Cape Cornwall is a small headland four miles north of Land's End near the village St Just. The cape is the point at which Atlantic currents split, either going south up the English Channel, or north into the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea. A little known fact is the definition as to what a "cape" really is - it is a headland where two oceans or channels meet. in this case the English Channel and St Georges Channel. It is the only cape in England
Thought for a long time to be the most westerly point in England, it was later shown that Lands End was in fact further west
Now owned by the National Trust, there are a number of very good walks in the area, and it is certainly to be preferred to Lands End, and its commercial scrum. 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.
Leaving the car park one can walk down a steep hill either to Priest Cove or to the cape. The beach at Priest Cove is rocky, with a small rock pool, and is dominated by the bulk of Cape Cornwall which forms its western headland. A few fishing boats still work lobster pots, catch mackerel out of the cove.
The whole area is littered with the picturesque ruins of the mining industry. And the Cape is recognisable by the old chimney on its summit, a relic from the tin-mining days when mine shafts extend out under the sea for hundreds of metres. There are two paths to the top, a relatively easy one and a steeper one. From the top are fabulous views; Kenidjack, an offshore lighthouse( Longships )and St Helen's Oratory. The chimney stack (Listed Grade II) of Cape Cornwall Mine, which crowns the summit of the cape, is one of a number of mining structures that serve as prominent sea-marks along this rugged stretch of coastline; the white building was the mine’s count house. It from 1850 and was built to serve the boilers of the Cape Cornwall mine which extracted tin and copper from beneath the sea bed between 1836 – 1879, when it then merged with the St Just United mine, just south of the Cape.
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.
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. The site 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.