It was a beautiful day for March. The sky was blue and cloudless. I was playing taxi driver for my OH who had a music gig to attend in the most westerly town in Cornwall, St Just in Penwith, so I reckoned it was time for me to visit Land’s End, the most westerly part of mainland England, which I last visited way back in 1991. Unfortunately there was a sea haze all around the coast (15 miles from home if you were wondering) so there were no views towards the Isles of Scilly or even up the coast to Cape Cornwall. Ignoring the tacky tourist theme park development the natural landscape is pretty majestic, though as usual it was pretty breezy on this exposed headland.
The many names for Land’s End are centuries old. The earliest name for the site seems to ‘Penwith Steort’ recorded in 997. Penwith is Cornish for ‘extreme end’ and Steort is Old English for ‘tail’ or ‘end.’ The Middle English name ‘Londeseynde’ appears in 1337 and ‘Penn an Wlas’, Cornish for ‘end of the land’, is first recorded in 1500.
Fascinating discoveries found on-site dating as far back as the Mesolithic Period (10,000-4000 BC) prove that people have been travelling to and living at Land’s End for 10,000 years or more.
The cliffs are made of granite, an igneous rock, which means they are resistant to weathering, and have steep cliff faces. There are two varieties of granite represented at Land’s End. Adjacent to the hotel the granite is coarse-grained with large phenocrysts of orthoclase, sometimes more than 5 in (13 cm) in length. To the north, at the First and Last House, there is a finer-grained granite with fewer and smaller phenocrysts, and the different granites can be seen from a distance by the smoother weathering of the finer variety. The granite dates to 268–275 million years ago of the Permian period. Wikipedia
The mythical ‘Lost Land of Lyonesse’ is said to lie beneath the waves between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly. According to legend, Lyonesse was a rich part of King Arthur’s realm that was drowned by the sea on a cataclysmically stormy night.
There are over 130 recorded shipwrecks around Land’s End, as well as countless more unrecorded. In modern times, Longships Lighthouse at Land’s End forms one point of an important protective triangle – Longships Lighthouse, Wolf Rock Lighthouse and the Lizard Lighthouse collectively create one of the most well lit waterways in the British Isles.
It’s a shame that the National Trust were outbid when the land came up for sale in 1987 as then the area may have been left in its natural state.
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