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If you ever find yourself in West Penwith (Cornwall) with 3 hours or so to spare, this walk should satisfy the Megalithic cravings of most people as it takes in half a dozen or more sites of different types. The walk will take a minimum of 2.5 hours, much longer if you dally at the sites, and includes paths and walkways that tend to be flooded or at least very muddy – even in dry weather! The path is uphill for a lot of the way – a gentle incline, but a long one so be prepared. As with all walks in open countryside keep an eye on the weather – which can close in quickly in this area – carry a map, and be prepared for all eventualities…

This walk starts from the small lay-by close to the Men an Tol Studios at approximate National Grid Reference SW418344 – there is room for 4 or 5 cars, but take care not to block the gate if parking here! The nearest public transport services are the buses which run along the B3306 coast road, just over a mile to the north-west.

From this starting point, go through the stile by the gate and head east/northeastwards up the track. Stick to the track until you see some derelict farm buildings on the left. A short distance further on look out for a stile to the right, with a CASPN granite sign. Climb the stile and make your way along the grassed path to the Men-an-Tol.

Men-an-Tol

Men an Tol, Cornwall
© AlanS
 
The Men-an-Tol (“holed stone”) is one of the iconic images of Cornwall and can rightly be said to be unique. The monument consists in the main of two upright stones, with a circular holed stone set between them, though there is much more to see here. Some say it was the entrance portal to a long lost barrow – the current alignment of the holed stone is not thought to be original. If the grass in the area is short, it’s possible to make out a ring of stones, where the two uprights and the enigmatic holed stone make up part of the circle. Whether this truly was a barrow with edging stones, or a true stone circle is up for debate – there is also evidence of the remains of a cist near the holed stone, outside of the possible circle. Like the Tolvan Stone near Gweek on the Lizard, Men-an-Tol is steeped in folklore and tradition, and has been used for healing and divination.

Return to the main track by the way you came, this time looking out for a recumbent stone across the path.  Was this at one time an outlier for the stone circle?

For more information on the Men-an-Tol, see here

Carn Galver

Once at the track, turn right to continue the journey. Ahead and slightly to the left on the horizon is the distinctive shape of Carn Galver. The name Carn Galver means “rockpile at the lookout place”, and may have once been used as a high viewpoint for Bosigran Castle, nearby on the coast to the NW.

Cornwall is a land of Giants, and the giant who inhabited Carn Galver was said to protect the villagers of Zennor and Morvah from attack by other giants in return for gifts of the occasional sheep or goat. He played quoits with granite boulders and rocked himself to sleep on a giant logan stone.

Two fields up from the Men-an-Tol, at a gate on the left, look forward and to the right to see the Maen Scryfa on the near horizon. There is often a herd of cows in this field – important if you’re bovineaphobic like me. Note also that the field is private property, and you will be committing trespass if you decide to take a closer look!

Maen Scryfa

Maen Scryfa, Cornwall
© AlanS

Maen Scryfa, the “Stone of Writing” or more simply “Inscribed stone” is a possible bronze age standing stone, later utilised as a memorial to a local chieftain. The northern face bears the inscription ‘RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI’ which in Cornish means ‘Royal Raven son of the Glorious Prince’. This has been dated as ‘late Dark Ages’ or ‘early medieval’, depending upon your timeline and viewpoint.
 

Return once more to the path, and continue alongside the Maen Scryfa field. Note that this part of the track can be very muddy, and even flooded in places – an alternative path can be found by clambering the bank on the right and returning to the track further on. At the end of the field, several tracks meet. Turn right, and head for the old gate in front of you. This area is also subject to flooding so watch your step! Note: There has been some work done recently in this area as part of the ‘enclosure’ of Boskednan Downs for cattle grazing. Additional fencing is now in place in this area and you may encounter livestock.

…to be continued in Part 2

 

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