This event, with its loss of life, inspired Henry Trengrouse to invent the Breeches Buoy. The cannon stands on guard outside the Helston Folk Museum, housed in the old butter market, where you'll be fascinated by the exhibitions of Helston's heritage.

Continuing along Church Street, you'll arrive at the parish church of St Michael, dedicated to the patron saint of Helston. It contains an impressive 24-branch chandelier - a gift from the Earl of Godolphin in 1763 - and some fine Elizabethan brasses.

As you head out of Helston, past the Coronation Park & Boating Lake, towards the fishing village of Porthleven, you'll come to the parkland of the Penrose Estate, which offers some beautiful woodland walks. Here you can relax on the banks of the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall, Loe Pool, separated from the sea by a long sand bar.

Perhaps Helston's greatest claim to fame is the internationally famous festival of the Furry, or Flora Dance. This is held every year on May 8th unless that day falls on a Sunday or Monday, when it is held on the preceding Saturday.

You'll probably have to park outside the town and walk in. Thousands of visitors throng the streets all day and there's a carnival atmosphere from dawn to well into the night.

You'll find the town decked out with bluebells, gorse, laurel leaves and colourful flags. Dancing begins at 7.00 am, and at 8.30 there's the mummers'play known as the Hal-an-Tow, at several venues throughout the town. Watch St George and St Michael slay the Dragon and the Devil, cheered on by a crowd dressed in Lincoln green and Elizabethan robes.

The children of the town dance at 10.00 am, at midday there's the principal dance, with invited participants in top hats, tails and dress gowns; and a final dance at 5.00 pm. The dancers weave in and out of the shops, houses and gardens behind the Helston Band playing the famous Flora Dance tune.

The origins of the dance are certainly pre-Christian and are connected with ancient spring festivals all over Europe. Nowadays its ancient intention of ushering in prosperous harvests goes hand in hand with the splash of colour all over the town, the joyous music and high spirits of all involved. Click for Lizard Map


Head west on the A394 from Helston to Penzance and a left turn will bring you to Porthleven the most southerly port in mainland Britain and an excellent base for exploring South West Cornwall. A harbour full of yachts and fishing boats, narrow streets climbing the steep hillsides and spectacular views, Porthleven has long been that happy Cornish mix of fishing port and holiday resort. A happy mix of working village and holiday centre, Porthleven offers a variety of accommodation and you'll find restaurants, pubs, galleries and gift shops trading alongside fishmongers and chandlers.

The town was once a centre for boat building, its long harbour wall protecting the port from the winter south-westerlies which rage across Mount's Bay. Nowadays, you'll find a welcome in the harbourside cafés, restaurants and inns and enjoy time browsing among the gift shops - you might even like to buy some of the day's catch at the Quayside Fish Centre. Porthleven's name is thought to come from the old Cornish porth (harbour) and leven (level or smooth), probably because the harbour was once a flat marshland on the banks of a stream flowing into the sea at a small cove. The stream still flows through the valley and divides the village into the two parishes Sithney to the east and Breage to the west.

By the 14th century, a hamlet of fishermen's dwellings had established itself around the cove, separated from the sea by a bar of shingle where the boats were kept. This community continued to grow and by 1700 had been joined by farmworkers and miners.
Then in 1811, to meet the demand for coal and supplies for the nearby mines, together with the need for a safe refuge for the fishing fleet, the construction of the harbour began; the project was to take 14 years and the workforce included many prisoners from the Napoleonic wars. It was opened in August 1825 with a feast of roast beef and plum pudding for the whole village.

In 1855 the harbour was leased by Harvey and Co., of Hayle, who created a deeper inner basin which was protected by the massive timber baulk gates still in use today. Trade increased dramatically with imports of coal, limestone and timber, and exports of tin, copper and china clay. From the 1850's the Porthleven boatbuilding industry became a major employer. The large slip saw the launch of clippers, schooners and yachts destined for ports around the world. Two Porthleven-built trawlers still work from Brixham but the last boat was launched from here in the late 1970's.

Much of Porthleven's daily routine is still played out in the harbour, with houses and cottages cramming the hillsides for the best view. Boats still fish from here, the main catch being crab, lobster and crayfish.

A few yards from the harbour you can soak up the sun from the beach or take the South West Coast Path east to the wild Lizard Peninsula or west to the spectacular cliff-edge tin mines of Rinsey. Come in the summer and you'll catch Porthleven in its holiday clothes, with quayside concerts by the town band, gig racing and the festival of St. Peter's Tide.

