The name is from the Cornish Porth Ust, the port or cove of St Just, which was shortened to Por’ Ust. The cove lies next to Cape Cornwall which was also linked to St Just, being called Kilgoodh Ust, meaning goose-back of St Just, in the Cornish language.
Wild and rugged beach at Cornwall’s western tip
Priest Cove at Cape Cornwall is one of those places that you can only find in Cornwall, a rocky beach with the remains of the Victorian mining industry all around and fishermen’s sheds overgrown by wild flowers. In the winter, the Atlantic storms batter the beach and surrounding cliffs, whilst off shore the Brisons rocks stand firm, despite everything thrown at them by the elements.
The beach itself is mainly a rugged collection of rocks and pools. A little bit of shingle can be found at the back and a small pool has been created amongst the rocks for safe paddling. At high tide much of the beach is underwater. A slipway onto the beach is still used by local fisherman, whose huts cling to the cliff, covered in flowers in the late spring/summer.
A National Trust run car park sits just above the cove, the area being presented to the National Trust by Heinz (of Baked Bean fame) in 1987. Public toilets and a refreshment van are open seasonally in the car park.
Towering above the beach is Cape Cornwall itself with its iconic mine chimney stack dating back to 1894. The area was heavily mined in the 1800s for copper and tin and at the back of the beach fenced off tunnels can still be seen leading deep underground and out to sea.
Off shore, the Brisons Rocks, known affectionately as ‘General de Gaulle in his bath’ are home to many types of seabirds and between them and the mainland is a dangerous reef that has claimed many a passing ship over the years.
The National Coast Watch have a lookout on the seaward side of the cape and welcome visitors as well as keeping an eye out for vessels going up and down the coast.
I have to say the view from the car park is amazing which is the point of this national trust property !