The South West of England: Pt 20 – Land’s End, Cornwall

Bright and early the next morning we set off, to make the 3 hour journey from our Caravan in Stoke Fleming, just outside Dartmouth, to Land’s End, at the very tip of Cornwall…

Land’s End:

Status: Cornwall Unitary Authority & County, Holiday Park, England

Date: 12/08/2014

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: The Bakehouse Restaurant

Attractions: Land’s End Signpost, Isles of Scilly, First & Last House, Longships Lighthouse, Land’s End Hotel, Lifeboat, Air Ambulance etc

Land 1

Land’s End. One of the most famous places on the island of Great Britain, located at the Southwesterly most point on the island, Land’s End has attracted tourists for decades, who come not just for the breathtaking views, but for the world famous signpost, which I shall get to in a moment. Evolving from a small scale attraction, Land’s End is now a large complex that includes Gift Shops, Restaurants, 3D Experiences and more. 3 hours after we left Dartmouth, we arrived in the Car Park, and set out to explore…

Land 2

Of course the 1st place we went was straight down to the seafront, to the Signpost, which was first installed here in 1957, and has since become a landmark the world over. I have been looking forwards to this trip for months prior to us actually arriving, and I wasn’t disappointed. You can get your picture taken by an official photographer who will then post it to you, so apart from the official picture which arrived a few weeks later, Gemma’s Dad took this one for us from behind the queue barrier (hence the reason Gemma is midway through moving her hair thanks to the wind!). You may have noticed it says “Banks – 383”. This is the actual distance to my home village of Banks, in Lancashire. A helpful chart is located on the photography booth, giving distances to all the major towns and cities in the UK, so I found Southport and Banks is directly next to it, so I could approximate the overall mileage. The letters and number used to create your personalised message can be selected from a box as you get ready to have your picture taken, so you can either have a mileage or a special message spelt out, whatever you like. The other distances listed include the 28 miles out to the Isles of Scilly, a group of islands off the coast of Cornwall, which we could just see the outline of later in the day.

It was quite an experience being all the way down at Land’s End, which is of course one of the famous duo of places that also includes John O’Groats, the most Northwesterly settlement in Scotland and Great Britain as a whole. A popular route for charity events, cycle races and just intrepid travellers, is to complete the journey from one to the other, either North to South, or South to North. As the Signpost says, its 874 miles up to John O’Groats, and whilst we haven’t quite covered all of that ground yet, at the time of writing we have made it as far North as Aberdeen, which is 696 miles away from here, so we are getting there!

Land 3

Also shown on the Signpost is the mileage out to Longships Lighthouse, pictured above, which is easily visible from the viewpoint behind the Signpost. Around it lie the Longships Isles, and the highest of these is Carn Bras, which the Lighthouse itself sits on. There has been a Lighthouse on the site since 1795 when Samuel Wyatt (1737 – 1807, Trinity House Architect) designed a 79 ft tall Lantern Tower. This lasted for around 70 years, until the 1860’s when the present Lighthouse was constructed out of Granite by an engineer called Sir James Douglas. It was completed in 1873, and for the next 115 years it was regularly manned, shining its light 13 miles (11 nautical miles) out to sea. In 1988 it was made fully automated, and currently sits on its own, the only land between Lands End and the Isles of Scilly, the outline of which was just visible in the distance behind the Lighthouse.

Land 4

As we were already down at the seafront, we had a walk away from the main complex, towards the Refreshment House, a Cafe/Shop shown to the right on the picture above. The view from here is outstanding, looking out towards the Atlantic, past the Longship Isles in the centre, and out to the Isles of Scilly far behind it. Land’s End is one of those places that you have probably heard a lot about, but didn’t really know what to expect, but it is quite an experience being here. Yes its become more of an attraction, but is still a beauty spot, and it is worth coming to say you have been, and to enjoy the beautiful view across the waves.

In front of us, a 200 ft drop leads to the waves below, at the base of the large Granite Cliffs which elevate the site. The waves crash loudly against them, and you really do get the feeling that this is as far as you can go. To the right is the main complex of buildings, and a path connects it to the Refreshment House.

