The days based at Praa Sands were relaxed and relatively stress free. I was staying with Katie and David, a couple listing their beautiful greenside bungalow on AirBnb. Situated next to the golf course at the top of the hill above Praa Sands Beach, it provided a perfect base to recover and hike the miles between Mullion and my next accommodation at the YHA in Penzance. The weather was calm and the walking easy, and with the help of David who dropped me at a couple of places along the coast, I easily covered the miles I needed to and in the process made three new friends and shared stories of my journey so far and discussed what was left to come.
Moving on to the YHA at Penzance, the weather was again favourable for at least another day and I new I had a beautiful walk to come. I’d heard from a few people that the section of the coast path between Porthcurno and Lamorna was particularly special and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Getting off the bus at Porthcurno I enjoyed a typically Cornish brunch of a pasty and strong coffee before descending the short path to the beach. Sitting just below the infamous Minnack Theatre, the white sands of Porthcurno are flanked by two protruding granitic headlands that extend steeply out into the Atlantic. It is this granite that makes the beaches around this area seem so pure and white; feldspars eroding over millions of years intermingling with thousands of white shell fragments to create some of the most beautiful beaches on the whole coastline.
Walking east, steep sided coves frequent the first mile or so before the true hidden beauties of this section of path start to reveal themselves. Steep sided inlets are completely isolated from the surrounding country. The sea is clear hear, and takes on a turquoise to green hue from the boulder-lined seabed that is lush with seaweed. It’s difficult to describe, but this section of coastline just looks healthy. The colours are bold, strong, and the scenery gives the impression that it hasn’t moved for thousands of years and doesn’t plan to any time soon.
The walk drops in and out of two of these coves before the path rounds a headland, before descending and disappearing altogether. As you become shrouded in coastal woodland and miniscule meandering streams, the path abruptly ends at a boulder-filled beach. There’s no sand here, and as you step from boulder to boulder seeking the recommencement of the path on the other side it is distinctly apparent just how varied this coastline is. Already, in just under 5 miles, the walk had gone through white sandy beaches to exposed cliff tops, quaint unpopulated granite coves, through woodland and now onto this exposed beach near St Loy.
Lamorna is not too far from here, and climbing once again atop the cliffs the picturesque Tater-Du Lighthouse draws the eye seawards down a steep staircase lined with shrubs and overgrown hedgerows.
Pushing swiftly through the harbour of Lamorna, the terrain flattens as the coast rounds its way more northwards towards Penzance. The coast somewhat loses its charm through Mousehole and towards Newlyn, becoming more populated, less exposed, and visibly more industrial. Newlyn is still a fully operating commercial harbour and the rows of fresh fish stores suggest that business is still doing well here. Climbing away from the sea, drawing into the pretty YHA sitting above Penzance, it is easily one of the most varied and pretty walks so far.
The hostel was in good spirits that evening. Hostellers from far and wide are drawn in by the accessibility of Penzance and I was in a room with tourists from London, the Midlands, America and Japan. Yet more far-flung tourists were milling about in the kitchen and lounge and it makes for interesting stories and debates that is certainly one of the most endearing aspects of staying in a hostel.
The next morning was in stark contrast. We awoke to the news of the Manchester attacks, and as if the weather had somehow sensed the nations sombre and reflective mood a dense fog had descended over the southwest. That days walk was from Porthcurno, around Lands End to Sennen; a wide expanse of westerly facing beach. Getting the bus to Porthcurno again, the previous days white sands had taken on a duller colouration today and I couldn’t even make out the beautiful granite headland to the east. Skirting past the Minnack Theatre, the path soon emptied of people and I was along on the cliffs for much of the walk to Lands End.
It was moody, dark, and unnervingly still in the air and the only noise was a distant foghorn out in the Atlantic. It was as if everything was in a weird and contemplative mood, with even the birds silencing themselves and the sea calm enough that the waves made but a small splash as they broke on the shore. The conditions suited this stretch of coast however. Hidden caves and splits in the rocks lead the eye further into to cliffs and this whole section feels mysterious and secretive, only revealing itself to those who are attentive and look for the details.
There is not much to say about Lands End itself. Even in the murky drizzle it was swarmed with tourists and holidaymakers wanting to stand on the supposed ‘End of the Country’. Overpriced pasties and instant coffees were keeping them warm and I chose not to hang about, instead resting for some lunch just around the cliffs to the north. Sennen is not far from here, and the path is well trodden for much of the route. Being mainland England’s most westerly beach, Sennen is a swell magnet and is a popular surfing spot with locals and toursits. The town itself has small but functional amenities and made for a good spot to end the day.
With the weather still yet to improve, I had reached a large milestone in rounding Lands End. I was a stones throw from St Ives and the North Coast; a more familiar part of Cornwall and one where I would hopefully be treated to more surfing opportunities. My shoulders were feeling the benefit of not carrying a large pack, and with the weather forecast looking up I finished the day in good spirits. Bring on the next challenge!