An hourly bus service from Helston serves both ends of the route, so why not leave the car behind for the day? The Coast Path passes through some of the most important sites in the UK for rare and beautiful plants and animals.
During springtime, the cliffs are swathed in thrift, spring squill, campions and orchids. Keener botanists may wish to search for the peculiarly named Lizard specialities; fringed rupturewort, hairy greenweed or land quillwort. Late summer brings the heathland into colour, with the Lizard endemic, Cornish heath with its beautiful pale pink flowers growing only where serpentine rock occurs.
- From Mullion Cove ascend in an easterly direction (away from St Michael’s Mount) along the South West Coast Path.
Mullion is still a working fishing village with only three registered boats. Lord Robartes built the pier between 1890 and 1897 not only to protect the fishermen and their families but also to protect the boats coming in with coal that was required for his estate. Mullion also had its own lifeboats and a large plaque commemorating this is against the back wall of the slipway. Local millionaire Montague Meyer gave Mullion Cove (which is dog-friendly throughout the year) to the National Trust in 1945.
Mullion Island is formed from lava that whilst erupting under the sea, made contact with the cold salt water and then cooled into pillow shaped segments. In 1979 a ship named the MV Shoreham went aground off Mullion Island. The ship was refloated but found to be beyond economic repair and so was broken up for scrap.
The rock sitting out on its own close to the shore, in line with Mullion Island, is called Vro Island. Locals talk of it over twenty years ago being full of birds as in a highrise block of flats. Puffins, razorbills, black-backed gulls and gannets used to feed off the pilchards and sand eels that have diminished so much in recent years.
The bay between Men-he-teul and northwards to Pedngwinian is known as Mullion Roads. The protection afforded to ships in a northeasterly gale was often short-lived if the winds suddenly changed direction to the predominant southwesterly. Captains of the vessels had to be quick to move out to sea to avoid disaster. Many wrecks with loss of life and other near misses have occurred over the centuries.
- Continuing along the Coast Path the terrain is flat all the way around from Men-te-heul to Parc Bean Cove and Ogo Dour Cove.
In these coves, there is a waterfall and some caves (the Cornish for cave is `ogo'). Please take care if you explore around here.
Continue along the Coast Path.
You are likely to encounter some of the grazing animals being used to improve the important clifftop habitats. The National Trust and Natural England are using traditional breeds of pony, sheep and cattle to control the spread of scrub and coarse grasses. Breeds used include the spectacular Highland Cattle, now almost a tourist attraction in their own right. In winter there are often Dartmoor ponies grazing the cliffs. This grazing has also recently encouraged the return of the chough to the Lizard cliffs. With its distinctive high-pitched 'chi-ow' call and its acrobatic tumbling flight displays, the chough is an unmistakable sight, particularly between Kynance Cove and Lizard Point.
The results of this land management can be seen in spring when much of the cliffs between here and Mullion are swathed in thrift, spring squill, campions and orchids. These flowers and the Autumn squill (Scilla autumnalis) are Lizard specialities.
Keener botanists may wish to search for the peculiarly named Lizard specialities; fringed rupturewort, hairy greenweed or land quillwort. Late summer brings the heathland into colour. The Cornish Heath, with its beautiful pale pink flowers, is a rare plant which is found here but nowhere else in Britain. It grows only where serpentine rock occurs. There is a riot of colour through most of the year with so many other unique species of plants including as many as 20 species of clover.
- At Soapy Cove (or Gew-graze), you will pass the remains of a disused soapstone quarry dating back to the 1700s.
This soft rock was used in the porcelain industry until 1819 - when by this time china clay was being extracted around St Austell.
- Continue around the next headland and descend into Kynance Cove.
Look for the Devil's Letterbox on the north side of Asparagus Island a cave crack with powerful suction caused by the pull of air from the waves below.
This has been a favourite spot for day-trippers since Victorian times. Many of the caves around Kynance have names from that era like the Ladies' Bathing Pool, the Parlour and the Drawing Room. Today, the café at the Cove is full of eco-friendly features such as solar panels, a turf roof, wool insulation and compost toilets.
Set out from Kynance Cove on the Coast Path, heading towards Lizard Point. Steps lead to a headland from the eastern end of Kynance beach. Walk through the car park and rejoin the cliff path.
Seals and basking sharks are commonly spotted on this route. Basking sharks can be nearly 30ft (9m) long but cruise these warm waters feeding on nothing more than tiny plankton. In summer 2007 over 40 were spotted in one day.
Follow the cliff path, passing above Pentreath beach.
Many quirkily named wildflowers bloom along the coast through spring and summer like dropwort, bloody cranesbill, ladies bedstraw, milkwort and self-heal. The exotic looking pink and yellow flowers of the hottentot fig can be seen near to the Lizard Lighthouse. Although it looks pretty it's actually a botanical bully and can smother our native flora.
- From Lizard Point, a link path will take you to Lizard Village for refreshments or the bus service. Welcome refreshments can be had at the spectacularly beautiful Kynance Cove, and its charming café, and at Lizard Point and Village.
Mullion Cove, Pentreath and Polpear Cove are beaches which are dog-friendly throughout the year.
Helston Tourist Information Centre, Tel: 01326 565431.