Lamorna and St Loy

The walk starts at the Merry Maidens stone circle and follows footpaths and small lanes to Lamorna Cove. From here, the route follows the Coast Path which involves an initial scramble over some granite boulders and then the rest is less demanding, passing the Tangyes' wildlife reserve, the Tater Du lighthouse and reaching the wooded vale at St Loy. After some boulder-hopping across the beach, the return route is up the wooded valley and along tracks and lanes, passing more prehistoric remains.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Merry Maidens
  • Parking: Merry Maidens Car Park. Follow the B3315 through Newlyn and Lamorna. After the turning for Menwinnion, look for the second parking area on the left - the one with the bus stop sign. Satnav: TR196BQ
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Rugged granite coastline around Lamorna and St Loy's coves
  • Tater Du lighthouse
  • Bluebell woodland at St Loy's Cove
  • Prehistoric remains including a stone circle, standing stones, ancient crosses and a burial chamber

Directions

  1. Cross the stile on the right of the gate next to the bus stop sign, and head to the centre of the stone circle. Continue to the opposite corner of the field to reach a stone stile next to the gate.

    The name for the stone circle - Merry Maidens - is from a myth that nineteen maidens were turned into stone as punishment for dancing on a Sunday. The Pipers, two megaliths on the opposite side of the road from the circle, are also mentioned as the petrified remains of the musicians who played for the dancers.

    The stone circle dates from the late neolithic period and although it now contains 19 standing stones, it is thought that there were originally only 18. This is because of a mid-19th century reconstruction effort where some of the old stones were moved and new stones were added.

    We can therefore assume that at least this version of the myth dates from Victorian times, given the number of maidens involved! The alternative name for the circle which was more common before the Victorian period, Dawn's Men, is thought to be a corruption of the Cornish Dans Maen meaning "Stone Dance".

  2. Cross the stile and bear right across the field beneath the telegraph pole to a pedestrian gate in front of the no-through road sign.

    Many of the folk names for standing stones such as the Hurlers, Pipers and Nine Maidens are based on petrification legends, which generally involve punishment for some form of Pagan fun such as dancing on a Sunday. It is thought that the early Christian Church encouraged such myths in an attempt to prevent old Pagan practices occuring at these sites.

  3. Go through the gate and climb down the stile. Turn right down the small lane signposted to Tregurnow Farm and follow it past Borah Chapel to a junction for Borah Farm Cottages.

    Rosemodress is one of the farms that supply milk to make Rodda's Cornish Clotted Cream.

    The Rodda family started making clotted cream in their farmhouse kitchen in Scorrier in 1890, which was initially just sold locally. A breakthrough came in the 1920s when William Rodda developed a technique for preserving the cream in glass jars and this allowed it to be transported to London. Department stores such as Harrods and Fortnum & Mason soon made large orders, but as the Roddas only had 12 cows on their farm, they began buying cream from local farms to supplement their own herd. By the 1930s, the demand had further increased and production was being scaled up, despite the lack of electricity and water on the farm at this point. Although there have been advances in production equipment, food hygiene and packaging, and Rodda's clotted cream is now sold all over the world, the business model hasn't fundamentally changed and cream from local farms is still brought to Scorrier. The milk used in the cream comes only from Cornwall and the farms that supply Roddas with their cream also need to meet high welfare standards.

  4. At the entrance to Borah Farm Cottages, keep left along the lane to pass Menwinion and reach a Public Bridleway sign. Follow the path marked as a bridleway until the path eventually meets a track. Cross over the track and continue ahead down the path to reach a lane.
  5. Turn right onto the lane and follow it down to Lamorna Cove.

    The Lamorna Wink was one of the original Kiddlywinks. The interior of the inn contains a collection of maritime artefacts, including the nameplate of the battleship Warspite.

    Kiddlywinks were beer houses which outside of Cornwall were generally known as Tiddlywinks. These became popular after the 1830 Beer Act which provided a relatively low-cost license from the Customs and Excise to sell beer or cider, but not spirits which required a Magistrate's Licence. In Cornwall, many also sold smuggled spirits. The origin of the name is the matter of some debate: one possibility is that "tiddlywink" was rhyming slang for "drink" or, particularly in Cornwall, a "wink" may have been a signal that contraband brandy could be obtained. However, it is generally thought that the slang phase for drunkenness - "to be a bit tiddly" - stems from these establishments.

