The coast at Lamorna, to the southwest of Penzance, is one of the loveliest in Cornwall. This is a south-facing coast, protected from prevailing westerly winds although storms from the south and east can be merciless here, as witnessed by a bitter record of terrible shipwrecks over the years. The bare granite cliffs are enhanced by swathes of lush vegetation that turn the coast into something of a wild garden in spring and summer.
The walk starts from Lamorna Cove, once the scene of granite quarrying. The sturdy quay at Lamorna was built so that ships could load up with the quarried stone, but the swell and the tidal regimen made berthing difficult. Much of the stone was carried overland by horse and wagon to Newlyn Harbour and to Penzance. The coast path west from Lamorna winds its sinuous way through tumbled granite boulders, then climbs steeply to the cliff tops. It passes above Tater-du Lighthouse, by jet black, greenstone cliffs, a startling accent among all these miles of golden granite, although the upper parts of the greenstone are dusted with ochre-coloured lichen.
Along to the Merry Maidens
Soon the path descends steeply to the delightful St Loy's Cove, a secluded boulder beach where a brisk little stream pours out of a wooded valley. Spring comes early at St Loy; the subtropical vegetation through which the walk leads reflects the area's mild and moist microclimate. From St Loy's woods you climb inland to reach two enthralling ancient monuments. The first is the Tregiffian burial chamber, a late Bronze Age entrance grave that was uncovered during road widening in the 1960s. The cup-marked stone is a reproduction, the original is in the County Museum at Truro.
Just along the road from Tregiffian stands one of Cornwall's most famous monuments, the Merry Maidens stone circle. This late neolithic/Bronze Age structure represents an ancient ceremonial and ritual site of major importance. Its popular name, appended by a much later superstitious society, refers to a myth of young girls being turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday. In a field on the other side of the B3315 are two tall standing stones, the mythical 'Pipers' who supplied the sacrilegious music. The true spirit of the stones reflects a far more intriguing ancient culture. The final part of the walk leads from the Merry Maidens to a wonderful old trackway that leads over water-worn stones into the Lamorna Valley.
From the far end of the seaward car park in the cove, above Lamorna Harbour, follow the coast path through some awkward rocky sections. Continue along the coast path past the tops of Tregurnow Cliff and Rosemodress Cliff, bearing right at a fork along the way to stay on the coast path.
Pass above the entrance ramp and steps of Tater-du Lighthouse. Pass a row of residences on the right and then, where the track bends right, keep left along the narrow coast path, at a signpost.
Descend steeply (take great care when the ground is muddy) from Boscawen Cliff to St Loy's Cove. Cross over a section of sea-smoothed boulders that may be slippery when wet. Mid-way along the beach, follow a path inland through trees and alongside the stream. Cross a private drive and then climb steeply uphill. Turn sharp right over a stile and follow the path through trees.
By a wooden signpost and a sycamore, go down right and cross the stream on large boulders, then go left along a hedged-in path. In about 125yds (114m), go sharp right up a tiny unsigned path between a large tree and a rock and up to a surfaced lane. Follow the lane uphill. At a junction with another track, keep ahead and uphill. At Boskenna Farm buildings follow the surfaced lane round left and keep ahead.
From the lane, just past the entrance drive to a bungalow on the right, the right of way goes through a small metal gate next to a field gate. It then goes diagonally right and through a gap in a wire fence. Beyond this, the way (there's no path) leads diagonally across the field to its top right-hand corner, where a very high and awkward stile to the right of a makeshift five-bar gate leads into a large roadside lay-by with a granite cross at its edge. An alternative to the field route is to continue from the bungalow entrance along the farm lane, and then to turn right along the public road, with care, to reach the lay-by.
Go right and follow the road to the Tregiffian burial chamber on the right and then to the Merry Maidens stone circle. From the stone circle, follow a grassy path towards a gate in the field corner. Go over a steep stile on the left, then continue diagonally across the field, past a telegraph pole. Go through a small metal gate and descend rocky steps to a main road (watch out for traffic). Turn right and follow the surfaced left-hand lane of two, signed 'Tregurnow Farm'.
Where the lane ends keep ahead on to a public bridleway. Follow a shady track downhill to reach Lamorna Valley. Turn right and walk down the road, with care, passing The Lamorna Wink Inn, to the car park.
Coastal footpaths (can be rocky and close to cliff edge in places) and field paths, several stiles
Picturesque coastline, fields and wooded valleys
Dogs on lead through grazed areas
AA Walker's Map 10 Land's End & The Lizard
Lamorna Cove (fee-paying car park) or Boskenna Cross (lay-by)
None on the route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.