Rosemergy to Gurnard's Head

The walk follows the Porthmoina valley to the coast and then joins the Coast Path to Bosigran Castle - a fortified headland. The route continues along the coast to Porthmeor Cove where the mass of Lands End granite meets the older slate rocks in some geological fireworks. The walk continues around the coast to Gurnard's Head, where it turns inland through Treen to the Gurnard's Head pub. From here, the route follows the Zennor Churchway, passing the tin dressing floors of Porthmeor mine and Bosigran Farm on the way back to Rosemergy.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Carngalver mine car park
  • Parking: Carngalver mine car park. On the B3306 between Zennor and Pendeen, the car park is beside two engine houses about 200 metres in the direction of Zennor from Rosemergy Satnav: TR208YX
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic coastal views from Bosigran Castle
  • Sandy beach at Porthmeor Cove at low tide
  • Geological SSSI at Porthmeor Cove and some pretty boulders and pebbles for the less geologically-inclined

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Take the path to the right of the engine houses. Follow it to reach a gate.

    Carn Galver Mine operated until the late 19th Century extracting tin ore. The mine was very wet and was drained by an adit running down to Porthmoina Cove and from below this level, the engine house on which a chimney still remains was used to pump water from the mine. The other engine house was used for hauling up the ore and crushing it. The cottage beside the engine houses was formerly the Count House where miners would be paid. The mine didn't turn out to be very productive and became uneconomical, partly due to the cost of draining it.

  2. Cross the stile next to the gate and follow the path through a gateway. Continue alongside the bracken to reach a gate at the bottom of the far hedge.
  3. Cross the stile next to the gate and keep right to reach a National Trust sign. Then follow the rocky path up to the headland past one large rocky outcrop and you reach a fork in the path before another large outcrop ahead.

    The buildings in the valley were associated with the mine and included a tin mill with a wheelpit. As you climb up to the headland you can also see a tunnel at the back of the cove which is a drainage adit for the mine.

    An adit is a roughly horizontal tunnel going into a mine. In Cornwall these were important for drainage as many of the ore-bearing veins are close to vertical, through which water can easily seep. Drainage adits were sloped slightly upwards to meet the main shaft, so water trickling into the main shaft from above could be diverted out of the adit. Below the adit, steam engines were needed to pump the water up to the level of the adit where it could then drain away.

    The rusty colour below the tunnel is from iron dissolved into the water from the lodes in the mine.

  4. Keep left to follow the path to the rock outcrop, crossing over a line of boulders forming wall to reach a long boulder in front of a grassy area. From here you can explore the headland which has excellent views, then return to the grassy area by the long boulder and (facing inland) bear left to follow the path through a gap in the wall. Continue to meet the wall on the left and follow the path alongside this until you reach a corner with another wall where there is a small granite waymark.

    An Iron Age fort was situated on the headland of Bosigran. A wall roughly 100 metres in length has been built across the promontory, linking the cliffs, to enclose it. The size and the way it is constructed varies along its length from simple large stones in a line to drystone wall backfilled with rubble, indicating it has been repaired or modified since it was originally built. It's possible that it was later used to contain livestock to separate the two grazing areas either side of the wall running inland.

  5. Cross over the wall on the left and follow the coast path down into the dip between the headlands then keep right to find the path that climbs up the next headland. Continue until you reach a line of boundary stones at the top.
  6. Follow the coast path to reach a pedestrian gate overlooking Porthmeor Cove.

    Porthmeor Cove is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its geology. In fact it is cited as one of the most important geological locations in Southwest England. It lies on the boundary of the West Penwith granite and the effects of the molten granite intruding into the surrounding rocks can be seen quite clearly here as the granite is a light colour and the surrounding slate is much darker. Along one side of the cove, a round area of granite can be seen, completely surrounded by darker rock. This is known as a cupola, where the blob of granite rose up from below rather like in a lava lamp. Leading from this are thin bands where the molten granite forced its way along cracks in the bedrock.

  7. Go through the gate and follow one of the rocky paths through the patch of boulders then make for the stone crossings over the streams. Continue over 3 crossings, to reach a junction of paths immediately after the third crossing.
  8. After the crossing bear left, then at another junction of paths, keep right to follow the path in the direction of the steps leading up the coast. Follow the path over a stile and through a gate to reach a granite footbridge.

