The Serpentine Coast: Rambling Around Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula

Introduction

The Lizard Peninsula is the southernmost point of mainland Britain – and one of the most wonderfully wild. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the English Channel, a place of wheeling seabirds, rugged cliffs, pounding waves and too many shipwrecks to count. And, of course, the South West Coast Path traces right around its edges, providing a front-row perspective on all this natural drama.

The Lizard also feels like a land apart. With its rare geology of serpentinite-bearing rock, its mild maritime climate and its super-abundance of birdlife, marine life and plants, you’ll feel like you’ve ventured much further than the south-west of England. So, prepare for an adventure. Hike along the Coast Path, via jaw-dropping crags and coves. Keep an eye out for bobbing seals and basking adders, for marsh fritillary butterflies and Cornish choughs. Learn about lighthouses and the birth of modern communications (Marconi made pioneering radio experiments here). And eat the best pasties in the world.

 

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Days

3

Distance

Walks from 6.5km to 11km

Difficulty

Moderate

Landscape

Rolling Countryside / Connecting Villages & Towns / By Water

Theme

History / Food & Drink / Wildlife / Coastal

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Water Fun / Heritage

The Serpentine Coast: Rambling Around Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own walking and exploring break on the Lizard Peninsula and Cornwall coast. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.

Tour details

Get back to nature on a three-day break, exploring Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula. As well as heart-soaring walking along the South West Coast Path, there’s the chance to spot (and meet) seals, hone your bird-watching skills, be wowed by wildflowers, swim off world-class beaches and eat very well indeed.

Day 1 The Lizard: to Lizard Point

Arrive in the country’s southernmost village and start with a gentle stroll around the Lizard Peninsula. As you stroll, notice how the rocks change as well as the abundance of plants: this is one of the richest wildflower areas in the UK, alive with species such as fringed rupturewort, pygmy rush and wild asparagus.

Look out for seals below as you head towards Lizard Point. And keep an eye out for choughs – large crows with red legs and beaks. Cornwall’s ‘national’ bird, choughs disappeared from England in 1973, but a breeding pair set up home here in 2002 and the species is now well established.

Stop for a spot of lunch at one of the cafés at Lizard Point, which offer fantastic views out to sea – maybe Polpeor Café, for amazing lobster salad or beautifully fresh lemon sole. Or perhaps try Wavecrest Café, which has a menu packed with local produce and sweet treats. And pop into Mungo Lil’s Art Gallery to buy a memento or two.

The first lighthouse was built on the Lizard in 1619, to look over the treacherous waters. The current one was completed in 1752, and its engine room is now a heritage centre – pop in to learn about its history, hear lighthouse keepers’ stories and blast the foghorn.

Return to Lizard Village via the pretty cottages of Church Cove, maybe stopping off at Anne’s, purveyor of the finest pasties to be found.

Overnight in Lizard Village or nearby. For options, see Accommodation, left.

 

Day 2 The Lizard: Seals and Sub-tropics

Today, eat your breakfast with some locals. The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek (a 20-minute drive from Lizard) is Cornwall’s only working seal hospital, where poorly pups are rehabilitated for release; book an exclusive early morning experience to enter before opening hours – you’ll get a VIP tour, breakfast and a chance to feed the seals.

Then, drive on to nearby Trebah Gardens, a sub-tropical paradise with its own private beach, carefully created over 180 years. The result is dazzling: exotic blooms, champion trees, ferns, ponds, cascades and pools, all bursting against a backdrop of turquoise seas. Walk its miles of footpaths and stop for lunch at the café, which serves bright, fresh and nutritious dishes in lush surrounds.

Spend the afternoon following another fine stretch of shore just east of Trebah. A loop to Rosemullion Head strikes across wildflower-speckled grassland, follows the peaceful Helford River estuary and passes a succession of secluded coves (perfect for a quick swim).

For dinner, how about a proper fish supper courtesy of The Smugglers Fish & Chip Shop in Lizard – it fries up the fresh catch from local harbours. Or, for something a bit more upmarket, head to Housel Bay for amazing clifftop cuisine and treat yourself to a cocktail at their Marconis Bar. You could also head to nearby Mullion for a Mediterranean inspired meal at Polurrian on the Lizard.

Overnight in Lizard Village or nearby. For options, see Accommodation, left.

 

Day 3 The Lizard: Mullion Cove

For your last day, ditch the car. Catch a bus to the nearby fishing village of Mullion, to walk back along a jaw-dropping stretch of the South West Coast Path.

This walk winds along the wild and exposed cliffs of the west coast of the Lizard and via some of the UK’s most important areas for rare and beautiful plants: in spring look for sea thrift, spring squill, campions and orchids; in late summer the land erupts in pale pink Cornish heath.

This section also passes Kynance Cove, a favourite for day-trippers since Victorian times and a showstopper of a beach: here, blue-green waves tickle bright-white sand and tidal pools glisten amid sculptural rock stacks and secretive caves. Look for the Devil’s Letterbox, a cave crack with powerful suction caused by the pull of air from the swell below. Remember to pack your cossie, so you can go for a swim, and grab lunch at the eco-friendly Kynance Cove Cafe.

This evening, make the short journey to nearby Cadgwith (10 minutes by car) to see the pretty little harbour just as the sun goes down. There are great places to eat here too – head to the Cadgwith Inn for the traditional Cornish pub experience.

