St Mabyn to Pencarrow House circular walk

St Mabyn to Pencarrow House

Note that Pencarrow Gardens are closed during the winter months and open 1st March - 31st October. There is a charge for admission. For up-to-date prices, dates and times, see the Pencarrow website.

A fairly easy circular walk from St Mabyn past the church and through rolling countryside to Pencarrow House and its magnificent gardens.

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The walk begins from St Mabyn, passing the church and crossing fields to reach Trescowe Farm then follows a track to Pencarrow before following pleasant winding lanes and fields back to St Mabyn, ending at the Inn. This walk can easily be combined with a visit to Pencarrow House and Gardens to make a full day out.


  • After a prolonged period of very heavy rain, the stream level at direction 6 can rise enough to submerge the stepping stones. It's likely to be possible to wade through in wellies but might be tricky in walking boots.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 109
  • Distance: 3.7 miles/5.9 km
  • Steepness grade: Easy-moderate
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 109 OS Explorer 109 (laminated version)

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


  • Local food and ales at 17th century St Mabyn Inn
  • Pretty stained glass in St Mabyn church
  • Panoramic countryside views between St Mabyn and Pencarrow
  • Pencarrow House with opulent furnishing from the Georgian and Victorian periods
  • Extensive colourful gardens surrounding Pencarrow House
  • Snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells in the woodland around Pencarrow
  • Haywood Farm (cider makers) is a 10 min walk/2 min drive from the end of the route.

Pubs on or near the route

  • St Mabyn Inn

Adjoining walks


  1. Make your way out of the car park and turn right onto the road. Follow this past the school to reach the gate into the churchyard and a path to the right of this along the outside of the churchyard.

    The current church building in St Mabyn dates from the 15th Century. Before this, there was another church on the same site. It's possible that the churchyard dates back to Celtic times as it is of an approximately circular shape that is typical of Celtic churchyards.

  2. Turn right and follow the path along the outside of the churchyard to a waymarked metal gate into the school field on the right where the path bends.

    St Mabyn Inn is just along the path to the left from the gate. It was built in the 17th century originally as a farmhouse. It later became a church Alehouse and then finally an inn.

    Church Ales were celebrations held within the church calendar, particularly at Whitsuntide and May Day, when ales were brewed and sold in order to raise funds for the Church or for good causes in the parish. With the growth of Puritanism in the late 17th century, drinking was seen as sinful. Church Ales were considered to be nothing but drunken disorders and were suppressed. Church houses were gradually abandoned, demolished or put to other uses.

  3. Go through the gate and bear left slightly across the field to a gate in the middle of the far hedge beside the 3 large trees (not the kissing gate in the corner).

    The village of St Mabyn takes its name from St Mabena to whom the church is dedicated. She was daughter of the 5th Century Celtic king, Brychan and is depicted on the sign of the St Mabyn Inn as well as in the stained glass in the church.

  4. Go through the gate ahead and follow the left hedge to another gate in the far hedge.

    Brychan was a legendary Celtic king (originally born in Ireland) who ruled over Breconshire in South Wales and was viewed as the father of the Celtic saints.

    Several mediaeval manuscripts state that he was married three times but the numbers of children vary from 12 to 63 with 24 being the most commonly reported number. There is also little agreement in the lists of names between Cornish and Welsh manuscripts. It is thought that the list of his children may have grown over time as more people claimed themselves or their local saint to be descended from what was seen as the holy family.

  5. Go through the gate and follow along the treeline on the left and then the fence until you reach a stile below the houses.

    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.

  6. Cross the stile and stream to reach a field. Bear right up the field to a stile 10 metres to the left of the two large trees in the far hedge.

    In the 40 years since 1960, the global production of cereal crops tripled, with wheat accounting for more than all the other crops combined. One of the factors driving the increase is processed foods where the stretchy and adhesive properties of gluten are made use of.

  7. Cross the stile (or go through the gateway to the left of it) and follow the left hedge downhill to an opening at the bottom of the field.