    At the junction of paths, the path leading to the left leads onto a small promontory between the two streams and there is a steep path leading down the beach from the very end.

  9. Cross the footbridge and follow the path upstream to a bend. Keep left around the bend then follow the steps up the headland. Continue to reach a stile across the path.
  10. Cross the stile and follow the path to reach another stile.

    Gurnard's Head is the site of an Iron Age promontory fort known as Trereen Dinas, the meaning of which is along the lines of "fort at the farm on the point". The narrowest part of the promontory was fortified to create a defended enclosure, protected on 3 sides by the cliffs. The remnants of the fortifications are still visible as a ditch and a bank with some drystone walling.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path to Gurnard's Head where the path crosses a wall beside a post. Continue from the wall a short distance to reach a crossing of paths.

    The engine house ahead was part of Gurnard's Head mine.

    A copper mine on Gurnard's Head was in operation before 1821 initially under the name of Wheal Treen and was later worked under the name of Gurnard's Head Mine. By 1877 it had fallen into disuse. The ruined engine house and mine buildings are now all that remains.

  12. Turn right at the crossing and follow the path inland to reach a stile.

    A huer's hut was located on Gurnard's Head to look out for pilchards. A small pilchard processing house was also located nearby. Little remains as all the stone from the buildings has been "re-purposed". On the end of the low promontory jutting out into Treen cove, the remains of a Victorian pilchard cellar can also be seen.

  13. Cross the stile into the field and continue ahead to a gateway opposite.

    Cornish pilchard fisheries existed in mediaeval times, and in this period, the fish were smoked to preserve them before export to Spain and Italy. From Tudor times until the early 20th Century, Cornwall's pilchard fisheries were of national importance, with the bulk of the catch being exported almost exclusively to Italian Catholics for religious fasting (Cornish pilchards were a staple ingredient of spaghetti alla puttanesca). The pilchards were salted and then pressed to extract the oil which was sold as somewhat aromatic lamp oil. The fish were then packed with more salt into hogshead barrels which could fit up to 3000 fish per barrel. Huers (cliff top lookouts) helped locate shoals of fish. The huer would shout 'Hevva!, Hevva!' (the Cornish word for "shoal") to alert the boats to the location of the pilchard shoals. The name "huer" is from the old French verb meaning "to shout".

  14. Go through the gateway and follow along the right hedge to reach a flight of granite steps in the corner of the field.

    During the late 1950s, the Penzance Chamber of Trade and Town Council discussed building an "Atomic Research Station" near Gurnard's Head. Fortunately this didn't come to fruition as an ageing nuclear reactor would not have enhanced the views or the enthusiasm for local produce.

  15. Climb the steps and follow the right hedge to reach a pedestrian gate in the far hedge.
  16. Go through the gate and climb the stile then follow the path over another stile and onto a driveway. Bear right along the driveway to join a lane and follow this until it ends next to the Gurnard's Head.

    The settlement and manor of Treen is first recorded in 1304 as Tredyn, based on the Cornish words tre (farmstead) and dinas (fort). This refers to the hillfort on Gurnard's Head, known as Trereen Dinas which also includes the word rynn meaning "point". The hamlet appeared on Victorian maps as "Trereen" and has subsequently become shortened to "Treen".

    Since farms and headlands with cliff castles are not uncommon in Cornwall, there is another Treryn Dinas near Porthcurno and a corresponding village also now called "Treen".

  17. Turn right at the Gurnard's Head and carefully follow the road until you reach a waymarked stile on the right.

    The Gurnard's Head is reported as being built in 1812, and from the roof you can tell it was originally known as The Gurnards Head Hotel. It was refurbished in 2000 and is still a hotel but now owned by EatDrinkSleep who also operate it as one of their small number of award-winning gastro pubs.

  18. Cross the stile on the right and walk directly ahead across the field to another stile in front of the farmyard.

    Note the standing stone in the centre of the field. It is thought that this might have been an ancient route marker for the path.

