Circular walk to Lamorna Cove and St Loy

Lamorna and St Loy

A circular walk visiting prehistoric stone circles, crosses and tombs and along the granite cliffs from Lamorna Cove to the sea-polished boulders of St Loy's Cove where sailors of a sinking vessel were able to climb to safety onto a large ship which had been wrecked there seven months before.

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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.


  • The coast path leaving Lamorna Cove involves climbing over boulders. The route across St Loy's cove is covered in granite boulders which need to be carefully crossed (a few wobble).
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 5.1 miles/8.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: Walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 102 OS Explorer 102 (laminated version)

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


  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • Lamorna Wink


  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 the hedge.

    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 occurring at these sites.

    More about petrification myths.

  3. Go through the gate and climb down the stile. Turn right onto the small tarmacked lane marked with a no-through road sign. Follow the lane 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 Rodda's 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 Menwinnion 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.

    During late winter or early spring, if you encounter a patch of plants with white bell-shaped flowers, smelling strongly of onions, and with long, narrow leaves then they are likely to be three-cornered leeks. Once you're familiar with their narrow, ridged leaves, you'll be able to spot these emerging from late October onwards.

    The plant spreads to form dense colonies, crowding-out native species. The onion-flavoured seeds are very attractive to ants who carry them quite large distances and forget some of them, allowing the plant to colonise new areas. In fact three-cornered leeks are so invasive that they are illegal to plant in the wild.

    There are nearly 400 miles of public bridleway in Cornwall, marked with blue waymarks, which are also open to horses and cyclists, although there is no obligation to make them navigable by any means other than on foot. The general public are also legally entitled to drove livestock along public bridleways, and although Cornwall has more than its share of eccentrics, this is something we've yet to see.

  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 and join the track leading from the far side. Follow this to the far end where there are steps cut into 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.

    More about the Lamorna art scene.

  7. Carefully climb up steps and head between the boulders in the direction indicated by the yellow arrow. 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 eventually climb a flight of steps and reach a path leading to the left onto the headland.

    The cross is a memorial to a 23-year-old Cambridge undergraduate who sadly fell to his death in 1873 when on holiday with his sister. He was collecting ferns which was a trendy hobby in Victorian times. The fern craze was even given a suitably pretentious name in Latin: Pteridomania. The resulting decimation of rare fern species led to a call for "fern laws" to protect them. At least one other fern collector also fell to his death from a cliff edge.

  9. Continue a few paces around the corner on the main path to reach a junction of paths with a kissing gate on the right and the path to the left passing over a wall. Bear left over the wall and continue along the path to reach a kissing gate on the right.

    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.

  10. Continue ahead on the waymarked coast path to the top of the hill where a path from a gate on the right meets the coast path.

    The common name "foxglove" dates back many hundreds of years but the origin is unknown. The "gloves" almost certainly refers to the shape of the flowers, and the Latin name Digitalis (finger-like) is along similar lines. The curious part is the "fox" and many different suggestions have been made as to where it came from. It is possible that it is a corruption of another word. One suggestion is "folks" which was once used to mean "fairies".

    Both Common Dolphins and Bottle-nosed Dolphins are quite frequently encountered off Cornwall. Bottle-nosed Dolphins are the species found in marine parks and are the saloon car of the dolphin world: quite large (adults are 7-12ft long), plain grey and tend to cruise at fairly low speeds though they can do short bursts of over 30km/h. Common Dolphins are their sports car cousins: a little smaller (adults are 6-8ft long) with a flashy hourglass-shaped "go faster" stripe of gold at the front and light grey at the back and can swim up to 60km/h. The considerable intelligence of dolphins includes the ability to learn new behaviours from each other and cooperate with other dolphins or even human fishermen to catch fish.

  11. 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.

  12. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path to a green iron gate.

    A few different factors all combine to vary the colour of the sea:

    A glass in your hand might lure you into thinking otherwise, but pure water is faintly blue. The main wavelengths that the chemical bonds in water absorb are either in the infra-red or ultra-violet, and not in the visible spectrum, which is why a glass of pure water does not look coloured. However one fairly obscure harmonic of the vibrations in the water molecule corresponds to the wavelength of red light and so water very weakly absorbs the red from white light, giving it a very slightly blue tinge. If there is enough water, both the blue tinge and reflection of blue light by any suspended particles make it look blue.

    Another factor is that the surface of the ocean acts as a mirror and reflects the colour of the sky and this is why it may appear grey under a cloudy sky. Under a blue sky, this intensifies the blueness.

    In shallow water, the sand which is golden in Cornwall due to fragments of seashell, reflects yellow light and this combines with the blue from seawater to generate colours from green to turquoise. The ocean also sometimes appears green due to the presence of planktonic plant life.

    The Cornish language has a word glas (often appearing in place names as "glaze") which is the Swiss Army Knife of sea colour descriptions. It means blue, or green, or grey.

    Some of the tourism literature used to say that the green colour of the sea in Cornwall was due to copper dissolved in the water. This is total nonsense. In order to be visible, the concentration of copper salts have to be incredibly high which would never happen with an entire Atlantic Ocean to dilute it. The highest copper levels are found in estuaries fed by rivers into which mines drain. There are at most in the order of micrograms per litre and are carefully monitored by the Environment Agency.

  13. 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.

    More about Tater Du

  14. From the lighthouse, continue ahead on the track and follow it to a gate with a small stile on the left.

    As you walk around the bend, the headland sticking out furthest is the site of the Treryn Dinas cliff castle and Logan Rock.

