Zennor to The Carracks

The route heads out to the coast and follows the Coast Path around the twin promontories of Zennor Head to Porthzennor. The route descends towards the sea along Tregerthen Cliff where it's possible to climb down onto the rocks. The path climbs again and passes high above Wicca Pool before descending to Treveal Cove, where it's possible to climb down to the shore. Shortly after, the walk turns inland, following the river to Trevail Mill and then joining the ancient Coffin Path which it follows all the way back to Zennor Church and the Tinner's Arms.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.4 miles/8.6 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Zennor Church
  • Parking: Zennor car park. Satnav: TR263BY
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Panoramic coastal views from Zennor Head
  • Abundant wildlife both on the land and in the water
  • Vibrant wildflowers along the coast path and tracks in late Spring

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. Turn left out of the car park and follow the lane towards the church, keeping Bos Cres on your left, and turn left down the track marked "Coast Path". Follow this until it ends at a house, with a path leading ahead.

    The name Zennor comes from St Senara, to whom the church is dedicated. There were no roads to Zennor until the 1800s so goods were brought here on sledges pulled by animals.

  2. Follow the path ahead until you reach a sign for Zennor Head where the path meets the coast path.

    The twin promontaries of Zennor Head are along the coast path to your right and the long, thin headland behind the headland on the left is Gurnard's Head, due to its profile being similar to that of the fish.

  3. Keep right at the junction to join the coast path and follow it around the headland and behind Porthzennor Cove until it eventually ends at a T-junction with another path at a granite waymark.

    As you follow the path from Porthzennor Cove to the junction, notice how the stones on the path change from hard fine-grained rocks to coarse-grained granite and the path starts to get gritty from weathered granite. The huge blob of granite that makes up most of West Penwith starts here, but didn't quite make it as far as Zennor Head. However, the heat from the molten magma, that eventually cooled to form the granite, altered the surrounding rocks.

  4. When you reach the junction, turn left and follow the coast path around the bay to the headland and to the back of the next bay until you reach a stile, located between two waymarks.

    In this area, magma was forced under high pressure between the surrounding rocks which created granite sheets, visible as light-coloured bands in the darker rocks. You can see these in the rocks on the point that you cross over before you reach Wicca Pool, where the main mass of granite meets the sea.

  5. Cross the stile and follow the path until you eventually reach a stone stile.

    The rocky islands off the point are known as The Carracks.

    The Carracks are named after the Cornish word for "rock". The largest island in the group is sometimes known as "Seal Island" due to the grey seals that live there, and boat trips from St Ives can be seen visiting the island to see the seals. The group of smaller islands closer to St Ives are now known as The Little Carracks, but in the early 20th Century they were still known as Carrack-an-Heythen which is from the Cornish meaning "rock of the birds".

  6. Cross the stile and follow the coast path until you reach another stone stile.

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape. They are one of the best eating mushrooms and have firm white flesh.

  7. Cross the stile and follow the coast path until you reach a pedestrian gate.

    The rocks on the point surround a rocky lagoon that is isolated from the sea at low tide. The kelp beds surrounding the rocks provide shelter for small pollack which can be seen quite easily from the rocks when the sea is calm.

    Pollack spend much of their time around weed-covered rocks, ambushing small fish as sandeels. On offshore reefs and wrecks, pollack can grow up to a metre in length but close to the shore you’re most likely to see young fish of a few cm in length, which there was a word in Cornish specifically for: dojel.

    Pollack is a member of the cod family but until recently was an unpopular culinary fish. There are two reasons for this: as well as having a name that sounds like an insult, when the fish is dead, its flavour deteriorates faster than many other members of the cod family, so fish which is not very fresh smells “fishy”. However pollack is excellent to eat when very fresh, and since it is pretty much the only member of the code family that hasn’t yet been overfished, has made more of an appearance in supermarkets in recent years, often marketed as “coley” which was a fishmongers’ collective term for either pollack or its close cousin, the coalfish.

  8. Go through the gate and follow the path until you reach a rock with a sign indicating three different paths.
  9. Turn right onto the path (indicated on the granite post for River Cove & Field Path) and follow this until you reach a pedestrian gate on the right and a flight of steps on the left.
  10. Bear left down the steps and follow the path (through a gate half-way along) until it ends on a driveway for Trevail Mill.