And before you climb into bed for the night, take a look up outside, for out-of-this-world stargazing in the clear dark skies.

Overnight in Lizard Village or nearby. For options, see Accommodation, left.

 

Accommodation

The Lizard area of the South West Coast Path has a range of accommodation options, including campsites, B&Bs, hotels and self-catering cottages.

Lizard
  • The Old Bakery B&B, Lizard – Former bakehouse converted into a two-bed B&B.
  • Haelarcher, Lizard – Farmhouse B&B with great breakfasts and warm and cosy beds.
  • Penmenner House, Lizard – Elegant B&B with luxury accommodation and mesmerising ocean views.
  • Silver Sands Holiday Park, Lizard – Luxurious lodges, static caravans and touring and camping pitches set in mature parkland.
  • Little Trenoweth, Lizard – Most southerly thatched Grade II-listed cottage in England; available for self-catering stays, sleeping up to six.
  • Lizard YHA – Former Victorian hotel, now a four-star hostel; panoramic sea views.
  • Lizard Lighthouse Holiday Cottages – Six handsomely appointed lighthouse keepers’ cottages at the southernmost point of mainland Britain.
Beyond
  • Cadgwith Cove Cottages – Selection of characterful self-catering cottages around Cadgwith Cove and Lizard.
  • Chyheira, Cadgwith – Quality B&B in an old Edwardian house, a short walk from Cadgwith.
  • Polurrian on the Lizard, Mullion – Contemporary Cornish retreat with Mediterranean-inspired restaurant.
  • Trenance Farm Cottages, Mullion – One- to three-bed self-catering cottages; dog friendly.
  • Sea Acres Holiday Park, Kennack Sands – Caravans and lodges, with a range of activities and facilities including an adventure playground, heated indoor pool and PADI dive centre.
  • Kynance Cove Cottage – Cosy cottage at the bottom of Kynance Cove, next to the cafe; has one bedroom with a double bed and bunk beds.

 

Food & Drink

The Cornish coast, around the Lizard, is packed with great places to eat, from beachside cafes to fancy dining spots with far-reaching views. And if you just want a world-class pasty or fish and chips, you can get those too.

Lizard
  • Anne’s Pasties – A Lizard institution; arguably the world’s best pasties, including vegan options.
  • Fat Jacks, Lizard – Known for fantastic sandwiches and pasties.
  • The Witchball, Lizard – The most southerly pub in mainland Britain, serving fresh seafood.
  • Polpeor Cafe, Lizard Point – Lovely fresh seafood salads and other dishes, with huge views.
  • Wavecrest Cafe, Lizard Point – Fresh, seasonal and local produce served, overlooking the sea.
  • Tregullas Farm Shop, Lizard – Edible goodies to take home; also serves great coffee and cream teas.
  • Smugglers Fish & Chip Shop, Lizard – Good old chip shop, using fresh fish caught by day boats from local harbours and nearby villages.
  • Housel Bay, Lizard – Hotel with three different eating and drinking spots, including a panoramic terrace.
Beyond
  • Mullion Cove Hotel, Mullion – Award-winning restaurant with amazing food and views; great cocktails too.
  • Polurrian on the Lizard, Mullion – Relaxed Mediterranean-inspired meals served in spectacular surroundings.
  • Kynance Cove Beach Cafe – Family-run cafe right by the beach.
  • Cadgwith Inn, Cadgwith – Characterful pub serving pub classics, with a warm welcome and a well-stocked bar.

Activities

Follow linear sections of the South West Coast Path, or use other footpaths to make great loops. You can get in the water too.

Walks
Other
  • Kennack Diving – PADI 5-Star Dive Resort, offering courses from beginner to assistant instructor and trial dives in the pool and sea
  • For further walking inspiration visit The Outdoor Guide.

Experiences

While you’re walking the South West Coast Path, make time to visit a few more attractions around the Lizard Peninsula.

  • Kennack Diving – PADI 5-Star Dive Resort, offering courses from beginner to assistant instructor and trial dives in the pool and sea.
  • Lizard Lighthouse Heritage Centre – Exhibitions and audio-visual and interactive displays telling the story of the historic building.
  • Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Gweek (https://sealsanctuary.sealifetrust.org/en/visiting-us/tickets-experiences/) – Cornwall’s only working seal hospital; exclusive-access tours available, including feeding session with the seals.
  • Trebah Gardens – Sub-tropical paradise, the result of over 180 years of dedicated creation; network of footpaths and lovely cafe.
  • Mungo Lil’s Art Gallery, Lizard Point – Gift shop and gallery; great place to pick up a little memento.

 

Coastal England

The South West Coast Path forms part of the England Coast Path.

For further coastal walks visit England’s Coast.

Travel

Great Western Railway runs a regular service from Paddington station to the south west region.

Buses connect Helston, Mullion and Lizard village year-round. Buses also run regularly from Falmouth and Helston to Gweek Village. It is useful to have a car for exploring further afield, though note that The Lizard can get very busy in high summer.

Advice

The walks included in this itinerary are graded moderate and include some steep ascents. It’s important to always take care near cliff edges.

We advise that you check opening times and booking restrictions before travelling.

Please check out these links for latest advice when in the countryside

Countryside Code

COVID-19 Guidance

Interactive Map

Click here to access the interactive map

Maps, Guidebooks & Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise. The South West Coast Path Association also publish The Complete Guide to the South West Coast Path, available to buy at www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/shop or FREE when you join the charity as a member.