  6. When you reach the cove, bear right and pass the café. Continue through the car park at the top of the quay to the end of the quarry to reach some yellow arrows painted on the rocks.

    In the 1880s, Newlyn, according to Wikipedia, "had a number of things guaranteed to attract artists: fantastic light, cheap living, and the availability of inexpensive models"! A colony of artists known as The Newlyn School formed here and painted outdoor scenes from the fishing villages.

    In this period, Lamorna also became popular with artists from the Newlyn School, in particular Samuel John Birch who settled in Lamorna in 1892 and became known as Lamorna Birch. A secondary colony subsequently formed around Lamorna. The Lamorna Arts Festival was launched in 2009 to celebrate the original Lamorna Colony and today's Lamorna art community.

  7. Carefully climb up the boulders in the direction indicated by the yellow arrows. Follow the path to a celtic cross on the headland.

    In the 1800s, the son of a large stonemasonry company in London travelled the length of the country searching for accessible granite quarry sites. He finally settled on Lamorna Cove and the quarry on the eastern side of the cove opened in 1849, with quarries on the other side of the cove and in the nearby hamlet of Sheffield also being worked in the late Victorian period, with the last finally closing in 1911. Granite was blasted and then chipped into shape by hand; the ringing noise from the hand-held chisels was reported as being incessant and deafening. The blocks were then loaded onto boats via a metal two-tier metal pier which extended into the sea on the east side of the cove.

    Lamorna granite was used in many Victorian engineering projects including the Wolf Rock and Longships lighthouses, Dover Admiralty Pier and breakwaters of Portland and Alderney. A number of iconic parts of London such as The Embankment and New Scotland Yard are also built from it.

  8. Continue on the coast path from the cross to reach a waymark.

    Scholars speculate that the Celtic Cross (a crucifix with a circular ring) developed from the sun cross (a cross inside a circle), a common symbol in artefacts of Prehistoric Europe, particularly during the Neolithic to Bronze Age periods. When Christianity came to the celtic regions, Christians extended the bottom spoke of this familiar symbol, to remind them of the cross on which their new Saviour was crucified.

  9. Follow the path to the next waymark, at a sharp bend in the path.
  10. Follow the path around the corner and bear left over the wall at the waymark. Continue along the path to reach the Derek and Jean Tangye Nature Reserve.

    The author Derek Tangye wrote 19 books from the 1960s to the 1990s about his life on a clifftop daffodil farm with his wife Jeannie and a menagerie of animals. His wife illustrated the books and also wrote four of her own. The farm, called Dorminack, was affectionately referred to as Minack and the Derek Tangye books consequently became known as "The Minack Chronicles". Towards the end of their lives, Derek and his wife bought the fields next to their cottage and Derek set up the Minack Chronicles Trust to manage this as a wildlife sanctuary after his death. The wildlife reserve is named "Oliver Land" after the Tangye's cat.

  11. When you reach the gate of the nature reserve, continue to follow the waymarked coast path to a pedestrian gate across the path.
  12. Go through the gate and follow the path up the hill to the top where a path from a gate on the right meets the coast path.
  13. At the top of the hill, keep left to stay on the coast path and follow this to a kissing gate.

    In 1911, the steam-powered cargo ship Hellopes ran aground on a reef in Africa. She was damaged beyond economic repair, but it was worth salvaging scrap from the 2,774 ton ship so she was patched up for towing back to the Falmouth breakers yard. To further cut their losses, her operators loaded her with a cargo of coal to make the journey slightly more profitable. However, this backfired when a fierce gale blew up as she approached the Cornish coast which caused her cargo of coal to shift. The ship began to list and the crew managed to escape in boats before it capsized and sank in Mount's Bay. The wreck now lies in just over 30 metres of water and is a fairly popular dive site as the bow and stern are still fairly intact including the ship's huge iron propeller. The ship's bell was salvaged by divers and is now in a dive centre in Falmouth.

