Nanjizal Beach and the Mystical Song of the Sea Cave

On a beautiful day in February, I headed to west Cornwall and treated myself to a cold water plunge in the natural tidal pool at Nanjizal Beach.

a curved coastline in cornwall with bright blue sea and blue sky

My trip to Nanjizal Beach (also known as Mill Bay) was definitely nudged to the top of the list by the lure of the Song of the Sea Cave. I’ve long wanted to have a dip in the salty mermaid pool that remains at low tide while being partially enclosed by the enchanting arch that makes this such a sought after spot.

This day out was actually part of a 7 mile looped run I completed from Sennen Cove. Even so, I stopped at Nanjizal Beach, which was about half way round, and made time for a wander and swim. Let me tell you all about this beautiful haven, the Song of the Sea cave, and what to expect when you visit.

How do you get to Nanjizal Beach?

You’ll find Nanjizal Beach, also known as Mill Bay, in the parish of St Levan. Some Dr Who fans will recognise it from a vintage episode, where the Tardis landed on this very spot!

Nanjizal Beach’s Cornish name is “Porth Nansusel” which translates to, “Cove of the Howling Valley”. You’ll find this dreamy spot between Land’s End and Porthgwarra and it’s only accessible via the South West Coast Path. You can’t park at Nanjizal and while there are different parking options, they all involve a lovely walk.

bright blue sea and rugged coastline in winter sun

Here’s the details:

  • Park at Sennen Cove and walk to Nanjizal and back on the coast path. In my view, any coast path walk is a good idea. It’s about 2.5 to 3 miles one way and you will need walking boots. The terrain is rocky and hilly in places. There are a few pay and display car parks at Sennen. They charge about £1.20 per hour, or £5 for the day.
  • Park at Land’s End and walk to Nanjizal Beach and back. Land’s End is closer to Nanjizal Beach than Sennen. You’re looking at a 3 mile round route. Parking in low season at Land’s End is about £5 for the day but be warned, in peak season it’s often much more.
  • Park at Porthgwarra and walk there and back. This is a 4 mile round hike and there is a pay and display car park here too.
  • Park in Trevescan and walk through the valley. Trevescan (postcode TR19 7AQ) is a small drive-through village. If you choose to park on the road here, please do so sympathetically and thoughtfully. There are working farms in the area and access to fields is essential. You will find the public footpath to Nanjizal beach next to a bus stop sign (I took this path as part of my run). You basically walk through someone’s driveway and you feel like you’re trespassing. This route takes you across several fields before heading down a valley that leads to the coast.
  • Park in Poligga and walk on the footpath. Looking at the OS map, this is another option. I understand you can park here on the road or in a layby. There is a footpath across the fields but I’m not convinced it’s any quicker (and certainly not as direct) than parking at Trevescan.

Whichever option you decide, you won’t be disappointed. The coast path is a wonderful playground for discovering coves and secret spots, as well as seeing thriving, seasonal wildlife.

Nanjizal Beach

Accessing Nanjizal Beach is pretty easy. The coast path is well worn and there are wooden steps heading to the sand. It’s a dog friendly beach all year round too. Given how popular the walk is to Nanjizal, it’s the perfect spot for your dog to cool off in the sea.

Nanjizal has gorgeous yellow tinged sand with flowing water coming from the land onto the shore (I can’t bring myself to call it a waterfall, but others do).

If you’re looking for a wide, sandy beach though, you won’t find it at Nanjizal. This isn’t really a place to laze with a book. This is a beach for exploring and discovering, with interesting terrain. If you’re lucky you may even spot some seals!

Known for its rocky landscape, you have to navigate boulders scattered along Mill Bay. This is the case whether you venture to the Song of the Sea Cave or stay on the beach. Personally, I think the rocks and boulders add to the beauty of Nanjizal Beach. This, coupled with the mesmerising colour of the sea, makes it an idyllic remote shore to visit.

a curved rocky beach called Nanjizal under blue sea with bright blue sea

As Nanjizal Beach is remote and off the beaten track, you will find no facilities here. There’s no lifeguard, tea room, ice cream vendor or toilets so make sure you bring your drinks, snacks and camping stove with you. Please leave only footprints.

If you’re wanting to incorporate some food from a local business into your visit, there are some options, depending on where you park. If you walk from Porthgwarra, the Porthgwarra Cove Cafe is good (do check opening hours, especially in low season). At Sennen you’ll the Sennen Cove Cafe and The Old Success Inn.

The best time to visit Nanjizal Beach is during low tide. If you’re wanting to swim in the Song of the Sea cave make sure you time it right. I’ve read that the arch pretty much disappears once the tide is in. I timed my visit perfecting and landed on the sand as the tide turned.

lots of rocks and boulders beside a cliff leading to the song of the sea cave at Nanjizal Beach
a narrow arch and lagoon water at Nanjizal Beach

The Song of the Sea Cave

There’s no doubt, the Song of the Sea Cave is a wondrous sight. There’s something magical about it. The water is crystal clear, with a jewel-like hue that seems to be prominent in west Cornwall. I couldn’t wait to ditch my running kit and slip into the cold water.

a woman with grey hair in a tidal pool surrounded by cliffs and a steep cliff
a women in a light blue bikini top partly submerged in the sea with the Song of the Sea Cave in Cornwall behiind her

Dipping into this little lagoon, the chill took my breath away. The sand sloped as I edged my way in, it’s surprisingly deep. I can only imagine how special it feels to swim here when there is glimmering light seeping through the narrow arch that makes the Song of the Sea Cave so recognisable. I totally lucked out with the weather but I’d love to swim here at sunrise or sunset. There’s something incredibly romantic about it.

This gorgeous mermaid pool is in a sheltered spot, meaning it’s great for getting changed discretely. I understand from others though, that people queue to swim here in peak season. If you can, visit in the quieter shoulder months.

Little fun fact: Song of the Sea Cave is also referred to as “Zawn Pyg” in Cornish. Pyg is our word for “tar” and zawn means “deep, narrow sea inlet”.

a woman smiling while in the sea with a cave behind her with a narrow slit or arch

What else can be found at Nanjizal Beach?

While the Song of the Sea Cave appears to be Nanjizal’s crowning glory, the beach is also known for its Diamond Horse rock formation on the north cliffs. I wish I knew this before my visit, I would’ve been on the lookout, with my eagle eye and camera!

Not only that, Nanjizal is also the location of a shipwreck! Over 6000 ships have succumb to the dangers of the Cornish coast, many of them in west Cornwall. In 1912, The City of Cardiff cargo steamer ran aground here. Thankfully, no lives were lost. Apparently, evidence of the shipwreck can be found below Carn Cravah at low tide, which is along the right hand side of the bay.

Nanjizal Beach cover in boulders and smooth rocks with the headland and bright blue sea

Nanjizal Beach is often referred to as a “hidden gem”, quiet, or “Cornwall’s best kept secret”. Sure, it’s not as popular as other beaches along the Penwith coast, like Pedn Vounder, but I can imagine it gets busy. My visit was during February half term and there were plenty of walkers and families about.

a pinterest pin for nanjizal Beach and the cave

Author: plbedford

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