Did you know there are only two geological capes in Great Britain? One of them is Cape Wrath in Scotland and the other is Cape Cornwall. A cape is a high point of land that narrowly juts out into a body of water and this is just what Cape Cornwall does, sticking an old chimney stack on the top for good measure.
Cape Cornwall, just outside St Just and not too far away from Penzance, sits on the westernmost edge of the county and is an integral part of the Tin Coast and Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. It’s a distinctive headland that juts out into the ocean, marking the exact spot where some water flows north into the Bristol Channel and the Irish Sea while the rest flows into the English Channel. Better put, this is where the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
The landscape around Cape Cornwall was once heavily industrialised by the miners but now it’s mostly home to flora and fauna, such as all the seabirds that nest along its rugged coastline. The beautiful area was actually once bought by famous sauce manufacturer Heinz as part of its centenary celebrations before the firm gave it to the National Trust in 1987. A plaque at its summit marks that occasion alongside the iconic 19th century chimney stack which dates back to when the Cape Cornwall Mine was still up and running, taking tin and copper from under the ocean waves in the 1890s.
The Brisons Rocks are a highlight at Cape Cornwall. These twin peaks that lie about a mile offshore from the cape have caused quite a few shipwrecks over the years and are said to have once been home to a prison, however these days they are important breeding grounds for seabirds like gannets, storm-petrels and fulmars. Take some binoculars and catch a glimpse of these birds from your perfect vantage spot on the cape. You may even spot some seals, if you’re lucky. Nearby Priest’s Cove is also a highlight as local fishermen still use it as a landing place and there’s also an ancient chapel, St Helen’s Oratory, lying in ruins on the isthmus that’s worth a visit.
The best way to enjoy Cape Cornwall is to strap on your hiking boots and walk around the headland, taking in places like Sennen Cove in the south or the Pendeen Lighthouse in the north. Unbeatable Atlantic vistas are offered up along the way, including plenty of remnants of the old mining industry along the Tin Coast. The only charge for a visit to Cape Cornwall is at the car park. Get there early to make sure there’s a space for you during weekends and holidays, and then it’s time for stunning seascapes, dramatic cliffs, plenty of mining history and the chance to spot some seals and seagulls as they swim off the tip of one of only two capes in the entire country.