Sennen Cove and Land’s End

Sennen Cove and Whitesand Bay in June

Sennen Cove and Sennen Beach lie in the dramatic curving Whitesand Bay, close to Land’s End at the south-western tip of Cornwall. By turns wild and windswept or sparkling and sunkissed, this is a favourite destination for surfers, beach-lovers and walkers. The most westerly settlement in mainland England, it has a bare and end-of-the-world feeling – along with everything you need for an afternoon by the sea, from Cornish pasties to surfboard hire. Accessible by public transport, Sennen Cove makes a good starting-point for a short and easy scenic walk to Land’s End and back.

Here you can read more about Sennen Cove, a walk description, useful links to local businesses, travel information and accommodation recommendations and links.

As you descend the road to Sennen Cove, a long sandy beach stretches to your right. Whitesands Bay is one of Cornwall’s paradises for ocean-lovers. The expanses of sand at low tide make the beach ideal for everyone, including children. And the rolling waves are beloved of surfers. There is a surf school here, offering lessons for beginners and groups as well as private lessons and classes for more experienced surfers. A shop by the beach sells and hires out beach and surfing equipment.

Summer fun on the beach

If you are visiting the beach for sand, surf or swimming, check the tide times before you go, and pay attention to safety information, lifeguard hours and advice from the RNLI: RNLI Sennen Beach.

Houses are spread up the slopes above the bay but the nucleus of the settlement lies to your left, around the small and sloping harbour. The village’s most striking feature is the Sennen Cove Lifeboat Station. Visitors can see the interior where the lifeboat and inshore lifeboat, and the little RNLI shop (check opening times). Nearby is the Roundhouse Gallery where you can admire and buy Cornish art and crafts by local creators.

The harbour at Sennen Cove

Along the seafront and by the beach are a couple of cafés as well as options for take-away pasties or ice creams. The Sennen Cove Café serves good light lunches in its little interior and outdoor tables over the road facing the sea.

With sea, sand, rock pools and waves for children and adults, the beach offers all the entertainment that many visitors wish for. But if you are feeling active or looking for some of Cornwall’s finest views, take to the coastal footpath for an excursion.

Sennen Cove to Land’s End coastal walk

The tourist attraction of Land’s End, with its big emphasis on ‘tourist’, isn’t to everyone’s taste. But the walk between Sennen Cove and Land’s End is a straightforward and gloriously picturesque route along dramatic cliffs, over little streams, past towering rock outcrops facing the fierce Atlantic and even has a shipwreck to spot. If you have an hour or two to spare and good enough shoes for a couple of miles cliff-walking, this makes a great outing and way of combining the two destinations. If not, simply heading up onto the headland above Sennen Cove still gives a breath of wild and fresh sea air and photogenic views.

Although the coastal path is by far the more dramatic, there is also an alternative trail a short way inland, with views across farmland and the rugged interior of this Cornwall. To make your walk varied and circular, I’d suggest taking this inland leg towards Land’s End and returning along the clifftop path. Start by crossing the car park beyond the harbour and taking the steps uphill, ignoring the path to the nearby headland on your right and continuing up long flights of steps until you are above the dwellings of Sennen Cove. Head up the little lane at the top as it winds uphill through more houses until you reach a signposted cycle/footpath leading off to the right by a low upright boulder. The route onwards is easy walking and straightforward to follow, taking you all the way to Land’s End.

Looking along the coast towards Land’s End

The white and imposing buildings of the Land’s End attraction dominate its headland. The complex includes a children’s playground, a farm (check opening times), food businesses, souvenir shopping and of course that famous signpost ready for your Instagram shots (there’s a fee for photos). If you just want to take in the scenery, you can bypass the buildings by following the path skirting it to the right.

Out on the cliffs you’ll find the First and Last House, a small building selling souvenirs and refreshments. From here the South West Coast Path winds back along the clifftops to Sennen Cove, a beautiful stretch of dramatic scenery. This section of the walk has more uneven ground and requires attention when walking.

