There's nowhere quite like the Lizard Peninsula. Famous for being the most southerly point of the British mainland and situated within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Lizard Peninsula in Southern Cornwall is home to a village of the same name, as well as a sprinkling of pretty Cornish coastal villages dotted with whitewashed fishermen's cottages, gazing over harbours filled with colourful fishing boats. Boasting one of the UK’s warmest climates, it is known for its rare plants and geology, in particular, the gorgeous serpentine stone.
The Lizard is a fascinating part of the coast to visit - a beautiful yet treacherous coastline filled with stories of smuggling and shipwrecks, where tiny fishing villages nestled in pretty coves have remained unchanged over centuries. Once the haunt of notorious smugglers, they are now better known for days out where sunbathing and paddling are the most taxing thing on visitors' minds. The seclusion and rugged beauty of this part of the West Cornwall coastline with its gorgeous beaches and bays make this the perfect destination for an outdoors holiday - read on to find out what you can get up to while you're there.
Thought to be a take on the Cornish name ‘Lys Ardh’ meaning high court, the naming of The Lizard doesn’t actually have anything to do with scaly reptiles, though the peninsula is made up of serpentinite-bearing rock if we are being picky. It does have a fascinating maritime history, however, filled with tales of smugglers and shipwrecks. In fact, the troublesome seas around the peninsula used to be referred to as the ‘Graveyard of Ships’ due to the hazardous waters where ships exporting tin and copper would often come unstuck.
The famous Lizard Lighthouse, perched on Lizard Point, was built in 1752 to help overcome this problem; there is also now an RNLI boat stationed there which patrols the coast’s tricky waters for less dramatic though equally important rescue manoeuvres.
The serpentine stone:
The Lizard is famous for its beautiful serpentine stone - a unique metamorphic rock which is dark green with red and white running through - polished into its current state by thousands of years of waves crashing against the rocks. Pretty ornaments made out of serpentine were coveted by the most fashionable ladies in Victorian times and are still a much-loved souvenir today. The village is home to various serpentine turners, who turn this rock into jewellery and trinkets in the craft shops and galleries of the area.
The water sports:
If you love your scuba diving, then you probably already know the Lizard! A great area to dive, there are also a number of schools if you are looking to try something new or hone your craft. Windsurfing is also a big deal here, particularly in Coverack on the east coast of the peninsula - there's an excellent water sports centre, the Coverack Windsurfing Centre if you need some guidance. It also offers kayaking and paddleboarding if you aren't that handy with a sail!
You can also try your hand at sit-on-top kayaking or sign up for a sea kayaking course at Mullion Harbour. A great way to see the coastline from a different perspective, it's certainly worth a go. Or perhaps you could try a spot of coasteering where you can work your way around the coast by scrambling over the rocks and swimming - give Lizard Adventure a call and see if it's for you.
If you have come to Cornwall with a surfboard - and many do - you'll probably know that the Lizard has always been a top surfing secret. Not anymore though, as more and more people are coming to surf in the area, and many are heading to the Dan Joel Surf School at Poldhu Beach for a few pointers before hitting the waves.
You’ll want to explore some of the pretty coves when you visit the Lizard. One of the most famous, the National Trust's Mullion Cove, sits below the village of the same name and is reached via a winding road. Plan a morning sunbathing on the beach and pop up into the village after for a spot of lunch at one of the cafés and a browse amongst the galleries, though it is said that it is well worth staying for the sunsets if you can. Drive along to Cadgwith and onto Kennack Cove, where a buccaneer by the name of Captain Avery was said to have buried part of his treasure.
If searching for gold sounds like too much hard work, pop over to Gunwalloe, also managed by the National Trust, where the rest of the treasure was apparently hidden, and check out one of the filming locations of the TV series Poldark. Those with a passion for the handsome redcoat will recognise the beach at Gunwalloe which was the location for some of the shipwreck scenes. Filming took place near Dollar Cove, the site of many shipwrecks and an alleged location of lost Spanish treasure.
There are so many beaches in the area, but Kynance Cove has to be one of the most impressive. The stunning white sandy beach makes a brilliant contrast to the exquisite dark red and green serpentine rock, which explains why it is one of the most photographed locations in Cornwall. Explore the caves and rock stacks at low tide, but make sure you are out as the tide comes in! Swimming isn’t recommended as the currents are quite strong so if having a splash about is on your agenda, head over to Coverack where you can watch out for dolphins playing in the surf.
For some fabulous hidden coves and stretches of golden sands across Cornwall, have a sneak peek at our Guide to the Best Secret Beaches and Coves in Cornwall.
The food and drink:
The Lizard is a haven of fish and seafood restaurants as well as an impressive selection of bistros, brasseries and cafés. If you are in or near Gunwalloe, make sure you try out the iconic Halzephron Inn, a 500-year-old public house steeped in smuggling history. The views are simply breathtaking and it's easy to get to the coastal path and beach if you want to work off those calories after lunch! We'd recommend making a reservation though, especially on summer evenings when it tends to get very busy.
The Top House Inn in the heart of The Lizard village is Britain's most southerly pub and the ideal place to stop if you want a good pub lunch with a pint of the local ale - it's a good choice if you have little ones or furry ones with you as it welcomes both, though the latter are restricted to the bar area.
You obviously can't go to Cornwall without partaking in a mouthwatering cream tea with Cornish clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. For a scone tasting at the most southerly part of the UK, stop awhile at the Polpeor Café on Lizard Point where you can enjoy warm crumbly scones over breathtaking ocean views. Watch the passing seals, cormorants and gulls as you ponder your next move.
If you fancy trying out some more cream teas across Cornwall (and why not), have a read through our Guide to the Best Places for a Cornish Cream Tea.
You can’t beat the breathtaking clifftop views from all along the South West Coast Path. There is a great variety for all different levels - for easy walks of about 3-5 miles, try the circular St Keverne to Porthallow walk through woods and meadows, Kennack Sands to Cadgwith or the circular walk around the creeks of the Helford River to Dennis Head.
If you really want to blow the cobwebs away, try the circular walk from the pretty fishing village of Cadgwith Cove to The Lizard, taking in the lighthouse at Lizard Point and the holy well dedicated to a Celtic Saint who was accused of being a werewolf! Walkers who like time to themselves can hike along the more remote circular route from Coverack to Lankidden Cove - this is just over 7 miles, however, and not one for the faint-hearted. For more information on these walks and more, check out the iWalk Cornwall website.
Our self-catering accommodation in Lizard makes a great place to start and end your day, or even fill your hours if you just fancy an indulgent day at home.
The contemporary penthouse apartment of Kennack Heights is one of the best around for spectacular views of the ocean. Sleeping four, its glass-fronted balcony and floor-to-ceiling windows have far-reaching views over Kennack Sands, which is also within walking distance of the apartment. The South West Coast Path is within easy reach for fabulous clifftop walks and there’s a surf school nearby for those who want to ride the Cornish waves.
If you are heading to the Lizard with a group of family or friends, you might want to look at Nanplough Country House just 2 miles north of Mullion Cove. This spectacular country house is set in 23 acres of land and has use of a shared outside pool for a splash about when the sun is out. Children will love a stay at this family-friendly property with its outdoor play area and opportunity to meet the farm’s resident livestock.
We have a great selection of properties all over Cornwall, from romantic boltholes for two for long weekend escapes to larger family properties where you can take the whole gang away. You don’t need to leave Fido behind either as many of our cottages are dog-friendly and welcome two legs as well as four! Have a look for a pet-friendly pad here.