  14. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a green iron gate.
  15. Go through the gate and follow the path to the ramp and steps to the lighthouse.

    The Tater Du lighthouse was built in 1965 after a Spanish coaster capsized in 1963 with the loss of 11 lives, following a campaign from the Newlyn and Mousehole Fishermen's Association to prevent further disasters. From its construction, the lighthouse was designed to be fully automatic, being controlled remotely from the Trinity House depot in Penzance. The lighthouse also had a fog horn, but this was turned off in 2012.

  16. From the lighthouse, continue ahead on the track and follow it to a gate with a small stile on the left.
  17. Cross the stile, or go through the gate if open, and follow the track (signposted to Penberth) to another gate.

    One of the cottages to the right is home of the author known as John Le Carré.

    John Le Carré is the nom-de-plume of the author David John Moore Cornwell. Popularly known as the "spy turned author", Cornwell was a member of the British Foreign Service from 1959 to 1964 and during the 1950s and the 1960s, Cornwell worked for the British Intelligence Services MI5 and MI6. He started writing novels in 1961, and since then has published over twenty books. He is regarded as one of the greatest espionage novelists of all time.

  18. Go through the gate and bear left down the waymarked path. Follow the path to reach a rock outcrop on the top of Boscowen Point.

    Shipping following the coastline into Mount's Bay, or rounding Land's End from The Channel, had to beware of the Runnel Stone.

    The Runnel Stone is a pinnacle reef situated roughly a mile south of Gwennap Head which is a notorious shipping hazard and was responsible for the grounding of at least 30 steamships between 1880 and 1923 alone. The reef used to break the surface at low water until 1923 when a 6,000 ton steamship called The City of Westminster, which was laden with maize from South Africa, ploughed into the reef with such force that the top 20 feet of the reef was broken off. The ship didn't fare too well either and sank, but fortunately all aboard were saved by the Sennen and Penlee lifeboats. The bow and stern of the wreck are still identifiable by divers but there is so much wreckage from other ships that it's hard to tell which is which.

  19. At the rock outcrop, bear right and follow the path up the cliff. Continue on the path to pass an old stile and reach a line of boulders across the path.

    The SS Lincoln was an early steamship which was carrying a cargo of coal in May 1886 and struck the Runnel Stone in thick fog. She drifted for a while before sinking approximately a mile and a half off St. Loys Bay. The wreck lies in about 30 metres of water and is now quite broken up but still provides a refuge from the strong currents for delicate marine life such as sea cucumbers.

  20. Step over the boulders and follow the path through the woods to emerge on the beach.

    St. Loy's Cove is rumoured to be the warmest cove on mainland Britain during winter. In reality, the warmest location probably varies a little from year to year, but it is true that some of the mildest winter temperatures are found in Southwest Cornwall as winter temperatures increase in a southerly and westerly direction across Britain. South-facing bays also have the benefit of catching the winter sunshine whilst having some shelter from prevailing westerly, or cold northerly and easterly winds.

  21. Carefully make your way along the beach, hopping from boulder to boulder. Bear right towards the top of the beach, aiming for the point where the fence on the right ends. As you approach, you'll see a waymark - make for this.

    There is often a fish crate on the beach to collect any flotsam so if you encounter any washed-up flip-flops or wellies on your way across the beach you can deposit them in there.

  22. At the waymark, bear right up the steps and follow the path along the fence and over the footbridge. Continue until the path ends on a track.

    In October 1912, the French steamer Abertay ran aground at St. Loy's Cove in thick fog. A newspaper at the time reported:

    The crew were astounded to find themselves alongside a large steamer; they shouted but got no reply from the vessel that towered over them, and they took her for an abandoned wreck. The Abertay was badly holed aft and, fearing she would sink, the crew clambered aboard the other vessel.

    The vessel they boarded was the SS South America, which had itself run aground at St Loy's Cove in thick fog seven months before, and had been abandoned after the attempts to refloat it had failed. The crew spent the night on the wreck of the large ship and climbed down to safety the following morning.

