A Look at Cornwall (2): Land’s End

cornish-lands-end

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.

location-of-lands-end-in-the-penwith-peninsulaPeal 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:

map-showong-lands-end-to-john-o-groats

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.

looking-inland-at-lands-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‘.

most-westerly-point-in-englandThis 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.

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About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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28 Responses to A Look at Cornwall (2): Land’s End

  1. leggypeggy says:

    Lovely outing. Pity you couldn’t get close enough to the actual signs.

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks Peggy. I dread to think how crowded this place would be in the middle of the summer holidays. We were there in early June, although it was a Sunday, which makes a big difference to numbers, I suppose.

  2. draliman says:

    Last time I was at Land’s End there were just views and few buildings. That’s a long time ago!

    • milliethom says:

      Things change to suit the demands of the times, I suppose. People want to be entertained nowadays. I’m guessing you went to Land’s End when you were a school lad. The first time we went to Warwick Castle – in the summer holidays – there were no ‘events’ going on, and the first time I went to Culloden, it was just a field! Now there’s a visitor centre and the sites where different clans fell are all marked. Still, Land’s End itself was still stunning. 🙂

  3. arv! says:

    I have heard a lot about cornwall. I think the views around the cliffs are amazing.
    Hey! millie, although you nominated me for an award but I’m sorry, I don’t participate in these awards.Apologies….. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      I had a feeling your blog was award free, Arv. Although I couldn’t find a notification on your home page, I could see that you hadn’t done any award posts. I thought I’d try, just in case… As for Cornwall, it is one of the best known English counties, especially due to its connections with King Arthur and the knights of the round table at Tintagel. I have a post to write up about Tintagel very soon. Thanks for the nice comment. 😃

      • arv! says:

        Millie, there are reasons why I choose not to participate in these awards. Although they are great way to meet new bloggers but some how paucity of time is a big issue here. There’s so much to write but then each posts take awfully long time given the fact there are so many pictures. I’m sure you are having same issue. I wish i could write posts as much as I wanted to…..
        In fact, I really feel sorry every time I have to write an apology. I don’t want to let anyone down, since they have already selected me…But….
        I always liked the British countryside….Entire Uk is so beautiful….Scotland, Wales, Ireland….incredibly beautiful. And I get to explore so many heritage sights on you blog, Millie. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        I know exactly what you’re saying about doing awards, Arv! I’m about to become award-free myself. Award posts are very time-consuming to do, and most bloggers I’ve followed for ages are now award free. So please don’t apologise! As I said, I had a feeling you didn’t do them. Perhaps you should put a notification box on your home page. I intend to put one on my side bar.
        Thank you for liking my posts. All of the British Isles is pretty because it is so green.We have to put up with an awful lot of rain to keep it that way! I love your posts on India because India is so incredibly bright and colourful. 🙂

      • arv! says:

        Millie, I have never participated in awards, as I said before. I’ll surely put up this notification on the blog. Thanks for reminding.
        I love UK because of its beauty, history, culture and people. I find that generally, British people are quite friendly and love conversations. Correct me,if I’m wrong. Millie, I have come across so many English people who just love India. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        You are absolutely right, many English people do love India and would love to visit it. It’s so exotic compared to England, with fabulous species of flora and fauna and a wonderfully colourful culture. Hinduism fascinates many of us, too, and Indian people are so polite and helpful. There have been so many novels and films set in India, too, which adds to our desire to visit your lovely country.
        There are a lot of Indian people living in the UK and many are doctors and other praiseworthy professions. I’ve taught several Indian children and their thirst for knowledge is boundless and their written work is always done conscientiously. They have all been a pleasure to teach. I’d love to see India for myself and it’s definitely on my bucket list!