    Mosses reproduce with tiny spores rather than seeds. Many mosses use wind to carry their spores but Spagnum (peat) mosses use compressed air to launch theirs. To get an idea of the acceleration that the spores are launched with, an astronaut in a rocket launch experiences an acceleration g-force of about 3-g and the maximum in a fighter jet is about 9-g. Spagnum moss spores are accelerated at 36,000-g! If that caused you to spill your cider, mosses are also able to absorb around 20 times their own weight in liquid.

  11. When you reach the driveway, turn right and follow it away from the mill until you reach a junction of tracks in front of a cottage.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  12. Bear left in front of the cottage in the direction signposted "Zennor Field Path" and continue on the track until you reach a waymark.
  13. Bear right onto the track and pass a cottage. Continue until you reach a waymark on the right at the farm.

    Wicca farm dates back 3,500 years to the Bronze Age, although the name "Wicca" stands out as not being an obvious Cornish name. It is unlikely to be from the Saxon word hwicce (meaning settlement) since the area was almost exclusively Celtic-speaking, so the chances are that this was a reference to witchcraft which was documented as existing in many of the neighbouring villages. Witches were said to congregate on the Burn Downs (the hill above Zennor) for their midsummer gathering and a rock known as Witches Rock once stood there until it was broken up and carted off in the 19th century. A local legend is that any woman who touched the Giant's Stone (a rock in a now overgrown area at the end of the short track leading from Zennor Church) nine times at night would turn into a witch.

  14. Go straight ahead towards the farmhouse then pass through the gap marked with a blue and yellow arrow. Cross two stiles in short succession then follow the right hedge of the larger field to reach a stile in the far hedge.

    Most of the stiles between the fields around Zennor resemble granite cattle grids and date from the 18th and 19th Centuries: granite was in ample supply here whereas building wood was not due to the feeble stunted trees on the moors here. Some of the stiles have impressively deep holes between the cross pieces so tread carefully. Some have cross pieces that are elevated to deter more adventurous livestock.

  15. Cross the stile and head to the stile ahead marked with white posts. Cross the stile between the posts and head across the field to a waymarked opening to the right of the field gate.

    If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • If cows approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size.
    • Avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If you can't avoid it: if cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  16. Go through the gap and head towards the buildings until you can see a waymarked path into the bushes - then head for this.

    The path across the fields is known as the Zennor Churchway or Coffin Path and runs all the way from St Ives to Pendeen across the flat "bench" cut into the granite by waves when sea levels were higher during the Pliocene era. The path was marked by a number of round-headed wayside crosses which date back to early mediaeval times, although not many survive intact. Some are now only evident as cross-bases - a roughly trimmed boulder containing a square hole to take the cross shaft.

  17. Cross the stile and follow the path through the bushes and over another stile until you reach a final stile leading into a field, beside an old building.

    The ruined building was a Methodist chapel, one of a number built along the line of the path stretching from St Ives to Pendeen. The founder of the Methodist movement - John Wesley - preached at some of these.

  18. Cross the stile and continue across the field to the waymark opposite. Follow the path through the bushes until you reach a crossing of paths in a clearing.
  19. Take the path ahead, leading through the bushes, to emerge onto a lane by a farm.

    Lichens are a partnership of two different organisms: a fungus providing the "accommodation" and an alga or cyanobacterium providing the "food" through photosynthesis. The fungal partner provides a cosy, sheltered environment for the alga and tends it with mineral nutrients. However, the alga partner is more than simply an imprisoned food-slave: it is such a closely-evolved alliance that the fungus is dependant on the alga for its shape and structure. If the fungal partner is isolated and grown on an agar plate, it forms a shapeless, infertile blob.

  20. Cross the stile on the opposite side of the lane and follow the right hedge of the field past the buildings and gateway to reach a stile in the far hedge.
  21. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a stile to the right of the gateway.

    The pattern of fields here is typical of Celtic farming, making it is one of the oldest continually-worked landscapes in the world.

    In Celtic times, fields were small and surrounded by banks or stone walls. The fields were used both for growing crops such as oats, wheat or rye, and for keeping livestock. The field shape was round or square, rather than rectangular, so that the stones didn't have to be carried further than necessary. The small size was because they needed to be weeded by hand, in many ways similar to a modern-day allotment.

