Godrevy Lighthouse St Ives Cornwall
Godrevy Lighthouse, off the coast of Hayle and St Ives, Cornwall is a popular spot to visit. It was the inspiration for Virginia Woolf's novel "To the Lighthouse".
Godrevy Lighthouse was originally built because there is a large submerged reef, known as The Stones, which extends for approximately one mile (1.6 km) across the Eastern approach to St Ives Bay. Godrevy lighthouse was built to warn of the danger posed by the reef to passing ships. Godrevy Island is about 300 metres off the coast of Godrevy Head.
Godrevy Lighthouse no longer has any full-time staff living there, it's now solar powered and completely automated.
The National Trust own and run a grassy car park with toilets at the end of the road. If you're a member of the National Trust, you can park here for free, simply by showing your current member card at the entrance to the car park.
Godrevy Lighthouse and Godrevy Head are popular for people looking for seals, with Seal Cove on the northern edge of the headland. The whole area is quiet, restful and great for a picnic, or kite flying.
Note: You cannot visit Godrevy Lighthouse itself. It is not accessible, it is not open to visitors. The closest you can get is Godrevy Head, which is in the hands of the National Trust.
Walk to Godrevy Lighthouse
When you visit Godrevy Lighthouse, there are a number of car parks you can use. But if you drive as far as you can you're missing out on most of the good views along the way.
The walk to Godrevy Lighthouse from the Godrevy Cafe car park is very pleasant, it's all along the coastal footpath, with plenty of tarmac road walking choices, in what is virtually a traffic free environment.
I'd thoroughly recommend you park at the first opportunity, leave the car behind and walk round the whole of Godrevy Head, including Godrevy Lighthouse and the Seals Cove. The first car parks off the road are intended for people going to the beach, which makes it an ideal spot to park as you can pack a picnic in the car, do a circular walk of Godrevy Head, then come back to the car and pick up your picnic to eat on the beach.
You can buy a photo of Godrevy lighthouse from local shops, or take your own photos along your walk to the lighthouse, then print them out as a collage.
Route to Godrevy Lighthouse
This is an easy and fairly level/flat walk. Simply follow the coastal footpath from the car park, or the road towards the lighthouse from the beach car park, up to the National Trust land and car parks. The tarmac road and the coastal footpath are just a few feet from each other along this route. You'll encounter few cars, as it's a dead end, leading only to the National Trust car parks.
When you reach the end of the road, continue either to the left, or to the right. This circular walk is just around the headland that you see before you. Without stopping to see the view, it's about a 20 minute stroll back to where you began. But, you will be stopping for the views as there's quite a bit along the way to look at.
On the right hand side of the headland, as you're looking out to sea, is Seal Cove. Here you can quietly wait and watch for seals. Sightings are a few times each hour, but you must be quiet - there are signs explaining this as you approach - because if you shout, or if you have a barking dog, then the seals can get scared and rush back out to sea, injuring themselves on the sharp rocks.
So, look, but be quiet.
Apart from Seal Cove, the seals are all around the Godrevy Head headland, so it's possible you'll see a seal at any point along your walk.
Bird Spotting at Godrevy Head
If you're a keen bird spotter, then on your walk round Godrevy Head watch out in particular for fulmar, cormorants, razorbills and guillemot - as well as a variety of species of gull.
A lot of birds make their nests on Godrevy Island, as well as the cliffs around Godrevy Head. Also look out for oyster catchers and pipits.
Kite Flying at Godrevy Head
There's a grassy area at the end of the tarmac road that's ideal for flying kites, if you are keen on the sport. Last time I was there, there was a kite flyer who had six in the air and was launching his seventh.
Services on Godrevy Head
Once you're beyond the initial car park and Godrevy Cafe, the only services you'll find will be the National Trust toilets, at the end of the tarmac road, and the ice cream van that's parked at the start of the path going round the headland.
So make sure you set out with a drink and a snack, unless this is a quick 1 hour dash round the headland you'll be glad you did.
Myths & Legends: The Wrath of Portreath
Cornwall's coastline is dotted with myths and legends - and one that involves Godrevy Head is the legend of The Wrath of Portreath.
The Wrath of Portreath is said to have lived in an extremely large cavern close by. Local sailors referred to this as his cupboard. The Wrath would wade
out to sea and grab whole passing ships, tie them to his belt, then take them back to his cupboard and eat the sailors for his supper.
If ships tried to avoid him, he'd hurl stones at them - and you can still see the stones that he hurled at the passing ships at low tide, where they form a dangerous reef off Godrevy Head.
The cupboard this legend refers to lost its roof, as happens to many caves on the Cornish coast, but you can still see where it is near St Ives.
Some Godrevy Lighthouse Facts
- The original build cost was £7,082 15s 7d - this is predecimal coinage and is £7,082.78.
- Build Shape/Type: A white octagonal tower
- Height: 86 feet (26 metres)
- Materials: Rubble-stone and mortar.
- The original light was a revolving white one, with a fixed red light below the main light. This could be seen over a 45o arc when a ship was in danger of the reef. This was later replaced by a red sector on the main light itself.
- Manning Levels: Originally manned by three men at a time, until 1934 when Godrevy Lighthouse was automated.
- Flash Sequence: The light flashes white/red every 10
seconds, with the red sector only being visible in the arc of danger
from the reef.Each lighthouse has a difference time/sequence, so that ships at sea can identify which lighthouses are around them.
- Flash Range: 12 miles (19 km).
To The Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf:
Godrevy Lighthouse Claims to Fame
Literature: Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf used the lighthouse as her inspiration for her novel "To the Lighthouse", published in 1927. Although in the book she sited the lighthouse elsewhere, it was definitely Godrevy that inspired her. Virginia Woolf had a holiday home close by.
Music: Patrick Wolf, Godrevy Point
A song released as the B side of "Wind in the Wires" in 2005.
Godrevy Lighthouse Timeline
30 November 1854
The wrecking of the SS Nile, with all aboard perishing, was what finally made the decision to build a lighthouse at Godrevy.
Tenders invited to build the new lighthouse.
Godrevy Lighthouse was built.
1 March 1859
Godrevy Lighthouse light turned on for the first time
Alterations made, lighthouse keepers removed and the lighthouse became fully automated
Godrevy Lighthouse was modernised and converted to solar power.
Directions to Godrevy Lighthouse
Godrevy Lighthouse is actually nearer to Hayle than St Ives, but as the Bay wraps around and St Ives is better known, it's become more popular to say it's at St Ives, when in fact, it's not :)
You cannot visit the actual lighthouse, which is 300 yards out at sea. All you can do is visit the headland and admire it. Godrevy Lighthouse is actually 3.5 miles from St Ives.
Address: Gwithian, Near Hayle, Cornwall, TR27 5ED
More Lighthouses in Cornwall:
- Lighthouses in Cornwall
How many lighthouses are there in Cornwall? Find the answer here and discover which lighthouses are open to the public. The National Lighthouse Museum of England is based in Cornwall, near Penzance.
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