Minions circular walk including the Hurlers and Cheesewring

Minions and the Cheesewring

A circular walk around the iconic landmarks at Minions, including The Hurlers stone circles, The Cheesewring and the engine houses of the South Phoenix Mine.

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The walk passes The Hurlers stone circles, the Bronze Age Rill aton barrow where a gold goblet was found, and the stone hut of eccentric stone mason and mathematician Daniel Gumb. The route then climbs Stowe's Hill to the Cheesewring formation and crosses a neolithic walled enclosure to reach the summit. The walk descends to the valley hamlet of Sharptor then a lane and bridleways lead to the engine houses of the Phoenix United Mine. The walk then follows mining trails along the edge of Craddock Moor, passing the Minions Heritage Centre and The Cheesewring pub to complete the circular route.


  • The route crosses over an embankment of loose rocks on the top of Stowe's Hill.
  • The open moorland can be difficult to navigate solely with directions - use of app's map screen is recommended to assist with these parts of the walk.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 3.5 miles/5.6 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)


  • The Hurlers stone circles, cairns and other remnants of ancient Neolithic civilization
  • The Cheesewring - a weather-sculpted granite tor, and other tors on Stowe's Hill
  • Panoramic views across Bodmin Moor and surrounding countryside from Stowe's Hill
  • Engine houses and other relics of the Pheonix United add South Phoenix mines
  • Pretty woods and countryside around Henwood
  • Proper eccentric rural village where free range sheep join customers in the pub beer garden and yellow-and-blue minions figures adorn road signs and houses

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cheesewring Hotel

Adjoining walks


  1. From the car park, head away from the road to the steps at the back left corner. Go up the steps and bear right, passing the wall on your right, to reach the centre stone in the lower of the two stone circles.

    These stone circles are called "The Hurlers".

    The Hurlers is a group of 3 stone circles, near the village of Minions on the eastern flank of Bodmin Moor, which date from the Bronze Age: around 1500 BC. The name is said to derive from a legend in which a group of men were turned into stone as a punishment for playing a game of Cornish hurling on the Sabbath.

    In 2013, the strip of grass between the centres of the stone circles was excavated to uncover a 4000 year old cobbled stone pavement joining the two circles. Archaeologists describe this as a "unique" structure.

    More information about the Hurler Stone Circles from the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

    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.

  2. Continue ahead to the centre of the other stone circle.

    It is not fully understood what function the stone circles served, although excavation of some monuments has shown an association with burials. Some circles also appear to have been used to mark the passage of time and seasons, which is indicated by the alignment of stones with landmarks, to mark important solar or lunar events such as the sunrise and sunset at the winter or summer solstice. Where excavated, they have been found to date from the Late Neolithic to the Middle Bronze Age (2400-1000 BC).

  3. Bear right slightly to where the path passes through a gap in the raised bank ahead.

    Some of the earliest mining remains are shallow pits dug to home in on and then mine lodes (mineral veins) at the surface of the bedrock. These are known as shode workings as pits were initially dug to locate displaced fragments of ore within the soil known as shodes. Further pits were then dug to follow these fragments back to the main lode that they had broken off. Once the lode was located, it was worked using a line of pits along it.

    The adjective "shoddy" is thought to have been derived from shode, initially via the textile industry for recycling fragments of usable cloth from rubbish. Later, when garments made from this material were found to disintegrate, it came to mean "inferior quality".

  4. Bear right towards the summit of hill, to the right of the quarry face in the distance. As you reach the brow of the hill, head to the base of the largest grassy mound on the skyline.

    The lines of pits here mark the positions of lodes of tin ore. The one here was known as the Grace Dieu Lode. The next set are along Greenhill Lode and the one after are along Trelawney's lode.

  5. Bear right around the mound then walk towards the quarry face. Continue along the edge of the bracken until a protruding corner of a fence comes into view then head to this.

    The mound is an ancient neolithic tomb known as Rillaton Barrow. The entrance to the tomb is on the east side, to your right as you approach.

    Rillaton Barrow is a neolithic tomb located near Minions, on the east side of Bodmin Moor. When it was excavated in 1837, numerous artefacts were found alongside the human remains, including a bronze dagger, beads, pottery, glass and - most notably - a gold vessel known as the Rillaton Gold Cup. Radiocarbon dating of the artefacts places them around 2300 BC and research has linked the style of this cup with the East Mediterranean, showing evidence of a trading link between Cornwall and the Mycenaean Empire over 4000 years ago. The cup became lost after its discovery but turned up years later in the dressing room of King George V as a receptacle for his collar studs. It is now on show at the British Museum, though it still belongs to the Royal Collection. An exact copy may be seen in the Royal Cornwall Museum at Truro.

    More about the Rillaton cup

  6. Continue ahead, towards the leftmost rock stack on the hill (The Cheesewring), until you reach a rough track with a grassy bank behind it.

