Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Saturday, 26 January 2019

South West Coast Path - Coverack to The Lizard

View to The Lizard

An 11 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Coverack and The Lizard

A challenging but rewarding walk along the south West Coast path. There are spectacular views along the coastline with The Lizard being in view virtually the entire distance. The picture postcard village of Cadgwith is a worthy resting point before embarking on the final few miles that include the rock formation known as The Devil's Frying Pan.

South West Coast Path - Coverack to The Lizard - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Coverack View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Lizard View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
11 miles
Walk difficulty
Challenging - a few climbs some of which are steep
Footpaths throughout - road into Lizard
The one track road down to Polbream Cove from the Lizard can be busy. Most of the distance is covered by a footpath but there is some road walking


The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)


Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, PorthlevenView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Mill Lane Camping and Caravan Park, Mill lane, Porthleven, Cornwall TR13 9LQ


Details of public transport that is required for the walk

First Group - Bus Service
Service Details
36 - At the time of walking this route the local 36 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Helston and Coverack. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators
Bus Service
Service Details
At the time of walking this route the local 2 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Penzance, Helston, Falmouth and Truro. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators
First Group - Bus Service
Service Details
37/34 - At the time of walking this route the local 37/34 bus service was provided by First Kernow and linked Helston and The Lizard. Due to the ever changing landscape of public transport it is advised to use the Traveline website to get the latest timetables and operators.

Walk Data

Date of Walk
Walk Time
07:30 to 14:30
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Blue sky warm and sunny with increasing cloud as the date went on

Walk Notes

Early Mornings

One aspect of most of the walks undertaken on this expedition along the South West Coast Path was the early morning starts. This is not a chore when camping as the body soon adapts to the natural sleeping and waking patterns determined by the hours of daylight. Maybe in younger days the enticement of darkness and late nights was something of a novelty but these days it is good enough to see the sun set and then turn in for the night. This gives a very restful sleep and slow awakening to a bright new morning as the sun comes up. If the sun doesn't act as a natural alarm call then the wildlife certainly will. At Porthleven we had a whole roost of noisy seagulls descend upon the camp site each morning.

Early starts enable a maximization of the hours with which to undertake a full days walking, especially when bus services do not always run in the evening. On this particular walk the planned schedule involved catching the 6.51am bus from Porthleven to Helston in order to connect with the Coverack bus 15 minutes later. This early hour was by no means the hectic scramble to get away that accompanies a normal working day. An hour preceding the departure time allowed plenty of time to attend to preparing for the day, brewing a cup of tea and a listening in to the local radio for a weather forecast.

Another aspect of an early morning is the tranquillity of the Cornish towns and villages when the weather is clement such as on this occasion. Blue skies and still air presented a peaceful scene whilst waiting for the bus opposite Porthleven harbour. We watched a hardy old seadog prepare his anchored fishing boat before he set out of the harbour, effortlessly sailing across the gentle swell of the calm sea. A few schoolkids gathered at the bus stop. Dog walkers sedately ambled by in no particular hurry.

We arrived at Coverack at 7:37 and this was even quieter and more peaceful than Porthleven. This really is the best time to wander through such an idyllic place. Blue sky. Blue sea. Silence other than the occasional calling from the seagulls and not a soul in sight apart from one passing gentleman who bid us a good morning.

Cliff falls

I think I am correct in stating that the year of 2012 was one of the wettest on record. Probably not usually associated with rain is the cliff erosion that it causes and there was plenty evidence of this on the coast path with numerous diversions reported on the South West Coast Path website. It is always worth while taking the time to research where these diversions are and then studying the alternative route to make sure ample time has been allowed.

Diversions should never be looked upon with derision and a hindrance to ones progress but something to embrace. There is always something to see or explore along the diverted route and sometimes the alternative path can bring more wonderment than the official route. On this particular occasion a diversion was encountered just outside Coverack as the path ascended steps out of the village. The official route led off to the left and was marked with a temporary post that held a A4 paper notice stapled to it which declared the diversion and the reasons why this was in place. The alternative route was marked out with regular markers that navigated along a higher route and rejoined the old path near Black Head. Starting out on this route, clarifying it on the OS map, we soon came upon a clearing that was nestled with a groups of large black sculptures, the sharp angled forms appearing to be representations of birds. This was completely unexpected as as there was nothing marked on the OS map, and no notices and signs to announce that we had entered The Terence Coventry Sculpture Park. This fact was subsequently discovered by consulting the world wide web which also detailed that this park usually contained 25 monumental sculptures depending on whether any were display at other venues. A most fascinating discovery.