The First and Last House

Landmarks on the way include rock outcrops, one picturesquely known as the Irish Lady, and the wreck of the RMS Mulheim, which ran aground in 2003. The crew were saved, but the ship ended up on the rocks at Castle Zawn, in a rocky inlet below the footpath. The shipwreck can still be seen at the time of writing, more broken up each year, from a viewpoint just below the footpath. This is a dangerous coastline, and out beyond Land’s End, the Longships lighthouse, warning shipping of rocks, is another feature of the walk.

The shipwreck: the remains of the RMS Mulheim 19 years after it ran aground

Above Sennen Cove, the small former coastguard lookout tower on Pedn-mên-du headland offers great views and photo opportunities, and even if you don’t fancy walking further, it’s worth heading up the quick route here from Sennen Cove.

You can read more walk descriptions on the South West Coast Path website.

As always with even short hikes, make sure you have good, strong footwear for rough terrain, weather protection and drinking water, and treat paths, rocks and cliff edges with caution and respect. Dogs should be on leads.

Get to Sennen Cove

The good news for car-free travellers is that Sennen Cove is easy to reach by public transport. It is on the route of the panoramic Land’s End Coaster bus, a hop-on, hop-off service which circles the peninsula and stops at a variety of scenic and practical places including St Ives and Penzance, both sizeable towns with railway stations and bus interchanges. St Erth is another spot where you can change from train to bus easily. The buses are double-decker and open-top in summer, and are surprisingly cheap (at the time of writing they are covered by Cornwall’s standard unlimited day bus tickets). They stop on the seafront at Sennen Cove, and also in the car park at Land’s End. Timetables vary in frequency through the year, and the circular route, by its nature, is quite time-consuming, so check the latest information and plan ahead: Land’s End Coaster.

The Land’s End Coaster bus arrives at Land’s End

For car drivers there are three pay-and-display car parks at Sennen Cove. The first, an overflow car park for when the lower ones are full, is on the top road above the bay, a second is by the beach (to the right as you drive down towards the sea) and another car park, handy for walkers heading to Land’s End, is beyond the harbour (to the left). There are public toilets at the two sea-level car parks.

Where to stay in and around Sennen Cove

If the edge-of-everything feeling or the beachcombing life appeal, you may want to stay in Sennen Cove itself. Accommodation at Sennen Cove is mostly in independent holiday rentals, many of them charming cottages. Book well in advance for these; typical stays are one week, and visitors book months ahead. Travellers with cars can find a couple of popular alternative options a short distance inland: Sennen Rise, a welcoming B&B, and the Saddle and Stable Rooms, with a range of studios and apartments to book. There is also a hotel at Land’s End, the Land’s End Hotel.

Most visitors come to Sennen Cove as a day trip, and you may prefer to stay in a larger and livelier centre of habitation. Convenient bases for seeing the area, especially if using public transport, are the popular arty town of St Ives, its seaside neighbour Carbis Bay, and bustling Penzance, all on the route of the Land’s End Coaster bus. Thanks to the road and bus links, you can visit a lot of the remote and attractive destinations in this area during a week’s holiday at just one base.

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The view towards Longships Lighthouse from the South West Coastal Path

Is it worth visiting Sennen Cove?

In my opinion, yes – if you are looking for breathtaking cliff scenery that’s easily accessible, or a beach with sand, surf and lifeguards. It’s a scenic stop on a tour of this peninsula, with plenty to offer for a few hours. It’s convenient that you can combine a visit with walking to Land’s End, enjoying the views while avoiding the high car park fees and more commercialised atmosphere at that attraction.

This windswept corner of Cornwall has few trees so the land is quite bare, and the village doesn’t have a particularly traditional or lively heart – there aren’t many shops and no quaint lanes to wander. The buildings are scattered on slopes facing the sea; when it comes to longer stays, this is very much a place for those who relish facing the elements, basking in the scenery, and who enjoy a bracing sea breeze and feeling at one with the ocean.

Lifeboat launch
Cliff views
Sennen Cove’s lifeboat station and harbour
Sennen Cove from the coastal footpath, in October
Cornwall England

Tregenna Castle Resort – a presidential hotel and gardens

When my mother and I took refuge from the rain at the Tregenna Castle Resort we would have been extremely surprised to be told that two years later the President of the US would be staying here, along with the First Lady and entourage. But the G7 Summit in Cornwall, at Carbis Bay, has brought many surprises to this beautiful part of the English coast.

