5 Fascinating Facts About the Lizard Peninsula

October 19th, 2020

 

The Lizard Peninsula is the most southern part of the UK, standing out for its unique geology and rock formations. Its rugged, rocky coastline is believed to contain rock which dates to over 500 million years old!

 

What is the Lizard Peninsula?

 

Almost an island of its own, the Lizard Peninsula is an impressive rocky headland surrounded by ocean on three of its sides with the Helford River to the North.

 

Situated on the South West Coast Path, it is a popular spot for walkers who come to marvel at its beauty as they enjoy a spot of adventure during their Cornwall short breaks.

 

It’s beautiful landscape not only attracts the attention of visitors, but the unique area is a hot spot for scientists as well! We explore its incredible history and offerings with our top selection of fascinating facts!

 
Rocky Cornish coastline
 

The Origins of Its Name is Not What You Assume

 

Despite its mysterious title, the name ‘Lizard’ unfortunately doesn’t derive from mystical origins.

 

Neither does the name come from the Serpentine rock which the area is renowned for. The surface of Serpentine transforms into a snake and scaly like surface once polished.

 

The roots of its name are relatively ambivalent, but one proposal is that it comes from the Cornish term ‘Lys Ardh’ which means ‘high court’.

 


Another suggestion is that the name has connections to the Cornish word ‘lezou’ which is translated to ‘headland’.

   
The RNLI boathouse at Lizard

Image Credit: Visit Cornwall

 

Home to the UK’s Most Southerly Lighthouse

 

As the most southerly point in the UK, it comes as little surprise that it also boasts the UK’s most southerly lighthouse.

 

Previous to the lighthouse’s construction in 1752, the coast of the Lizard was a dangerous area for ships and was titled the ‘Graveyard of Ships’. The spot is now home to the Lizard Lifeboat Station.

 
Serpentine rock

CC by Laurel F

 

Mainland Britain’s Largest Outcrop of Serpentine

 

As mentioned, the Lizard Peninsula has been a point of interest for scientists and geologists.

 

It isn’t uncommon to see many university students visit the area as the rocks here are not found in nearby locations.

 

One distinct rock is Serpentine. The Lizard Peninsula is mainland Britain’s most significant outcrop of the rock. It’s striking appearance was reportedly favoured by Queen Victoria which heightened the industry in the 19th-century.

 

Best Preserved Exposed Ophiolite in the UK

 

Another area of geological interest at the Lizard Peninsula is the ophiolite.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is heralded as UK’s top spot to see the best-preserved source of exposed ophiolite.

 

An ophiolite is a unique form of rock formation which is produced from the Earth’s oceanic crust pushed onto the continental crust. It is often green in colour.

 

The parts of ophiolite include:

• The serpentinites
• The ‘oceanic complex’
• The metamorphic basement

 

An ophiolite can be found in the mountain belts of locations such as the Himalayas and the Alps, and amazingly you can also see it in Cornwall!

 
Coastline at the Lizard

Image Credit: Visit Cornwall

 

It’s an Area of Outstanding Beauty

 

The Lizard Peninsula has received many awards for its stunning landscape and is a heavily protected area. It is largely recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), as well as providing eight Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These awards and sites are specifically bestowed to protect the geology and wildlife of the area.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is cared for and under the ownership of a variety of organisations including the National Trust, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Natural England.

 

Off land, the surrounding ocean at the Manacles has been awarded as a Marine Conservation Zone which is rich in marine biodiversity.

 

The Lizard Peninsula is a stunning, natural and protected area, providing the ultimate location for wildlife to blossom. What are your favourite facts about the Lizard Peninsula? Which has not been covered in our blog? Why not share your thoughts on our social media channels; we would love to know!