    The line of pits extending from the protruding fence are along the line of Stowe's Lode - the most productive mineral lode in the area. Surface mining here is documented in 1513 and could well have been taking place since Early Mediaeval (Celtic) times. The lode (and line of pits) extends down the valley to the remains of West Phoenix Mine.

    It is thought that underground mining took place here during the 1830s, initially using shallow shafts connected to drainage adits (near-horizontal tunnels) that emptied into the river valley. As mining extended below the level that could be drained though gravity, horse power was initially used to pump out the mine and then a small steam engine. In the 1870s, new engine houses were built to work the mine on a larger scale for copper as well as tin. The engine houses were destroyed in a military exercise in the 1950s.

  7. Bear left onto the track and follow it until two grassy paths depart to the right.

    The track leads to Gold Diggings quarry on the hill ahead.

    Gold Diggings (also known as "Goldiggins") Quarry was used as a source of high-quality granite for monuments. Work began in the mid-19th Century and it was still working in the 1920s but is thought to have closed by the Second World War. The quarry consisted of three excavation pits and the locations of three timber cranes have been identified. Steam power was used to drive the cranes and pump water from the quarry pits.

    The two flooded quarry pits are now a fairly popular spot for wild swimming.

  8. Take the rightmost (wide, grassy) path towards the summit of the hill and follow it to the base of a bank.

    The Cheesewring quarry was created to cut blocks of granite from Stowe's Hill which were used for Tower Bridge in London amongst other things. The first lease for quarrying granite was issued in 1845 and by 1858, production had exceeded 11,000 tons. In 1868, three cranes built from timber were used to raise rock from the quarry. Production declined in the 20th Century and more-or-less ceased by 1934.

  9. Follow the path up the bank (the path on the right is slightly less rocky than the more worn one on the left) to reach a fence. Turn left and follow the rocky path along the fence on the right until it bends away sharply to the right.

    On the opposite side of the bank, which can be reached by bearing right along the bottom of the bank, is a rock outcrop with a hole with a date carved on a stone to the right of the hole.

    Daniel Gumb is described in a letter from 1814:

    Daniel Gumb ...was bred a stone-cutter... By close application Daniel acquired, even in his youth, a considerable stock of mathematical knowledge, and, in consequence, became celebrated throughout the adjoining parishes. Called by his occupation to hew blocks of granite on the neighbouring commons, and especially in the vicinity of that great natural curiosity called the Cheesewring, he discovered near this spot an immense block, whose upper surface was an inclined plane. This, it struck him, might be made the roof of a habitation such as he desired; sufficiently secluded from the busy haunts of men to enable him to pursue his studies without interruption, whilst it was contiguous to the scene of his daily labour. Immediately Daniel went to work, and cautiously excavating the earth underneath, to nearly the extent of the stone above, he obtained a habitation which he thought sufficiently commodious. The sides he lined with stone, cemented with lime, whilst a chimney was made by perforating the earth at one side of the roof... The top of the rock which roofed his house served Daniel for an observatory, where at every favourable opportunity he watched the motions of the heavenly bodies, and on the surface of which, with his chisel, he carved a variety of diagrams, illustrative of the most difficult problems of Euclid, etc. These he left behind him as evidences of the patience and ingenuity with which he surmounted the obstacles that his station in life had placed in the way of his mental improvement.

    More about Daniel Gumb

  10. As the fence bends away to the right, depart from the fence and follow the rocky path passing to the right of the tree, then bear right uphill to the base of The Cheesewring.

    The Cheesewring is a tor on Stowes Hill near Minions. The tor gets is name because it is topped with a natural rock formation that looks like the press with a stack of weights that was used to make cheese (and also cider as the apple pulp was known as "cheese"). The cheesewring was a well-known landscape feature by Tudor times and it featured in large illustrations in the margins of Cornwall maps at the end of this period. The granite slabs, which appear to have been balanced, were created by erosion over many thousands of years.

    More about the Cheesewring

  11. Continue to follow the path along the fence past a standing stone then bear left near the end of the fence to cross the plateau to reach the rock stack on the summit of the hill.

    The word granite comes from the Latin granum (a grain), in reference to its coarse-grained structure. Granite forms from a big blob of magma (known as a pluton) which intrudes into the existing rocks. The huge mass of molten rock stores an enormous amount of heat so the magma cools very slowly below the surface of the Earth, allowing plenty of time for large crystals to form.

  12. Continue across the plateau from the rock stack to reach a wall of loose granite rocks and make your way to a small dip roughly in the centre of the wall.

    The granite wall is part of Stowe's Pound.

    Stowe's Pound is hilltop enclosure situated on Stowe's Hill near Minions. It comprises two defensive walls made of granite rubble and dates from the early Neolithic period (4000-3500 BC). Inside the walls are two Bronze Age cairns, a stone round house and over 100 house platforms.

