Rosemergy to Gurnard's Head circular walk

Rosemergy to Gurnard's Head

A circular walk along the coast past the towering cliffs of Bosigran Castle via the white sand and huge boulders of Porthmeor Cove to the site of an Iron Age fort on Gurnard's Head, returning from the Gurnard's Head pub via the ancient Zennor Churchway.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you to the start of the walk via satnav.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app guides you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
The walk route is described with detailed, regularly-updated, hand-written directions.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are at all times and even which way you are facing.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk is packed with information about the history and nature along the route, from over a decade of research than spans more than 3,000 topics.
Person looking at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need wifi or a phone signal during the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
The walk follows the Porthmoina valley to the coast and then joins the Coast Path to Bosigran Castle - a fortified headland. The route continues along the coast to Porthmeor Cove where the mass of Lands End granite meets the older slate rocks in some geological fireworks. The walk continues around the coast to Gurnard's Head, where it turns inland through Treen to the Gurnard's Head pub. From here, the route follows the Zennor Churchway, passing the tin dressing floors of Porthmeor mine and Bosigran Farm on the way back to Rosemergy.


  • The coastal section includes some scrambles over granite boulders.
  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Buy walk

Sign in to buy this walk.

This walk is in your basket. Proceed to your basket to complete your purchase.

My Basket Remove from basket

You own this walk.

An error occurred while checking the availability of this walk:

Please retry reloading the page. If this problem persists, please contact us for assistance.

Reload page

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 102
  • Distance: 4.2 miles/6.8 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)


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

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Gurnard's Head

Adjoining walks


  1. Facing the coast, take the path to the right of the engine houses beside the car park donation box. Follow the rocky path to reach a gate.

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

  2. Cross the stone stile next to the gate and follow the path alongside the bracken to reach an iron gate at the bottom of the far hedge.

    A number of remains in the valley were associated with the mine.

    During the 1830s, one of the largest waterwheels ever built in Cornwall was constructed in the valley. It had a diameter of 60ft (roughly the height of a 4-storey building) and mechanical power was transferred from the wheel to a nearby mineshaft via an arrangement of flat rods for which a course over the ground was created. Water was delivered to the wheel along a leat from a reservoir created by damming the stream.

  3. Cross the stile next to the gate and keep right to reach a rocky path leading up between a National Trust sign and granite bench to the headland on the right. Follow the rocky path to reach a junction of paths at the top of the headland.

    The remains of the building near the stream was originally a tin stamping (ore crushing) mill, powered by a waterwheel. The large, high wall alongside the wheel was built to create a splash shield so that water blown out of the wheel buckets by the wind would not disturb the settling tanks used to separate out the fragments of pulverised ore.

    As you climb up to the headland you can also see a tunnel at the back of the cove which is a drainage adit for the mine. The rusty colour below the tunnel is from iron dissolved into the water from the lodes in the mine.

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

  4. Follow the path up onto the rock outcrop, crossing over a line of boulders forming a wall. From here you can explore the headland which has excellent views, then (facing inland) bear left to follow the path through another gap in the boulders. Follow the path alongside the wall until you reach a gap in the corner of the wall.

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

  5. Cross over the wall on the left and follow the coast path down into the dip between the headlands. At the bottom, keep right to find the path that climbs up the next headland. Continue to you reach a line of boundary stones at the top.

    Several species of heather grow in Cornwall and are most easily recognised when they flower from July to September. The one with the most brightly coloured (purple) flowers is known as bell heather due to the bell-shaped flowers. This is the earliest one to start flowering - normally in June. Bell heather is usually interspersed with ling or common heather which has much smaller flowers which are usually paler and pinker and come out at the start of July. A third kind known as cross-leafed heath is less abundant but can be recognised by the pale pink bell-shaped flowers that grow only near the tips of the stems, resembling pink lollipops. A fourth species known as Cornish heath grows only on the Lizard and has more elaborate flowers which are mostly pale with a dark purple crown at the front.

    The seal species most frequently seen along the Cornish coast is the grey seal. Common seals are also sometimes seen. Seals are not closely related to other marine mammals. The skeleton of an adult male grey seal (apart from the limbs) closely resembles that of a leopard. However, as you might be able to guess from their facial features, seals are most closely related to dogs, bears and otters. In fact, a dog is very much more closely related to a seal than a dog is to a cat.

  6. Follow the coast path through the line of boundary stones and continue to reach a stile overlooking Porthmeor Cove.

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

  7. Cross the stile and follow one of the rocky paths through the patch of boulders then make for the stone crossings over the streams. Continue over the crossings to reach a junction of paths with a granite waymark post.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round.

    A similar-looking bird called the whinchat is also present in the summer but this can be identified by a white stripe across its eye. Both stonechats and whinchats can often be spotted perching on dead sticks or brambles protruding above gorse and heather, and consequently the term "gorse chat" or "furze chat" has been used locally to mean either species. For a long time, stonechats and whinchats were thought to be members of the thrush family but genetic studies have revealed they are actually members of the (Old World) flycatcher family.