Land 5

We eventually made it to the Refreshment House, which was originally opened by Gracie Thomas during the 19th Century. It is now known as the First & Last House in England, due to its position at the tip of the mainland. It is similar to the Old Toll Bar in Gretna, Scotland which is known as the First & Last House in Scotland as it is located directly over the border after you cross over from England.

Land 10

As you can see it was a lovely day, and it was the perfect place to be my first in Cornwall. The Cornish Flag flies proudly outside the Refreshment House, which is similar to the English Flag, but the Red is replaced by Black. It is called the Flag of St Pirans, named after the 6th Century Abbot of the same name, and St Pirans day is on the 5th March every year.

Cornwall is one of the ancient Celtic Nations along with Ireland, Scotland, Wales, The Isle of Man and the Brittany Region of France, so not only have I now got 4/5, but we are visiting one of the ancient Celtic Kingdoms. England was made up of various Kingdoms due to the sheer size of the country, and Cornwall was eventually incorporated into it, with Brittany becoming part of France.

Land 6

Moving back into the main complex, one of the many landmarks here is the Post Box, known as the First & Last Post Box in England, although amusingly a plaque on it currently states that it is out of order and anyone wishing to post something needs to use the one in the Visitor Centre. Its amazing how much there actually is here at Lands End, dating to before the tourist attraction became the dominating profile. It was an important stop especially on the way to the Isles of Scilly.

Land 7

Near the Post Box is a building called Penwith House, built in 1860 as the Temperance Hotel to compliment the original buildings here from 1854, where stables were provided for travellers. They are of a similar design to the First & Last House, and overlook the Lands End Signpost which is located round at the front of the building.

Land 8

The complex has grown in recent years, and there are a number of restaurants and attractions, including the Cornish Pantry, shown above, which has a great outdoor seating area where you can enjoy the view and your dinner, so we took advantage of the facilities for a while to relax after our long journey.

Other attractions include a 4D Film Experience, the interactive Arthurs Quest, and the story of various people who made the journey from Land’s End up to John O’Groats. Aside from this there are various souvenir shops where you can buy a replica model of the Signpost, which now sits proudly on my shelf at home.

To find out more, you can see a map of the whole complex here, which is on their official website, where information about the facilities and shops is also available.

In another part of the complex, you can get up close and personal with both a Cornwall Air Ambulance Helicopter, and an RNLI Lifeboat. The Air Ambulance has been here since 1992, and bears the code G-CDBS, although the cabin belongs to another aircraft coded G-BCXO. The Lifeboat is an Oakley Class boat, named the “James & Catherine Macfarlane” and was originally part of the Lifeboat fleet in the Cornish town of Padstow, out at Trevose Head, between 1967 and 1983, with the operational number 4802.

Land

Our last stop was the Land’s End Hotel, which has a commanding position on top of the cliffs, and arguably one of the best views of any hotel in England. Its not often you can wake up and gaze out of your hotel room at the very edge of your country, looking out towards one of the largest oceans on the planet. The Lighthouse is easily visible from here, and at night its light will be the sole beacon in a sea of darkness that stretches out from Land’s End towards the America’s, pausing only briefly to greet the Isles of Scilly.

The romantic nature of its location makes it even more surprising that it was the victim of a German Air Raid during World War II, and whether or not it was the intended target, a bomb destroyed the Hotels Bar in 1941 and killed one of the occupants. But the Hotel still stands today, and I suppose you could call it the First & Last Hotel in England.

As you can imagine, getting to Land’s End predominantly requires a Car. The nearest train station is 10 miles away in the town of Penzance (which we would visit on the way back towards Dartmouth), although it is at the end of the longest direct train journey you can make in the UK, from Penzance, through the South West and Bristol, to the West Midlands, East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East, into Scotland where it finally terminates in Aberdeen, some 689 miles from its departure point. Local buses do however run from Penzance to Land’s End, with up to 7 a day during the week.

Land’s End is an incredible place, and its well worth the long drive to reach it, for the breathtaking views, and that most holy of touristy moments, getting your picture taken with the Signpost. For the first time in our travels this really was as far as we could go, this truly was Land’s End…

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