    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.
  8. Go through the opening to a stone footbridge. Cross this and follow the wall to a stone stile.

    The trees along the wall are Beech.

    Compared to many native trees, the beech colonised Great Britain relatively recently, after the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Beech trees have a shallow root system and are therefore often found in areas where water is plentiful such as near rivers. In the 17th and 18th Centuries, tall, stately beech trees were very fashionable in the estates of wealthy landowners and many mature beech woodlands today are the result of 18th Century parkland landscaping projects.

  9. Cross the stile and follow the left hedge of the field to a stile in the corner.

    There are six species of the tit family of birds found in the UK but the blue, great and coal tits are the most common. Coal tits are the least colourful (grey with a black and white head). Both blue tits and great tits have green backs but great tits are larger with a black and white head, whist blue tits have a blue top to their head.

  10. Cross the stile and footbridge (climb the wooden fence on the far side if it's still there). Then follow the left hedge to a gap in the wire fence between wooden posts. Continue along the left hedge to a stile at the top of the field.

    Nettles are often found near human habitation, much to the displeasure of many humans. Humans generally remove dense vegetation such as tree cover, leaving open ground that fast-growing nettles can rapidly colonise. Food waste from humans and droppings from livestock boost phosphate levels in the soil which nettles require to thrive. Grazing animals also leave nettles alone, munching away competing vegetation instead.

  11. Cross the stile and bear right up the field to a gateway (with a stile to the left) in the middle of the top hedge.

    The plant with sticky green seeds is known as cleavers due to the ability to attach to clothing or animals. The use of "to cleave" meaning "to adhere" has Saxon origins but has become less common in recent years perhaps due to the confusion of having a more well-known meaning which is virtually the opposite. A Cornish dialect name, recorded as cliders in Victorian times, is likely to be a corruption of this. Other common names include sticky willy.

    Goosegrass is another common name of the plant due to its attractiveness to poultry as a nutritious food. It contains tannins which make it too bitter for humans. The plant is in the same family as coffee and the seeds have been dried and roasted to make a (lower caffeine) coffee substitute.

  12. Go through the gateway if open (or cross the stile otherwise) and bear right to follow the short grassy track to the end to reach the gate and stile.

    The pheasant is named after the Ancient town of Phasis (now in West Georgia) and the birds were naturalised in the UK by the 10th Century with introductions both from the Romano-British and the Normans. However, by the 17th Century they had become extinct in most of the British Isles.

    In the 1830s, the pheasant was rediscovered as a game bird and since then it has been reared extensively for shooting. The pheasant has a life expectancy of less than a year in the wild and it is only common because around 30 million pheasants are released each year on shooting estates.

  13. Cross the stile or go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the field past one gateway to reach a gate in the corner of the field.
  14. Go through the gate (needs lifting to open) and turn right onto the track. Follow it, keeping left at the farmhouse, to pass the pond and go through a gateway to reach a junction of tracks.

    The settlement of Trescowe dates from early mediaeval times and the first record is from the 13th Century. The name is thought to be based on the Cornish word scawen meaning elder trees.

  15. Continue ahead at the junction and follow the track until you reach the "Way out" signs from Pencarrow House.

    When you reach Pencarrow House, you may want to visit the house and/or gardens. When open, tickets are on sale in the car park to the right of the "Way out" signs. There is an honesty box to pay for entrance to the gardens when the house is closed (Fri and Sat at the time of writing).

    Pencarrow House is located near Washaway on the Bodmin to Wadebridge Road. For nearly 500 years, Pencarrow has been the family home of Molesworth-St Aubyns and they still live there today but open the house and gardens to the public. The house was built in the 1760-70s extending an older house on the site, probably dating from around 100 years earlier. The house was used as the setting for a classical music concert in ITV's comedy drama series, Doc Martin.

  16. From the "Way out" signs, follow the lane ahead to exit from Pencarrow, until it ends at a T-junction onto a road.

    The 50 acres of gardens at Pencarrow House were designed and laid out by the Radical politician, Sir William Molesworth. The gardens contain more than 600 varieties of rhododendron and camellia, and at one time included just about every possible species of conifer that can be grown in England.

