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Kynance Cove

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Kyanance Cove is a small, remote, stack-surrounded cove on England's south-west coast, situated a mile north-west of Lizard Point. It offers a temporary anchorage off a beautiful beach in a natural setting.

The anchorage is highly exposed and can be availed of only in settled or very light north-easterly conditions, in the absence of any swell. Approaches from the south are clear, but attentive daylight navigation is required as the cove is fringed with rocks.

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Keyfacts for Kynance Cove
Hot food available in the localityPleasant family beach in the area

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Little air protection

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
3 stars: Attentive navigation; daylight access with dangers that need attention.
2 stars: Exposed; unattended vessels should be watched from the shore and a comfortable overnight stay is unlikely.

Last modified
August 13th 2019


An exposed location with attentive navigation required for access.

Hot food available in the localityPleasant family beach in the area

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationBeach or shoreline landing from a tenderQuick and easy access from open waterScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Little air protection

Position and approaches
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Haven position

49° 58.322' N, 005° 13.766' W

This is in 5 metres at the mouth of the cove.

What is the initial fix?

The following Kynance Cove Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
49° 58.100' N, 005° 13.768' W
This is ¼ mile south of the cove and on the 10 metre contour.

What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in south-west England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location.

  • This anchorage is available only during an auspicious weather window.

  • Tidal streams are strong here and should be factored into the approach timing.

  • Sound in from the south and anchor in the mouth of the cove in 5 metres.

Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Kynance Cove for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Cadgwith - 1.3 miles ENE
  2. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 1.7 miles NNW
  3. Coverack - 3.7 miles ENE
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 4.7 miles NNW
  5. Helford River - 5.2 miles NNE
  6. Gillan Creek - 5.4 miles NE
  7. Falmouth - 7.8 miles NNE
  8. Saint Michael's Mount - 8.1 miles NW
  9. Mousehole - 8.4 miles WNW
  10. Saint Mawes - 8.6 miles NE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Cadgwith - 1.3 miles ENE
  2. Mullion Cove & Porth Mellin - 1.7 miles NNW
  3. Coverack - 3.7 miles ENE
  4. Porthleven Harbour - 4.7 miles NNW
  5. Helford River - 5.2 miles NNE
  6. Gillan Creek - 5.4 miles NE
  7. Falmouth - 7.8 miles NNE
  8. Saint Michael's Mount - 8.1 miles NW
  9. Mousehole - 8.4 miles WNW
  10. Saint Mawes - 8.6 miles NE
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What's the story here?
Kynance Cove and the Kynance Cove Café
Image: Michael Harpur

Kynance Cove is situated on the west side of the Lizard peninsula, ¾ mile south-eastward of Rill Point and a mile north-west of Lizard Point. It is a natural cove enclosed by a number of small tidal islands and steep rocky sea stacks. The four largest features around the cove are Asparagus Island, Gull Rock, The Bishop and Steeple Rock, which frame its western side, with Lion Rock and Enys Vean to the east. The cove and surrounding coast form a protected natural reserve, owned and managed by the National Trust. The only development here is the Kynance Café, at the head of the cove, and a smattering of historic buildings around it.

In the absence of any swell and in very settled conditions it is possible to anchor off the mouth of the cove. It is moderately sheltered from offshore winds, but the ideal time to visit is during settled conditions, with a flat calm being perfect. Kynance Cove could never be recommended for an overnight stay, but it makes for a beautiful berth for a few hours in the right conditions. It is not a place to be if the winds pick up, at which point it is essential to depart immediately.

How to get in?
Asparagus Island and the pyramidical Gull Rock as seen from the west
Image: Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0

Convergance Point Use south-west England’s coastal overview from Lizard Point to Land's End Route location for seaward approaches. Rill Point and Predannack Head to the north-west should be given a reasonable berth, while Lizard Point should be given a wide berth. South of the Lizard there is a substantial race and the area is subject to strong tidal streams that should be factored into any visit.

From Lizard Point, the cliffs are rugged and 60 to 75 metres in height. The jagged, pyramidical Gull Rock, standing at 43 metres high, along with the grass-topped 29-metre-high Asparagus Island, which encloses the cove's western side, will nevertheless be conspicuous features from some distance to seaward.

Kynance Cove, set between Lion Rock and Gull Rock
Image: Michael Harpur

Initial fix location From the initial fix, the cove will be readily identified by these marks. Sound in northward for ¼ mile into the 300-metre-wide opening between the tall stacks of Lion Rock and Gull Rock.

Anchor between the outer stacks
Image: Andrew

Haven location Anchor in sand off the mouth of the cove and between the outer stacks in about 5 metres. Land by tender on the sandy beach at the head of the cove. The large foreshore rocks can be used for protection if there is any surf running.

Land on the beach
Image: Michael Harpur

Why visit here?
Kynance Cove takes its name from the Cornish Porth Keynans, meaning ravine cove.

Here you will witness some of the most dramatic coastline imaginable, and is an important site for geologists due to its exposures of two types of serpentine rock, namely bastite and tremolite. The rocks on the heath above and on the cliffs to the south contain bastite, which is the primary serpentinite found on the Lizard. By contrast, the purple-brown islands and stacks within the cove and the valley are of tremolite. This differs from bastite as it was subjected to a higher pressure when it was forced through the Earth's crust about 375 million years ago. As a result, it is fine-grained, banded and, as it was once molten, has no fossils. The cove's tremolite is most unusual and is the largest outcrop of the rock in Britain.

