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Godrevy Lighthouse

godrevy lighthouse

Godrevy Lighthouse – Discover Cornwall’s Famed Literary Lighthouse

Positioned dramatically on a cluster of craggy offshore rocks at St Ives Bay’s northern headland stands the iconic Godrevy Lighthouse. Still functioning to safely guide vessels along this rocky stretch of Cornish coastline 150 years on, it also boasts famed literary links inspiring novelist Virginia Woolf during childhood summers.

Whether you’re already exploring glorious west Cornwall or planning a trip, don’t miss viewing arguably the county’s most photographed and poetically significant lighthouse. Drink in the head-clearing views that stirred creatives for generations with this guide

godrevy lighthouse

Getting There

Godrevy Lighthouse perches remotely a mile offshore from the National Trust-owned Godrevy Head where limited parking is available.

Situated on the coast between popular holiday hotspots Hayle and St Ives, the lighthouse lies directly opposite North Cliffs beach and Godrevy Beach where seals can often be spotted basking.

Despite no public access to the functioning lighthouse itself, appreciation from the dramatic coastal viewing spots including Godrevy Cafe promise captivating encounters with this guardian of the sea.

History & Background

First lit on March 29th 1859 after 5 long years construction, Godrevy Lighthouse helped make this dangerous stretch of Atlantic coastline lining St Ives Bay safer for passing vessels.

The rugged beauty of Godrevy Head, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, also posed a significant danger to passing ships. The treacherous Stones Reef, submerged just below the surface, claimed numerous vessels throughout history, including one rumored to be carrying King Charles I’s personal belongings. Recognizing the urgent need for a warning light, Trinity House, the official lighthouse authority, decided on the construction of Godrevy Lighthouse in the late 1850s.

Building a Beacon on a Difficult Shore:

Constructing the lighthouse on the wave-battered island was no easy feat. Workers battled harsh weather conditions, treacherous tides, and limited resources. It took over a year and £7,000 to complete the 26-metre-tall white octagonal tower, built from rubble stone with three dedicated keepers’ cottages nestled nearby.


Guiding Ships Through the Darkness:

In 1859, the first light shone from Godrevy, a powerful beam visible for 10 miles at sea. Initially fueled by oil, the lighthouse later adopted more advanced technologies, including a revolving Fresnel lens and eventually electricity. For over a century, the keepers ensured the light never faltered, guiding countless ships safely past the perilous reef.

Changing Times and Modernization:

The 20th century saw advancements in navigational technology, and the role of lighthouses began to shift. In 1939, Godrevy’s keepers were replaced with automated systems, marking the end of an era. However, the lighthouse remained operational, albeit remotely controlled.

A New Lease on Life:

In 2012, the original stone tower, facing wear and tear from the elements, was decommissioned. In its place, a sleek new steel structure housing a powerful LED light took over the mantle of guiding ships. The old tower, however, remains a poignant reminder of the past, standing proudly alongside its modern successor.

More Than Just a Lighthouse:

Godrevy also famously inspired Virginia Woolf’s modernist novel ‘To The Lighthouse’ with its remote beauty symbolising the journey through life itself across time.

To the Lighthouse

to the lighthouse virginia woolf

To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf is a masterpiece of modernist literature, exploring the complexities of human relationships and the passage of time. Set against the backdrop of a family’s summer vacation, Woolf delves into themes of memory, perception, and the elusive nature of artistic creation with exquisite prose and introspection.

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Don’t Miss Panoramic Viewing

With no direct access, the best way to soak up Godrevy Lighthouse involves finding those iconic uninterrupted viewing spots nearby like:

  • Southwest Coast Path Clifftops
  • North Cliffs Beach beside old mine buildings
  • National Trust’s Godrevy Cafe terrace over coffee and cake
  • Stunning vistas from Godrevy Head (former Iron Age promontory fort site)
surfers at godrevy

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the site wheelchair accessible? – The paths around the visitor centre and to the lighthouse viewpoint are mostly accessible, but the terrain can be uneven. Accessible toilets are available.

Are dogs allowed on-site? – Yes, dogs on leads are welcome, but please be mindful of other visitors and clean up after your pet. Dogs are not allowed on Harvey Towans beach in July or August.

Is there a cafe? – Yes, there is a good cafe for tea, coffee and simple snacks near the car park at the view point.


Nearby Attractions

After you have seen Godrevy lighthouse, have a look at some of these places:

  • Merry Maidens Stone Circle – Well-preserved Bronze Age stone circle dating back 4000 years. Just over 2 miles from Godrevy Lighthouse.
  • St Ives – Charming seaside town with golden beaches, coastal walks, art galleries, museums, and the Tate St Ives gallery.
  • Godolphin House and Gardens – Ruined 16th century house with medieval gardens. Offers scenic walks with views over St Ives Bay.
  • Levant Mine and Beam Engine – Tour the ruins of one of the world’s largest 19th century copper and tin mines and see restored steam engines.
  • Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens – Stunning gardens with contemporary sculptures and artworks set within a sub-tropical paradise.
  • Newquay Zoo – Zoo housing lions, lemurs, meerkats, penguins and 130 other species. Talks, feeds and interactive exhibits.
  • Blue Reef Aquarium – Aquarium in Newquay with sharks, rays, tropical fish and other marine life. Fun talks and feeding times.
  • Minack Theatre – Unique clifftop theatre with spectacular coastal views. Catch a performance or take a backstage tour.
  • Porthminster Beach – Golden sand beach in St Ives, popular for surfing and swimming. Overlooked by cafes and restaurants.
  • Heartlands – Visitor attraction with adventure play, arts and crafts, gardens and exhibitions on Cornish history and heritage.
  • St Michael’s Mount – Tidal island with medieval mount and castle that can be reached by foot at low tide.
  • Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden – Museum dedicated to the modern sculptor in her former studio and garden.

With quintessential Cornish views and plenty of coastal intrigue discoverable at Godrevy year-round, it rightfully retains prominence both guiding ships and inspiring souls still today. Just watch not to wander too close to crumbling cliffs while appreciating this famed masterpiece where land meets sea and sky!

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