As you stroll round the harbour, you'll be passing buildings which can tell a story or two of times past, when the quayside heaved with activity. As you turn into Breageside, the three storey building across to your right was built in 1889 as fish-curing cellars which turned thousands of hogsheads of pilchards for export. The Wreck and Rescue Centre started life in 1893 as a china clay store; up to 7000 tons of china clay from the Tregonning Hill quarries were kept here prior to export. As you walk a little further on you'll see a ruined turret-like building, once a lime-kiln, built in 1814 to produce lime for the construction of the harbour and the building boom which followed.

The two cannon either side of the harbour were once fired in anger at Napoleon's navy during the battle of Brest and come from the frigate HMS Anson, wrecked on Loe Bar in 1807 with the loss of 120 sailors.

Just round from the Ship Inn is the old lifeboat house, built in 1894. Porthleven had its own lifeboat service from 1863 to 1929, which ran 28 missions and saved 50 lives. The village retains strong links with the RNLI and each August holds a colourful Lifeboat Day. The Bickford-Smith Institute, with its imposing 70ft clock tower, was built in 1883 as a Literary Institute by William Bickford-Smith of Trevarno. The building featured in the national press in 1989, when pictures showed the tower engulfed by enormous waves. Click for Lizard Map

GUNWALLOE - Church Cove

15th century church of St Winwaloe - Church Cove At Gunwalloe - Church Cove you will find a beautiful church set amongst the sand dunes. This little 15th century church of St Winwaloe, with its tower built into the cliff, separate from the main building, and usually half-buried in blown sand is said to contain woodwork from the wreck of the 300-ton Portuguese carrack San Antonio (St. Anthony). Captained by Antonio Pacheco, she was wrecked on Saturday, 19 January, 1527, on the way from Lisbon to Antwerp with a cargo which included copper and silver ingots.

At nearby Halzephron which allows access to the southern end of Porthleven Sands, whose many wrecks throw up coins of all nations to the metal detectors, is the Halzephron Inn.
Cannons found near here are likely to be the last remains of the army transport James and Rebecca, homeward bound with a squadron of the 9th Light Dragoons, which was wrecked here with 41 dead on 6 November, 1807.
Treasure tales abound in the neighbourhood. One that persists is that the pirate John Avery, alias Long Ben, buried a fabulous treasure in the sand near Gunwalloe. Why he should have done that when he retired to Bideford, Devon, and died a pauper in 1697, is never made clear! Click for Lizard Map


Goonhilly Earth StationThe dramatic dishes of the famous Satellite Earth Station dominate the Goonhilly Downs. The largest operational satellite station on earth. When viewed from afar, Arthur, Merlin and the other dishes on Goonhilly Downs appear deceptively small. Seen close up, they tower above you, silent monoliths in almost reverent contemplation of the heavens. A visit to BT's satellite earth station on Cornwall's Lizard Peninsula is a truly awe-inspiring experience, made even more so when you appreciate the story behind Goonhilly. The dishes at Goonhill are busy sending and receiving TV pictures all over the world, while simultaneously handling thousands of international phone, fax, data and video calls. When it opened in 1962, Goonhilly was one of the first 3 satellite earth stations in the world. There are now over 200 satellite earth stations scattered around the globe. Goonhilly, with a total of 25 operational and development dishes, is the worlds largest.
When you make an international phone call (or receive one), the chances are that it will be routed through Goonhilly. Over 10 million international phone calls are handled each week.

The flat heathland of the Goonhilly Downs are a naturalist's delight, for they are the habitat of many rare plant species which are of botanical and archaeological interest. Four types of heather grow here including the rare Cornish heath. Due to the gulf stream, spring usually comes early, and the lovely walks offer a wide range of both rare and common flowers. Hedgerows are full of foxgloves, primroses and other spring flowers. July and August see the heathland in full flower.
The Goonhilly downs are just as much rewarding for the ornithologist, buzzards, hen harriers, owls and other birds of prey hunt across the downs, and in the late summer many migrant birds can be spotted.
An introduction to the nature reserve and the delights of the Lizard Peninsula can be enjoyed at The Goonhilly visitor centre. Click for Lizard Map


Mullion is the largest settlement on the Lizard. In the height of summer this is a bustling little inland village which has shops, inns, cafes and restaurants, craft shops and art galleries.

In the centre of the village, the 15th century church of St. Mellanus is renowned for its richly-carved oak bench-ends depicting biblical scenes, including that of Jonah and the Whale.