Contrasting bastite in the heathland above and tremolite in the cove
Image: Michael Harpur

The small tidal islands and stacks within Kynance Cove formed because the tremolite was broken into blocks during their formation and invaded by other types of rock, including granite and basalt. The sea eroded these softer rocks, leaving the separate stacks and islands that we see today. The dark, dense rock readily absorbs heat and on a sunny day can be very hot to touch. This mixed geology has enabled an unusual range of life to flourish here, making Kynance a mecca for naturalists, too. The heaths and cliffs support a weird and wonderful array of species, from plants such as asparagus and Cornish heath to ferns, lichens and rare moths. Accordingly, Asparagus Island is named after the native plant that grows wild on it.

The tremolite stacks and islands of Kynance Cove
Image: Robert Pittman via CC ASA 2.0

There is evidence to suggest that Kynance Cove was occupied by Celtic peoples as early as 300 BC. There has been a settlement here since before the 18th century and a stream cutting through the valley and across the beach once powered a mill. Coasters would beach on the sands of the cove to service the watermill and the millstones remain to this day, serving as thresholds to the cove’s two cottages. By 1860, however, the mill had become a ruin and the cove a sleepy backwater. Nonetheless, the fortunes of the cove were set to change, as word of its exceptional beauty spread during the Victorian era.

Boaters could have Kynance Cove to themselves late in the evening
Image: Michael Harpur

None other than Prince Albert came ashore here with his two sons in 1846 and perhaps enjoyed setting foot on its sands more than most, feeling somewhat diminished by mal de mer at the time. The beauty of the cove was also experienced by the playwright George Bernard Shaw, botanist and novelist Charles Kingsley, and poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, who noted in his memoirs… large cranesbill near Kynance, down to cove. Glorious grass-green monsters of waves. Into caves of Asparagus Island. Sat watching wave rainbows.

Kynance Cove during the late Victorian Period circa 1890
Image: Public Domain

It was the extension of the rail network in Cornwall during the 1860s that saw the cove become one of the county’s earliest and most famous visitor attractions. In August of 1866, it was noted that at least 200 tourists had visited Kynance in one day, which was an extraordinary number at the time. In a stall at the head of the cove, a Victorian trinket-maker turned the red-green serpentine rock into knick-knacks, such as ornamental lighthouses and ash-trays, as a roaring souvenir trade took off. All the while, a café has been slaking the thirst of the bathers since early Victorian times.

Beach goers today
Image: Jon Watts

It was during this period that the stacks of Asparagus Island, Gull Rock and Steeple Rock were named. Many of the cove’s other names have a notable Victorian feel, such as the Ladies Bathing Pool and the pretty caverns that dry at low-water past around the Steeple Rock, called the Drawing-Room, the Kitchen and the Parlour. Out from the cove, you will even find an Albert Rock, named after the prince.

View from the Kynance Café today
Image: Robert Pittman via CC BY-SA 2.0

Ideally situated overlooking the beach, the current Kynance Café first opened for business in 1929. It was basic affair right up to the end of the century, without toilets, powered by a generator and reliant on spring water. Things changed in 1999, when the National Trust took over the cove to protect the beauty and historical importance of the buildings and surrounding area. Nowadays, the café is full of eco-friendly features, including solar panels, a turf roof, wool insulation and compost toilets. The cove is today a heavily protected area and is managed sensitively.

The Kynance Café late in the evening when the beach goers have gone home
Image: Michael Harpur

Cornwall is littered with photogenic coves, but it’s hard to find a more picture-perfect spot than Kynance Cove. The nature of the cove changes each year, depending upon the preceding year’s storms, as vast amounts of sand can be removed or deposited here. At high water, the beach almost completely disappears, but it is at low water that Kynance Cove is at its prettiest. It is, without doubt, the jewel of the Lizard Peninsula. Then the cove’s white-sand beach, turquoise waters and serpentine rock-towers make for a breath-taking sight. This makes it one of the most photographed and painted locations in the county and it features in various TV period dramas, such as Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Poldark (as Ross Poldark’s beloved Nampara) and The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

Kynance Cove is at its best at low water when the beach is exposed
Image: Joost via ASA 4.0

From a boating perspective, fringed with rocks on an already exposed coastline that is wide open to the Atlantic, it could never be described as the best of anchorages. But for a family boat, should a good stable window of sunny weather occur, this is a spectacular beauty spot where those aboard could be forgiven for thinking that they have arrived in the Mediterranean. In northerlies, and when the swell from the Atlantic is modest, it also makes good tide-wait location to round the Lizard. The east-going stream starts at HW Dover +0315, while an early eddy that runs south-east from here starts a couple of hours earlier. Then the critical Mulvin rock, which dries to 1.2 metres, should be uncovered and visible long enough to also provide an astern transit on Rill Point that clears all the other Lizard rocks.

What facilities are available?
There is a toilet in the Cove that is open all year round. The well-known and loved Kynance Café on the beach is open from Easter to the end of October half term and serves local ice cream, Cornish pasties, fresh crab sandwiches and baguettes, homemade cake and cream teas, tea and coffee and even locally brewed beer. +44 1326 290436 or +44 1326 291117, email cafe@kynancecovecafe.co.uk

With thanks to:

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The above plots are not precise and indicative only.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Image: eOceanic thanks Jon Watts

Kynance Cove Beach at low water
Image: eOceanic thanks Nilfanion via CC ASA 4.0

Bathers enjoying the cove's translucent waters
Image: eOceanic thanks Jon Watts

Sunset at Kynance Cove
Image: eOceanic thanks mendhak

Kynance Cove aerial views

The beach at Kynance Cove

A day at Kynance Cove

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