Last weekend we headed west, as west as you can get (pretty much), for food, views and one of the best sunsets in the country.
The Gurnards Head is a thin piece of headland in the very west of Penwith, snaking out into the Atlantic, found down pretty flower studded paths, past ancient Cornish hedges and over huge granite boulders. It looks off into the far horizon, banked on both sides by rough raw cliffs and turquoise coves. And it’s lent its name to a rather lovely pub, which serves up a delectable menu of food and wine.
Even though we live just 30 minutes’ drive away on the north coast, the contrast in landscape is staggering. In Penwith it’s like you’ve stepped into an ancient place. The absence of any major roads is a huge contributing factor – it’s all single lanes banked by rocky hedges or streaks of tarmac over desolate moorland. Grey, sparkling granite runs riot, bulging out of the grass with boulders strew over the hills and huge ancient stacks that look like giant games of jenga.
After a swift half of pokey local cider, we took the road south from the pub down to Carn Glaver, a huge stony spine that cuts through the headland with views spanning right the way to the south coast.
Just over the road at Castle Rock the cliffs crash down into the sea, carpeted in areas by huge swathes of ferns and threaded with climbers ropes. A walk out onto headland found us face to face with sheer drops, a hazy horizon and what we believe could be the beast of Penwith – a strangely mystical, unshorn sheep, right on the edge of the cliff.
Back up the coastal road we were greeted at the Gurnards Head with a delicious meal of grilled figs with goat’s cheese, honey and almonds, pan fried hake with roasted fennel, baby plum tomatoes and basil gnocchi, and peanut parfait with chocolate sorbet. Plus a couple of glasses of cold white Muscadet. The pub had very kindly agreed to us van camping in their car park for the night, but after heading back down to Castle Rock to catch the sunset we found we didn’t want to sleep anywhere else.
The next day we took a trip to Portheras Cove, a truly local beach. It’s about a 20 minute walk either north on the coastal path from Pendeen Lighthouse or west from Morvah. A river tumbles down from Morvah right onto the beach, which was a very welcome relief for the black dog, huge smooth rocks protrude from the sand and a modest bay of golden sand sweeps up to steep, fern clad cliffs. Head back via the Lighthouse on your way home and you might be lucky enough to catch an ice cream van.