The Lizard peninsular is the very last bit of undiscovered Cornwall. Almost completely surrounded by water and way off the main route through to Lands End it has a massive coast line and beautiful empty countryside. Let the ill-advised continue their annual pilgrimage to overrun and over priced resorts and instead come to the overlooked and unspoiled treasure that is the Lizard.
This quiet picturesque area does not immediately belie her fascinating history. For centuries smugglers operated here and have left behind much evidence of their illicit trade. Many of the old cottages in Coverack have secret sellers where they hid the contraband. The Lizard also has a close association with pirates. At nearby Kennack Cove, the infamous buccaneer Avery is said to have buried his treasure. The coast is littered with ship wrecks. All the pubs have scenes of dramatic rescues. Indeed how could we forget our history with so many Coves named after the ships dashed upon them, or the treasure to be found on them such as Dollar Cove.
It was here at Poldhu Cove that Marconi changed the world with his first transatlantic radio message and made the peninsular an essential communications link to the rest of the world – a legacy retained bythe Goonhilly Earth Station (a satellite station with enormous radio dishes that you can now visit).
At the top of the Lizard lies Helston, a small friendly town famous as the home of the Furry Dance celebrated on Flora Day, and great for food shopping with small independent shops still trading. Not yet crushed out of business by the onslaught of supermarkets.
For river lovers, the Helford is accessed via roads of leafy tunnels. There are numerous tree lined creeks and inlets including Frenchman's Creak, where Daphne du Maurier came on her honeymoon to find inspiration for her tale of smuggling and romance.
Things to do…
Almost completely surrounded by water, these 14 miles of slender peninsular offers an unbeatable selection of activities and entertainments to cram into your stay. There is no need to go far once you have arrived at the campsite, as all of the activities listed below are either within walking distance or a 10 minute drive.
Everyone loves the beach and the Lizard peninsular is literally surrounded by them. There are two fabulous beaches within walking distance of the campsite. The walk to Coverack Cove is a joyful mile and a half over fields from the campsite and onto the South West Costal Path from which you can enjoy some of the most stunning costal views this country has to offer. And the beach ain’t bad either: golden sand flanked by the quaint fishing village of Coverack, which you can dip into for a cream tea or a pint if the sunbathing gets too much!
The black sands of Godrevy Cove are little more than a mile away over fields from the campsite. From here you can picnic overlooking the rocks nicknamed the ‘Manacles’ and picture the stories of pirates and shipwrecks that lie beneath just off shore at Porthoustock.
Kennack Sands is a good family beach well worth the short car journey. Kynance Cove is both a good family beach, and fabulously romantic. At high tide the waves crash dramatically over the cliffs when there is a swell and off shore wind. At low tide on a calm day its hidden caves offer a romantic picnic setting and rock pools to explore. If its seclusion you seek, beautiful Housal Bay is seldom found by others even though it is just around the corner from Lizard Village – a monument to the Victorian vacation and speckled with strange shops selling all things carved out of Serpentine. Nearby, Church Cove is also worth a visit, plus there are many over coves for just you to discover.
If you manage to travel the 10 miles back to the head of the Lizard, there are large beaches at Mullion and Porthleven, or Dollar Beach and (another) Church Cove by Gunwalloe, near Helston are among my favorites.
Another favorite thing to do is digging for clams and cockles at low tide on the shores of the Helford River at St Anthony in Meneage and them cooking them over a campfire with spaghetti.
Probably the most invigorating and exciting sport possible! It’s not just the North Coast that is good to surf – nearby Kennack Sands is also well known among the surfing fraternity. This beach has a big tidal range due to its shallow angle and regularly throws up 4 to 5 foot waves. For the uninitiated, there are some good surf instructors who operate in this area and can arrange board and wetsuit hire for you. Surfing is also good at nearby Poldhu Cove. Ask us for details of current surf schools and professionals operating in the area.