  8. After the crossing bear left to an area of boulders within the grass. From the boulders, the walk to continues to the right in the direction of the steps leading up the coast, but first you may wish to visit the beach. Once back on the route, follow the path over a stile and through a gate to reach a granite footbridge.

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

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

    During Victorian times, ravens were exterminated by farmers and gamekeepers throughout much of the UK but retained a stronghold in the southwest. Their nests, constructed of robust twigs, can be seen along the cliffs in Cornwall.

  10. Cross the stile and follow the path up the field towards the gate then bear left to keep the wall on your right and follow it to reach a stile.

    Ponies are sometimes used to graze the land along the coast path to increase biodiversity.

    Dartmoor ponies, bred for hauling goods, have been recorded living on the wild and inhospitable moors since the Middle Ages. They are unsurprisingly a very hardy breed and have a lifespan of around 25 years. Over the 20th Century, their numbers declined from just over 25,000 in the 1930s to about 5,000 by the start of the 21st century when only around 800 ponies were known to be grazing the moor. Dartmoor ponies have recently found a new niche as conservation grazers. As well as on moorland, they are used by the Wildlife Trusts to graze the coast to prevent bracken and gorse taking hold.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path along the coast to Gurnard's Head to an iron kissing gate through a wall.

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

    The circular foundations of a group of around 15 Iron Age huts have been found on the grassy east side of Gurnard's Head, with another smaller group of around 3 huts towards the neck of the headland. There were also finds of Iron Age pottery and a cache of rounded beach pebbles likely to have been used as slingshot.

    More about Gurnard's Head

  12. Continue from the kissing gate a short distance to reach a crossing of paths.

    A path leads out onto the very end of Gurnard's Head as there was a coastguard lookout here. All that remains now is a concrete platform.

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

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

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

  14. Cross the stile into the field and continue ahead across the top of the bank to a gateway opposite.

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

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

    The pilchard fisheries rose to their peak in Victorian times. The pilchards were salted and then pressed to extract the oil which was sold as somewhat aromatic lamp oil. The fish were then packed with more salt into hogshead barrels which could fit up to 3000 fish per barrel. Huers (cliff top lookouts) helped locate shoals of fish. The huer would shout "Hevva!, Hevva!" (the Cornish word for "shoal") to alert the boats to the location of the pilchard shoals. The name "huer" is from the old French verb meaning "to shout".

  16. Climb the steps and follow the right hedge to reach a pedestrian gate in the far hedge.

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

  17. Go through the gate and climb the stone stile then follow the path over another stone stile and onto a driveway. Follow the driveway to join a lane and follow this until it ends next to the Gurnard's Head pub.

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

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

  18. Turn right at the Gurnard's Head and carefully follow the road until you reach a waymarked stile on the right leading into a field with a standing stone, just before the road reaches some houses.

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

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

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

    Large upright standing stones are known as menhirs due to the Celtic words men meaning stone and hir meaning long. The reason for their construction is unknown; currently the most popular theories are ceremonial. Excavations at some of the menhir sites in Cornwall have found evidence of postholes and pits, and areas of quartz paving. Also beneath some of the stones, charcoal and cremated human bone have been found.

    These charcoal deposits have been radiocarbon dated and found to be between the Late Neolithic and Middle Bronze Age and, until recently, menhirs were thought to be associated principally with the people who inhabited Europe during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze age (4-5 thousand years ago), known as the "Beaker people" due to the pottery artefacts they left behind. Some recent research has suggested an older origin (perhaps 6-7 thousand years ago, at the very start of the Neolithic period in Britain). There is also evidence that some stones continued to be erected, or re-used, much later in the post-Roman "Dark Ages" (early mediaeval) period when some were also inscribed.

  20. Cross the stile into the farmyard and pass the barns on your right to reach a field (possibly via a gate). Continue straight ahead across the field to a waymarked stile between two buildings.

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

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

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

  22. Go through the gap and follow the path to a river crossing. Go up the steps to reach an area with an interpretation board and two gates with stiles.

    The chimney and surrounding structures were to process the tin ore extracted at Porthmeor mine. The ore brought up from underground was in the form of tiny crystals within large lumps of otherwise useless rock.

    One of the information boards describes how a sledgehammer was used followed by "stamps" (mechanical crushing devices) to break the ore down into a powder from which the heavy tin particles could be separated from the lighter rock fragments using gravity.

    The conical structures in the old dressing floors are the remains of devices known as "buddles". These were used to separate the ore from the rock (known as gange) in the ore slurry created by the stamping mill. The slurry was trickled onto the centre of the dome and a rotating set of brushes, suspended from wooden spokes, smeared the slurry around the circular structure. The heavy ore fragments would deposit near the central dome whereas unwanted rock fragments would travel further and end up in a pit around the outside.

  23. Cross the stone stile next the gate ahead (waymarked for Rosemergy) and follow the path to another stone stile.

    In order to be processed, ore-bearing rock mined from mineral veins needed to be crushed to a powder. In earlier times, millstones were used to grind down lumps of ore but later it was done using a process known as "stamping" where the ore was crushed by dropping heavy granite or metal weights to pound it against another hard surface (often a piece of granite known as a mortar stone - as in "pestle and mortar"). The crushing was automated first with waterwheels and later with steam engines. The process was far from quiet and could often be heard from a number of miles away.