A deceiving Distance

As the path rounds Treleaver Cliff just beyond Black Head, views of The Lizard come into view. To view the end of the walk after such a short distance of walking is quite amazing and thoughts came to mind of completing the journey before lunchtime. However, this is deceiving. Very deceiving. The distance is a lot further than it looks plus there are many climbs along the route. One thing I have made a habit of doing for most day walks is to mark the mileage points on the OS map as an indicator to the distance remaining. This takes a little forethought and planning, using googlemaps to plot the route out and then pencilling in each mile marker along the route on the OS map. The placement doesn't have to be dead accurate as it is merely an indicator as to the remaining distance. This method was learnt after many arduous hikes lugging a full backpack including camping equipment and assuming the distance was almost complete only to find that there was another couple of miles to traverse than expected. Therefore these days I thoroughly prepare for the walk, locating the relevant bus stops at the start and end of the walk, locating pubs if they are off route so as to calculate true walking distances, and over terrain such as the South West Coast Path, estimating the amount of climbs that need to be undertaken. This is marked in pencil on the OS map and enables a better idea of the remaining effort that is needed throughout the walk. This naturally determines the pace needed to keep to schedule and gives a rough estimation when there is sufficient time explore a little more. Therefore, despite viewing The Lizard this early on, consulting the map soon gave the revelation that the actual distance remaining was another 8 miles and certainly not the pushover that it appeared.

The walk is quite spectacular with regard to the scenery. There are a few climbs as the path negotiates the many coves along the route. Downas Cove, Kennack Beach, the charming Poltesco with the former Serpentine Works, and then the descent into Cadgwith which hides in a little Cove and cannot be seen until the path turns into the cove. This little village is the idyllic picture postcard view of a traditional Cornish fishing village unspoilt by modernity. It almost seems trapped in a timewarp. Thatched cottages perch on the hillsides. A small beach is full of fishing smacks, lobster pots, fishing nets and line. An old inn sits on the steep narrow road that leads to the heart of the village. Heading up the hill out of the village comes to an area known as The Todden, a large headland that separates the two beaches at Cadgwith. This has a grassed area with a few benches and proved an ideal spot to sit, rest and take in the views after a drink at the Cove Inn. It is a popular spot, as is all of Cadgwith which, although not swarming, had numerous people wandering around its narrow thoroughfares.

Just beyond the village is a cove and rock formation known as The Devils Frying Pan. This is a collapsed cave that has resulted in a small cove connected to the sea under a thick arch of rock and topped with turf. It is an impressive sight and in rough weather the sea in the cove appears to froth and boil which has been the source of the features name.

Judging by the number of folk we passed along the route after leaving Cadgwith, I would take a guess that most of the people we had encountered in the village had walked the distance from Lizard. All sorts and ages of people ambled along this grass covered route along the top of the cliffs. It seems a very popular walking route with the exceptional Cadgwith and the amazing Devils Frying Pan being worthy lures. Although the route described here continues round to The Lizard Lighthouse, there are alternative shorter routes to Lizard village through Church Cove and Housel Bay but these will miss more spectacular scenery together with views of the Lizard Lifeboat Station which sits in Kilcobben Cove, Lloyds Signal Station which is the oldest surviving purpose-built wireless communications station in the world, Bass Point lookout station and Housel Bay.

Maybe it was the decent weather. Maybe the blue skies. Maybe the clear views. Maybe the warmth in the air but all in all I have to say this is a fantastic walk and well worth striving to accomplish. Most thoroughly recommended.

Cadgewith cottagesKilcobben cove lifeboat station
On the left Cadgewith cottages; On the right Kilcobben cove lifeboat station


The South West Coast Path is well defined by the distinctive acorn logo waymarkers.

The bus stop for Coverack is on the eastern side of the village necessitating in a walk along the road around the bay to Dolor Point. The path continues around this headland and then up the cliff. During this occasion there was a diversion in place around Chynhalls Point due to a cliff fall. The alternative route is temporarily waymarked and returns to the main route prior to Black Head.

The route beyond this is self evident throughout with regular way markers.

The old serpentine works at  Poltesco
The old serpentine works at Poltesco


Cadgwith Cove Inn, Porthallow View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
The Beach, Porthallow

This 300 year old Inn sits centrally in the idyllic fishing village of Cadgwith and it remains unspoilt since the cove's old smuggling days. The bars are adorn with relics from the villages seafaring history. Bed and breakfast is available, pub food ranges from sandwiches and snacks, traditional pub fayre and full restaurant meals. A variety of Cornish ales are offered at this pub including examples from Sharp's and Skinners's breweries


An inviting pub worth searching out. The interior would have been worth perusing but on this warm day the courtyard in front of the pub was more enticing. The Skinner's Betty Stoggs ale really hit the spot after the mornings walk. This is a real thirst quencher. Skinners are becoming my Cornish beer of choice. As with most of these quaint Cornish pubs, I could stay for a few more ales but the walking schedule always forces us onward.

