Beach That Inspired Virginia Woolf Sold at Auction

Adrian Versteegh

A Cornish beach thought to have been the inspiration behind Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To the Lighthouse sold at auction yesterday for £80,000 (about $130,000). The seventy-six acres of Upton Towans beach in Gwithian went to an unnamed buyer from London, who trumped competing bids from as far afield as Russia and the United States. Proceeds from the sale will benefit a local performing arts organization.

The property, which overlooks lighthouse-topped Godrevy Island, is close to the house in nearby St. Ives where Woolf spent twelve summers before the death of her mother in 1895. Although To the Lighthouse—Woolf’s fifth and most successful novel—takes place on the Scottish Isle of Skye, the author is said to have based the setting on memories of childhood vacations.

Reportedly a magnet for literary pilgrims and surfers alike, the beach was put up for auction by its previous owner in June to raise funds for the Hall for Cornwall, a theatre venue. According to the terms of the sale, the buyer (said to be a woman with Cornish connections) cannot develop or bar public access to the site. Richard Argles, who directed the auction, told the Guardian that the property was simply a “trophy” and that the new owner “does not plan to do anything with the beach other than simply own it.”