The British Landscape Club

Lay-bys of the week:
Cape Cornwall and Lizard Point

What with the melée of tat and counterfeit Cornishness down the road at Lands End, Cape Cornwall doesn’t have to do much to impress, but it is very much the real thing, a wild spot in an increasingly crowded county. It is - separatist views notwithstanding - the only headland named as a cape in England or Wales (and, by a process of elimination, Cornwall) and is vastly superior to its commercial counterpart down the coast. Indeed, until 1801, when the Ordnance Survey came along, it was assumed to be the most westerly point in Britain, a runner-up status that has at least shielded it from the kind of unwanted attention that is focussed upon Lands End.

The text book definition of a cape, by the way, is a promontory where two major bodies of water meet - in this case the Atlantic and St George's Channel. Since those nineteenth century OS men declared Lands End as further out in the ocean it is arguably where the waters meet rather than Cape Cornwall, but the name stuck anyway.

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Meanwhile, there’s no such controversy about Lizard Point, mainland Britain’s most southerly spot. There’s a National Trust car park there as well and a bonus collection of sheds that sell souvenirs carved from the local rock. This rock, serpentine, is metamorphic in origin, 400 million years or so old, and an excellent example of a bit of oceanic crust that has unaccountably slid over the top of a piece of continent (it almost always slides under when the two collide).


You might like a cup of tea, while you contemplate that and, besides one of the souvenir sheds, lies the cafe with the best view in all of Cornwall (below). It’s always busy in the season and it’s always worth the wait. You may even be fortunate enough to see a couple of Cornish Choughs wheeling in the sky, failing that you can stare at the cliff that rings with the sound of Jackdaws and Kittiwake and hope to catch a glimpse of a Peregrine or two.

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