Land's End is a name that has struck at people's imagination for thousands of years, with the Romans referring to it as 'Bolerium', the seat of storms, and the old Cornish name being 'Penn-an-Wlas', end of the land. It is situated approximately nine miles west of Penzance, and is the most westerly point of the English mainland and the closest to the North American continent. Looking out to sea from here allows the mind to appreciate the scale of the Atlantic Ocean, seeming to stretch beyond the horizon for ever. The granite cliffs, which make up the coastline of West Cornwall, are seen at their best here, where the combination of the power of the sea and the strength of the cliffs reduce man to a mere spectator of nature. On a clear day, the Isles of Scilly can be seen lying just on that horizon - a group of small yet very beautiful islands of which five are inhabited while the remainder of nearly 100 are given over to sea birds! Closer to shore is the Longships Lighthouse, just over a mile out to sea, while in the distance, about six miles to the south-west, can be seen the Wolf Rock lighthouse.
From the awe-inspiring beauty of Porthcurno Cove and the Minack theatre to the remote clifftops of Pendeen and Zennor, Land’s End reflects the magnificent moods of the Duchy, as it defiantly protects Cornwall from the worst the Western Approaches can storm at it. It marks the end of the sea’s dominance with its 200 feet high granite rock cliffs.
A 16th century writer tells us that Land's End once stretched far to the west with a watchtower at the farthest point to guide sailors. The rocks, known as the Seven Stones, were believed to be the remains of a great city called "The Town" by sailors, who told of dragging up windows, doors and other domestic items in their nets. They also related how they had heard the church bells of Lyonesse ringing beneath the waves.
The Lost Land of Lyonesse
There are many legends of towns and countries submerged beneath the waves, but the legend of the lost land of Lyonesse is amongst the most famous. Lyonesse, we are told, was once a country beyond Land's End that boasted fine cities and 140 churches; then, on November 11th 1099 a great storm blew up and the marauding sea swept over it, drowning the luckless inhabitants and submerging the kingdom beneath the waves, until all that remained to view were the mountain peaks to the west, known to us now as the Isles of Scilly. Only one man survived they say. His name was Trevilian and he rode a white horse up to high ground at Perranuthnoe before the waves could overwhelm him.
Nanjizal Cove The Gwennap Head Runnel Stone (or Rundle Stone) is a hazardous rock pinnacle situated about a mile south of Gwennap Head,. Several shipwrecks lie near the rock but once you clear this headland you approach Porthgwarra which is a delightful, secluded little cove complete with a slipway, caves and tunnels, which evoke smugglers and pirates. At the foot of the slipway there is a tunnel leading upwards - it was dug by the miners from St Just to allow access to the beach so that farmers could retrieve seaweed by horse and cart. The seaweed was then used as fertiliser on the land. The other end of the tunnel leads to the sea and was used by fishermen who would store live shellfish in tidal 'hulleys' built into this tunnel for their weekly trip to market.
In the period 1600 to 1640, there were also considerable acts of piracy involving fishing boats. Barbary pirates from North Africa were continually capturing fishermen and taking them back to Algeria and Morocco to serve as slaves. Some were said to be captured from night raids on such harbours as Porthguarnon, Porthgwarra, Penberth Cove, Lamorna and of course Mousehole.
A short history of Mousehole Mousehole is the most westerly of the Mount's Bay villages, lying just to the South West of Newlyn harbour. Back in the 13th century, Mousehole was the main port in Mounts Bay and remained so until well into the 16th century when Penzance and Newlyn began to gain ascendancy. However, even in the last century there were still hundreds of people employed there in the fishing, packing and transporting of fish. Over the years the harbour walls were gradually extended and built to cater for the hive of activity taking place.
Mousehole The Spanish are coming!
By the early 1590's, the war between Spain and England had settled into an uneasy stalemate. However, this culminated in a raid by the Spanish on Mount's Bay in July 1595 which had disastrous consequences for Mousehole. Control of the local defence efforts in Cornwall lay in the hands of the Deputy Lieutenants, Sir William Mohun and Sir Francis Godolphin. In 1588, at any rate in theory, Cornwall had claimed to be able to furnish its own defence with 5,560 men, including 1,395 shot, 633 corselets, 1956 bills and halberds, 1528 bows, 4 lances and 96 light horse, and the totals were probably roughly similar seven years later. The main problem with the defence of Cornwall lay in its isolation, and the great length of coastline, with its many bays and deepwater inlets which were potential landing points. Mount's Bay was singled out by the Spanish and in July 1595 Spanish galleys dropped anchor off Mousehole harbour to ferry ashore a force estimated at 200 pike and shot. The Spanish burnt the village and some surrounding hamlets, including the village of Paul. The inhabitants had made off in panic. However, Jenkyn Keigwin alone stood defiantly outside his home "The Keigwin" until he was shot dead by a Spaniard, the musket ball sinking deeply into the door behind him. While these invaders were soon dispatched, this event marked the last time England was ever invaded by hostile forces. Smuggling in Mousehole The excise authorities do not appear to have been particularly diligent in the village. Contraband was carried around openly during the day — when asked why he had not apprehended the villains, the Preventive assigned to the town said he had been pelted with stones, and lay in his bed recovering. This attitude did not go down well! Around 1780 charges were brought against the Mousehole officials for accepting bribes and cooperating with the smugglers. This is hardly surprising: Richard 'Doga' Pentreath of Mousehole was described by the Penzance Collector of Customs as 'an honest man in all his dealings though a notorious smuggler'. Another smuggler, Thomas Mann, was also described as honest. Myths and Legends of Mousehole Tom Bawcock is a legendary character from the village of Mousehole. According to legend there was a terrible storm and none of the fishermen could leave the quay to fish. Soon, the village was swept with famine. Tom Bawcock risked his life to go out and catch some fish and managed to come back with enough to feed the whole village until the storm was over. All the fish were put into a big "Starygazey pie" so called as all the fish heads pop out through the pie crust and stare upwards at the stars. His bravery is remembered and celebrated every year on Dec 23rd in the Ship Inn in Mousehole village where they cook the pie and share it amongst all the customers.
There are many other coves and beaches between Lands End and Mousehole. The first of which is Nanjizal or Mill Bay. About a mile east of Lands End, it is only accessible by smaller rowed boats but has a cave at the top of its beach which has been linked with smuggling over the years. The only access to this beach is by an extremely steep cliff path so probably only ever used to store contraband and retrieve at a later date.