  13. Carefully cross over the loose granite wall to the other side. Continue along the ridge until you reach a pile of large rocks on the far side of the hill.

    Sadly, people ignorant of what Stowe's Pound represents removed some of the stones to build rock stacks ("fairy stacks"). Removing stones from the Egyptian Pyramids would be bad enough but Stowe's Pound is at least 1,000 years older than the pyramids! Many of the removed stones have now been replaced as well as possible by volunteers.

    Rock balancing art is best avoided on Bodmin Moor as what looks to the untrained eye like a pile of rocks is very likely to be prehistoric remains, and often a grave or memorial which is best not desecrated. Even accidental vandalism of ancient monuments is an illegal act that could result in a criminal record and jail sentence.

    Fortunately, Cornwall has a considerable supply of pebbly beaches where towering extravaganzas can be constructed without such risks.

  14. Bear right down the hill in the direction of the rocky tor then head towards the group of houses in front of the tor. As you approach the bottom, pass to the right of the concrete platform, cross over the railway trackbed and then climb down from the bank to the lane.

    The rocky hill ahead is Sharp Tor.

    Tors started out as a lump of granite beneath the surface, which cracked vertically into squares and then part-way through horizontally to form something resembling a stuck-together stack of square pancakes. Millions of years of weathering then gradually rounded these off and widened the cracks between the layers to result in a more burger-like appearance.

    In some cases the horizontal cracks didn't go all the way through so the layers are still joined (the skewer through the brioche bun to stretch the burger analogy to its limit). In the cases where they did fully separate, a massive rocking stone such as the famous Logan Rock at Treen could be created, or the whole lot could collapse into a pile of huge rocks.

    The "basins" on the tops of some of the tors are also the result of repeated freezing and thawing of water which has collected on the surface.

    The word is from the Celtic language but is likely to have come from the Latin turris, meaning "tower", derived from a similar word in Ancient Greek.

  15. Turn right onto the lane and follow it past the houses until the lane ends at a junction.

    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.

  16. Turn right at the junction and follow the lane until you reach a track departing from the left beside a house called Clouds Hill.

    Stoats and weasels are related to badgers and to otters, which they more closely resemble. The stoat is roughly twice the size of a weasel but can be distinguished without the need to measure it by its black-tipped tail. The weasel preys mostly on voles, but the stoat will take on prey much larger than itself including birds and even full-grown rabbits. During the winter, the coat of the stoat (and also some populations of weasel) changes colour from brown to white to camouflage it in the snow.

    The soft, silky winter fur of the stoat is known as ermine and garments made from this were a luxury associated with royalty and high status. Given that stoats mark their territory using pungent anal scent glands, it’s likely a fair amount of washing of the furs occurred before being draped over royalty.

  17. Bear left onto the track marked by the Public Bridleway sign and follow the path leading downhill from the end of the track to reach a footbridge.

    Sphagnum (peat) mosses use compressed air to launch their spores. 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. Sphagnum moss spores are accelerated at 36,000 g!

  18. Cross the bridge and follow the path to the right to where it levels out on a mine tip. Continue ahead to reach a waymark against the fence, just to the right of the telegraph poles.
  19. Turn left at the waymark and keep the fence on your right. Follow the path until it meets a track at a waymark.

    Three small mines were amalgamated in 1836 and renamed as Wheal Phoenix in 1842. A final rename to Phoenix United Mines occurred when West Wheal Phoenix was also included. Mining was initially for copper but moved over to tin in the 1860s. The mine closed at the end of the 1890s due to falling metal prices. Coal was delivered and ore sent out via the Liskeard and Caradon railway.

  20. Turn right onto the track and follow it around the gate to join a track. Follow this for a few more paces to where a wide track departs to the left, just past the pond.
  21. Bear left onto the track, passing the chain, then follow it to reach a steep path on the right with wooden steps before the track ends in a gate.

    The grassy areas around the mining remains provide a grazing opportunity for rabbits.

    If a rabbit is placed on its back and its legs are stroked, it appears to go into a relaxed trance and many owners of pet rabbits thought this was a cute thing to do that was enjoyable for the rabbit. It's now understood that this reaction, known as "tonic immobility", occurs when the rabbit is extremely stressed because it thinks it is about to be eaten by a predator! It is effectively a "playing dead" reaction to lull a predator into a false sense of security so the rabbit can make a sudden escape when the predator isn't paying attention.

  22. Turn right up the path with the wooden steps. Follow this until a small path departs to the right towards the ruins of a building.

    Jackdaws can often be seen perching on the old mine buildings.

    Jackdaws are very adept vocal mimics and have been known to sing virtually anything including opera and Madonna! They can be trained to copy the human voice but only for single words or short phrases.

