Carleon Cove

Cornwall Information & Accommodation Guide

Carleon Cove is an interesting rocky cove tucked away at the end of the Poltesco valley on the Lizard Peninsula

Once a thriving pilchard fishery and cellar, then used for serpentine processing, it is now quiet with the ruins providing a picturesque backdrop to this pretty cove which is interesting for visitors who enjoy industrial archaeology, wildlife and geology. The stream flowing down Poltesco Valley crosses the cove after creating a large pool where it first meets the beach and there are rock pools to explore.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Carleon Cove was a busy fishing harbour, bustling with activity. As the huge pilchard shoals came close to the shore during the late summer they would be spotted by the 'huers' stationed high up on the clifftops, who would create a great hue and cry to direct the fishermen where to cast their nets.

The pilchards would be processed, pressed and preserved with most of them being exported to France, Spain and Italy. Some would have been eaten locally and used in the famous Starrey Gazey pie which can still be seen occasionally today especially in Mousehole on Tom Bawcock's Eve.

The remains of the capstan house, the circular, stone tower is a dominant feature of the cove. The capstan would have hauled the fishing boats up onto the beach.

Adjacent to the capstan house is a three-storey stone warehouse dating from the 19th century.
This was part of Carleon Cove's serpentine processing infra-structure.

The factory was built in the 1830s to process serpentine into jewellery by working and polishing it to a very high standard. As one of only two factories in the world which supplied products made from serpentine, its products were highly prized and sought after. It is believed that one of its fans was Queen Victoria who ordered items for Osborne House. Serpentine from Carleon Cove also featured at the Great Exhibition of 1851.

In 1853 the venture became known as the Lizard Serpentine Company (LSC). Its initials can still be seen on the stone warehouse building. It traded until 1893.

The factory was worked by water-powered steam engine and you can still see the remains of the wheel pit.

Large pieces of serpentine left behind bear the mark of the saws which cut them and occasionally you find serpentine with initials carved into it.

The pretty stream here would have been much deeper at that time as it needed to accommodate barges to carry the worked serpentine out to ships harboured just offshore.

Carleon House which overlooks the works was the home of the owner of the company, Jabez Druitt.

The area is now cared for by the National Trust.

Swimming is possible on a rising tide.
Snorkelling here is excellent particularly in the areas around Poltesco Rock and Black Rock.

There is no lifeguard service and no rescue equipment.
The nearest facilities are at Cadgwith and Kennack Sands.

Carleon Cove is dog friendly with dogs allowed all year round.

Adjacent to Carleon Cove is Little Cove, a tiny cove which can only be accessed at low water.

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Sat nav TR12 7LR

From Helston take the A3083 road towards the Lizard. After miles you will see a left turn to Ruan Minor. Follow this to the centre of Ruan Minor and turn left by the school onto Poltesco Lane. Park in the National Trust car park in the Poltesco Valley.

There are two footpaths to Carleon Cove. One takes you through the car park and on to the coast path where you turn right to access the cove. The other is slightly shorter and requires you to cross the stream via the bridge near the parking and this footpath takes you directly to the cove.

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