Cardinham and Bury Castle circular walk

Cardinham and Bury Castle

A circular walk in the tributary valleys of Cardinham Water to the remains of the Bury Castle hill fort where the ramparts are still over 14ft high even after more than 2000 years.

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The walk starts through a wooded valley to reach the Iron Age hillfort of Bury Castle. There is then is a gradual descent from the Downs with views over Cardinham village and woods to reach the church. The walk then descends into the valley, passing below the site of the Norman castle. The walk then turns upriver, criss-crossing the valley on footpaths, tracks and small lanes to return to the Treslea Downs.


Glorious views today on the Cardinham to Bury Castle walk :) A very interesting and pretty walk. :) This, so far has to be my favourite iwalk. The views from on high are amazing and there are so many pretty and interesting things to see all along the route from old derelict barns to shady woods and huge granite boulders. Great for dogs.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 4.7 miles/7.6 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Recommended footwear: Waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • Bury Castle - remains of a large Iron Age hillfort
  • Panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the Downs


  1. Make your way towards the no-through sign on the lane to reach the track to Higher Bury Farm on the left. Turn left onto this and follow it down the valley to a cattle grid. Cross this then pass the two waymarks as you head uphill. Continue until you reach a stony track leading from the left opposite a waymark post on the right with three blue arrows and a yellow arrow.

    In the sunny clearings along the track, damselflies can sometimes be seen on the vegetation near the river.

    Damselflies are predators similar to dragonflies but are easily distinguishable by the way their wings fold back parallel to the body when at rest whereas the dragonflies' wings are fixed at a right angle to the body. The Damselfly has a much smaller body than a dragonfly which means it has less stamina for flight. Nevertheless, it can hover, in a stationary position, long enough to pluck spiders from their webs.

    Woodland with plenty of bushes is an ideal habitat for blackbirds.

    Only male blackbirds are actually black. The females are brown. The difference in appearance between males and females is known as sexual dimorphism and is an evolutionary strategy by the males to get noticed more by females at the cost of decreased chances of survival.

  2. Turn left at the waymark and cross over the track to the path running between the hedges. Follow the path until it ends in a stile.

    During the spring, the path is lined with bluebells.

    In Old Cornish, both bluebells and marigolds where known as lesengoc which translates to "flower of the cuckoo". In Modern Cornish, the marigold has remained more-or-less the same but the bluebell has been changed to bleujenn an gog ("plant of the cuckoo"). The association between bluebells and cuckoos exists in Welsh ("bells of the cuckoo") and Gaelic ("cuckoo's shoe"), and in some English folk names such as Cuckoo's Boots and Cuckoo Stockings. It is thought that the association is due to the time that bluebells flower coinciding with the time that the call of the cuckoo is first heard.

    A thick outer bark on a tree helps to protect it from frost damage during the winter. The bark, which is often textured to trap air, and forms an insulating "buffer zone" that shields the living part of the tree, keeping this above freezing when there are sub-zero temperatures outside. The mass of dense wood inside the tree also acts as night store heater, absorbing heat during the day which is gradually released at night.

  3. Cross the stile and continue ahead keeping the embankment on your left to reach a wall on the far side, then follow along this to reach a gate.

    Bury Castle was a large Iron Age hilltop camp. A single bank and ditch remains, with the ramparts rising to an impressive 14 feet in places. The fort originally had a second outer rampart around its northern side (in the large field beside it) but much of this has been ploughed away to fill in the ditch that would have been in front of it, so that today it is just visible as a small ridge before the ditch of the inner rampart.

  4. Go through the gate and follow the track towards the church, Once through the line of gorse, bear right to a gate in the bottom hedge, with a stile to its right.

    The purpose of enclosures within ramparts varied quite considerably. Some were built as forts to defend from marauding invaders such as the seafaring Scandinavians. Others were defences built around small villages either as a status symbol/deterrent or for the more practical purpose of preventing domestic crimes such as theft of property by occupants of neighbouring villages. There were even some which were probably just a confined space used to stop livestock escaping!

  5. Cross the stile then turn right and follow the path through the enclosure to a gate at the far end.

    Whilst there are two Iron Age settlements in the area in Cardinham, there is very little evidence for any early mediaeval settlement. In most areas of Cornwall, place names starting with Tre- or Bos- indicate dwellings in the post-Roman period sometimes known as the Dark Ages. Based on the evidence of the field systems present, it is thought that the Cardinham area may have been abandoned after the Iron Age and not resettled until the late mediaeval period after the Norman conquest.

