The fishing fleet in Mousehole and other Cornish fishing ports has declined dramatically in the last century. Some fishing boats preserve their long heritage, but most of the vessels at anchor are pleasure craft.
Cornwall – Been There

Way out west at the end of the world

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Cornwall – Been There Way out west at the end of the world

Shortly before reaching Land’s End, the most south-westerly point of Cornwall, I see the contours of St Michael’s Mount loom above the sea.

Helen Conijn
Helen Conijn

Although much smaller, this island off the coast of Penzance is strongly reminiscent of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. This is not a surprising coincidence given that the Benedictines built a monastery here following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. The monastery later became part of the citadel fortress built by Henry VII to defend the area from French attack. Now open to the public, the castle can be easily accessed in low tide by walking across the dike. In high tide, a ferry brings visitors to the castle and returns them safely with dry feet.

The farther west I go, the wilder and more rugged the landscape becomes. The villages themselves also begin to change. Mousehole (pronounced ‘muzzle’) is far from an enchanting fishing village with charmingly whitewashed houses. The houses here are tough as nails and built from huge blocks of grey granite, with tiny windows facing the sea. Oh how the storms must rage! Despite the harsh, grey exterior, Mousehole is beautiful and is absolutely worth a visit. Families are enjoying a meal of fish and chips at the harbor. They eat it as it was meant to be eaten: from a large, crumpled newspaper as a cheeky seagull waddles around, eyeing a piece of fish.

The most westerly part of Cornwall, stabbing at the sea like a crooked finger, is also the most uninhabited. Could this explain the abundance of prehistoric relics and persevered monuments, such as the Lanyon Quoit tomb and the Merry Maidens? The latter is a perfect Bronze Age stone circle near Mousehole surrounded by undulating fields. There are 19 upright monoliths. Who made them? And why? When? How?

After contemplating the prehistoric men and their motives for a while, I jump back into the car and hit the narrow roads for the final stretch to Land’s End. Considering the desolate landscape, which is at the mercy of the hellish winds that constantly lash the coast, it does feel like I’m approaching the end of the world. But the actual site is a tourist trap where any romance is soon dissipated by the raw commercial greed. I find I even have to pay to photograph to the ‘Land’s End’ sign, which is meanly taken down at closing time.

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