  23. Cross the track to the waymarked path opposite and follow this up the bank to a waymark.
  24. When you reach the waymark at the top, turn right and cross the stile. Follow the path across some stepping stones and a stream crossing to a gate.
  25. Go through the gate and follow the path alongside the stream until the path passes through a bank into a clearing and there is a track on the right with a small path leading up to it.

    The deciduous woodland includes beech and chestnut trees.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their various campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops. In terms of nutrition, chestnuts contain very little fat and are in many ways more similar to a cereal than other nuts, containing principally starch and sugars. They are consequently much less calorific: the kernels contain around a third of the calories of a similar weight of other nuts.

    The size of the nuts from British trees is quite variable but the largest approach that of the nuts sold in supermarkets. Nuts that are very flat or less than the girth of your little finger are not worth harvesting; anything bigger is viable. A painless way to extract the nuts is to grip the husk between your feet and rub it between your boots or against the ground. This saves having to handle the spiky husks as the spikes are very sharp and tend to break off under the skin to leave behind splinters. Often the husks contain one (fairly round) large nut surrounded by several small, flat nuts, so it's worth squeezing out quite a few husks to get the larger nuts. Discard any nuts with holes in (as they will contain maggots) or that are very dark in colour - the fresher ones will be "chestnut" brown rather than dark brown.

  26. Bear right up the path to reach the track, then bear left onto the track and follow it uphill to reach a gate.

    To prepare wild chestnuts, prick each of your chestnuts with a skewer or slit the shell with a knife - this is vital to stop them exploding (and disappearing into dust). Bake them in a hot oven for at least 10 minutes. Wild chestnuts are harder to shell than the shop-bought variety as the shells are much thinner and the nuts are often smaller. An easier way to separate the edible part from the shell is to simply slice the shell in half and then scoop out the contents with the point of a knife blade. Also this way, the bitter pith covering the outside of the nut is left behind in the shell. The contents of the nut should be fluffy and pale yellow; discard any that are brown. Separating the flesh from the shells is a fairly tedious process, but with a few friends armed with large cups of tea, a formidable amount of chestnut can be extracted which can be used to make stuffings, soups or whizzed into flour and added to bread recipes. It also freezes nicely so it can be stored up for Christmas recipes.

  27. Go through the gate and continue ahead onto the concrete track. Follow this to a house.
  28. Turn left at the house to stay on the track and follow it past some more buildings to a junction of tracks at Boskenna Farm.
  29. Turn left to follow the concrete track away from the farm. Continue, as the track becomes a lane, until you reach a farm gate with a pedestrian gate on the right, just past a house on a bend in the track.
  30. Go through the gate and cross the field to a stile roughly a quarter of the way along the fence on the right. Cross the stile and continue up the field to a gateway beside a footpath sign in the corner of the field.

    On the other side of the gateway, on the left, is Boskenna cross.

    The ancient cross head was found in a hedge during roadworks in 1869 and remounted in a purpose made grass triangle in the middle of the road on a new base. This turned out not to be compatible with the thick coastal fog: it was hit by an army lorry in 1941, then later by another vehicle, at which point it was moved to its present location in a layby. Even in the layby, a car still managed to hit it in thick fog in 1992. It is inscribed with a figure with outstretched arms and feet on the front which is thought might represent Christ, and a four-armed wheel cross on the rear. The cross base was made from an old granite field roller, a millstone and the base of a cider press.

  31. Go through the gateway to reach the road. Turn right and follow the road carefully back to your car.

    The Tregiffian Barrow was originally circular but the northern half has been obliterated by the road. Within the centre of the barrow is a burial chamber roughly fifteen feet long, constructed from large upright granite slabs, roofed by four (perhaps originally five) even larger slabs each spanning around 6 feet. The interior also contains some sections of dry stone walling.

    One of the wallstones is decorated with 25 rounded hollows known as cupmarks - a form of prehistoric decoration, the purpose of which is not understood. In the case of Tregiffian Barrow, it has been suggested that the markings are connected to the cycles of the moon. In one year there are 13 full moons and 12 new moons, or vice-versa, totalling 25, thus a pebble moved between the cups could act as a calendar. A replica now stands in place of the original decorated slab which was taken to the Cornwall Museum in Truro to protect it.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?