Land’s End is the far southwestern tip of the English mainland, where the country plunges over sheer cliffs and into the Atlantic. Once the ancient kingdom of Kernow, now the county of Cornwall, this timeless
landscape is rich in history and atmosphere. Once upon a time, a lonely pub called the
First-and-Last Inn stood here; now there’s a theme park, but the natural scenery never fails
to be awe-inspiring. A few miles east is the fantastical castle-topped island of
St. Michael’s Mount, attached to the mainland by nothing more than a cobbled causeway
that’s covered at high tide. It was originally created in 1135 as a sister abbey to the
more famous Mont St-Michel across the English Channel in Normandy
The arduous climb to the top, rising 250 feet from the sea, is well worth it for the dazzling views. Nearby, on the mainland, is Penzance, the westernmost town in England, a workaday port famous as the home of Gilbert and Sullivan’s singing pirates. Hidden away in a narrow lane is the Abbey Hotel, a historic building that 1960s supermodel Jean Shrimpton turned into one of the most eclectic and charming hotels around. For more history,
plus a pint of Cornish ale, visit the Turk’s Head, an old pub in the center of town, famously damaged—along with much of old Penzance—during a Spanish invasion in 1595, but thriving today. Ferries leave from Penzance for the Isles of Scilly, a group of 100-plus mostly uninhabited rocky islands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, they feature unspoiled beaches, exotic palms, and swarms of rare sea birds.
You’ll even find world-famous subtropical gardens on the island of Tresco. The only place
worth staying on this car-free escape is also one of its highlights: The Island House offers
a seasonal sailing school, noted gardens, and open views of the sea and other islands.
Northeast of Land’s End is the little holiday resort and harbor town of St. Ives, where
an almost Mediterranean quality of light has attracted artists for many years. A Cubist tumble
of well-kept white cottages overlooks a bay, and art galleries and artisans’ shops line
the narrow streets. London’s Tate Gallery has an offshoot here in a handsome rotunda above
the sea. Nearby is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.
studio and home of St. Ives’s leading artist, who, together with her husband, painter Ben Nicholson,helped establish this port town as a haven for avant-garde and abstract artists in the 1930s. After browsing the galleries or riding the surf, relax at one of St. Ives’s best hotels, PrimroseValley, a delightfully stylish, friendly option on the seafront.