The heathland of the Lizard Peninsula near Mullion may seem dull compared to the dramatic sea cliffs that define its edges; the only punctuation marks are the huge satellite dishes of the nearby Goonhilly tracking station and the lazily revolving blades of modern wind turbines. Yet, beneath the skin, this seemingly featureless landscape is botanically unique and exciting, not least because the Lizard's calcareous soil is rich in magnesium and supports plants that are more often seen in chalk or limestone regions. The warming influence of the sea and the area's generally mild and frost-free climate encourages growth.
The Lizard's most famous plant is the Cornish heath, rare in Britain generally, but abundant on the Lizard. In full bloom it contributes to a glorious mosaic of colour, its pink and white flowers matched by the brilliant yellow of Western gorse and the deeper pinks of cross-leaved heath and bell heather. More common plants include spring squill, thrift and foxglove. Deeper into the heath are a variety of orchids including the rare green-winged orchid, with its purple-lipped flowers. Soapy Cove Near the turning point of the walk, the route joins the coast at Gew Graze, a feature that is also known as 'Soapy Cove' because of the presence of steatite, or soapstone. This is a fairly rare type of rock which was once used in the 18th-century production of china and porcelain.
The final part of the route, along the cliffs to Mullion Cove, brings more flower-spotting opportunities. On the path out of Gew Graze look for the yellow bracts and purple florets of carline thistle; the straw-coloured bracts curl over the flowerheads to protect them in wet weather. Another remarkable plant is thyme broomrape, a dark reddish- brown, almost dead-looking plant that obtains its chlorophyll as a parasite growing on thyme. Such plants are often difficult to spot, whereas the smooth grassy slopes of the clifftops near Mullion are a riot of blue spring squill, white sea campion and the yellow heads of lesser celandine and kidney vetch.
Leave the car park by its bottom end through a gate by the last house and follow the track ahead for 0.3 miles (0.5km). Ignore the signposted link to the coast path. Where the track bends to the left (signposted) continue on a secondary track directly ahead to reach a field gate in a few steps. Beyond the gate, keep straight ahead to go over a stile in the wall to your right, just left of an opening into another field. Turn left along the field-edge. Cross another stile, then continue to open ground by a field gate in a fence on the right.
Go over the wooden stile, then bear half left along a path to reach Natural England's National Nature Reserve. Keep ahead towards distant buildings. At a large field, keep along its left edge.
In approximately 150yds (137m), go left through a gap, signposted, then cross the field to reach a rough track. Turn right along the track for a few paces then go left through a gate and keep ahead along a path.
Go through a gate and then follow a track going right. Merge with another track, passing below a farmhouse, then in a few paces, and just before a ford, bear off to the right along a track towards the coast.
At an unsigned crossing with the coast path, go right and steeply uphill, then go over a stile on to the cliff top. Follow the coast path as it winds round the edge of the often projecting cliffs at Pengersick and Vellan Head.
Go left at a junction, just past a National Trust sign 'Predannack'. (You can return to the car park by following the inland path from here.) Cross a stream in a dip and climb up left and continue round the clifftops of Predannack Head. In about 1 mile (1.6km) arrive above Mullion Cove. (You can divert down left to visit Mullion Harbour, if desired.)
On the main route, turn right up the road and turn right at Mullion Mill Farm and some holiday cottages to follow a track. On a bend and just before a granite pillar, go right and over a stone stile into a field. Follow the path ahead through gorse and thorn trees and then through fields.
Pass close to a tall granite cross. Reach a lane by houses. Keep ahead along the lane towards Predannack Manor Farm. Just before the farm entrance, go left over a stile by a field gate, then follow the track along the edge of the field. Go over a stile by a barn, then left along a hedged-in path, cross a stile and cross two fields to reach a lane (watch out for traffic). Turn right to Predannack Wollas Farm car park.
Good inland tracks and paths, can be muddy in places during wet weather. Coastal footpath, many stiles
Flat heathland and high sea cliff
Dogs on lead through grazed areas and as notices indicate
AA Walker's Map 10 Land's End & The Lizard
Predannack Wollas car park (National Trust)
Mullion Cove, 200yds (183m) up road from harbour
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.