Land’s End in Cornwall is a majestic headland. It is England’s extreme western tip about 4 miles west of Porthcurno. Over 400,000 visitors go to Land’s End every year. Since 1995 about 15 million people have had their photograph taken with the famous signpost.
The Land’s End complex is usually very busy and you’ll likely have to share the views with lots of other people. The whole of the clifftop area is highly commercialised comprising a large hotel, cafes, shops and amusement complex. It’s also where you’ll find the famous Land’s End signpost, usually with a large queue of people waiting for a photograph.
Every so often someone sets out from here to walk to John O’Groats. Quite often some travel-worn walker or cyclist arrives from Scotland usually to great celebration. This is well deserved after having journeyed the 874 miles from John O’Groats (actually nearly 1200 miles distance on the roads).
If you want to escape the crowds, walk from the complex towards the visitor farm at Carn Greeb. Here the crowds melt away. From here follow the South West Coast Path in the direction of Porthcurno for a few hundred meters. From this point, there are some amazing views of the cliffs and sea stacks including the Armed Knight and Enys Dodman where there is a spectacular arch.
OS Explorer 102 Map. The Explorer 102 Ordnance Survey Map covers this part of Cornwall. The map displays the area of Land’s End, Penzance, St Ives and the South West Coast Path. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
Getting to Land’s End
Land’s End is 10 miles from Penzance and 18 miles from St Ives. If you are travelling by car there are plenty of “Brown Signs” to help with navigation. Post Code TR19 7AA will get you to the very large car park at Land’s End which is pay and display. Entry to the Land’s End complex is free, although many of the exhibits charge an entrance fee.
The nearest train stations are at St Ives and Penzance. From either station, you can catch the Land’s End Coaster, an open-top bus service, that runs every hour in summer and every two hours in winter. The bus calls at St Ives, St Just, Land’s End, Porthcurno, Newlyn, Penzance and Marazion.
Best Time to Visit
Like many tourist attractions in Cornwall, Land’s End gets very busy in the summer. If you want to avoid the crowds arrive early in the morning. The complex is open daily between 10 am and 4 pm. If you want to see the coastal area I’d suggest spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit.
If you like extreme weather and rough seas, visit in the winter when it’s also a lot quieter. Make sure you wear some waterproof and windproof clothes though.
Land’s End welcomes dogs on leads, except in the attractions. Best to keep your dog on a lead around the cliffs, these are very steep and unguarded.
The complex has a large car park which is pay and display, at the time of writing the charge is £6.00 for the day. I have read many reviews about Land’s End and the biggest complaint is the “extortionate charge for parking“. I have never paid this as I have caught the bus or walked to the complex from Porthcurno or Sennen Cove. To be fair to Land’s End I think most of the popular places in Cornwall charge around £6.00 for a day’s parking. If I remember correctly the bus fare from Porthcurno is £4.50 single and a day’s parking there is about £5.00.
Land’s End formed hundreds of millions of years ago. A mass of boiling granite forced its way to the Earth’s surface to become the Land’s End Peninsula. The coast around the peninsula is known for wild weather. The action of the waves and wind have slowly weathered the granite cliffs producing the stunning scenery we see today, rock arches, sea stacks, rugged cliffs and offshore islands.
Land’s End has been a famous destination since the times of the ancient Greeks. They called it ‘Belerion’ – Place of the Sun. Maybe this is a reference to the stunning sunsets that are a feature of Land’s End.
Since 1066 Land’s End has been private land, and it’s been conserved and kept open for the public to enjoy and explore.
At the most westerly point of mainland England is the First (or Last) House, a short walk from the main complex. It was never a house and opened in the late 1800s serving food and drink to travellers. It is now a souvenir shop.
Over the years Land’s End has had several different names. The earliest in 997 was Penwith Steort. Penwith is Cornish for ‘extreme end’ and Steort is Old English for ‘end’. A few hundred years later the Middle English name Londeseynde appeared and in 1500 Penn an Wlas, Cornish for ‘end of the land’ was recorded.
Some old names still survive. If you draw a line from St Ives in the north across the land to the eastern side of Mount’s Bay, everything to the west of the line is known as the Penwith Peninsular.
There is the story of the mythical lost land of Lyonesse. This is said to lie under the sea between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly. Lyonesse was part of King Arthur’s kingdom. Apparently, this was swallowed by the sea on a particularly stormy night.
Below the waves, church bells ring and for centuries sailors have glimpsed submerged spires and castles. The Isles of Scilly are said to be the mountain tops of old Lyonesse.
Only one man, Trevelyan riding a white horse, escaped the flood, as he’d been hunting at Land’s End. He lost a horseshoe as he raced across the land to higher ground. He managed to escape the large wave which submerged Lyonesse. Today the symbol of three horseshoes or a white horse is often seen in the crests of local families who think they’re descended from this lucky man.
The Land’s End Complex
Personally, I have always been to Land’s End to enjoy the natural environment, the complex to me is more like a mini theme park, which seems to have little to do with Land’s End. Anyway, here is a (not exhaustive) list of things you can do and see in the complex.
Take a photo with the famous Land’s End Signpost – note though if you want a personalised picture there is often a long queue and a charge.
