Gwennap Head

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Granite cliffs at Gwennap Head (Tol-Pedn-Penwith) near Porthgwarra, Cornwall.

Gwennap Head (Cornish: Toll Pedn Pennwydh, meaning holed head of Penwith) (grid reference SW3621) is the most southerly headland on the south coast of the Penwith peninsula, Cornwall, United Kingdom. The South West Coast Path closely follows the entire coastline around the headland. Its intricate and varied granite cliffs include the famous Chair Ladder crag, making it a popular destination for recreational climbers of all abilities. The older and more correct name for the headland is Tol-Pedn-Penwith (locally "Tol-Pedn" for short) which comes from the Cornish for 'the holed headland of Penwith', referring to the awesome vertical blowhole from the clifftop to a sea cave. From 1888 the name was changed to Gwennap Head, perhaps named after a local family.[1]

National Coastwatch Institution station on Gwennap Head near Porthgwarra, Cornwall.

The inshore waters around the headland are busy with shipping of all sizes. There is a Coastwatch station on the headland in the former coastguard building.

Runnelstone navigation markers on Gwennap Head

There are a pair of cone-shaped navigation markers on Gwennap Head, in line with the Runnelstone buoy. These are day markers warning vessels of the hazard of the Runnel Stone. The cone to the seaward side is painted red and the inland one is black and white. When at sea the black and white one should always be kept in sight in order to avoid the submerged rocks nearer the shore. If the black and white cone is completely obscured by the red cone then the vessel would be directly on top of the Runnel Stone. The black and white landmark was erected by the Corporation of Trinity House in 1821 - an event recorded on a plaque on the back of the marker. These feature as "the Cones of Runnel" in Hammond Innes's thriller "The Trojan Horse".

Rare and endangered bird species[edit]

Gwennap Head is renowned for its relative abundance of passing marine bird species such as Manx and Sooty's Shearwaters, skuas, petrels and whimbrels. In addition, a colony of breeding gannets are close by. Therefore the headland is favoured by birdwatchers and many travel the length and breadth of Britain to track rare seabirds. Annually, the Seawatch SW survey aims to record the numbers of such species from a designated location close to the cliff edge on Gwennap Head.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weatherhill C. (2007) Cornish Place Names and Language. Ammanford: Sigma Press.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°02′17″N 5°40′44″W / 50.038°N 5.679°W / 50.038; -5.679