      • arv! says:

        It’ a pleasure to read your experience with Indians, Indian culture and country as a whole. I’m not sure if it’s a rub-off effect of the Raj-days. If I was given an opportunity to visit and experience just one country, it’ll be UK! It’s difficult to write & explian why I like UK. I have mentioned some bit, above. I’m into nature,heritage, history and architecture. And UK is full of it! Are you still working, Millie? I hope it’s okay to address you by your name, because I’m much younger to you. In our culture and language, we affix “ji” after the name to show respect to anyone who’s elder to us. So I should refer to you as “Millie ji”. Although, in English language we use”sir” and “madam” to show respect but going by how the world is moving to a casual society, it looks out of place. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        What a lovely comment, Arv. Of course it’s OK to call me Millie! I don’t think we stand on ceremony in the blogosphere and ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ definitely sound too formal. Things are so much more relaxed and casual nowadays, as you say. 🙂 I do know about the use of ‘ji’ in India from a book I once read with some primary school children (aged 7-8) several years ago. It was called “Grandpa Chatterji”. Millie Thom is my pen name, too (as a tribute to my parents, Millie and Thomas).
        I know you’d enjoy seeing all the UK’s historical sites and landscapes as much as I’d enjoy seeing India’s. I retired six years ago now, and we do travel quite a lot – which is what we always planned to do. We really hope to get to India one day. I’ve been reading Leggy Peggy’s posts about her trip there last year and they are excellent. Peggy is an American living in Australia. I’ve still a lot more to read, as soon as I have the time! 🙂

  4. Antonia says:

    That’s a shame, so many places like this become tourist focused. I love the coastline pictures, and it sounds like it is still worth a visit. I am looking forward to your post on St Ives!

    • milliethom says:

      I’m not one for crowds, Antonia, but I don’t suppose I can get away from them at places like Land’s End. I always think that the ‘laid on’ entertainments are tacky and unnecessary – but that’s probably just me. I do realise that children often get bored just sight-seeing.

  5. Such a beautiful, descriptive read Millie. I felt as if I were there. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Thanks Lynne. Cornwall is a lovely county.
      Sorry for the late reply but this is the first time I’ve been on my blog since the day I wrote the post! I have so many things going on right now and seem to be permanently behind with everything. I’ll do some catching up soon. 🙂

  6. It seems strange that a historic site should be in private hands. I guess this is the era of privatisation of government assets. What a marvellous history this place has. You must have enjoyed it with all those settings from Arthurian legends?

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, Cornwall has been linked with King Arthur for centuries, partly, perhaps, because it’s such a Celtic place. Tintagel Castle is supposed to have been Camelot! (The actual site of the castle makes that seem rather unlikely!) But it does make Cornwall a wonderful holiday destination for many people.
      I believe that heritagegb just pipped the National Trust to the post in a bid for control over Land’s End back in the ’80s. I suppose it all came down to money. Sites like these do need constant maintenance, due to the number of visitors, so I suppose some organisation or other needs to do that.
      I have to say, I love the National Trust and English Heritage and we’ve been members of both for years. They do so well in conserving and preserving our ancient sites. Thanks for commenting, Amanda. 😀

  7. inesephoto says:

    Hope I will visit this land some day. Beautiful post, Millie.

  8. what a wonderful history. I never made it to Cornwall but wish I had!! Lovely images Millie!

  9. Joy Pixley says:

    It’s always interesting to me that tourists flock to places I’m only vaguely interested in, and ignore places I find mesmerizing. I would definitely go to Land’s End if I was in the area, just for the symbolism of it, and especially if it was a nice day for a walk. And oddly, I’m intrigued by the idea of walking from one end of the island to the other. 874 miles sounds like a pretty hefty walk, but just imagine how many steps I would log on my Fitbit tracker. I just hope there are sidewalks or pedestrian paths all the way through! 🙂

  10. Although it may be more commercial now, from the photos I must say it is NOTHING like the towns outside The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have been amiss not showing them. I’ll make up for it soon. Cornwall looks stunning. I dream of visiting England and Ireland, home of my ancestors. Sigh. Maybe one day.

  11. milliethom says:

    Hello, Dinata! It’s a long while since we connected and I’m so pleased to see you here. I’ve been very lax on my blog for a long time now and have missed many posts from bloggers I follow. I’d love to see your photos of towns outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, if you get around to showing them.
    Cornwall is a honeypot for tourists, not only from abroad but from around Britain. It’s unique amongst English counties in being very Celtic and having rugged coasts with caves ideal for pirates in the past. If you do manage to get over here, Cornwall would be a great place to visit – depending on your time and itinerary, of course.
    Is your book published yet? Please let me know if it is, and where it’s on sale.

  12. I’ve never been to Cornwall but it seems like fun! I would love to visit it soon!

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