May 2019 – just over a year ago…
After completing the South West Coast Path in 2018 we decided to return to Cornwall for a ‘holiday’ and revisit a few places we didn’t have time to really enjoy when we were on our 630 mile coast path challenge.
We began to prepare a to do list and, while we were doing this, I remembered a footpath sign we had seen a couple of years earlier near St Ives. At the time we wondered what it meant, recognising the scallop shell used as the route marker for the Camino de Santiago, but didn’t know what the link was between Cornwall and the popular pilgrim route in Spain.
It’s a sign
As it turns out St Michaels Way is an old trading route and pilgrim path used first by merchants and then pilgrims, often from Wales or Ireland, on their way to Spain. They would have landed their boats on the north coast of Cornwall and trekked overland to avoid the treacherous seas around Lands End. Pilgrims would have headed to St Micahels Mount before sailing away to Spain. Their destination was the tomb of St James at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compestela.
This route is the English route, the Camino Ingles, and is the UKs only European Cultural Route.
We decided to split the 13.5 mile route into three circular sections to enjoy the surroundings and area of central Cornwall. Having walked all the way around the edge of this amazing county we felt we really should see a bit of the middle! I will describe the three days we spent walking as if we were walking it in one day.
Officially the route starts at St Uny Church, Leylant and then follows he coastline. It is here, inside the church, that we found guide books and passports which had spaces for inked stamps to be made at six locations along the way.
Stamping my passport at St Uny Church
Tim also stamping passport at St Uny Church
The guide, at £4 would prove to be really helpful as it described the route and included lots of interesting historical facts.
St Uny Church
Stain glass window inside St Uny
Clutching our new documents we had a quick look around the church and set off out of the church grounds. Whether you are religious or not it’s worth having a look around and inside churches – the stain glass windows are often incredible.
After taking a quick look at the estuary we joined the south west coast path with the railway on one side and the sea on the other. We made our way to Carbis Bay – having occasional glimpses of St Ives in the distance.
At this point we turned inland, uphill and away from the south west coast path. Crossing a main road, onto a minor road then footpaths to Knills Monument which is within Steeple woods nature reserve. The monument is a huge pyramid, we stopped here to admire the view.
View back to our starting point
Following the way markers to another minor road and back onto paths and crossing fields there are several stiles to cross that are very typically made of large granite stones, usually with a gap or two between them to stop livestock from getting through.
The lush hedgerows were full of spring flowers.
We came to a very hidden tree lined track, then the end of a gravel driveway with two or three houses and found the second inked stamp in a box just outside a cottage near Bowl Rock.
Checking the guide for further instructions
Bowl Rock itself was less than a minute away. It is a huge granite rock which was a Giants bowling ball – according to legend!
From Bowl Rock we made our way up to Tremcrom Hill, bravely walking through a herd of mixed cattle. Why are they always standing right next to the entrance or exit of fields!?
At Tremcrom Hill we met a friendly Dutch couple walking in the opposite direction. They had walked from Newlyn (near Penzance), which was quite a walk in itself, and wanted to end up at St Ives and return by bus. ‘Did we know about buses from there?’ We were sorry but we didn’t. ‘Oh well not to worry’. They seemed very relaxed about their journey, we said our goodbyes, and off they went. We worried about a possible lack of bus and the time it would take them to get to St Ives. Oh well, not to worry!
Our route continued to Ninnes Bridge, then crossed several large fields, passing a large farm and downhill to the Red River. We crossed at a beautiful spot where there was a ford and a small bridge. It was quite serene.
Following a very quiet small lane then more fields we had our first sighting of St Michaels Mount. We continued to Ludgvan Church where we put the third stamp into our passport.
Adding another stamp at Ludgvan Church
At Ludgvan Church there are two routes shown on the map to St Michaels Mount. We followed the route to the village of Gulval and returned to the village via the Marsh Route – as a circular walk.
At Gulval village we stopped and admired the 12th century church but the ink stamp for our passport was just up the road inside the village pub (Coldstream Inn) which was closed! Not wanting to wait until 11:00am we carried on. Apparently in old pilgrim times this would have been a great meeting place before the last leg to St Michaels Mount. The village I mean not the pub – but hey who knows, perhaps there was a local watering hole back then.
These days the final leg to St Michaels Mount means crossing a busy main road and the mainline railway line which runs to and from Penzance. This can spoil the whole pilgrimage feel but we didn’t worry too much. Joining the south west coast path on the promenade we turned left and headed to Marazion and the busy crossing points to St Michaels Mount.
It was high tide and we couldn’t cross via the causeway we needed a boat to get across. But before that we went into the church at Marazion to stamp our passport.
If you’ve never been to St Michaels Mount you need to go. This was our second visit. Travelling by boat one way and walking back across the causeway is best I feel.
Boats at St Michaels Mount harbour
Boats race back & forth to the Mount and we laughed and smiled as we bounced our way over slightly choppy waters into the calm harbour. Once over we headed straight to a small building called the Change House to get our passport stamped.
Passport just stamped at St Michaels Mount
Outside the Change House on St Michaels Mount – just where the causeway comes across.
Ancient pilgrims certainly wouldn’t have been thinking about having an ice cream at this point of their journey but that was our plan once back on the mainland. We returned to Marazion.
Off to get ice cream at Marazion
After that we took the ‘alternative’ Marsh path back to Ludgvan which is where it split. Pilgrims may have avoided this route because it crosses marsh – today we can enjoy boardwalks through a tiny nature reserve.
Almost there. Crossing the boardwalk over the marsh
After this we crossed the Penzance railway line again and skirted around a few fields. Crossing level crossings or similar crossings always brings out the joker in both of us. Do not try this at home! We are not always good role models….
oh no my foot is struck!
Before long we were at Ludgvan. By car we travelled to Gulval, to the Coldstream Arms (now open) and placed our final stamps into our passports. Now they were complete.
Completed St Michaels Way
This was our first pilgrimage. It was great fun, the sunshine made it perfect and we felt blessed!
I include a link below to a weekend challenge set by GC and Sue – I hope this post meets the challenge of coming or going though perhaps, for me, it’s more ‘keep going’.
Weekend Challenge – Coming or Going