Introduction to site
The settlement of Kynance Gate lies on a gentle slope on the edge of open moorland above a turbulent stream which runs down through a rocky gorge to the sea. ‘Kynans’ is Cornish for narrow valley or gorge and the site may well have been chosen for its easy defensibility on the seaward side.
Access and Facilities
Kynance Cove is signposted from the A3083. There is a National Trust car park. A track leads towards Kynance Cove with a footpath running off north crossing the valley and across a stream just to the south of the settlement. The settlement is located within open access land.
There are seasonal refreshment facilties and toilets available at Kynance Cove.
There are bus services to The Lizard, from which Kynance Cove is approximately 2km. Visit the Travelline website for customised sustainable transport options.
The site is free to visit, and is open any reasonable time in daylight hours.
View our interactive Access to Monuments map to find this and other nearby sites.
Excavation of the site has revealed an initial phase of occupation in the Middle Bronze Age starting around 1200 BC, which is focussed around a prominent outcrop of the distinctive Serpentine bedrock. At least two roundhouses with double faced walls constructed with large slabs of stone and rubble infill were revealed; their roofs would have been thatched with reeds collected from the valley below. A ‘paved surface’ surrounding the rocky outcrop had a number of small open hearths, including two with flues, interpreted as furnaces or kilns. Over 3,000 sherds of pottery were found, made from gabbroic clay derived from the weathering of the local bedrock (a coarse-grained basic intrusive rock known as Gabbro). Pots were made in a style called Trevisker Ware, named from the site near Newquay where it was first studied in detail. Other finds, including flints, several spindle whorls, glass beads, a broken mould for casting axes and a large number of ‘exotic’ stones and pebbles, may indicate that the settlement supported a range of specialist crafts-people including potters, and stone and metal workers. The serpentine outcrop may also have had a symbolic or ritual significance. This early settlement is thought to have been abandoned somewhere between 1000 and 600 BC (ie. Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age).
The structural remains visible today date from a re-occupation of the site during the Iron Age through to the Roman Period. This later settlement consists of two groups of stone-walled round houses; a northern group of five freestanding houses and a southern group of nine round or oval houses linked by low walls to form small courtyards. The southerly group is also focussed around the Serpentine outcrop and evidence suggests some re-occupation of the earlier Bronze Age houses as well as the construction of new ones. An additional enclosed area forming a terrace attached to the main courtyard area is thought to date wholly to the later Iron Age phase of occupation.
The absence of any field systems in the vicinity of the site may indicate that occupation at Kynance Gate was seasonal, based on a system of summer grazing known as transhumance, a practice still carried on in Alpine regions today. Farmers from permanent settlements located in more fertile or sheltered areas would have brought their flocks on to the moors and heaths to graze on fresh summer pastures. Today the site lies within a National Nature Reserve and an area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation due to the importance of the surrounding heathland. The serpentine outcrop in the centre of the settlement is home to a rare species of lichen. The settlement itself is protected as a Scheduled Monument.
Illustrations and Plans
Reconstruction (Thomas & Creeth 1960)
(Thomas & Creeth 1960)
- Nowakowski, J, 2006. Kynance Gate – Summary of Archaeology. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council.
- Preston-Jones, A, 19**. Kynance Gate Prehistoric Settlement. Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council.
- Thomas, I. 1957. The Lizard.
- Thomas, I, and WA Creeth. 1960. The Lizard. Vol 12, 8-13