  24. Cross the stile and continue on the path until it emerges in a small field where you can see some farm buildings. Head to the gate and stile in front of the buildings.

    The granules of ore were heated in a furnace to remove impurities such as sulphur and particularly arsenic. By heating the ore in air, the arsenic impurities could be driven off as a vapour. As the impurities escaped as gasses, the particles of ore melted into grey crystalline lumps of tin oxide known as "black tin".

    The exhaust gasses were cooled and condensed to form a white powder deposited in the flues or purpose-built condensers. The white powder - arsenic - was collected and sold. A few grains of pure arsenic are enough to be fatal but the majority of arsenic workers managed to protect themselves by stuffing cotton wool up their noses and painting their faces and any other exposed areas of skin white with fuller's earth to prevent arsenic being absorbed through the pores of their skin.

  25. Cross the stile and bear left to pass the buildings then bear right to reach a waymarked gate on the right of the large barn.

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

    There are over four hundred complete stone crosses in Cornwall and at least another two hundred fragments.

    A number of mediaeval crosses have been found built into walls, used as animal rubbing posts, gateposts and stream crossings. Many were rescued and moved into churchyards during Victorian times. A number were also moved from their roadside locations into churchyards.

  26. Go through the gate and the one after it. Then follow the track away from the barn to a pair of gateways with a stile on the left.

    There are two very similar looking members of the daisy family that are both known as "chamomile". English chamomile (also known as Roman chamomile) has hairy stems and is the one used for chamomile tea. German chamomile has smooth stems and higher levels of essential oils so this one is used for chamomile-scented pharmaceuticals (shampoos etc). Pineapple weed is related and is sometimes known as "false chamomile" or more confusingly as "wild chamomile" (even though it isn't chamomile and normal chamomile is also wild!).

    English chamomile was once common in Britain but it has declined (due to land clearance and changes to farming practices) to now being classified as Vulnerable. The Southwest is now one if its last strongholds.

  27. Cross the stile (or go through the gate beside it if open) and head across the small field to either the gateway or stone stile about 5 metres to the left. Cross the stile or go through the gateway, then cross the larger field either to the gateway or stone stile about 2 metres to the left.

    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.

  28. Cross the stile or go through the gateway, and follow the left hedge to a line of boulders beside the gateway.
  29. Bear left through the gap in the boulders and cross the field either to the gateway on the right or a stone stile roughly half-way between the gateway and the trough in the far right corner of the field.

    The ancient field boundaries of West Penwith are thought to be older than the Pyramids. The Environmental Stewardship Scheme has allowed traditional farming methods to be sustained, preserving the network of hedgerows in the tiny Celtic fields that would otherwise be uneconomical to farm with industrial-scale machinery. The scheme has also facilitated coastal grazing which helps prevent the coast becoming overgrown with gorse and bracken, allowing species such as the chough and potentially the large blue butterfly to recolonise.

  30. Cross the stile or go through the gateway, and turn left. Follow the left hedge to the gateway.

    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.

  31. Go through the gateway and cross the field to the pedestrian gate opposite.
  32. Go through the gate and follow the faint path, bearing right slightly in the direction of the lighthouse to reach a gateway.

    In late summer the marshy grassland is covered in tiny yellow moorland flowers.

    The little yellow flowers with four petals all over the moor in July are tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Its common names include Bloodroot and Flesh and Blood because roots yield a red dye which is still used as an ingredient for artists' colours (tormentil red). The roots also have very a high tannin content and have even been used to tan leather. Extracts from the plant have been widely used in folk medicine and is it still used as a remedy for diarrhoea and as a lotion for skin sores.

    During Victorian times and earlier, small amounts of land in Cornwall were measured by the goad - a unit of nine feet in length, derived from the name of the staff used to drive oxen.

    An area of two goads square (18ft x 18ft) was known as a "yard of ground" or "land-yard". This is confusingly not the same as a "square yard" (3ft x 3ft). In fact one land-yard was 36 square yards!.

    Larger areas of land were measured by the Cornish Acre defined as 160 land-yards (or 5,760 square yards). A unit of land consisting of 4 Cornish Acres was known as a "Knight's fee".

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

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

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

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

  34. Go through the gateway then bear left to the two gaps in the wall. Go through the one on the left and cross the field diagonally to reach the path on which you started out. Turn left onto this and follow it uphill to reach the gate and stile.

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

  35. Cross the stile and continue a short distance to a fork. Keep right and follow the path until you reach another fork just before the engine houses.

    Mines were worked in shifts. Particularly in winter, miners would often have to walk to and from work in the dark. Candles were used in the mine but since Cornwall is a windy place, on the surface, some form of lantern was required to stop the candle being blown out. One of the most common was made using an old boot!

  36. Keep left at the fork to return to the car park.

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

either as a GPS-guided walk with our app (£2.99) or a PDF (£1.99)

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.