Bounded on three sides by the sea, and in the north by the ancient oak woodland and sheltered waters of the Helford River, the Lizard Peninsula is almost an island, removed from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. Quiet fishing communities are tucked into cliff clefts and valleys, whilst inland pretty rural villages are dotted amongst the rolling farmland and windswept heath.
Coverack and St Keverne
East from Cadgwith, across the glorious heather-clad expanse of GoonhillyDowns, lie Coverack and St Keverne. At Coverack, thatched whitewashed cottages cluster around the tiny harbour. There are excellent food and souvenir shops, and plenty of places to eat, including the old lifeboat house and the Paris Hotel, named after the liner wrecked on the nearby Manacle Rocks. The wide crescent of Coverack's sandy beach is ideal for swimming, snorkelling, diving and windsurfing, and there are exhilarating coast path hikes which will literally take your breath away.
A short drive away - or an hour's ramble along the coast - is historic St Keverne, birthplace of two Cornish uprisings. Grocery stores, pubs and cottages are gathered around the village square, the tombstones of shipwrecked sailors crowd the parish churchyard, and an ancient cannon stands guard beside the lych-gate. On the village outskirts is Roskilly's, where you'll spend hours exploring the farm trails, duck ponds and calf sheds.
Helford, Gweek and the east coast
The east coast of the Lizard is a maze of winding country lanes with quaint hamlets and ancient farms around every corner. On the coast, the communities of Porthoustock and Porthallow are former pilchard fishing coves with pebble beaches; Porthallow boasts a pub, the Five Pilchards, which is an Aladdin's cave of model ships and maritime memorabilia. You'll find other welcoming pubs at Newtown, Mawgan and on the waterfront at Helford, where the terrace overlooks the moored yachts and crabbers. The tidal waters of the Helford River, home to herons, curlews and kingfishers, flow up to Gweek and its large boatyard at the head of the creek. The village is a pleasant backwater with shops, a pub and the National Seal Sanctuary, where you can watch seal welfare in action.
Mullion, Cury and the west coast
North from Kynance Cove is Mullion Cove, another former pilchard fishing inlet. Mullion itself, a mile inland, is busy with grocery stores, gift shops and galleries, pubs and restaurants. The sandy family beaches of Polurrian and Poldhu are close by, and past the scenic links of Mullion Golf Course, you'll discover the medieval hamlet of Cury. At the gateway to the peninsula, and famous for its May Flora Day festival when children and adults dance down the streets, Helston is an ancient market town and the closest shopping centre to the Lizard. Its Flambards Experience offers theme park rides and indoor exhibitions.
Come to Poldark Country
If you've been swept up in the compelling BBC adaptation of the Poldark Saga, you can follow in its brooding hero's footsteps and visit many of the locations which feature in the series. Gunwalloe Church Cove was the setting for a moon-lit wrecking scene. Spectacular Kynance Cove provides a dramatic backdrop in series two, and the iconic Botallack mine engine houses are less than an hour's drive away. You might also recognise the wave-battered harbour of Mullion Cove and Dr Dwight Enys' clifftop cottage at Gunwalloe Fishing Cove.