Land’s End – or Penn an Wlas in Cornish – was the second site we visited in the far south-west of Cornwall on the first full day of our holiday. It’s located 8 miles west of Penzance at the end of the A30, a road notorious for its traffic jams throughout the summer due to the thousands of tourists, and is in the village and parish of Sennen.
Peal Point/Land’s End is the most westerly point in Britain, and the area boasts some of the country’s most beautiful natural coastline. Stunning 200 feet high cliffs are still carved out by huge Atlantic waves and views are magnificent in both directions along the coast as well as out to sea. Seabirds circle above and the area has become legendary as a place for bird watching. Gannets, fulmars, kittiwakes, shags, razorbills and even Cornish choughs (pronounced ‘chuffs’) once extinct in Cornwall, are making a welcome come-back.
These are a couple of worse-for-wear information boards about the bird and sea life of the area.
Land’s End and John o’ Groats in the far north-east of Scotland, have become renowned as the two extremities of Britain, as this map from Wikipedia shows:
These are the signposts at Land’s End and John o’Groats. Both images are from Wikipedia. We couldn’t get near the one at Land’s End to get a decent photo because of the queues of people waiting for the professional photographer to snap them all, smiling nicely beside the famous signpost (at £10 a time).
The route of 874 miles has often been travelled by walkers and/or cyclists, either as individuals or in small groups and for a variety of reasons. For some it has been a matter of personal achievement, whereas others, often well known personalities, have undertaken the route as a means of raising money for charity – as cricketer, Ian Botham, did in 1985, and the terminally ill cancer sufferer, Jane Tomlinson did in 2003. The first recorded walk of the route was in 1871 by the brothers John and Robert Naylor.
I must admit, on arrival at the Centre we were quite surprised. Having never been to Land’s End before we expected to see just views of the renowned landmark. What we found was a collection of buildings including several ‘eateries’, shops and a list of interactive entertainments that take place throughout the spring and summer months – including a fireworks display, Pirates Day and so on. Naturally, these are aimed at families with children which, I suppose, sounds sensible. Most children would soon get bored just walking around with parents simply taking photographs. But a few reviews on the online sites I checked include criticisms of the place having become ‘more like a theme park’ than a beauty spot. It’s free to enter the Visitor Centre, but there are extra costs for the ‘extras’.
These photos are of the outside, apart from the cafe. We didn’t bother looking round the souvenir shops:
The Visitor Centre itself doesn’t sit on the site of the actual point of Land’s End. That’s a little further along, northwards, and is also known as Peal Point. It can be seen in the first photo below:
Just over a mile offshore and visible from the headland is a group of islets called the Longships. How dangerous these were to shipping in the past is evident in the need for a lighthouse. Together with the Seven Stones Reef and the Isles of Scilly, 28 miles to the south-east, these islets form part of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse in the Arthurian legends.
Since Norman times (1066 0nwards) a number of custodians have looked after Land’s End, and it is currently owned by a private company called Heritage Attractions/Heritagegb. This legendary Cornish destination has inspired people since Greek times, when (according to an information leaflet from the site) it was known as Belerion – the shining land. The whole area is steeped in history and people have travelled to, and been living here, for at least 10 thousand years. The granitic lands away from the coast are home to a Neolithic (Stone Age) cemetery. Bronze Age burial mounds and an Iron Age hill fort can be found within 200 yards of Land’s End.
In the early 19th century, it was to The First and Last Inn, just a mile away from Land’s End that travellers in their coaches would stop for food and rest before continuing on to the famous landmark on foot or horseback. We passed it, just before reaching the Centre, but didn’t think to take any photos. It could well be the distant white building on the photo above, though I can’t be sure. But the inn is somewhere over in that direction – and is still open today. The Inn is one of the most famous in Cornwall and not only because of its location. It has had a notorious reputation since the 1600s of being the headquarters of smugglers and wreckers.
Nowadays visitors to Land’s End are more likely to walk to the building shown on my featured image and the photo below for refreshment. If they continue along the coastal path, past the actual point of Land’s End, they will come to a building called ‘The First And Last House‘.
This was originally opened by Gracie Thomas who served travellers to Land’s End with food and drink, as well as a piece of local granite as a souvenir. Today, gifts, toys and refreshments are still offered here, as well as Cornish ice cream.
By the time we left Land’s End, having previously spent a long time at Carn Euny, it was well past lunchtime. So we headed northward towards St Just to have something to eat before we all starved to death. Then we continued on to seaside town of St Ives – which I’ll post about next.