  23. When you reach the path to the right, turn onto this to reach the building. Follow the path along the right side of the building and towards the engine house ahead. As you approach, keep left around the engine house to reach the steps into it.

    The ruins with a series of arches are from two adjoining buildings associated with the Phoenix United Mine. One was a boiler house with room for four boilers and the other contained a horizontal steam engine that was used to power a series of pneumatic stamps to crush tin ore.

  24. From the engine house, head to the white waymark. Follow the waymarked path until it merges onto another path.

    The engine house with a surviving chimney is known as the Prince of Wales engine house and was used to pump water from the Phoenix United mines.

    The adjacent building (which no longer has a chimney) is the remains of another engine house. This was for a whim (winding) engine used to raise ore from the mine.

  25. Keep right to merge onto a grassy track and follow this until it ends on a stony track.

    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".

    Bracken has been used as a fuel for centuries but is of interest as a modern biofuel due to its very high calorific value. Normal firewood produces around 15-19 gigajoules of heat per tonne of material (depending on moisture content - drier is more efficient hence kiln-dried logs). Elephant grass can produce around 18 GJ/t and bracken can deliver 21 GJ/t. At least one company has piloted creating compressed fuel briquettes from bracken in a similar way to elephant grass.

  26. Bear left onto the track, following it until it ends at a lane.

    The large hill on the left is Caradon Hill.

    Caradon Hill has a 371 metre summit and the name is thought to originate from the Cornish word car for fort. The slopes are dotted with the remains of engine houses and the area was once famous for its copper mines, which were discovered relatively late in Cornwall's mining history. In an account documented in the early 20th Century, the area was described:

    On Saturday nights after pay-day, the populous villages of Caradon Town, Pensilva, Minions and Crows Nest were crowded with men, and resembled in character the mining camps of Colorado and the Far West.
  27. Cross the lane and follow the path to the left of the small tree opposite the junction. Follow the path uphill to a large boulder beside another tree and continue uphill until it merges onto a well-worn track. Turn left onto the track and follow this to 4 large boulders where it forks.

    The track is the trackbed of the Liskeard and Caradon railway.

    The Liskeard and Caradon Railway was a mineral railway built to transport granite, copper and tin ore from around Minions to Looe Harbour. The journey from Moorswater to Looe was initially on the Liskeard and Looe Union Canal and later on the Liskeard and Looe Railway which was built alongside the canal.

  28. Keep right at the fork, following the path until it merges with another path.

    There was plenty of demand for day-trippers to travel by rail to The Hurlers and The Cheesewring but the mineral railway was not licensed to carry paying passengers. From around 1850, when the mines and quarries were not working on Sundays, the railway would offer to carry passengers free of charge. Since it was legal to charge for cargo, a fee would be charged instead for their hats and baggage.

  29. Bear left onto the main track and keep right at the fork to reach a T-junction with a gravel track.

    The engine house on the right was part of the South Phoenix Mine.

    South Phoenix Mine is a complex of disused engine houses and quarries near Minions. Mining for tin and copper began in 1836 and continued until 1914. The engine house over Houseman's Shaft has been turned into the Minions Heritage Centre.

  30. Turn right and follow the track until it ends at a junction with another track.

    At this point you can turn right along the track to take an optional diversion to the Minions Heritage Centre.

    Minions Heritage Centre is located in the restored Houseman's Engine House of the South Phoenix mine. The building contains a permanent exhibition on the history, ecology, archaeology and mining heritage of the surrounding area.

  31. Turn left and follow the track until it ends at a road in the village of Minions.

    Minions is a small village on the south-east corner of Bodmin Moor. Near the car park, one of the engine houses of the South Phoenix mine has been converted into the a heritage centre which interprets the history of the surrounding landscape. The area surrounding Minions offers a wealth of archaeological interest from early Bronze Age to the Tin and Copper Mining which finished early in the last century. Most of the village is over 300m, and Minions claims to be the highest village in Cornwall, rivalling St Breward.

  32. Bear right along the road through the village of Minions, following it until just past the houses on the right.

    The Cheesewring Hotel in Minions claims to be Cornwall's highest pub, at an altitude of 995ft. It opened as a coaching inn in 1863 and is now a hotel and restaurant serving local food and a variety of Cornish ales.

  33. Turn right into the car park to complete the walk.

    The source of the River Seaton is in Minions near the Cheesewring Hotel and it connects with two tributary streams running through St Cleer. Due to the copper mining activity around Caradon Hill, the tributary streams contain dissolved copper salts where the groundwater drains from old mines or percolates through waste tips. The level of copper in the main river is not high enough to prevent fish living in it but it does restrict the invertebrate species that are able to live in the river and so the fish population is lower than surrounding rivers as there is less for them to eat. The river runs for just over 10 miles before reaching the sea at Seaton beach.

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