B3306 from St Ives to St Just

B3306

South west's finest

Set the sat nav to Land's End and get going, I was on the way to find the B3306. 13 miles of coastal road linking the popular tourist destination of St Ives to the not so popular St Just. Late on a Saturday summer's evening I rolled into a bustling St Ives and checked into my Faulty Towers-esque hotel, with a very un-Faulty Towers price tag and settled down for the night. Morning broke and I took no time in vacating my hospital-style room and headed down for breakfast. On my tod I sat and enjoyed my plate of fried dead animals in preparation for my morning's drive. Brimming with protein and caffeine, I set off eagerly to see what all the fuss was about.

A quick climb up and out of St Ives and you're on the exposed squirming road that sits on the edge of the Celtic sea. Now I'd heard this road was tight, and right from the start it is, but that works in its favour as it immediately demands your attention and you're fully engaged from the off. Cruising along the road quickly becomes rather unpredictable and you round each bend with an air of anticipation of what lies ahead. It could be a diving turn, a quick straight, a sweeping climb or a massive cow, you just don't know. On a quiet day this is a road you can zip along nicely and you'll feel as free as a bird as you swoop about devouring hairpin after S bend. Find some traffic and it's not all doom and gloom, the twists and turns will keep you amused at relatively slow speeds. Admittedly it will get tedious if you get stuck behind them for too long and with passing points scarce, you might want to pull over and take advantage of some of the beautiful scenery that is in abundance on this route.

On a road so bijou the local inhabitants are doomed, and sure enough plenty lined the side of the road but it wasn't just our furry friends keen to bond with my machine. I found walkers around many corners wanting to be clipped by my wing mirror and spun into the path of the car behind me. Look out too for the death wish cyclists cruising along without a care in the world. I too was almost caught out by the surprising sight of an open top bus ploughing around the bend while its passengers, blissfully unaware of my impending doom, enjoyed the surroundings that are all the cliches you care to think of. But don't bother looking for too long at the rugged, windswept and atmospheric vistas because, apart from the big red bus, there'll be a corner to negotiate or an insurance claim to avoid up ahead.

As you pass Zennor, things change. Not only is the pace disrupted as the road tightens to navigate villages and farms, but so it would seem does time itself. For every mile further from St Ives you travel, further back in time you go. I was half expecting to see Dickensian scenes of children rolling wooden hoops down the street or legless sailors ravishing grubby looking women in alleys. But when you do arrive at St Just it's very much a tale of two cities as it looks as if the plague is in town as it's so dead. Sitting as the most westerly town in mainland England and Wales, it makes St Ives look like Rio de Janeiro during carnival season and you'll soon feel drawn back along the B3306 to be reunited with the relative bustle of St Ives.

Summary

It's a rascal of a road that needs a good clip around the ear. Enjoy it safely and you'll have a cracking little journey, get over zealous and you could regret it. The B3306 is tight, technical and twisty and more claustrophobic than the coffin they'll carry you away in if you treat it like your personal playground and not the very public road that it is. The best of the 13 miles is in the first 5, but on a stretch like this who's counting. Ironically, with all the talk of death this road is anything but lifeless, and can't fail to make you feel very, very alive.

Text comments
Howard (2012-09-29 14:10:15)

I drove this road a few years ago; I saw it on the map and knew I had to do it, the writer has it spot on, the only thing I have to add is I expected the view of the coast to be better due to the road running right along it but most of the time you are away from the edge. It really is old school Cornish scenary with Tin Mines dotted along the way, I could'nt believe how different it is from Devon.

At a glance

Distance

13 miles

Things you'll love

Tight turns, the feeling of flight, the petrol attendant who will try and fill your car up for you, a good pasty and the stunning views.

Look out for

The big red bus, slow cars around the corners and farm animals in the road.

In and around St Ives

Art

When you think of St Ives you'll think of the famous Tate but don't be fooled as there are many other galleries to explore in this part of the country.

Food

There are also as you'd expect some fantastic restaurants clustered around the harbour and you don't have to be a fish fanatic to enjoy them but it'll help. You may even be fortunate enough to see dolphins from your beach view table.

The Eden Project, St. Austell. Tel 01726 811911

The 8th Wonder of the World and home to the world's largest greenhouse. Two gigantic geodesic conservatories - one a majestic rainforest, the other is host to the fruits and flowers of the Mediterranean, South Africa and California. Outside the extensive grounds are landscaped and produce tea, lavender, sunflowers and hemp. There are plans for a future desert conservatory. There is a Cafe and facilities for the disabled.
www.edenproject.com

St. Michael's Mount (National Trust) Marazion, near Penzance. Tel 01736 710507

The jewel in Cornwall's crown, a fairytale island with an exotic garden, ancient harbour, a church and a medieval castle. Access from Marazion is by foot along the causeway, or by ferry at high water.
www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk

Lands End

The most westerly point in mainland Britain. Rugged wave lashed cliffs and stunning views. Longships Lighthouse and Wolf Rock are off shore and the Isles of Scilly in the distance. Exhibitions, craft and gift shops. Hotel and restaurant.
www.landsend-landmark.co.uk

The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Penzance. Tel: 01736 810181

A uniquely situated open-air theatre on the cliffs at Porthcurno, near Lands End. Performances take place most evenings and some afternoon matinees. The Rowena Cade Exhibition Centre tells the story of its creation.
www.minack.com

Coastal Walks

The entire coast of Cornwall is accessible via the coastal path. The views are magnificent, the cliffs supreme, wild flowers are in abundance, and hidden sandy coves an unexpected delight. Some parts may be rocky or steep but every step is worthwhile.

Flambards Village, Helston. Tel 01326 564093

The ultimate family day out - something for everyone Hornet Rollercoaster, Formula circuit, Space Orbiters, Log Flume Or wander through the twisting streets and alleyways of the lamp-lit Victorian Street....and much much more!
www.flambards.co.uk

Driving in Britain

Speed

The UK is the only country in Europe to measure their speed in Miles Per Hour, not Kilometers. Along with Malta and Cyprus they are the only country in Europe to drive on the left hand side. The UK speed limits range from as low as 20mph in built-up city areas up to 70mph on the motorway. It's understood that Police will allow you to drive 10% over the speed limit but it's the speed cameras you need to look out for. They are scattered everywhere and will take a picture of your car / plate while speeding. If you're driving a hire car when caught by a speed camera you'll probably be tracked down through your rental agency and issued with your ticket! Speed cameras are always accompanied by warning signs so look out for them while enjoying your drive.

Mobile Phones

The law states that it is illegal to ride a motorbike or drive a car while you are using a hand held communication device. Hands free phones may be used, but they are ultimately a distraction and you are still open to a charge of careless driving should a police officer think you are driving poorly while using one.

Driving Checklist

Things you might want to have with you

Driving licence (if from UK both card and paper licence)
Vehicle registration form
Insurance certificate
MOT certificate.
Headlight beam deflectors
First aid kit
Spare bulbs
Fire extinguisher
High visibilty jacket
Warning triangles

For more information on driving in Europe visit the European Traffic Police Network website www.tispol.org