  22. Cross the stile and cross the field to another stile to the right of the gateway.
  23. Cross the double stile and head straight across the field to a stile opposite.

    The mermaid of Zennor is a Cornish folk tale, recorded in the 1870s, which is thought to have been inspired by the carved bench end in the church, rather than the other way around (as some versions the legend state).

    The story is of a beautiful and richly-dressed woman who occasionally attended services at St. Senara's Church and enchanted parishioners with her beauty and her voice, though they were intrigued that she never seemed to age over the many years she was seen. The mysterious woman became interested in a young man named Mathey Trewella - the best singer in the parish, and one day he followed her home and the two disappeared. Neither was seen again until a boat was anchored near Pendour Cove and a mermaid appeared, asking the crew to lift the anchor as its fluke was resting on her door and she could not reach her children. The crew recognised the mermaid as the mysterious woman who had sung at the church.

  24. Cross the stile and then cross the field in the direction waymarked to a gateway.

    Stories of mythical half-woman half-fish creatures date back over 3000 years to Ancient Assyria and Greece and have been part of English culture for over 1000 years. The word “mermaid” comes from the old English word mere, meaning sea. Before the mid-19th Century, dugongs and manatees were routinely referred to as mermaids by mariners although in Cornwall, the most likely creature to be attributed to being a mermaid is a seal. The U.S. National Ocean Service felt it necessary to state in 2012 that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found.

  25. Go through the opening between the granite boulders then don't go through the gate but bear right to pass the gate on your left, then follow the left hedge to reach a stile onto a lane.

    Not to be confused with the Mermaid of Zennor, the Moomaid of Zennor Ice Cream is made at the farm on your right.

    Ice Cream is made at Tremedda Farm using milk from their dairy herd (whom they term the "Moomaids of Zennor") combined with Rodda's clotted cream, which itself is made from local milk including that from Tremedda. The Tremedda cows have names that range from the traditional Daisy and Primrose to the less traditional "Sid Vicious".

  26. Cross the lane and the stile directly opposite. Follow the right hedge of the field to a small path leading from the right-hand corner.
  27. Bear right down the path and follow it over a stile. Then follow the right hedge to reach another stile in the far hedge.
  28. Cross the stile and follow the narrow path along the edge of the field to reach another stile.

    The big hill on the left is Zennor Hill. At the top is a rock known as Logan Stone.

    A number of large rocking stones exist around Cornwall and are invariably given the name Logan Rock or Logan Stone. These are formed by weathering, where a horizontal crack is eroded away leaving a rounded boulder balanced on a block of granite. The word "logan" (pronounced "logg-un") is thought to be derived from the Cornish dialect word "log", meaning "to rock like a drunken man".

  29. Cross the stile and bear left slightly across the field towards the right-hand peak of the tor in the distance to reach a waymark between the granite boulders.
  30. Cross the waymarked stile and follow the right hedge to a path through the bushes. Follow the path over a stile and when you emerge in the field, cross to the stile on the right of the gate.
  31. Cross the stile and cross the field, in the direction waymarked, to the right of the protruding hedge. Follow along the hedge, keeping it on your left, to reach a stile between the two gates in the far hedge.

    Across Cornwall there is a rich vocabulary for terms of endearment. my 'ansome (usually directed at men by women) and my luvver are the most well-known. my beauty is also fairly well-known. my robin is used in West Cornwall, possibly more by the older generation, as is my burd (sometimes written my bird, but reported to be from the same origin as "buddy") or my pard. my cock or my cocker are also in use. You can encounter my luvvly in West Cornwall, possibly more amongst the younger generation, although there is some fairly heated debate over whether this is regarded as "proper" dialect. There are reports that my 'ansome is in also use Newfoundland.

  32. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to another stile. Continue along the right hedge to a stile next to the church which completes the circular route.

    The church building dates from Norman times, though the churchyard itself may date back further. The west tower is thought to be from the 13th century and the north aisle was added in a 15th Century rebuild. Only two of the 15th Century carved bench ends remain and these have been used to make the "mermaid chair", one end of which depicts the Mermaid of Zennor. It is thought that the octagonal font is mediaeval, and may date from the 13th century.

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:

  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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.

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