Tregenna Castle Hotel

On a hill and slightly inland between Carbis Bay and the beautiful fishing/artist/tourist harbour of St Ives, the picturesque Tregenna Castle was built as a private home in the 18th century and 100 years later it became a railway hotel, operated by the Great Western Railway (GWR) which subsequently bought the hotel. It’s changed a hands a few times since then, and is now operated as a hotel with an estate including a golf course, hotel, self-catering lodges, tennis courts, swimming pool and gardens. We learned some of this history while waiting for the rain to lessen and looking at old photos displayed in the hotel reception rooms.

I remember the interior and general ambience as being somewhat institutional and tired in feel, despite the grand potential of the property and its extensive, panoramic grounds. My mother disputes this, though – while agreeing it isn’t somewhere she’d necessarily choose to stay. You’ll find equally mixed opinions if you read reviews from the hotel’s guests.

But the hotel’s facilities have very likely been improved and updated for the illustrious G7 visitors. And one thing no-one could dispute is that the hotel has some real treasures, chief among them a gorgeous subtropical walled garden. We found this by chance, having no idea it existed, and were captivated by its magic, despite the Cornish drizzle. The hotel obviously has an excellent gardening team and really values its outdoor spaces.

Until the heavens opened we’d simply been crossing the hotel’s grounds on a walk from Carbis Bay to St Ives as an alternative to the pretty clifftop route (we were unsure if their paths were open to the public, but no-one stopped us). After the joy of the walled garden we followed the hotel’s footpath downhill into St Ives. This too, is charming, even though modern chalets have been built alongside. The lush valley garden was another unexpected treat as we descended towards the town and the sea, bringing back memories of some of Cornwall’s finest coastal gardens.

As well as global political summits, the hotel also hosts weddings and other events. Its size and multiplicity of offerings is maybe partly what gave it the ‘institutional’ feel that put me off; I’m used to smaller, more intimate Italian hotels.

I think there would certainly be some big advantages to staying in this attractive hilltop location and spending time in Tregenna Castle’s glorious well-tended grounds, especially if you want to use the swimming/leisure facilities – but if you’re thinking of it, I’d suggest reading recent reviews to get a realistic idea of what to expect, so your ideas aren’t too romanticised. I imagine the self-catering cottages and lodges could be quite appealing bases for a family holiday.

Read reviews, and check prices and availability for the Tregenna Castle Resort

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View towards St Ives from the hotel grounds

> Read about Carbis Bay and its beach

Cornwall England

Carbis Bay, Cornwall

The venue for the G7 Summit in 2021, Carbis Bay in Cornwall is a beach resort just over a headland from St Ives, built around a steep-sided sandy bay, with a hotel at sea level and modern streets spread over the slopes above.

Carbis Bay

Having stayed twice in Carbis Bay, I’d say it’s a good base for a holiday if you know what to expect and don’t mind a slightly surburban atmosphere. Neither a character-filled fishing village, nor a buzzing established town, this satellite of St Ives is mostly modern-built, with the feel of a retirement or commuter suburb, with a dash of holiday resort thrown in. It has three big advantages as a holiday destination: a wide sandy beach,  a railway station, and proximity to St Ives – and if you pick the right accommodation you can get fabulous views.

Carbis Bay wouldn’t have been much more than scattered dwellings, big houses and a hotel until the twentieth century advanced. Then the developers moved into this scenic spot, building streets of suburban bungalows, villas and terraces winding along the slopes above the railway line and around the main St Ives road. The first time I arrived I was surprised by how unchecked this urban growth seemed to be by the planning controls which keep most of Cornwall’s coastline attractive and unspoilt. Considerable development has been permitted in recent decades and is ongoing,  with smarter, larger houses being built in ‘gaps’ between existing buildings, or replacing demolished earlier buildings.

