Walk Distance: 3.5km (or 2.6km if going there-&-back via King Edward’s Road)
Walk Duration: 50 mins- 1hr 30 depending on how long you take to stop, scramble up rocks and explore the beaches on the way!
Ordnance Survey: OS Landranger 203 Land’s End & Isles of Scilly, OS Explorer 101 Isles of Scilly
Suitable for: Babies in carriers, good little walkers, older kids.
Walk Features: Peninnis Lighthouse, rocky and sandy beaches for paddling, some very cool granite rocks (some good for scrambling on), playground, lovely sea and island views, refreshments in Hugh Town, playground en route, camera obscura, Old Town Church & graveyard – site of Harold Wilson’s grave. public toilets in Hugh Town.
I walked the Peninnis Head & Lighthouse Walk early on a June morning and the bright sunshine over the sea is something I’ll remember for a long time. The Peninnis Head & Lighthouse Walk offers fantastic views. There is also heaps to keep kids occupied along the way. Leave plenty of extra time to complete the route!
The paths are not difficult but can be a bit rough on the return section to Porth Cressa. There are plenty of options though so if you like you can keep young walkers on the higher ground of Peninnis Head away from the sea. Older kids will have a fantastic time scrabbling over some of the huge and very cool shaped granite rocks along the route. For those wanting to use pushchairs or with toddlers who want to walk, I’d recommend taking the smoother and slightly shorter route tp Peninnis Lighthouse via Kind Edward’s Road – just bear in mind most buggies will need to be left at the gate before the final grassy stretch to the lighthouse itself.
The Peninnis Head & Lighthouse Walk starts from Porth Cressa beach in Hugh Town but there is no reason why you can’t pick up the walk from the Old Town area too. If you are walking with a pushchair then take the King Edward’s Road option instead for a smoother and easier route for buggies and very young walkers.
Facing out to sea, turn left and follow the esplanade behind Porth Cressa beach. You will pass St. Mary’s ( & the Isles of Scilly) Tourist Information office, the library and the idyllically positioned cafe Dibble & Grub (the food is also delicious).
When you reach the benches by the palm trees at the end of the esplanade, leave the path and head onto the road behind. You will see a path leading up the hillside towards the camera obscura housed in the Buzza Tower – a converted old windmill (without sails). Take this path and get ready for your first views back down over Porthcressa and Hugh Town.
At the top there are even better views and if it’s open (look out for the bunting), the chance to explore the camera obscura for a bird’s eye view over an even wider area.
Continue past the Buzza Tower and join Hospital Lane beyond. As the name suggests you will pass the island’s small hospital before crossing the lane that leads to a beautifully positioned health centre. Assuming that the patients make it up the hill here it’s hard to imagine they don’t all feel better after visiting from the views here alone!
N.b. If you are looking for the King Edward’s Road route, this is the point where you leave the main route and head down the road past the health centre instead and onto the track beyond. This route will take you all the way down to a gate at the end of Peninnis Head which opens out onto grass for the final short stretch to Peninnis Llighthouse.
Walk on and join the main road just beyond. Follow the pavement down the hill to the right. At the left bend at the bottom you will see a track leaving the pavement and a noticeboard for Old Town Church. Take this path. Walk along the track past the Old Town Church graveyard – site of the former prime minister Harold Wilson’s grave. He had a great fondness for the Isles of Scilly.
The track leads on to Old Town Church. Walk through the churchyard and feel free to pop into the tiny church itself – a peaceful spot. Otherwise turn left and follow the track down through a little gate and onto the coastal path.
Turn right and walk along the coastal path along the end of Old Town Beach. Climb over the stone step stile and continue on the path as it weaves through trees offering glimpses back to sandy Old Town Beach and Tolman Point.
As you leave Old Town Beach behind you and follow the path round to the right, there is an outcrop of rock on a little mini peninsula straight ahead. An optional path weaves out and round the rocks here. It’s a good spot for some great views around you – you can see the Peninnis Lighthouse on the headland above, with Pulpit Rock jutting out on the cliff edge of Peninnis Head in the foreground. To the west is Tolman Point and the South West is St. Mary’s airport and further back Old Town. The rocky outcrop here makes some great scrambling the older kids.
Walk back to the main path to Peninnis Head and continue round past rocky Carn Leh. It’s a popular little beach for building rock towers in the summer season – stop off and have a go!
The path climbs a little now and heads out towards Peninnis Head. Again you have options on the path. For the more adventurous families and older children, wander along the cliff edge path to Pulpit Rock before following up towards the lighthouse.
Those keen to keep a bit more distance from the sea or with young children might prefer to walk straight uphill on the steps instead and onto Peninnis Head’s plain above. This allows you to approach Peninnis Lighthouse across grass that younger kids can run across without worry. It also passes the gate onto King Edward’s Road which offers an alternative and flatter way back to Hugh Town or the point at which you rejoin the walk if you took this route on the walk out from Porth Cressa.
Whichever route you take, chances are you will want to wander down to Peninnis Lighthouse -an odd looking construction that was built in 1911 unusually from prefabricated methods. The building next door was used to house the fuel for it until it was electrified in 1992. Peninnis Lighthouse marks out the most southerly point on St. Mary’s and is a good spot for looking out to St. Agnes clearly visible in good weather across the sea to the south-east.
From Peninnis Lighthouse the main route described here continues on to Porth Cressa via the coastal path. If you prefer to return along a more sheltered & smoother route though (perhaps best for toddlers) then you have the option to walk directly inland from Peninnis Lighthouse along Peninnis Head, where you will find the gate onto King Edward’s Road for the easier route back to Hugh Town.
On the main coastal path walk east from Peninnis Lighthouse past a whole host of mesmerising and oddly shaped granite rock outcrops. It’s a great spot to watch as the waves swirl round below and watch the bird life that seems in abundance here. There is a blowhole here too although it was too calm when I walked the route to be doing much.
Continue along the coastal path round Peninnis headland and Hugh Town and Porth Cressa beach comes back into view. The path undulates here a bit and can be a bit rough in places but nothing most good little walkers won’t manage with ease.
Eventually the path brings you back close to Hugh Town and along behind some allotments. The high hedges used to protect the fields from the sea and elements here is a system you will see used across all the islands in the Isles of Scilly.
Walk on down to the left and back towards town. There is a small playground just before you reach the end of the Porth Cressa esplanade with its benches and palm trees. It must have one of the best views from playgrounds I’ve come across recently. Walk back to Porth Cressa beach for a foot-cooling paddle in the sea or some refreshments and enjoy the views back to your walk along Peninnis Head.
Map of Route:
The Peninnis Head & Lighthouse Walk starts from Porth Cressa beach/esplanade though you can alternatively start it from St. Mary’s hospital or Old Town Beach/Church. You will most likely arrive at the start of the walk via foot. Just ask locals for Porth Cressa or the tourist office – it’s easy to find and only a few minutes walk from the main ferry terminal.
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