Historic Helston and the Lizard Peninsula have some of the best attractions and scenery Cornwall has to offer


Historic Helston and the gorgeous Lizard Peninsula have some of the best attractions and scenery Corwnall has to offer, writes IAN WILKINSON...

Helston was originally a small port at the head of the River Cober estuary, which thrived on the export of local tin and copper. In the 13th century the formation of the Loe Bar cut the town off from the sea but as a stannary town, where tin ingots were weighed to determine duty, the town continued to prosper.

Its main thoroughfare, Coinagehall Street, is long and steep even by Cornish standards and descends to a splendid archway built to commemorate the life of Humphrey Millet Grylls who, in the 19th century, was instrumental in saving the towns tin mine. Attractive narrow alleyways radiate off the street and there are some elegant buildings to remind you of the towns importance in years gone by.

Sid and Pauline Geake moved to the area nearly 20 years ago. I met them in Helston's Blue Anchor on Coinagehall Street. 'We live nearby in the small village of Ashton,' Pauline tells me. I asked Sid what it was about Helston that made it such a good place to live. 'It's a really attractive town with a superb historic Georgian townscape. (Sid is an ex-town planner!) Its surrounded by beautiful countryside, with a rich mining heritage, and of course its the gateway to the Lizard.'

Alan Christopher is a director of Christopher's Estate Agents in Wendon Street in Helston. People like Helston for a variety of reasons. 'The proximity of the Lizard is important to many, while others find Helston a traditional Cornish town and largely unspoilt. Public services are very good, including the education system. The three primary schools and the Community College are all highly regarded.'

A park and a boating lake

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One of Helstons gems is Coronation Park and boating lake. The park was formed from marsh and scrubland in the early 20th century to commemorate the coronation of George V. It is beautifully maintained and provides a pleasant oasis in which to walk, have a leisurely coffee or perhaps hire a rowing boat and drift around on what I suspect is one of the largest boating lakes in the county!

Shopping and eating out

Helston has everything you need for day-to-day living. There are some excellent small shops selling local produce and a farmers market is now held regularly in the old cattle market.

There are plenty of good restaurants and pubs in which to eat and drink in the Helston area. For a really special meal in beautiful surroundings try the Nansloe Manor Hotel in Meneage Road, which is quite close to Culdrose on the outskirts of the town. In the small fishing village of Gunwalloe you will find the Halzephron Inn that has an excellent reputation for fine dishes made from local produce. If you are looking for fancy bar food then I recommend the Gweek Inn in Gweek or the Lion and Lamb pub in Ashton. Finally, for a pub that has been brewing and selling superb beer for near on 600 years, you cant beat the Blue Anchor in Helston.

Visit villages on the Lizard

Helston is also the gateway to the Lizard Peninsula that remote and atmospheric part of Cornwall that is the most southerly tip of the British Isles. The delightful coastal villages of Helford, Coverack, Mullion and Portleven are interspersed with exquisite coves and are well worth a visit. The area has remained largely unspoilt and has some of Cornwalls most beautiful countryside.

Lizard Point

The point itself is a haven for wildlife and all kinds of unusual flora. Most of it is owned and maintained by the National Trust and there are some fabulous coastal path walks over high cliffs and down to some of the most beautiful beaches in the county.

Stroll around an Estate

The National Trusts Penrose Estate has beautiful circular forest walks to Loe Bar and Gunwalloe. Loe Bar divides the countys largest freshwater pool, Loe Pool, from the sea, and at Gunwalloe a medieval church stands on the beautiful beach two Cornish spectacles to see if you are in the area.

Family attractions nearby

You will never be at a loose end in this part of Cornwall. Flambards is the largest theme park in Cornwall and manages to combine giving the kids a good time with a significant educational input. The National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek is home to young orphaned pups and older rescued seals, and is a rare chance to see and help these animals.

RNAS Culdrose

From the public viewing area you can watch the planes take off and land from Europes largest helicopter base. Not to be missed is the annual open day. Air Day this year is on Wednesday 28 July.