9th August 2023
Setting out from Pilchards in Marazion on foot reveals magical discoveries, a collection of connections around west Cornwall and a picturesque promenade (or pedal) to Penzance…
It’s morning in Marazion, and we’re passing the craft fair stallholders arriving to set up, a fixture by the church every Thursday and Friday. We continue past the jewellery shops and small galleries, the usually busy children’s play area by the car park, eager to be the first one on the beach.
Or one of the first, as it turns out we’re not quite that early. But with so much space on this long stretch of beach, it hardly matters. No one’s yet on the causeway that leads to the majestic spectacle of St Michael’s Mount rising out of the water, a strip of rock that reveals itself like magic as the tide turns.
We sit on the sand to take in the view, and to choose which direction to go in. A small speckled wading bird scurries past in front. The sun’s up, the sky’s blue, and the tidelines, pathways and roads pull in all sorts of directions with the obvious arrow leading to St Michael’s Mount.
Revealed by the low tide is a rock cluster, like the Mount’s shadow. Young rockpoolers are already there, buckets and scoops in hand, burgeoning natural scientists in the making. We’re intrigued at what they might be finding and clamber onto the rocks – engrossed as we turn over stones and shift seaweed to one side. We soon spot spiny sea urchins and tiny starfish, little fishes and scuttling crabs that shyly duck back into obscurity.
Looking-up, back towards the village and the sea, the waves begin to roll in again, ushering us off the rocks and back onto land. A family have shed their dry robes to venture into the shallows, their first dip of the day, and we settle on walking to Penzance along the Mounts Bay Coast Path, a gentle three-mile flat pathway that edges the coastline, wonderfully walkable and cyclable.
For keen cyclists who’ve left their pedal-powered vehicles at home, there’s the option of hiring a green Beryl bike from the car park just before you start – one of multiple locations across Cornwall. We cross the beach and join the path with a mix of cyclists and wheelchair users, pram pushers and dog walkers.
The joys of seaside cycling; a Beryl bike in Falmouth / Credit: Beryl
Not far into the walk, we reach The Hoxton Special’s blackboard which cheerfully promises ‘life changing coffee’ and ‘most excellent toasties’. We pop in to the shack to order drinks and a bit of cake (why not?) and settle on a picnic bench to gaze back at the Mount.
More than just a café (which also does handy lunchbox salads to take down to the beach), The Hoxton Special is also a compact watersports centre, offering stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), kayaks, and kitesurf hire, plus lessons. From the bench, fellow customers, wetsuits donned, are out on the glittering water, gliding around backed by a lively breeze.
The coast path is flanked by the sea on one side and the rail tracks that bring GWR passengers into Cornwall on the other. Blue thistles, white daisies and red poppies spring up alongside a wooden sculpture trail.
Image credit: Two & Emma Smith
While the Marazion causeway hides underwater during high tide, there’s an entirely submerged forest off the coast of Mount’s Bay. The Gwelen sculptures or ‘seeing sticks’ designed by artist Emma Smith echo the ancient tree remnants on the seabed. Featuring commissioned nicks and marks on their surface created by locals, the trail invites an interactive and tactile experience.
We reach Penzance bus station, from where we could choose a convenient hop-on/off route to nearby towns: Mousehole, St Ives, Land’s End, Newlyn.
Given the glorious weather, we press on walking and reach the beautifully pristine white and blue of Jubilee Pool lido, the sub-tropical Morrab Gardens and the edge of central Penzance, with its ample fill of cultural offerings, boutique shops and cafés.
After a stop-off for a well-deserved lunch in the Tolcarne Inn, sitting at the water’s edge in Newlyn Harbour and a walk around Newlyn Art Gallery’s latest exhibition – too tempting not to continue on to Newlyn – we begin the return journey.
This time we wander through Penzance to pause at The Cornish Hen deli before it closes to get some picnic supplies for the next day. We could walk back along the coast path again, but with tired legs and a bag of new purchases, it feels much easier to hop onto an open-top bus for £2.
The beach at any time, coast paths to uncover, ferries to board – leave the car behind when you stay by the sea…