Boat trips and sailing
These trips provide an opportunity to appreciate the spectacular Cornish coastline and may offer sightings of basking sharks (best in May), dolphins, seals, sunfish and a range of beautiful seabirds. See Porthkerris Divers or Dive Action for details
There is fabulous sailing either out at sea, or on the Helford River and boats for hire are easy to find on both.
With its warm clear Gulf Stream fed waters and fantastic climate, the Lizard is a unique sub-aqua adventure whether you are taking your PADI open water course, or are already a qualified diver. Prolific marine life including dolphin, basking shark, seals, along with spectacular reefs and wrecks make for a fantastic experience with several good diving companies very nearby, including family run Porthkerris Divers, Kennack Diving and Dive Action that all offer an impressive menu of professional diving courses, boat charters, shore, and boat dives.
There's fish in them there waters. Take rod and line to the beach, or cast off with one of the local fishing boats at Cadgwith. Haven't brought your tackle? Then visit UK Saltwater Flies in Porthleven who offer professional guiding, as well as, casting and technique instruction and run a very well stocked fishing shop.
Idyllic farmland and coastal rides abound. There's nothing quite like a canter along the tide line and there are a couple of riding stables that do it well, including Poltesco Valley Riding Stables at Ruan Minor, and Newton Equestrian and Leisure Centre at Mullion.
- A must for everyone. The costal walks here cannot be missed. The South West Costal Path can be joined a short walk from the site. If you are feeling energetic and fancy a long walk, there is a fabulous walk from the campsite to Lizard Point, the most Southerly UK coordinate.
It is also well worthwhile to walk between the numerous churches, built both to house the numerous souls lost at sea, and to save guard those of our fisherman. Several walking guides can be purchased from the Roskilly’s café.
Similarly, this is a good place to cycle as the roads are quiet and the distance between places of interest short. If you need to hire a bike, pick one up en route from Bissoe Cycles or look up Porthleven Cycle Hire.
Restaurants, pubs and cafés
There are a surprising number of good eateries in the area most of which concentrate on serving good local produce and fishes. We were delighted to discover some of the best food in the region within walking distance of the campsite at The Greenhouse Restaurant in St Keverne. There are smart options nearby, including the New Yard Restaurant on the Trelowarren Estate and at a nice fish restaurant at Coverack, and really good pubs at Manaccan, Coverack, and Cadgewith. The ale is particularly good in St Keverne (half a mile). Please ask me for food recommendations and Dan for drink (he is currently working on a good ale guide!).
When the weather turns we need a little more imagination to keep the troops entertained but don't let a few showers keep you inside, the outdoors empties when it rains so you will have it to yourself. Find a big sea cave and have a barbecue or take a walk in the woods.
There are also several quirky destinations to please man and child alike such as Cornwall Camels, Flambards, Gweek Seal Sanctuary, or just walk down the lane to Roskilly’s which has many undercover activities. This is also a great place to just get into a cosy pub and be entertained by the local characters. Not to be missed are the Fisherman that sing the most beautiful Sea Shanties at Cadgewith Cove Inn on a Friday night. Please book a table in advance as this is very popular with local Cornish folk.
If you fancy going a bit further afield, a bit of rain will also bring to life all the amazing tropical gardens that litter the South Coast. The lost gardens of Heligan have now been found and are currently residing close to Mevagissy. Near Mawnan Smith on the famous Helford Passage there are some outstanding gardens that have been lovingly tended for many generations; Glendurgan is a National Trust property that has a maze to lose the kids in for an hour or two. A few hundred yards up stream lies the excellent Trebah Gardens, which as well as, being an incredibly beautiful garden, is also massively popular with kids, and has an excellent café and a private beach. Check out its website for children’s workshops and theatre events. Speaking of theatre, the Minack Theatre is a must for theatre lovers. And if you fancy a good day out, St Ives, Penzance and the The Eden Project are all worth a visit. The Maritime Museum in Falmouth is another must for anyone wanting to get a real flavour for the history of the area and its close association to the sea.
Flora Day kicks off an entire summer bustling with fetes, folk days, concerts, banger racing, steam fairs, theatre, and car boots. Check the local paper The West Briton and see the 'Whats On' supplement for details.