There’s something about staring out into the vast blueness of the ocean that is deeply inspiring and humbling. No wonder then that we are drawn to the very edges of any country, where the only thing between us and the next land mass is nautical mile upon nautical mile of sea. Stand at any of these points, where land meets sea, and it’s easy to understand why the great explorers felt so compelled to discover what lay beyond the horizon. Here are just some of the most incredible promontories to visit:
Turn anywhere in any direction in South Africa’s Cape Town and your gaze can’t fail to be met with awe-inspiring scenery, from the Twelve Apostles mountain range to the vineyards stretching as far as eye can see in the winelands. Wild and windy Cape Point offers up some of the most spectacular vistas. Here, even if the rest of the country isn’t particularly blustery, the winds make your hair stand up on end, making for some amusing travel snaps. You’ll probably have the beaches here to yourself, with their piles of seaweed that the waves bring in and rocks worn by the seawater so they look like sculptures. The most southernmost part of the continent is littered with the remains of shipwrecks of vessels which fell victim to the rocks and extreme waves, and the ghost ship the Flying Dutchman is also said to have been spotted off the shore. Smitswinkel Tented Camp sits just over the road from Cape Point in the shade of a flowering gum plantation.
Sitting at the most south-westerly point of mainland Britain, Land’s End in Cornwall is the place to truly appreciate the relationship between land and sea. Contemplate the thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean which stretch out before you, and don’t forget to have your picture taken at the famous Land’s End signpost. Cornwall’s tip, thrust onto the worldwide stage in 2012 as the starting point for the summer Olympics torch relay, makes a great starting point for discovering the rest of the county. From here, a drive eastwards along the coast takes you past the pretty harbour town of Porthleven to the pretty coves at Mullion. Parkdean’s caravan park here makes a good base for exploring Cornwall’s breathtaking Lizard Peninsula.
Sitting at the western tip of Portugal’s Algarve, Sagres attracts a surfer crowd because of the breakers which sweep to the shore here. With its wind-whipped fortress high above the ocean, it has a definite end-of-the-world feel about it. Inside the Fortaleza de Sagres, the highlight is the huge wind rose, or compass, which is thought to have been restored wrongly with too many segments. Further along the coast, Cape St Vincent, Europe’s southwesternmost point, with its red lighthouse, is the perfect place to watch the sun go down. The D’Italia restaurant with its little wooden terrace is a good spot for lunch and the nearby Mareta Beach is a charming mid-range budget option with a hot tub and a garden which leads down to the beach.
Described as the full stop at the end of Britain, Out Stack, which is little more than a rocky outcrop is the last landmass before you reach the North Pole. While you can’t stay on Out Stack and there’s not an awful lot to see here, you can take a boat trip around it before exploring some of the rest of the otherworldly Shetland Islands. Carved by ice, the landscape is truly breathtaking, looking like something from a movie set. The islands are home to clown-like puffins and huge colonies of guillemots and you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins playing in the ocean. Fish and Chips at Frankie’s, which looks like little more than a corrugated shed, are a must. Britain’s most northerly fish and chip restaurant, it serves up battered haddock, blue shell mussels and scallops seared in garlic butter. What could be better than fresh, locally-caught seafood while sitting beside the sea?
For years, a major milestone on the Clipper Route, where ships carried goods around the world to trade, Cape Horn at the bottom of Chile now attracts tourists drawn to its wild and wonderful sense of isolation. Most people arrive by cruise ship, making the final bit of the journey in smaller lifeboats. Other than that, there’s not really another option, unless you have the funds to charter a helicopter. The lighthouse keeper at the Cape gives you an unofficial “visa” stamp to show you really did land there and you can buy souvenirs from her, a must if you want to say you’ve shopped in what must surely be the southernmost store in the world. You have to be lucky with the weather though because, if the winds whip up too strongly, the boats can’t land in fear they may flip over. Cape Horn is difficult to get to, but definitely one to tick off the bucket list.
Wherever you travel in the globe, sometimes heading to what looks like the very end of the world can provide your most dramatic moments, even if there’s not much more to see than a rocky outcrop and the crashing ocean.