The funny thing about Cornwall is you can live here for twenty odd years and still find places you’ve never heard of, never been to and still leave you in awe. Porthgwarra and Nanjizal are all of those things and a little exploration down West and visiting these beautiful sites was a day to remember.
I’ve had Nanjizal on my bucket list for a while, the song of the sea cave is both a beautiful tale and an incredible natural feat. Embarrassingly for me, a Cornish maid, it was a Kiwi London based influencer who brought Porthgwarra to my attention when she holidayed there and showed off its beauty. A little bit of planning and I soon became aware that there is a coastal walk between these two places and it was an exceptionally exciting moment; I’m not even being romantic here, these things really excite me and I squealed with joy!
So it was 6am and we headed off; I live East cornwall so the journey down West is about an hour and a half but we also wanted to beat any crowds so early mornings are a normal thing for us natives. We headed down and found Porthgwarra easily; with their little carpark and soon to be open café, you can’t miss it.
We started by enjoying the cove and climbing like children over the perfectly spherical boulders and the caves in the cliff. This location is owned by St Aubyn Estates, the owners of St Michaels Mount so it’s beautifully protected and kept in it’s true rugged form but highlighted in all the right ways. The cove is spectacular, it’s a small cove with a sharp edging and dramatically clear waters on a still day. Even when we visited, on a day where it was slightly gloomy and a heavy onshore wind, it was still amazing. The cove has a few fishing boats perched around and some beautifully colourful bouys to add that Italian feel.
Once suitably explored, we headed off along the well signposted Coastal path towards Nanjizal. There’s signs at Porthgwarra showing your current locations and the spots you’ll see along the way. A little meandering to explore but you’d be hard pushed to loose your way.
Walking up over the coastal path at such an early time has such an intense feeling of freedom, excitement yet contentment that you can’t quite describe. There were only a few people around, mostly photographers set up for the day looking out for seals, dolphins and basking sharks although my modest lens didn’t offer me the same exposure, I kept an eye out all the same! I’ve been fortunate enough to see many endless seascapes around the world yet nothing has that ‘end of the earth’ feeling quite like West Cornwall.
The moorlandy cliffs house beautiful summer colours of yellow gorse, purple heather and orange honeysuckle which fills the salty air with a sweet scent. Birds chirping and Cornish choughs flitting around following you as you go.
I had high hopes approaching Nanjizal, not solely through the hype I had seen online but from the walk over from Porthgwarra which was nothing short of exceptional. As we turned every cove, I wandered if we would miss it altogether but we didn’t and I assure you you won’t. Even if you don’t know the Song of the Sea cave is there, you’ll wander down onto Nanjizal beach just because it’s so good.
The cove opens up and you’re faced with a soft white sand beach, a mass of rounded boulders and small clear pools. The colour of the sea is fascintating with the dark tones around the edge from the coastline below and the clear turquoise as the sea level drops. To the left you will find the cave, a pool perfect for a drip fronts it and you can see the waves crashing or rolling gently behind. Enjoy the pool, whether you just drip your legs like me or go full hog and get the swimmers out, I do kind of wish I had brought my bikini with me although it was pretty icey!
Nanjizal, a natural formation showing a slit like arch in the rock face and a beautifully clear and calm tidal pool below, it’s a unique and intriguing part of the landscape.
Nanjizal is not accessible by car, there’s no carpark above it nor any easy way to really get there which is part of the charm and certainly what keeps it so magical. You can walk there along the coastal path from either Porthgwarra side as we did or from Lands End side, both offering breathraking views across the water and both around 45 minutes to do so.
I would certainly recommend the walk from Porthgwarra as this cove in itself is worth a visit and you can tie the two together. I would recommend going early in any case, to ensure it’s nice and quiet and for parking, the car park at Porthgwarra is small and was full by the time we came to leave which was only around 11am. The parking is £2 for 2 hours or £5 for the day; bare in mind that if you’re slow like me because you’re taking pictures every 2 minutes, best to go for the whole day! The little café at Porthgwarra is also lovely, offering lunches, pasties, drinks and cakes with benches or take away to the cove.