    Logan Rock is a granite boulder of about 90 tons, originally known as Men Omborth (meaning "balanced stone"), and is the most famous of all the rocking stones in Cornwall. This is in part due to an account in "Antiquities of Cornwall" from 1754 which stated: "it is morally impossible that any lever, or indeed force, however applied in a mechanical way, can remove it from its present situation." This challenge proved too much of a temptation for the Victorians and in 1824, Lieutenant Hugh Goldsmith and ten or twelve of his crew of the cutter HMS Nimble, armed with bars and levers, rocked the huge granite boulder until it fell from its cliff-top perch. There was a local outcry and the Admiralty ordered that the rock was put back. This required the help of more than sixty men with block and tackle, but the Logan Rock was finally repositioned and returned to "rocking condition", although it is said that it does not rock as easily as it did originally. It is still possible for one adult to cause it to rock but some knowledge of where to apply the force is required.

    More about Logan Rock

  15. Cross the stile, or go through the gate if open, and follow the track to where a path departs to the left marked as the coast path on a granite waymark.

    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.

  16. Bear left onto the Coast 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.

  17. 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 either side of the path.

    Boscowen Point is the site of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

    In December 1981, a new ship - The Union Star - had just been launched in Denmark and was on its way to Ireland, having first made an unauthorised stop on the east coast of England to pick up the captain's wife and her two daughters. Near the south coast of Cornwall, the ship's engines failed and in hurricane-force winds, the ship was blown across Mounts Bay towards the rocks of Boscowen Cove.

    Mousehole's Penlee lifeboat was launched with a crew of 8 and in breakers of over 60ft, attempted to pull alongside the coaster, being dropped on top of it by the waves on one occasion. After several attempts, the crew managed to pull alongside the vessel and get the captain's family and one crew member off the ship. As the lifeboat attempted to rescue the remaining crew, it foundered. There were no survivors from either vessel.

    Within a day of the disaster, enough people from Mousehole had volunteered to form a new lifeboat crew. The lifeboat now operates out of Newlyn Harbour but is still known as the Penlee lifeboat.

  18. Follow the path between the boulders and through the woods to emerge on the beach.

    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. Loy's 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.

  19. Carefully make your way along the top of the beach via the boulders to reach a waymark near the entrance to a private garden. Follow the path from the waymark along the outside of the garden wall to another waymark, near a stream.

    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.

  20. 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.

    The first record of St Loy is a reference to the bay from 1580 as "Saint Loybay" and the saint mentioned is likely to date from early mediaeval times. At St Loy's Cove, a chapel dedicated to St Loy was recorded as being located on the east side of the stream. It is thought to have been removed in the 19th century in order to build a summerhouse.

    A second mediaeval chapel was also recorded at St Loy's Cove - on the west side and dedicated to St Dellan. It is thought that its ruins were thrown over the cliff in the mid 19th century to create a garden.

    More about the history of St Loy's Cove

  21. Cross the track to the waymarked path opposite and follow this up the bank to a waymark.

    The stream at St Loy's Cove runs for about 2 miles from near St Buryan. Its source is in the marshy fields around Penandre Farm.

    Small streams such as this one are particularly vulnerable to any nutrient run-off from fields as there is relatively little river water to dilute anything entering it.

  22. 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.

    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.

  23. Go through the gate and follow the path alongside the stream until you reach a boulder after which a small path leads up the bank to the right between a tree and some ivy-covered rocks.

    The deciduous woodland includes beech and chestnut trees.

    The chestnut tree originated in Sardinia and there is evidence of its cultivation by humans from around 2000 BC. It was introduced into Britain by the Romans who planted chestnut trees on their campaigns to provide an easily stored and transported source of food for their troops.

  24. Bear right up the path to reach a track, then bear left onto the track and follow it uphill to reach a junction with a concrete track.

    To roast 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.

  25. Keep left continue uphill on the concrete track. Follow this until it ends in a junction of tracks beside a farmyard.

    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.

  26. Turn left to follow the concrete track away from the farm. Continue to pass Boskenna Home Farm and along the tarmacked surface until you reach a farm gate with a pedestrian gate on the right, after which the track returns to a concrete surface.

    To make blackberry wine, combine 2kg blackberries + 4 litres of boiling water in a plastic container with a lid. Once the water has cooled to lukewarm, mash blackberries and add red wine yeast and pectic enzyme (blackberries contain pectin so this is needed to stop the wine being cloudy). Cover for 4-5 days then strain through muslin.

    Transfer the liquid to a demijohn and add 1kg of sugar. Top up with a little more water to make it up to a gallon. After fermentation, the wine should clear by itself; in the unlikely event that it doesn't, use some finings. Rack off from the sediment and bottle; it's worth allowing the wine a year or two to mature as it massively improves with age. As a variation, you can add 500g of elderberries and increase the sugar content for a more port-like wine which will need a couple of years longer for the elderberry tannins to mellow out.

    As well as producing seeds both sexually and asexually, brambles can also clone themselves to create daughter plants either via underground stems (rhizomes) or by the over-ground stems rooting where they meet the ground.

  27. Go through the gate and bear right slightly to cross the field diagonally to a gateway in the far corner of the field.

    A group of grazing animals known as "ruminants" (which includes cows) have evolved a "pre-stomach" called a rumen where microbes break down cellulose into digestible materials. These microbes produce methane as a by-product. Cows emit around 250 to 500 litres of methane per day but contrary to urban myths, the vast majority is by burping rather than from the other end.

  28. Go through the gateway if open, otherwise ascend the bare area of wall to the right of this to reach a stile and turn left to reach the road. Turn right onto the road and carefully follow this back to your car.

    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 lay-by. Even in the lay-by, 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.

    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 wall stones 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.

    More about Tregiffian Barrow from Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Cornish Bird blog.

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