The B3306 from St Ives to St Just is widely regarded as the most scenic road in the South West, and we would have to agree. The views from your car window are stunning, and will entice you to park a while and explore the landscape a little on foot.
As you leave St Ives on the B3306 the first village you will come to (after the turn off for the restored hamlet of Trowan) is Zennor, famous for its mermaid myth. The local church of St Senara is well worth a visit – look out for the carving of the mermaid, Morvoren, said to have so bewitched a local boy that he took to the sea never to return. There are many local footpaths near here down to isolated coves and beaches, and a fabulous walk back to St Ives either through the fields or on the cliff path. The Tinners’ Arms is a great pub for lunch or dinner, and there is a mining museum to visit there too.
As the road winds through the heath and moorland you will see the patchwork of iron-age fields, unchanged for centuries. The Tinners’ Way, a public footpath across the countryside can be picked up here – it will take you all the way to Cape Cornwall. There are plenty of stopping places on this part of the road – take out your flask and stop for a while to soak up the atmosphere of a landscape full of the evidence of tin mining and farming through the ages.
The next landmark is the Gurnard’s Head, recently painted egg-yolk yellow. Fabulous food and a great place to stay, this is the sister inn of The Coastguard Inn in Mousehole. Just in case you miss the bright yellow walls, the name of the pub is picked out in tiles on the roof too! Don’t forget that the South West Coast Path winds its way around the whole of the coast here – it is fairly well sign posted in both directions and sections can be picked up along the route.
The cattle grids announce you are definitely entering farming country – and at times it feels like you are driving straight through farmyards! Take care on this section – the road is narrower, more winding and there are fewer passing places. Going off the main track is rewarding as the views from the cliffs are spectacular.
You will pass through various tiny hamlets before you arrive at Morvah, where you will find The Schoolhouse gallery and tea room, a church and the opportunity to explore the local landscape which has, in the past, unearthed evidence of iron-age settlements.
The next town is the larger Pendeen, home to Geevor Tin Mine. Geevor is now a well preserved museum, where you can go underground, try your hand at panning for precious stones and soak up the atmosphere of the miners dry – left exactly as the miners themselves left it in 1990. Many of the guides actually worked in the mine when it was still producing tin, giving you a really accurate picture of the mining industry. Geevor is worth a visit for the hand-made pasties alone!
Follow the signs down to Pendeen Lighthouse for views over the rugged coastline – you can park here and explore the coastline a little.
Levant Mine is run by the National Trust, and while you can explore the associated mine buildings and park for free (take care – the ground is uneven and there are some steep drops), to see the restored beam engine you will need to pay an admission price. Dogs are welcome and there are many planned walks that take in the views of the coast and the local area. We particularly enjoyed the information given around the site on the National Trust information boards – the photos really bring history to life.
Trewellard can also provide a petrol station and its Meadery – a family restaurant that serves Cornish Mead as a speciality.
The last village on the road before you arrive at the larger town of St Just is Carnyorth – home to an Outdoor Education Centre so keep your eyes open for groups enjoying coracle building and the coastal walks here. In summer this part of the coast can often offer up glimpses of basking sharks and dolphins.
St Just has all the facilities you would expect as well as galleries to tempt you to part with your money. Cape Cornwall Golf Club has its home here – and they are happy to welcome walkers in for tea and coffee. You can explore Cot Valley from here and drive down to Cape Cornwall itself to park and enjoy a close-up view of the Brisons, the jagged rocks just off the coastline that are said to look like Charles de Gaulle lying on his back!
The last stop before Land’s End is the golden sands of Sennen Cove – the surfers’ paradise. Visit the RNLI lifeboat station, stroll along the sand and, if the waves are pumping, get your wetsuit on and catch a few!
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