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Guest experience: Wonder and wildlife of the Lizard peninsula from a cottage in Cadgwith

Cadgwith cottages

I have to say, we’ve never been disappointed yet when booking through Classic Cottages and the place they found us this time, right on the beach in one of their Cadgwith cottages, was just magical. Anywhere in Cornwall is good but this particular bit of unspoilt coastline was just perfect. Put it this way, we’ve holidayed all over the world and had fabulous times tenting at Sennen Cove but until recently rarely visited the Lizard - what a revelation it’s been discovering it. The whole experience was totally hassle free - thanks Classic!

We first visited Cadgwith in 2012, not expecting the place to be so, what’s the word? ‘Natural’, ‘unspoilt’, even beautiful if you like, although calling a beach that is sometimes filled with boats of all sizes hauled out the sea by a tractor ‘beautiful’ does not sound quite right – but somehow it is.

Cadgwith fishing boats

Not that there’s ever a problem finding somewhere to park your stuff on the beach, believe me kids (or grown ups for that matter) never get bored as there’s always something to do, look at or be involved in. It’s a gently sloping beach into a clean sea with a small freshwater stream actually flowing down the beach - great for building dams and the like. OK, so the beach is pebbly but get the little blighters (old or young!) playing ‘who can find the best pebble of the day’, keep an eye on them (especially the old-uns!) and your holiday is made (R-E-L-A-X).

The local populous, one and all, are a nice lot - always ready to welcome you and exchange a pleasantry or two. There are a couple of shops with everything you need, a great Artisan gallery and even a wet fish shop with the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted (‘aw b*gger that’s good!’).

Cadgwith by Tony House

We all love ‘people watching’ (‘Oh dear, look at his stomach’ and ‘where did they get those hats?’). Whilst watching, there seems to be a bit of aggro around small boats parking in the space where the ‘proper job’ fishing boats line-up which could be interesting? (Not that the biggest of them is more than 20 feet.) Get yourself down to the Node overlooking the beach early of a morning (around seven-ish) with a cup of tea and slice of toast to watch them being launched - one of the highlights of the day.

Our 2012 visit in September was during the only week when it did not pee with rain. On the contrary, the sun came out day on day with the sea for the most part glass smooth.

Seals in the bay, porpoises going by daily, frequently seeing peregrines, kestrels, rock pipits, stonechats, spotted flycatchers to name but a few, not to mention the sea birds (not that I’m a birder, I’m more into otters) made it a holiday of magic, where we hardly left the place all week - so much so that while there we booked in again for July 2013 (we rarely go back to the same place twice which speaks for itself!).

Young stonechat

July 2013 we’re back again and it’s hot, hot, hot! Although we had a bit of cloud and rough seas one day but, thank God, Cadgwith does not change. The gardens full of flowers as you walk the short distance from the car park after dropping the luggage at your accommodation are magnificent - what a welcome - with seemingly each cottage trying to out-do the other. It really is magnificent, so thank you all!

On this holiday one of the places we actually left Cadgwith for was Lizard Point, to have another go at the monster doughnuts with Cornish cream in the clifftop cafés,  but ostensibly to look for the Cornish Chough which had bred again as usual with two half-grown chicks in the nest.  An unpaired adult male arrives and within days has driven off, possibly killing, the nesting male. The female then deserts as well leaving the chicks to starve. The new male then adopted the chicks and took over the feeding, uniquely the first time this has ever been observed. 

Cornish choughs

On the last day of the holiday we came across them again at another magical place, Kynance cliffs, situated some 200 feet above the beach with views stretching what must be 50 miles or more on the clear day we had. In fact the sea was so smooth that with radio contact to the fishing boats out there on the sea from Cadgwith, we could have directed them on to the fish shoals driven to the surface by pods of dolphins it was thought. Unfortunately they were too far away to actually see, even by the local Cornwall Wildlife Trust reps with their telescopes ( - give them a call on 01872 273939 – they’re friendly and informative).

I’m giving a talk in Cadgwith Hall on behalf of the RNLI in June 2014 (more later) and so, still requiring some half decent close-up pictures of the Choughs to show, we’re back to the cliffs in the evening with a pasty picnic and a bottle or two. Suddenly, there was their distinctive loud call, halfway between a magpie and a crow - almost metallic, and right in front of us the two newly fledged chicks appeared, eagerly following and watching the dedicated foster father digging up daddy longleg grubs (leather jackets). Every now and then they’d find one which then started the ‘kerfuffle’ as to who would receive it, one chick being more insistent that the other (it would be interesting to know which was the more advanced - the first born? Or is it the difference between the sexes? With otters it’s the young male that’s the boldest, more self-reliant).  

Every now and then the adult would get so cheesed off with the young ones’ insistent calls for food he would suddenly take flight and try and leave them to their own devices. This resulted in the young ones dashing after him calling even more insistently (that will teach him to interfere in a nesting pair next year!). On one of these occasions, their croaking became one of alarm as they drove a female kestrel down onto the rocks.

Female kestrel

Speaking of kestrels, the best wildlife encounter of the week was during an evening stroll from Cadgwith via the clifftop path down to the Poltesco stream. We were looking for signs of otters which were there. On the way back I could see a kestrel circling below in a disused Serpentine quarry when it suddenly landed in front of me and proceeded to have, of all things, a dust bath!

Male kestrel having a dust bath

With his grey coloured head (brown for the female) he took flight after a couple of minutes but      then actually landed much closer (crazy bird?) again getting stuck into continuing his dust bath, with cloudsof dust, bits of stone and sticks flying everywhere (magical!). So engrossed was it, I actually managed to sneak closer and record its every move and joyous hop on video (magical isn’t the word!). Talk about enjoying itself, it was just like a kid in a paddling pool. As you can imagine I went back most evenings to hopefully see it again.

Peregrine chick

While waiting I also took pictures of the other wildlife - even a peregrine chick with, on one occasion, a sun fish (the first I’d ever seen) but this time from way, way up whilst hanging out of a tree overlooking the cliff’s edge. Unfortunately for us the Basking Sharks had already swum through some weeks earlier – I still can’t believe I’ve yet to see one in all the times we’ve been ‘Cornwalling’.

Maybe next time…

My first sun fish


 If you’d like to learn more about the Lizard wildlife, you can catch Tony’s talk in Cadgwith:

Dust-bathing kestrels, young choughs, sun fish and otters
plus other Lizard wildlife 

Talk with videos and stills on behalf of the RNLI by Tony House, the Otterholic
RUIN MINOR (CADGWITH) VILLAGE HALL, JUNE 2014 (Time and date to be finalised)

Teas/ Buns, the odd pasty or two.  Items for the kids. RNLI caps (you name it) to cards for adults.   ALL VERY WELCOME.


All the details will be on the Cadgwith village Web site, nearer the time in 2014

Stay nearby in one of our cottages in Cadgwith

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