There are increasing numbers of holiday apartments and house rentals in Carbis Bay, as well as a limited amount of hotel and B&B accommodation. The beach itself has public access but is privately owned by the seafront Carbis Bay Estate, a historic hotel which has also expanded in the last few years, even before the G7 led to another building frenzy. The hotel operates seasonal beach facilities including a restaurant-café, beach shop and sports.Carbis Bay - the beach

With its wide expanse of clean, smooth sand extending gently into the sea, Carbis Bay is an excellent beach for small children and families. As most of the beach is backed by green slopes and low cliffs, it has a more idyllic and natural feel than the town beaches of St Ives. The long stretch of sand is ideal for playing, building sandcastles, paddling and swimming. There are even the remains of shipwrecks visible sticking out of the sand at low tides. The proximity of other fine, sandy beaches along this stretch of coast means that this particular bay doesn’t get as crowded as it would in any other location.

With a railway station and bus service, proximity to St Ives and wide-sweeping views, this is a practical base for a holiday. It lacks the picturesque old buildings and lanes, and the historic atmosphere of traditional Cornish fishing villages, but in other respects Carbis Bay has a good deal to offer.

Fireworks at the Carbis Bay Hotel
Fireworks at the Carbis Bay Hotel

A steep narrow road leads down from the main road to the sands. Note that it can be a tiring walk climbing back up at the end of the day (especially if you are with young children or elderly relatives); I wouldn’t recommend this as a beach destination for visitors with mobility issues. Down by the sea is the Carbis Bay Hotel with its restaurant and seasonal beach facilities, takeaway food and beach equipment for hire. A few holiday homes are also located lower down, not far above sea level, but the majority of the settlement is a 10-15 minute walk uphill. The railway branch line connecting St Ives with the mainline at St Erth runs across the slope between the main part of the town and the beach. In the higher part of town there is a Tesco supermarket, a pharmacy, a take-away and a small number of restaurants and pubs. Visitors won’t find a huge choice of shops or eateries here; Carbis Bay is more like a dormitory suburb than a town centre.

St. Ives is visible from parts of Carbis Bay, the pretty little town shimmering on its headland, with the promise of glorious sunsets. It’s a 3-minute scenic train journey away, or a pleasant 45-minute walk along paths and lanes which begin at the Carbis Bay Hotel, climb up over the headland through woods and houses, and descend through trees to Porthminster beach in St Ives.

Sunset over St Ives, from Carbis Bay
The sun setting behind St Ives, seen from Carbis Bay

Unless you are content with the beach and the views, you’ll probably be taking the train or driving out to other attractions -the National Trust headland at Godrevy Point offers epic views and the chance to see seals. St Ives itself is a really delightful and lively fishing town famous for its artistic connections and its three glorious beaches.

In Carbis Bay you’ll find a very small number of places to eat, near the main road (I liked the vegetarian/vegan The Bean Inn) and no really notable sights other than the beach and views. But the walk or rail journey into St Ives offers a big range of places to eat, drink and enjoy culture, including the Tate St Ives art gallery and the excellent Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden. And as St Ives can be so busy, it may be a relief to return to the more peaceful surroundings of Carbis Bay after an excursion or evening out.

Carbis Bay

Family holidays in Carbis Bay

I stayed in Carbis Bay as part of an extended family group, and it is a very suitable destination for the kind of vacation which encompasses different age groups and interests. There are large holiday houses with gardens and views, suitable for families, and the beach is ideal for young children, who’ll also enjoy seeing trains passing along the single-track clifftop railway. By public transport and car you can tour other Cornish attractions. And St Ives offers bustle, shops, marauding seagulls, more beaches, and as many ice creams and Cornish pasties as you can find room for (and keep safe from the seagulls).  So there really should be something for everyone and a range of options for activities to enjoy together and separately.

View of St Ives
View of St Ives, walking from Carbis Bay


I enjoyed the easy scenic walk from Carbis Bay into St Ives, and felt that partly compensated for what I felt Carbis Bay lacked in picturesque ‘colour’. Dotted along the route are some of the larger houses built here by the wealthy before Carbis Bay was urbanised, as well as modern additions, and you can imagine a Riviera-style Cornwall as it might have been a century ago. Keep your eyes open for local notices, as some of the pretty private gardens around here are occasionally opened for charity.

