Looking like a leftover prop from a film set in the court of King Arthur, Roche Rock rises out of the china clay landscape to the north of St Austell in the most dramatic fashion. The mystery surrounding this 20-metre (66ft) tall, almost cuboidal, mass of granite is only heightened when you catch sight of the ruined fifteenth-century chapel that stands on its flat summit.
Dedicated to Saint Michael, the chapel seems to have had a variety of roles over the centuries. There are plenty of reports of it being used as shelter by a local hermit – giving it the alternative name of Roche Rock Hermitage. Others suggest it was used in medieval times by the Tregarnick family, local landowners, the father from which had contracted leprosy and wanted to protect his loved ones from the disease. It is said his daughter, St Gundred tended to him here.
Either way, there's no doubting the continued impact of this two-story structure, which still stands to its full height at its eastern end. The west end has fared less well over the centuries, having collapsed entirely. Although the structure has been stabilised, the hike to its ancient stones is no easy task. Involving stone-cut steps and rusting ironwork, it's not for the fainthearted.
Given its striking appearance it is perhaps no surprise that Roche Rock features in Cornish myth. Best known of all these is the Legend of Jan Tregeagle whose hapless evil spirit was set to roam the wilds of Cornwall in eternal torment. The story goes that while fleeing from Demons Tregeagle sought sanctuary in the chapel, but in his rush for sacred ground managed to get only his head through the east window where he became stuck with his body dangling outside. Eventually the local priest heard his calls and freed him to his next fate - spinning a rope from the sands of Gwenver beach near Land's End.