Friday, 11 July 2014

Praa Sands to Penzance (South West Coast Path 59)

We rejoin the Coast Path at the lovely Praa Sands. (We pronounce the name as Pra, but our taxi driver, Ian, tells us the locals pronounce it Pray.) As we climb up away from the beach there is a nice view back which includes one of last time's surprises, Pengersick Castle. The RNLI lifeguards can also be seen on the beach getting ready for another day's work.

We pass round the back of Hoe Point and the wide sweep of Kenneggy Sand lies before us.

On the left is what seems to be a large private house, unusually positioned right on the shoreline. We walked around the back of the cove, past some holiday cottages and behind the large house to then pass Bessy Cove. A little further on we were delighted to see Fulmars nesting in the cliffs above Piskies Cove.

We were now seeing lots of Gatekeeper butterflies: the first of the year. We also saw five or six examples of the rather splendid Magpie Moth.

Soon we reached Cudden Point which offered a good view back along the rocky coastline. 

The next section followed a cliff top path with the same sort of rocky ledges below and as we approached Perranuthnoe we had our first clear view of St Michael's Mount under increasingly cloudy skies.

We paused for an early lunch at the excellent Victoria pub in Perranuthnoe and continued, now in drizzle, towards Marazion. St Michael's Mount and its causeway became progressively clearer, but the weather showed no sign of improving.

Probably the most interesting view was from Marazion, with the tide coming in and the narrow causeway mostly under water. St Michael's Mount was given to the Benedictines, the same order as had possession of Mont Saint Michel in France by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century. There are still remnants of a 12th abbey and castle. The abbey was sold after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, passing into the hands of the St Aubyn family in 1657. The family still live there, although the property is now owned by the National Trust. 

It remained only to walk the 2.5 miles to Penzance along the footpath at the back of the wide sandy beach. This was not enhanced by the poor state of the footpath or by the increasing gloom and drizzle.

We passed the Jubilee Pool on the way to our B&B. It dates from 1935 and is in restrained art deco style. From the outside the white painted concrete seems excessively functional and rather ugly.

But the internal view has a kind of stern elegance. The pool is currently shut because of storm damage, so of which can be seen in the picture and there is doubt about whether it will reopen. It is Britain's largest remaining lido.

Opposite is the art deco Yacht Inn.

It's not on the coast, but I can't leave this post about Penzance without mentioning the Egyptian House in Chapel St.

This extraordinary building dates from 1835-6 and was built for John Lavin as a showroom for his mineral and fossil dealership. (Why this required an Egyptian theme is less obvious, although Pevsner implies it was something of a fashion at the time.)

Conditions: mild but grey, later on drizzle then rain.

Grading: Moderate.

Distance: 8.9 miles (distance now covered 356.6 miles.

Map: Explorer 102 (Land's End).

Rating: four stars.

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