  6. Go through the gate and bear left slightly to pass the two dead trees on your right. Continue along the path until you reach a junction of paths where some narrow granite slabs across the path to the left.
  7. Turn left and follow the path over the granite slabs and down the field. As you approach the bottom, head for the pair of gates in the bottom-left corner of the field.

    Boulders of Bodmin Moor granite protrude from the thin soils of the downs.

    Granite mostly contains slightly acidic chemical compounds, and consequently there is nothing to neutralise acids arising from plant decay and carbon dioxide dissolved in rainwater, resulting in acidic moorland soils.

  8. Go through the left-hand gate and follow the track around a bend to the right and continue until it ends on a lane.

    Bracken is one of the acid-tolerant plants that is able to colonise the downs.

    Bracken is a type of fern. Perhaps the easiest way to spot mature bracken plants is by their sturdy stem which acts a bit like the trunk of a tree with leaves going out horizontally from this. Other ferns leaves tend to grow directly out of the ground. Earlier in the year, bracken is recognisable by the fronds emerging from the ground singly rather than grouped in tufts.

  9. Turn left onto the lane and follow it until you reach a grassy path on the right with a Public Footpath sign in the hedge.

    From April to June, white flowers of Greater Stitchwort can be seen along hedgerows and paths. The petals are quite distinctive as each one is split almost all the way to create pairs - most of the flowers typically have 5 pairs. The name comes from alleged powers to cure an exercise-induced stitch. Other common names include Star-of-Bethlehem (due to the shape and perhaps Easter flowering time) and Poor Man's Buttonhole for budget weddings. It is also known as Wedding Cakes but that may be more due to the colour than anticipation of what a buttonhole might lead to. The seed capsules can sometimes be heard bursting open in the late spring sunshine which gives rise to another name: Popguns.

    The large area of trees in the valley to the right is Cardinham Woods. This was used for forestry and some of the conifer plantations can be seen from here. Part of the woodland management plan is to increase the amount of native broadleaf species to promote biodiversity so over time areas of these conifers will be logged and native species will be allowed to colonise the cleared spaces.

  10. Turn right down the grassy path and follow this until it ends in a gate.

    The red campion produces a blaze of pink flowers along hedgerows in the spring with the most intense flowering period occurring between late April and the end of June. A scattering of flowers continue throughout the rest of the summer. In the mild Cornish climate, a few plants can often be seen flowering during winter months.

  11. Go through the gate and bear left to another gate beside the barn. Go through this and follow the left side of the yard to the waymarked gate. Go through this and walk ahead on the concrete then bear right to keep the cottage on your right. Go through the gate leading onto a driveway then follow this until it ends on a lane.

    The settlement of Penpoll was first recorded in 1430 and means "top of the stream". The Cornish word pol spans a fairly broad range of aquatic features from "stream" to "pool" and even "cove".

  12. Cross the lane to the Public Footpath sign opposite and cross the stile into the field. Bear right across the field to the pedestrian gate in the fence.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 (a lot of moo is needed for the cheese and clotted cream produced in Cornwall) so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields, but also on open moorland and sometimes for conservation grazing on the coast path too.

    The Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  13. Go through the gate and continue in the same direction to a gate in the corner of the field.

    The name "buttercup" is thought to have come from a mediaeval belief that cows eating the flowers gave butter its yellow colour. In fact this couldn't be further from the truth as the plant contains toxins which make it taste acrid and is therefore avoided by grazing animals.

    The word "downs" may seem strange for hilly moorland areas which are, if anything, "up". The reason is that it's derived from the Old English word dun meaning hill or moor which itself stems from the Celtic word din for hillfort (e.g. Castle-an-dinas and London). The word "dune" applied to sand is from similar origins but may have come from the original Celtic via Dutch and French where the meaning is "sand hill" rather than "moorland".

  14. Go through the gate and turn right to go through a kissing gate against the hedge. Once through this, bear left slightly across the field to join a track leading to a farm gate, but stop short when you reach a waymarked pedestrian gate on the right.

    Geese migrate to warmer climates for the winter and fly in a V-shaped formation known as a skein or wedge (on the ground, a collection of geese is known as a gaggle). The V-formation allows birds behind the leader to fly more efficiently as the rising air from flapping wings of the bird ahead helps to support the weight of the one behind. This can increase the range that the bird can fly by over 70%. The birds each take it in turns to do the harder job of flying at the front.