  17. Turn right onto the road, then immediately right again onto a small lane signposted to St Mabyn. Follow the lane for just under a mile until you reach a junction at a Give Way sign, signposted to Wadebridge.

    Where the lane passes through a wooded valley, wild garlic grows either side.

    Like its domesticated relatives, wild garlic grows from a bulb. To distinguish it from other wild plants from the onion/garlic family (such as the three-cornered leek), the species sometimes just called "wild garlic" (Allium ursinum) is often known by the name ramsons or broad-leaf garlic. The scientific name (meaning bear leek) is because the bulbs are thought to be a favourite food of brown bears on the European mainland.

    The original tarmac was made from coal tar and ironworks slag. In the 1920s, coal tar was replaced by the tar from petroleum oil - bitumen. This oil-based tarmac is known as asphalt in the UK. However in the USA, "asphalt" means bitumen (i.e. just the tar with no "mac"). If that wasn't confusing enough, tarmac is known as "bitumen" in Australia!

  18. At the junction, go through the leftmost of the two gates on your right. Follow the right hedge to a stile.

    The UK is one of the windiest places in Europe and considered as one of the best places in the world for wind power. Over 10% of the UK's energy already comes from wind power (which rises to around 40% during windy months) and it is now one of the cheapest sources of electricity. Wind turbines last for about 20-25 years until the moving parts wear out and they need to be replaced.

  19. Cross the stile (the top pole lifts) and follow the right hedge to a gate.

    Blackthorn and hawthorn trees both grow in similar places but in each season there are different ways to tell them apart.

    In spring, blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower. The white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish the flowers: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black. Hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy".

    In summer, the leaf shape can be used to tell them apart. Blackthorn leaves are a classic leaf shape with slightly serrated edges. Hawthorn leaves have deep notches dividing the leaf into several lobes a bit like oak.

    In autumn, pretty much all hawthorn trees have small red berries, even the windswept specimens on the coast. Blackthorn trees may have purple sloes, but not all the trees fruit each year. Some years seem to result in a lot more sloes than others.

    Hawthorn trees are often a little bigger than blackthorn, especially in harsh environments such as on the coast. Blackthorn tends to form thickets whereas hawthorn are typically distinct trees. Hawthorn bark is usually shiny whereas blackthorn is dull. The thorns on hawthorn tend to be shorter (less then 2cm) and point slightly forwards on the stem. Blackthorn has longer spikes that stick out at right angles.

  20. Cross the stile next to the gate and head directly across the field to the gate opposite.

    In fields used for grazing, docks are not necessarily a problem. Their deep roots help to hold the soil together and they provide a good source of minerals (such as selenium and zinc) for livestock. Their bitterness is due to tannins, which are also helpful to livestock for preventing bloat and parasites.

  21. Cross the stile next to the gate and head straight across the field to the stile and gate in the wall to the left of the wooded area.

    The tall trees ahead have a colony of rooks.

    Rooks nest in colonies and are one of the most social members of the crow family. Scientists have found that rooks are happy to work cooperatively to solve problems (e.g. each pulling on a separate string to release food).

  22. Cross the stile and follow the wall on the right to reach a stone stile leading onto the lane.

    The succulent leaves of navelwort can be eaten and used in a salad. Older leaves become more bitter so the younger leaves are recommended. The crunchy stems can be added at the last minute to a stir-fry as an alternative to beansprouts. Care should be taken not to pull roots out of wall when breaking off leaves.

  23. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow the lane to return to the Community Shop and complete the circular walk.

    Unlike St Mabena, Cecilia (also celebrated in St Mabyn church) is not a Celtic saint. She is celebrated with a feast day in many branches of the Christian church including both Roman Catholic and Anglican and thought to be of Roman origin. She is patroness of church music because she is supposed to have sung to god when dying.

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