Beaches in West Cornwall

Down here at the end we have mostly small sandy or rocky coves, and then there's Sennen - the jewel in our crown that breaks the rule.

Gwenver

A good walk from St Just with a couple of picturesque routes...just ask. Gwenver (Gwynver) is dog friendly all year and is quiet most days of the year because of the hard walk back up to the car park at the end of the day. The beautiful sandy beach is a local's favourite and there is a lifeguard in the summer. Take care swimming there at any time as there's often a rip current. Every adventurous child will love the rock pools at the north of the beach when the tide is low. You can walk to Gwenver along the cliffs from Cot Valley, or across the fields aiming for the hamlets of Trevegean and Tregiffian. There are no facilities at Gwenver.

Nanjizel

It's worth going to Nanjizel just for the stunning high cliffs between Lands End and there. At Nanjizel there's a quiet beach that's a mix of coarse sand and pleasingly rounded boulders, with caves and the beautiful arch, called the Song of the Sea. Walk to the beach from Lands End or from Trevescan where there's a great café called the Apple Tree. Opposite the Apple Tree and to the left there's a bus stop and the path starts behind it crossing a couple of cottages' drives. There's only one real junction to the path and at that take the right turn. There are no facilities or lifeguards at Nanjizel. There are often seals though.

Portheras Cove and Boat Cove

Two beaches for the price of one. The only sandy cove on the north coast before St Ives, Portheras is a hard but rewarding walk along the cliff path from St Just that passes the interesting remains of many mines, including the most recently working Geevor Mine, and the restored Levant. Portheras is a wide stretch of good clean sand. Boat Cove is a tiny sandy cove separated from it by rocks that are just about passable at low tide. There are often seals here. To drive head along the north coast towards St Ives and turn right for Chy Praze Farm just before Morvah, there's an honesty box for paying for parking in a field. No lifeguard and no facilities.

Priest's Cove

Not a beach in the sandy sense, but a great spot where the locals flock on a sunny day. Priest's Cove is a working fishing cove and the slipway makes a good entry point for swimmers. It's in the shadow of Cape Cornwall, one of my favourite spots in the far west. There's an ice cream van for much of the year in the National Trust car park above the cove, and there are toilets there too. In late July or early August look out for signs for Cape Sports, the annual swimming race in from The Brisons, the big rock in the bay – it's only ever advertised in St Just and doesn't happen if the weather is bad. To get to the cove walk down Cape Cornwall Street, or better still, across the fields.

Sennen

The Blue Flag beach at Sennen Cove is definitely one of the jewels of the far west. A wide expanse of beach that is vast at low tide. We walk to Sennen from St Just now and then, but it's a long stank! Follow either of the routes to Gwenver and keep going to the next beach. The sea is generally benign here, and there are lifeguards all summer. Sennen also has cafes, a pub, stores, surf schools and a gallery. You could always walk one way and get the bus back.

Definite drive to beaches

These are too good not to mention, but are too far for a walk – Porthcurno, Porthgwarra, Porth Chapel, all sandy beaches on the south coast. And best of them all – Pend Vounder (or Treen), a clothing optional beach that's paradise on a sunny day. It's a challenging climb down to it, but worth it.

Surfing

West Cornwall has a long established all year surf culture as the sea never gets too cold around here. The popular surf beaches in the far west are Sennen and Gwenver. At Sennen there's the excellent Sennen Surf School 01736 871227.

Not a beach, but our favourite coastal drive by miles

There are many lanes and cliff top roads that are truly special in the far west. The best has to be the B3306 from St Just to St Ives. It usually features in the top ten roads in the country and it's easy to see why. It's only 13 miles, but expect to take a few hours as you stop to take pictures, try the pubs, have a walk, eat your picnic, and hopefully have a swim. You can also do the journey on the open top bus in the summer. Take the A3 from the car park in St Just, or any point along the route.