The Witch Ball, Lizard View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Lighthouse Road, Lizard

Although the building dates from the 1400's, it has only been uses as a pub and restaurant for the last 50 years. Before this time it was a farm. The pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a stable lad by the name of George who was killed when a horse kicked him in the head in 1710. He is reputed to move things around. Another ghost of a soldier named Ferdinand is also said to haunt the bar. He was said to be a soldier who was washed up on the shore from a Spanish invasion fleet which foundered in a storm in October 1597.

The name of the pub is taken from the hollow spheres of plain or stained glass hung in cottage windows in 18th century England to ward off evil spirits which were known as Witch Balls. It is said that if a visitors reflection could not be seen in the ball then that person was either a witch or was possessed by evil spirits and should not be allowed across the threshold. The pub has an example of such an artefact which hangs in the restaurant window and dates from 1721.

Beer is supplied by the local Cornish Chough brewery as well as Skinners of Truro and St Austells. A simple but mouth watering menu uses locally caught crab and lobster. locally sourced meat and even the bread is baked at Fat Jacks next door.


Another delightful pub and the Heligan Honey ale from Skinners brewery was a real thirst quencher. Hoppy but with the distinct honey essence. Another pub I could sit and drink a few pints. The pub was very busy and sitting outside was not only the preferred option but the only option!

The Devil's Frying Pan
The Devil's Frying Pan


Poltesco Serpentine WorksView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The trench in front of you is the wheel pit of the 25ft waterwheel which once powered the machinery in the serpentine works housed in the stone buildings by the beach. Made at Toy's foundry in Helston, the wheel was fed by a leat running from a dam by Poltesco Farm 150 yards inland. Established in 1855, the Lizard Serpentine Company employed 20 men and 3 boys, producing polished stone for decorative purposes such as church fonts, shop fronts, mantle-pieces and vases. Flat-bottomed barges ferried these from the quay to schooners waiting offshore. The three-storey building still standing was used as a warehouse, and other buildings housed two machine shops, offices, stores, a forge and a showroom. In 1866 the factory was converted to steam power, with a boiler house and a chimney added, and an engine room in the centre of the factory. The water wheel powered the smaller tasks, while the steam was used for heavier jobs such as sawing and surfacing. When the factory closed in 1893 the water wheel was converted for chaffing (chopping up straw for animal feed), but it was scrapped in 1917, requiring a team of 24 horses to haul it up the cliff track.


Lizard Lifeboat StationView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The lifeboat Station that sits at Kilcobben Cove is impressive due to its location in this remote and rugged setting. The boathouse sits at the bottom of a 140ft cliff which can be reached either by a flight of 200 steep steps or a funicular railway which is used by the crew. The station was formerly opened on 7 July 1961 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. In 1988 both the station and slipway were modified for the arrival of a Tyne class lifeboat named David Robinson. In 2010 the station was rebuilt to accommodate the Tamar class lifeboat named Rose.


Lizard LighthouseView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The hazardous waters off Lizard Point have always been a danger to ships navigating up the English Channel and a lighthouse to warn of the perilous rocks was first constructed in 1619 by Sir John Killigrew, a member of the powerful Killigrew family who controlled much of Cornwall during the 16th and 17th centuries. This tower lasted until 1630 when funds could not be generated for its running and maintenance.

A new lighthouse was built in 1751 and consisted of two towers with cottages between them. Trinity House too over the running of the lighthouse in 1771 and was manned up until 1998 when the station was automated. Originally both towers were lit, but from 1903 only the eastern tower remained in use.

In 2009 the Lizard Lighthouse Heritage Centre was opened in the former Lighthouse engine room. This features the original engines plus a variety of interactive exhibits and displays designed to demonstrate the history if the lighthouse, its keeper and the role it played in keeping passing ships safe.


Lloyds Signal StationView in OS Map | View in Google Map

This white walled turreted building is the oldest surviving purpose-built wireless communications station in the world. The station was constructed in 1901 following Marconis proposal to connect Britain and the USA by wireless. Another station located at Poldhu on the western side of The Lizard was the primary station and Lloyds was to check the Poldhu test transmissions.

The station has been used as a RAF officers mess during WWII and as a holiday home. In 1993 restored to its original condition and includes replicas of the Marconi wireless equipment.



Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2019-01-26

2013-10-20 : Initial publication
2017-12-27 : general maintenance updates
2019-01-26 : Website updates


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