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A cape is defined as a headland where two oceans or channels meet. In the case of Cape Cornwall they are the English Channel and St George’s Channel.
Cape Cornwall is the point at which the Atlantic currents meet and split, either going south to the English Channel, or north to the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea.
Cape Cornwall was thought for a long time to be the most westerly point in England, but it was later shown that Lands End was in fact further west.
There are walks on and around the Cape including the viewpoint in front of the sentinel chimney which has seating to rest and admire the wonderful panorama stretching from the Land’s End to Carn Kenidjack and beyond. Just off shore the Brison Rocks wrecked a number of ships and were also said to have been used as a spartan prison at one time. The rocks are also an important breeding ground for sea birds.
The beach to the south at the base of Cape Cornwall is known as Priest’s Cove and is recorded as having been in use since medieval times. Today it is used by a few fishermen and for the annual swimming races.
There was once a Bronze Age burial site here, beside an earlier Iron Age hill fort. Around the 4th century AD, it was the site of one of the first Christian chapels in west Cornwall, St Helen’s Oratory. The site is now occupied by a ruined farm building. It has been used since the Roman times, and here was found an ancient chi-rho cross. This was lost apparently when a vicar threw it down a well. The cross cemented on to it, is not, apparently, the original, but is one which was found lying nearby.
In the early 20th century, the Cape was owned by Captain Francis Oates, who began his working life at age 12 in Balleswidden mine and worked his way up to be Managing Director of De Beers in South Africa. He eventually returned to west Cornwall, where he built Porthledden House in 1909.
Cape Cornwall is owned by the National Trust, there are a number of very good walks in the area, and the area is preferred to Lands End by most holidaymakers because it is natural and completely free of intrusive commercial activity.