A short walk or drive brings you to picturesque Mullion Cove, The cove had a lifeboat station from 1867 -1909, and with good reason; in the six years up to 1873 there were nine wrecks under Mullion cliffs along a mile-and-a-half stretch of coastline.

Kynance Cove

Follow the coastal footpath south for five miles and enjoy some of the most impressive coastal scenery in Britain, including Kynance Cove where at low tide the golden sands can be a suntrap and the rock pools and caves an absolute paradise for children and adults alike to explore. Growing here you may find the rare wild asparagus, hairy greenweed and bloody cranesbill.


Travel north and you come to Poldhu where the first radio signal was sent across the Atlantic. It was on the cliffs above Poldhu Cove on December 12th. 1901, that the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission was sent, (the morse code for the letter "S") and was received by Marconi, on Signal Hill in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. A monument, and visitors center where the successful centenary recreation of Guglielmo Marconi's famous experiment, (Marconi's grandson sent the signal) marks the spot.
Poldhu is an ideal and easily accessible family beach. The beach at Polurrian is popular with surfers and approached by a walk along the cliffs or through a valley. Click for Lizard Map


Steam engines in St. Keverne 2001 .

St. Keverne village clusters around the square; you'll find whitewashed cottages, a beautiful church, two pubs and a handful of shops.

On summer evenings you might catch the St Keverne Band, or the Male Voice Choir, and the square really comes alive at the annual festivals of the Ox Roast and Carnival.

A short walk out of the village brings you to Tregellast Barton, where you can follow lakeside and woodland nature trails.

A visit to Roskilly's, where you can watch the cows being milked, and taste the local cornish ice cream is always a favourite with children.

Two Cornish rebellions, one in 1497, the other in 1547, have their roots in St Keverne. In the church wall, facing the square, there's a memorial stone to the village blacksmith Michael Joseph, leader of the first uprising. Protesting against the punitive taxes levied by Henry VIII, the uprising was routed on its march to London and Joseph was subsequently hung, drawn and quartered. In St Keverne Church there's a shipwreck window; and in the churchyard. there is a stark memorial to the 106 lives lost when the liner Mohegan was wrecked in 1898.
Just off the coast at Porthoustock (pronounced 'P'rowstock') is the reason why: the Manacles - a group of jagged rocks lying beneath the surface of the water. These rocks have been reputed by locals to give off emissions which affect the accuracy of ships compasses. The village itself was once the haunt of smugglers. In 1762, five men from here brought home 218 barrels of brandy!
A few boats still set sail from the pretty fishing village of Porthallow, where, in 1832 1,400 hogsheads of pilchards were landed in one day. Stroll along the beach for spectacular views of Falmouth Bay.Click for Lizard Map


With its clear shallow waters, sandy beach and little harbour wall this picture book village is a popular destination for families with small children, and windsurfers alike. Although it looks a peaceful and sheltered place on a sunny summer's afternoon - the photographs in the bar of the Paris Hotel show just how devastating a storm here can be. The hotel is named after an American passenger liner which ran aground off Lowland Point in 1899. There was no loss of life on that occasion.
On Christmas day you can witness the annual charity swim, people from all over the Lizard take part, usually dressed in the most unusual attire. Or you can watch and enjoy the festivities from the comfort of The Paris Hotel. Click for Lizard Map


Cadgwith. This must be one of Cornwall's loveliest villages. Is is crammed with cottages made from rough lumps of serpentine and roofed with thatch. Roofs covered in thatch are relatively rare in Cornwall as slate has been in use for many years. The naturally protected cove is still home to a small fleet of crabbing boats which are winched up the shingle beach. When the winter storms rage, it can be quite a sight to see the locals pushing the boats up the steep roads to the safety of the car park. Just to the south along the coastal path is the awesome Devil's Frying Pan. This is a 200' deep hole in the cliffs formed many years ago by the collapse of a sea cave. Part of the adventure of visiting Cadgwith is navigating the steep and narrow lanes into the village Click for Lizard Map


The Lizard Lighthouse CornwallThe Lizard Peninsula is one of the few places where the rock Serpentine can be found, when it is polished or wet, it resembles the skin of a snake. At Lizard village and on the point, the serpentine turners can be seen polishing and making objects from this unusual stone. The Lizard lighthouse is mainland Britain's most southerley lighthouse, first built in 1751; in the summer months it offers guided tours where you can visit the engine room and the top of the lighthouse.Click for Lizard Map

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