  15. Go through the pedestrian gate and rejoin the track. Follow this downhill to a lane.

    The village of Cardinham is thought to have originally been from the Cornish words car and dinas which would mean something along the lines of "enclosed fortress". Given the name, it is thought that some form of fortification has been present here since ancient times. A Norman castle was built here in around 1080 by the half-brother of William the Conqueror, who seized much of the land from the Priory of Bodmin.

  16. Turn right onto the lane and follow this to a junction opposite the church. The walk continues down the hill to the left but you may want to have a look at the church first. Follow the lane down the hill until you reach a gate on the left for "Wayside" with a Bridleway sign.

    The present church at Cardinham dates from the 15th Century, though the churchyard is thought to date back to Celtic times. The church was damaged during the Second World War by a somewhat off-target German bomb which was intended for Bodmin, but has since been repaired.

    Two Celtic crosses containing Latin inscriptions are located in the churchyard. These were found embedded in the walls of the church and were subsequently relocated to the churchyard. One has been dated to the 5-8th Century and the other to the 10-11th Century.

    The church is dedicated to St Meubred who is depicted in nearby St Neot church. St Meubred was an Irish missionary who came to Cornwall to preach to the moorland folk but had the misfortune of being beheaded in Rome. It is said his body was returned to the parish and buried here.

  17. Go through the main gate of "Wayside" (next to the Bridleway sign) and continue ahead through a gap in the bushes to an overgrown path. Keep right to follow the stream bed and reach a pedestrian gate. Go through this and follow the path to reach a stream crossing and gate.

    The stream is a tributary of Cardinham Water. The main river collects water from a number of streams running off the downs around Cardinham, and then flows through Fletchersbridge (where it was presumably once bridged by someone called Fletcher!) and joins the River Fowey in the Glynn Valley at the road bridge near Bodmin Parkway station. The well-known Cardinham Woods forestry plantation is along the valley of the river and its lower tributaries.

  18. Go through the gate and follow the path uphill, leading along the left hedge to a gate on the far side of the field.

    Further up the hill on the left (on private land) are the remains of Cardinham Castle.

    Cardinham Castle was built in late mediaeval times using the Norman motte and bailey design. Little remains now apart from a pair of earth banks but originally there would have been a stone tower on the mound in the centre. The stream was dammed in mediaeval times to form fish ponds and one large dam still remains.

  19. Go through the gate and follow the path around the barn to a track. Follow the track through a gate ahead to reach a lane.

    The barn was once a farm mill powered by an overshot waterwheel. The metal mill wheel is still present although the wooden slats have rotted away.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water. An overshot design also allowed the mill to be located slightly further away from the main river which had obvious advantages during floods.

  20. When you reach the lane, turn left and follow the lane until it ends in a junction.

    In the 11th Century after the Norman Conquest, the castle at Cardinham was held by Richard Fitz Turold - an Anglo-Norman landowner who also owned the manor of Penhallam. His family - known as the de Cardinhams - also owned Restormel Castle in the 12th Century but died out by the mid-13th Century. The estates were divided amongst the female descendants.

  21. Turn left at the junction and follow the lane until you reach a Public Footpath sign on the left.
  22. Go through the kissing gate on the left, beneath the footpath sign, and follow the left hedge to reach a gate on the opposite side of the field.

    If you are crossing a field in which there are horses:

    • Do not approach horses if they have foals, make loud noises nor walk between a foal and its mother as you may provoke the mother to defend her young. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Horses will often approach you as they are used to human contact. If horses approach you, do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. If you are uncomfortable with their proximity, calmly walk away.
    • Do not feed the horses with sweets or otherwise. Some food which is harmless to humans can be deadly to horses.
    • If you have a dog, keep it under close control in a visible but safe place, and as still and quiet as possible.
  23. Go through the sequence of two gates and follow the path along the hedge to the corner of the field, then turn right to stay in the field and follow the path to reach a gate.

    Daisy flowers are not actually a single flower but a composite made of lots of little flowers. Each tiny yellow dot making up the central area is a tubular flower. Similarly each petals is a specially-adapted miniature flower.

    There are over 30,000 miles of hedges in Cornwall, many of which are based on distinctive local styles of stone walling. Consequently, often what a Cornish person calls a "hedge", most people from outside the county do not recognise as a hedge, resulting in some foreign translation needed for walk directions.