If you’re a keen walker, the stretch of coastline on the other side of St Ives, stretching westwards in the direction of Land’s End, is gloriously wild and unspoilt. A highlight of my local stays was hiking along the coast path to Zennor, where you can relax with a pint at the local pub, visit the historic church, and catch a bus back to St Ives. There are open-top buses (Land’s End Coaster) on this route, adding to the pleasure of the excursion.

A train on the St Ives branch line, Carbis Bay
A train on the St Ives branch line, Carbis Bay

Where to stay in Carbis Bay

Bear in mind that between the main road running through Carbis Bay and the beach there is a steepish walk. The only option next to the beach is the G7-hosting 4-star hotel and spa Carbis Bay Estate – this is convenient for beach-lovers, and has car parking, but as well as taking care to read the (mixed) reviews, it’s worth remembering the hotel is at the bottom of  the slopes below the railway line, with the other local amenities some way uphill – this is fine if you want to stay by the beach, drive out or follow the footpath to St Ives, though. I have elderly relatives who’ve stayed at the hotel on Saga holidays; but it’s been expanding in recent years with bigger, fancier ambitions, sometimes at the expense of the neighbouring woodland and coast path. They offer villas and suites and a range of rooms, and the beachfront location, at least, couldn’t be bettered. A convenient choice if you want a fuss-free full-service break by the sea.

One of the next-nearest places to stay for the beach is Headland Road, where you’ll find a scattering of holiday apartments and B&B accommodation, including the Beach View apartment, sleeping 5.  This clifftop road just above the railway line has great views – though as it’s midway between main road restaurants and bus stops and the beach, you may find yourself walking a lot.

Further inland and higher above the sea, though near enough for convenient access and still offering some more distant sea views, is a choice of holiday rentals and B&Bs, mostly on or around the main St Ives road. While the walk to the beach and railway station may be longer, these accommodation options are practical for public transport and for eating out. These include Thurlestone House, a B&B (adults-only) in a handsome stone building, the quirky, colourful Sailaway B&B and the well-reviewed Green Apple B&B which offers some sea views from its position on the main road.

Between Carbis Bay and St Ives, with access towards the scenic coastal walk, is the popular Chy an Gwedhan B&B – a good-value compromise between the two locations. Situated on a headland away from the busy centre of St Ives, the small B&B has sea-view rooms, parking and a nice stroll down  to the beaches and the town.

If you’d like to stay independently in self-catering accommodation, one option for couples is the practical 11 Longstone House, on the edge of Carbis Bay. The two-bedroom Offshore apartment is on Headland Road, and convenient for beach and railway, with a terrace. Another modern two-bed apartment is Saffron, on the St Ives road and close to Carbis Bay’s amenities. Sleeping six, the smartly-refurbished bungalow Menhyr is on the upper side of Carbis Bay with a garden and parking, recommended by guests as a peaceful place to stay with convenient access to St Ives and public transport.

Find a place to stay in Carbis Bay – with map, availability search and prices.

THANK YOU: The links above are all affiliate links – if you book through these, you won’t pay any extra but you’ll be supporting this website.

Holiday letting companies with holiday homes, cottages and apartments in the area include Cornish Gems, St Ives Holidays, and Aspects Holidays.

Evening stroll, Carbis Bay


How to get to Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay is a practical place to stay if you are travelling by car: St Ives is notorious for its parking and traffic problems but at Carbis Bay you’ll find easy road access, and accommodation with parking spaces. You can then travel the short distance into St Ives by train, bus or on foot and be spared the bother of finding parking.

Carbis Bay is one of the easiest-to-reach seaside resorts in Cornwall for visitors arriving by public transport. Trains from London to Penzance stop at St Erth, a little branch-line station with a small waiting room and a little shop/café. From here frequent trains run along the single-track St Ives Bay Line, stopping at Lelant, Carbis Bay and St Ives; one of the most scenic railway lines in the country. Carbis Bay is also served by buses to destinations including St Ives, Newquay, Padstow, Land’s End, Marazion, Zennor, Penzance and Truro.

St Ives Bay Line

First Bus, Cornwall

GWR trains


Shipwreck at low tide, Carbis Bay
Shipwreck at low tide, Carbis Bay

Cornish wine in Carbis Bay
Cornish wine in the garden, Carbis Bay