Lizard Point

Rocks outside Lizard Point before sunrise. 30 second exposure. No wonder the ships give Lizard Point a wide berth!

After 18 months mainly confined to Devon I dared during a couple of days in September to venture out to far away Cornwall. Cornwall has both the most westerly point in mainland England, Land’s End, and its most southernly, Lizard Point. The Lizard peninsula shoots out to the south, west of Falmouth and east of Penzance. It is fairly flat promontory with a rugged, steep coastline containing many attractive bays and coves.

Outside Lizard Point to the south there are many dangerous rocks. Many ships have over the centuries succumbed to the storms that battered the cliffs around Lizard. Sailing to the large harbour of Falmouth east of the Lizard Peninsula you have to round the notoriously dangerous Lizard Point with its underwater rocks. In 1721 a crew of 15 of the Royal Anne Galley lost their lives here, and 30 years later the Lighthouse at Lizard Point was commissioned to protect the shipping and the sailors.

Not only the lighthouse but a lifeboat station has also been based at Lizard Point since 1859. This lifeboat station is now closed since 1961 but has been replaced by a more modern one a few miles from Lizard Point.  

There are no lizards at Lizard Point. The name comes from old Cornish and I have seen several explanations and translations. Most seem to claim that the name comes from the Cornish Lis-ardh, meaning fortress or high court. Another suggestion is that the name is a translation of the Cornish lezou meaning headland.

But although there are (to my knowledge) no lizards or dragons on the Lizard Peninsula, it is one of the few places where Serpentine Rock can be found. When it is polished or wet it resembles the skin of a snake. It is a metamorphic rock which is dark green in colour with veins of red and white inlaid in it.

I visited Lizard Point during a day in September. First on a mainly cloudy morning before and during the first hour after sunrise and then I came back in late afternoon and stayed until sunset. The image above shows some of the many rocks existing above and below the waterline around the headland. The image was taken just before sunrise, hence the blue light.

Lizard Point with the lighthouse at the top and the (now disused) life boat station and its slipway below. The sun was hidden behind the clouds, but the sky turned pink as I am shooting eastwards towards the rising sun.

The morning images are very dark looking into the sun, but in the other direction we can see the promise of a sunny day. But the cloud bank just above the horizon never really left us, and would interfere with my plans for a sunset photo later in the day.

Looking west just after sunrise. The rocks in the background to the left also appear in my very first image above.

The beautiful location and the lack of morning sunshine encouraged me to come back in the afternoon in the hope of getting some images of the life boat station and the rocks bathed in sunshine. See the images below.

Lizard Point and its lighthouse and its life boat station half an hour before sunset. Notice the ship in the background at the top right

As sunset approached I walked up on the ridge west of Lizard Point overlooking the bay towards Penzance and the promontory of Land’s End. I couldn’t see as far as that but Kynance Cove, which I photographed the next day, could be seen in the background. I set up the camera to capture the sun as it approached the horizon, but the same cloud bank that had prevented us from seeing the sunrise was again mocking me at sunset. I had to do with catching the sun just before it want into the clouds as it approached the steep rocks overlooking the sea. When a couple of seagulls came sailing on the upwinds that the steep cliffs created, I captured the rocks, the sun and the seagulls.

West of Lizard Point looking Northwest towards Kynance Cove at sunset
Sunset at Lizard Point