Cornish lights with an added bonus

Our summer holiday for this year had been booked for the Isles of Scilly, which presented the perfect opportunity for a quick stop at a couple of Cornish lighthouses I had yet to see.

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Mevagissey lighthouse

The first of these was at Mevagissey, just south of St Austell on the South Cornwall coast. It’s a lovely little place with plenty of gift and craft shops for tourists and some great pubs and eateries on the seafront with views across the harbour. The lighthouse sits on the end of the south breakwater and has done since 1896 – although it has been well-maintained and is clearly regularly re-painted. The white tower with a black band at the bottom is 8 metres tall and made of cast iron. The spot is popular with fishermen, which was evident during our visit. I was particularly pleased that we were joined by my parents for this lighthouse visit as I couldn’t recall ever having visited a lighthouse with them both (the closest we’d been previously was on our wedding day). Mevagissey is a perfect example of a small, visitor-friendly fishing village. Driving around it may be a challenge, but parking is easy enough in the public car parks to avoid the narrow, pedestrian-filled roads.

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The new and old lighthouses at St Ives

The challenge of driving around Mevagissey pales into insignificance though in comparison to our second stop, St Ives. To start with it’s like a maze, with roads of varying sizes all over the place going uphill, downhill and everywhere. Secondly, it’s busy – and I don’t just mean on the roads (which actually weren’t too bad considering – clearly everyone knows St Ives better than we do and uses the Park & Ride). There are a lot of people in St Ives though. There are also very few places to park. Once we’d found a road close enough to the pier (we managed to avoid the easy route straight along the seafront) and decided it was too risky to drive down the narrow road with tight bends, I leapt out and hurried down to the pier while Bob sat in the car in a cul-de-sac. Smeaton’s Pier had a surprise lined up for me though, boasting not one lighthouse, but two! I’ve since read that the original lighthouse, built in 1831 by John Smeaton (of Smeaton’s Tower fame), was replaced in 1890 by the new lighthouse after the pier was extended. The old lighthouse is a more rustic and, in my opinion, attractive tower. The new tower, apart from being a metre taller and octagonal, looks very similar to that of Mevagissey, which was based upon the design of the St Ives tower. Although my visit was a bit rushed, it was great to see an example of lighthouse heritage in St Ives and another of Smeaton’s creations.

Overall, it was a successful day in a county in which I very rarely find myself. Setting aside the challenging roads, both places were well worth a visit 🙂