Cliffs, Forests and Coves - The Walk from Porthcurno to Lamorna

Cornish photographer Dan Sharpe loves an adventure, and in 2017he walked his way around the South West Coast Path with a surfboard under his arm!, This article describes the short section between Porthcurno and Lamorna, on the south coast between Penzance and Lands End.

"Stepping off the bus at Porthcurno you are greeted by a sea of other coach parties mostly dismounting to hike the short climb to the Minack Theatre that perches on the western side of the cliffs. Don’t be fooled by the popularity of this car park, because as soon as you climb away from the cove to the east the path will rapidly become vacant and nothing will ring in the ears other than a gentle breeze and the variable sounds of the birds flitting in and out of the ferns and shrubs that line the path.

Most of the stretch between Porthcurno and Lamorna is sculpted by Cornish granite that dominates much of the county, and it is immediately in full view as the harsh and protruding mass of this coarse and abrasive rock extends out into the sea far beyond the main body of land. Inaccessible inlets of yellow sand are intruded by the vast cliffs that shelter them, with turquoise waters blending into deeper blues as the seafloor descends out to sea.

Rounding the headland the path briefly flattens atop the cliffs with wild pony’s roaming to provide not only an interesting wildlife addition, but also a functional grazing purpose to keep foliage growth in control.

The real walk starts when you approach Penberth Cove. Descending steeply, the view down into the water yields a dark bed of seaweed giving way only to rounded granite boulders placed by landslips or significant storms of years past. The rock again has a sheer rise to the cliffs ahead, taking the path with it in a series of leg burning steps. This trend continues as you move up and down into a couple of more secretive inlets until it flattens before slowly descending towards a rocky bay surrounded by woodland. The path becomes muddy and unstable as small streams cross its course, with the trees become denser and the air thicker as the smell of wildflowers overtakes the strength of the wind. The path altogether disappears and merges with the coastline as you are forced to step onto the beach and stretch between footholds. This part of the route has all the variety of the coast path within just a 5-minute walk, from sheer and windswept cliffs, through forested streams and exposed rocky beaches all tied in neatly to one stretch.

As you dismount the beach and rejoin the path, you once again climb to a great height above the sea below and make your way eastwards with a panoramic view behind you of the way in which you came. The Tater-du Lighthouse is not far now, and as you round the next headland be sure to keep your eyes to the south so as not to miss the humble barred gate that signals the steps down to the building below. It is quite a dramatic view as the shrubs part their way for the staircase, and the bright white of the lighthouse has such contrast to the deep blue of the sea beyond it lends itself more to a postcard than to reality.

As the path curves its way into the cove of Lamorna, the familiar granite boulders and cliffs are again the dominant feature. The scenery here is not quite as dramatic as at the start of this walk, but the beauty of the formations is unlike any of the coast path I have currently walked. At a little under 6 miles this walk is a short but taxing one. Uneven footing and sheer climbs and descents are what comprise most of the way, but the views and hidden corners that can be found are worth the effort many times over.

Follow Dan on Instagram at @cheersthengone

People wishing to do this walk can use the Land's End Coaster bus during summer months to return to Porthcurno. However, you need to walk up the valley road from Lamorna to the main road to catch it. (April 2023)

  • PinLand's End / Mousehole
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