    Large upright standing stones are known as menhirs due to the celtic words men meaning stone and hir meaning long. The reason for their construction is unknown; currently the most popular theories are ceremonial or calendrical. Until recently, menhirs were associated with the Beaker people who inhabited Europe during the late Neolithic and early Bronze age (4-5 thousand years ago) but recent research suggests an older origin (perhaps 6-7 thousand years ago, at the very start of the Neolithic period in Britain).

  19. Cross the stile into the farmyard and pass the barns on your right to reach a field. Continue straight ahead across the field to a waymarked stile between two buildings.

    Porthmeor has been farmed by the Berryman family since the 17th Century and still is at the time of writing. Annie Berryman was born in Porthmeor in 1899 and her great grandson recalled that she used to address him with an old dialect term of endearment, as "my gold", which has now almost died out. A couple of other people from West Cornwall also recall their grandmothers using it. We think it's rather charming and suggest addressing your fellow walkers accordingly.

  20. Cross the stile and follow the path over two stone stiles between the buildings. Continue across the field in the line of the stiles you can see up the hill ahead to reach a stile in a gap in the hedge.

    The route across the fields from Treen to Rosemergy is part of the Zennor Churchway - an ancient route running all the way from St Ives to Pendeen and possibly onwards to St Just.

  21. Climb the stile and follow the path to a river crossing. Continue up the other side to reach a stile next to the gate.
  22. Cross the stile and follow the path over another stile. Keep right along the path when it winds through some fields. Once you can see some farm buildings then head to the gate and stile in front of these.
  23. Cross the stile and bear left past the buildings to reach a waymarked gate on the right of the large barn.

    Near the farm is the base of a wayside cross, now little more than a granite block with a hole in it.

    There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.

  24. Go through the gate and the one after it. Then follow the track away from the barn to a pair of gateways with a stile on the left.
  25. Cross the stile and stile opposite, to the left of the gateway. Then cross the field to another stile to the left of the gateway.

    If there are sheep in the field and you have a dog, make sure it's securely on its lead (sheep are prone to panic and injuring themselves even if a dog is just being inquisitive). If the sheep start bleeting, this means they are scared and they are liable to panic. If there are pregnant sheep in the field, be particularly sensitive as a scare can cause the lambs to be stillborn. If there are sheep in the field with lambs, avoid approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a lamb and its mother, as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Sheep may look cute but if provoked they can cause serious injury (hence the verb "to ram"). Generally, the best plan is to walk quietly along the hedges and they will move away or ignore you.

  26. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge to a line of boulders beside the gateway.
  27. Turn left through the gap in the boulders and bear right across the field to a stile roughly half-way between the gateway on the right and the far right corner of the field.
  28. Cross the stile and turn left. Follow the left hedge to the gateway.
  29. Go through the gateway and cross the field to the pedestrian gate opposite.
  30. Go through the gate and then bear right slightly to follow a broken path running parallel to the coast to reach a gateway.

    The hill to the left with the rock outcrops is Carn Galver.

    The name Carn Galver (sometimes written Carn Galva) is from the Cornish words karn (rock pile or tor) and gwelva (view-point), referring to the rocky crags at the top of the moor that overlook the coast.

    If you still have energy left after the walk, a path leads up to the top from the small lay-by on the opposite side of the road from the engine houses. As the name implies, the view is truly excellent. It's roughly a 10-15 minute walk to the top.

  31. Go through the gateway and walk parallel to the wall on the right until you can see a gateway in the wall, then head for this.

    The hill beyond Carn Galver is Watch Croft, the highest point in Penwith at 252 metres (827 feet).

  32. Go through the gateway then bear left to the two gateways. Go through the one on the left and cross the field diagonally to reach the path on which you started out. Turn left onto this and follow it uphill to reach the gate and stile. After the gate, keep left at the fork to re-trace your steps back to the car park.

    The settlement of Rosemergy was recorded in 1327 when it was possibly also known as "Tremergy". The name Rosemergy is likely to be from the Cornish words ros which can either mean "moorland" or "promontory" and merghik, meaning "pony". The latter might have been used in a compound word such as mergh-jy, meaning "stable".

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. We'd be also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Please let us know if there are any nice displays of thrift (sea pinks) along the route

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