Matt Munro

The Lizard

Cornwall’s southern coastline takes a sudden wild turn around the Lizard Peninsula, where fields and heaths plunge into a melee of black cliffs, churning surf and saw-tooth rocks. Cut off from the rest of Cornwall by the River Helford, and ringed by treacherous seas, the Lizard was once an ill-famed graveyard for ships, and the peninsula still has a raw, untamed edge. Wind-lashed in winter, in summer its clifftops blaze with wildflowers, and its beaches and coves are perfect for a bracing wild swim.

It's also a stronghold for the Cornish chough, the red-billed, crow-like bird featured on the county's coat of arms. Once all but extinct, it's slowly reestablishing itself around the Lizard's rugged cliffs.

You may catch sight of slow-worms and even an adder in summer, but the peninsula’s peculiar name actually has no reptilian connections; it comes from the old Celtic words ‘lys ardh’, meaning ‘high court’.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout The Lizard.