St Just to St Ives Trail
The Tinners Way is an ancient 18 mile (29Km) trail from St Ives to Cape Cornwall in St Just. The walk takes in everything that is quintessentially West Penwith, starting on the rugged north coast and heading inland across high moor which has traces of human settlement dating back to prehistoric times. Along the way there are in the region of 20 ancient sites including stone circles, quoits and menhirs.
The origins of the track are probably Bronze Age. At that time much of the peninsula would have been covered in woodland so routes between various settlements would have taken the more open higher ground. Over the years the route became so established as to leave an impression on the landscape. The path's importance was further consolidated during the mining boom of the 18th and 19th century where supplies and ore would have been transported back and forth between areas such as Pendeen and Botallack and the harbour in Hayle.
The Tinner's Way begins down in the charming little fishing cove of Priest's Cove in the shadow of Cape Cornwall. From here follow the coast path around to the next valley, Kenidjack, once home to a major mining operation of which there are still plenty of reminders. Kenidjack Valley is an excellent spot for birdwatchers with a many rare species observed over the years.
From here the trail climbs up Kenidjack Cliff which provides a great view of Cape Cornwall and the Brison rocks beyond.
The cliffs here are rich in traces of prehistoric inhabitance. There are traces of hut circles and barrows along with Kenidjack Cliff Castle, an elaborate and extensive system of ditches and ramparts covering a large proportion of the headland. The hillfort was built to stand guard over Porthledden Cove below which in the Iron Age was a sandy beach, safe to land on.
From here follow the coast a little way towards Botallack. This is the beginning of what was once the centre of the mining industry and at the time one of the most industrialised places on Earth. Hard to imagine now, but there are plenty of reminders in the form of the iconic derelict engine houses. The first of these is Wheal Edward Zawn, and this is where we leave the coast for the time being but it is well worth having a look a little further up the coast at the Crowns, a pair of engine houses perched precariously at the bottom of the rugged cliffs.
The path now heads inland and onto the moors after a brief walk. Around about 2 miles inland is Tregeseal Stone Circle - originally there were 2, possibly 3, circles here but only one remains today. The site is also known as the Tregeseal Nine Maidens or The Dancing Stones.
Nearby are the Holed Stones, 3 large stones with a hole through each and a 4th damaged stone close by.
On the hilltop beyond the stones is Carn Kenidjack, also known as 'Hooting Carn' on account of the noise the wind makes as it funnels through the rocks. This distinctive set of rocks has a number of legends attached to it and was highly significant in prehistoric times with a high concentration of burial sites to be found in the vicinity.
Crossing the B3318, Pendeen Road, the route starts to climb up. This area is known as Woon Gumpus Common and is home to Chun Castle and Quoit. Chun Quoit is unusual in that it is the only quoit in the area that after 5,000 years it has actually retained its capstone in the original placement. Chun Castle is an Iron Age hill fort which is difficult to fully appreciate from the ground. From above, however, you can see the large circular enclosure it forms with walls which would originally been over 3 metres tall, and just as thick. The defensive position of the fort provides great views over the moors and coast below.
After dipping down briefly the Tinner's Way begins to ascend Penwith's highest hill, Watch Croft. The farm track the walk takes passes very close to one of Cornwall's best known ancient monuments, the holed stone of Men-an-Tol. Iconic as these stones are, they are not in the original layout and there is still much speculation about what the original purpose of this Bronze Age site was.
A little further and another slight detour will take you to the inscribed standing stone of Men Scryfa. The inscription on the stone translates as "Royal Raven son of the Glorious Prince"
As the walk heads towards the peaceful plateau of Bosullow Common it skirts Bosilliack and Ding Dong mines. It is said that the mine here was worked as far back as Roman times.
This part of the walk runs high above and parallel to the rugged coast below. The route passes the dramatic worn granite peak of Carn Galva where you can survey the West Cornwall moors and both coasts. Down below are the cliffs of Bosigran, a popular climbing spot, and Carn Galva mine with its two engine houses.
The route continues along high ground of Amalveor Downs towards Lady Downs through rugged moorland strewn with antiquities. On the coastal side is the wind worn rocky outcrop of Zennor Carn which looms high over the village below. A little further on is Zennor Quoit, one of the largest quoits in West Cornwall with its 10 ton capstone. Sadly the quoit is collapsed due to the efforts of a farmer in the 18th century who thought the granite would make a nice cow shed. This is about the point where the B3306 coast road reaches its highest point - "Eagle's Nest". This rocky promontory is marked by the imposing granite house where artist Patrick Heron lived.
From this point on the trail finally begins to descend. Beyond the old mine workings of Rosewall Hill the only point of interest before reaching St Ives is Towednack, and in particular its rather distinctive little church. Dedicated to St Tewinnoc (Trewennocus, Wednack, Winnow or Winwaloe) the church has a particularly squat tower which is attributed to the Devil. Apparently the Dark Lord had nothing better to do than knock the top of the church tower off every evening as it was being built.
Heading down towards St Ives you join the main road at the old mining site of Consols. There isn't a great deal to see here and it is pretty much up to you how you find your way down into St Ives town. You can head all the way down the Stennack to the town centre and harbour or bear left which will take you over the top with spectacular views of Porthmeor Beach and beyond. Either way is suitably pleasant and replete with cafes and spots to find some well earned refreshments.