Visit the First and Last House in England.
Close to the First / Last House is the Land’s End Beacon, last lit in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, along with over 4,000 other beacons across the UK.
Visit the End-to-End museum. This tells the story of Enders, people who have made the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats or the other way round. Some people walk, some cycle, and others have used more obscure forms of transport. The museum has photos, videos and interactive displays telling the full story.
If you are here in the evening the sunsets are often spectacular.
Go shopping at the West Country Shopping Village which sells souvenirs and gifts or at Penwith House which sells nautical themed gifts, souvenirs and confectionery.
Visit the 200-year-old Greeb Farm. This family-friendly attraction is full of farm animals that children can feed at certain times of the day.
If you are visiting in the summer there is often a firework display in the evening.
There are also a number of theme park-like attractions that you have to pay to visit. If you intend to visit them all you can buy a ‘combo’ ticket. These include Arthur’s Quest which tells some of the stories about King Arthur and his kingdom, a 4D cinema that has a different theme every year and an Aardman Production for Wallace and Gromit fans.
The spectacular hotel at the site is a popular wedding venue.
The complex also includes a visitor centre, an air-sea rescue motion theatre, cafes, restaurants, and an RSPB wildlife discovery club.
The Longships rocks and islets are clearly visible from Land’s End. Numerous ships have sadly come to grief here, most recently the RMS Mulheim, a German cargo ship, which ran aground in 2003. Parts of the wreck can be seen from the clifftops.
To try and reduce the number of ships lost around the Longship’s Rocks, a 24 m high tower was commissioned and built in the 17th Century. This had an oil lamp, however, the light was often obscured by high seas and waves despite its height.
Ships were also wrecked deliberately. In the past wreckers operated in the area, luring ships onto the rocks with false lights and then stealing the cargo.
The current lighthouse that you can see from Land’s End was built from granite in the 19th Century. This originally had a warden who would light a paraffin lamp every night. Today, the lighthouse is fully automatic and controlled by Trinity House.
The Natural Environment
There are about 100 acres of the natural landscape at Land’s End surrounding the 10-acre main complex. Of course, wherever you are on the peninsular you’re never far from the sea. This part of the coast is wild and rugged and wherever you look there are great views. The area is home to lots of different species of seabirds. Bring your binoculars and you might see kittiwakes, gannets, shags, razorbills, fulmars and cormorants.
When you are looking out to sea you might be lucky enough to see grey seals, dolphins and even basking sharks.
The prevailing weather at Land’s End is mild, frost-free, wet and windy. This is mostly due to the influence and proximity of the Atlantic Ocean. The Land’s End Peninsula is pounded by about 30 gale days per year predominantly in the winter.
This is a challenging environment for plant life. Despite this, there is a huge variety of plant species on the peninsular. These include over 200 species of flowering plants and nearly a hundred species of lichen. In spring and summer, the clifftop bursts into colour as the Gorse, Heather, Thrift and Sea Campion flower. The cliffs and slopes are so rich in plant species that the site is designated an Important Plant Area (IPA).
Walks from Land’s End
A short walk away from the complex is a viewpoint where you can admire the stunning 200ft high cliffs with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto them. At sea, there are several offshore rock formations. Beyond these is the Longships Lighthouse a mile and a half offshore. Look southwest and you might see the Wolf Rock Lighthouse nine miles away (this flashes every 15 seconds). Quite often you see helicopters flying overhead. These are likely to be carrying passengers out to the Isles of Scilly. You can just see the Isles on a clear day, 28 miles away. Beyond the Isles of Scilly, there is only ocean until you reach America.
If you only want a short walk then head in the direction of either the First / Last House or Greeb Farm where there are signposted clifftop walks.
The South West Coastal Path runs through Land’s End and this provides a longer walk heading to Sennen in the direction of the First / Last House or Porthcurno in the direction of Greeb Farm.
Walk from Land’s End to Sennen Cove
This is a relatively easy walk even though the paths are a bit uneven and steep in places. The walk has some spectacular views from the cliffs. Sennen Cove is about 30 minutes walk away.
Sennen is a historic fishing village, full of art galleries and cafes. It has a beautiful beach, a working harbour and an old lifeboat house.
There are some great views back towards Land’s End from the old coastguard lookout at Sennen Cove.
Walk from Land’s End to Porthcurno
This is a longer walk, and quite strenuous with a fair bit of climbing as the route drops down to sea level in several places. Porthcurno is home to the Minack Theatre as well as an amazing, award-winning beach.
The walk heads southeast past Greeb Farm and then Pordennack Point to arrive in Nanjizal Bay. From the beach at Nanjizal regain the clifftop and walk along the stunning cliffs of Carn Les Boel, Carn Barra and Carn Guthensbras.
Porthcurno has both a pub and a café close to the beach, open from Easter until the end of September.
Cliffs are changing all the time. Falls and landslides can happen at any time and without warning. Please stay well back from the cliff edge when walking along coast paths, and stay away from the undercliff on beaches.
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The Land’s End Peninsular has some sublime scenery – it is a breathtaking and iconic landscape and one of the most visited places in Cornwall. The walks along the South West Coast Path in either direction from here are amongst the finest of the whole route.
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