    Some Cornish hedges are thought to be more than 4,000 years old, making them some of the oldest human-built structures in the world that have been in continuous use for their original purpose. They act as vital miniature nature reserves and wildlife corridors that link together other green spaces. This supports hundreds of species of plants and tens of thousands of insect species, many of which are vital pollinators for arable crops.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the path to a driveway and follow this through a gate to a lane. Turn right onto the lane and follow it uphill a short distance to reach a junction.

    The stream is the same one crossed earlier on the walk and you'll encounter it again at Treslea and in the woods closer to its source on Cardinham Moor. The waterside settlement where you currently are is known as Brightonwater Farm which is likely to be derived from the name of the stream.

  25. Turn left at the junction and follow the small lane until it ends in a T-junction.

    During spring, a pink version of bluebells flower along the lane. This could be a natural mutation or could be a pink variety of ornamental bluebells which have hydridised with the wild bluebells to create the "pinkbells".

  26. Turn left at the junction and follow the road over the bridge and cattle grid and uphill until you reach a Public Bridleway sign beside a driveway on the right.

    The bridge crosses the same stream that you crossed downstream of here near the start of the walk. This is a tributary of the Cardinham Water which it joins near Milltown before entering Cardinham Woods. Cardinham Water then passes through Fletchersbridge before its confluence with the River Fowey near Bodmin Parkway station.

  27. Turn right onto the driveway of Higher Treslea and then keep left to follow the track alongside the houses. Continue until you reach a fork.

    The settlement of Treslea was first recorded in 1421 as Treslegh and comes from the Cornish word for a stone or slab: legh. It may well refer to the stream crossing here and it has been suggested that the "res" in the name might come from the Cornish word rid, for ford. The settlement is now split into Higher and Lower Treslegh, either side of the road. It isn't known which is the older of the two.

  28. Keep left at the fork and follow the track to another fork with a metal gate leading into the field ahead and another one to the right.
  29. Bear right towards the gate into the field on the right but stop in front of this and turn left onto the track lined with trees either side. Follow this track uphill until you reach a wooden stile on the right opposite a stone stile on the left, shortly before the track ends in a gate.

    Compared to red squirrels, grey squirrels are able to eat a wider diet (including acorns), are larger so can survive colder winters, and are better able to survive in the fragmented habitats created by urbanisation. They are also thought to be carriers of a squirrel pox virus which they usually recover from but has been fatal to red squirrels, although red squirrels are now also developing some immunity.

  30. Cross the stile on the right and follow the embankment around the field to reach a stile into the woods.

    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 bleating, 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 a miscarriage. 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.

  31. Cross the stile and turn right as indicated by the waymark to follow the path downhill along the hedge. Continue until the path emerges onto a track.

    Some estimates suggest the UK has up to half of the world's total bluebell population; nowhere else in the world do they grow in such abundance. However, the poor bluebell faces a number of threats including climate change and hybridisation from garden plants. In the past, there has also been large-scale unsustainable removal of bulbs for sale although it is now a criminal offence to remove the bulbs of wild bluebells with a fine up to £5,000 per bulb!

    A mature tree can absorb tens of kilograms of carbon dioxide each year adding up to a tonne over a number of decades. However, burning one litre of petrol produces just over 2kg of carbon dioxide so it takes about half an acre of trees to absorb the average amount of carbon dioxide produced by one car in a year. When trees die and decompose, the majority of the carbon is gradually released back into the atmosphere depending on how fast the various bits of tree rot (the woody parts take longer).

  32. Turn right onto the track and follow it across the cattle grid, then uphill to the junction to complete the walk.

    Gorse flower wine can be made using 5 litres of gorse flowers stripped from the stems and simmering these in 5 litres of boiling water. Once the flowers are removed, 1.3kg of sugar should be dissolved in the hot water and allowed to cool to room temperature. Then add 500g of chopped raisins and juice and zest of 2 lemons and ferment with white wine yeast and yeast nutrient. Although flowers are present year-round, they are best picked in spring (April and May) when they are most profuse and fragrant.

    Beard-like lichens (known as Old Man's Beard) are very sensitive to sulphur dioxide in the air. Where the air quality is poor, at best they only manage to grow a few millimetres and may not survive at all. Long beards are therefore an indicator of clean air.

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