Penzance Off The Beaten Path Tips by leafmcgowan
Penzance Off The Beaten Path: 13 reviews and 36 photos
The Chûn Castle is an Iron Age hillfort on the summit of Chûn Downs holding a stronghold with secure views of the north and northwest, onwards to the Atlantic Coast and south towards Mounts Bay. it is roughly 84 meters in diameter with stone walls up to 2.7 meters high and is formed of two concentric rings of granite. There are stone gateposts flanking the entrance. To the west is a chocked well with steps descending down into the water. Pottery found on site suggests the main period of operation was from 3rd century BCE until 1st century CE, with possible re-occupation in 5th-6th century CE. Other evidence shows it was built around 2500 years ago. The fort is circular with two very impressive stone walls and an external ditch. In the interior of the circle fortifications are the remains of several stone walled round houses, of course in ruins, by later activity. One of these is an oval shaped roundhouse that is believed to be post-Roman occupation. The only entrance is a stone-lined passage through the large inner ramparat on the west side with an offset opening through the outer rampart, which is believed to have held a defensive function. A furnace was discovered on the northern edge containing tin and iron indicating that mineral processing was carried out here in the Iron Age. The entrance was set in line with the inner one and the entranceway aligned 250 meters towards the Neolithic chamber tomb known as Chun Quoit which was present long before the stronghold was created. Nearby to the east is the Romano-British courtyard house village of Bosullow Trehyllys which may have been contemporary with the fort. Chun Castle was probably utilized to protect the mining resources and the prehistoric trackway known as Old St. Ives Road.
The Men Scryfa Standing Stone is a standing engrave stone sitting in the middle of a field not far from the infamous Men-an-Tol holey stone monument and the Nine Maidens stone circle. Its early origins is unknown just like with all the other standing stones. "Men Scryfa" translates to "Stone with Writing" as the stone bears early Christian inscription "RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI" which translates to "Rialobran, son of Cunoval" according to some translators and "Royal Raven Son of the Glorious Prince" by others. This is a commemoration of the death in battle of a royal warrior or gravestone epitaph. Rialobran is thought to be a local king or warrior. The raven is a bird of carrion that is linked with death and the battlefield, assessed with the magical power of such things for those that worshipped it; also representative of the Irish Goddess Morrigan, the Goddess of War and Death. Celtic legends links the name Bran (as in RialoBRANi) to the ancient British warrior king, the keeper of the cauldron of immortality, whose decapitated head continues to have powers of speech. The story of RIALOBRANI is about an invader who attacked the Glorious Prince, seized his lands and occupied the Lescudjack hillfort at Penzance, sending the defeated royalty fleeing the area around Carn Euny or the hillfort of Caer Bran (the Raven Castle). The Royal Raven then supposedly tried to reclaim his territory and a great battle took place in result - killing Rialobrani / Ryalvran and burying him by this stone that was supposedly the same height as the deceased. There was legends of gold buried beneath it as well - though some farmer dreaming of a crock of gold dug a pit around the stone causing it to collapse and not finding any gold. The monument was re-erected at a recent date. The Latin dates to about 500 CE and it was found that the stone marks a grave. Whether the stone itself was erected earlier than that, we don't know but is presumed to have been reused by the inscribers. It stands 2 meters high and probably dates from the Bronze Age for the stone carving/shaping/erection itself.
Not far from the Ding Dong Mine and Men-at-tol lies two stone circles next to one another. The one on a small hill-rise I could not determine the name of, but the one elevated a bit from the boggy areas around the shafts of Ding Dong is the "Nine Maidens" or "Boskednan". This circle is in poor condition but considered a very magical place to most of its visitors. It is believed there were upwards of 22 Neolithic stones originally, though only 6 remain completely standing, and only 10-11 can be sighted. The circle is approximately 22 meters in diameter. The row measures 80 meters in length and varies in stone sizes from .6 meters to 2 meters. All of the stones are aligned to face the northeast, towards the stone that has been labelled "The Fiddler" which lies about 730 meters from the stone circle. It is believed that the original circle included the fiddler at one time. The remaining 10-12 stone's current location is unknown to this day. In 2004 this circle was partially restored. The common belief is that the Nine Maidens was used for Pagan rituals. The stones are aligned to the four cardinal points (North, South, East, and West) suggesting they may also have been used as some agricultural calendar. This is also Cornwall's only known Neolithic structure. There is much folklore and legend around the circle - many of which are Christian and designed to ward people away from the circle. The most popular of which is that once nine maidens were cast into stone because they engaged in dancing on this spot during a Sunday. The fiddler who is also encased in stone is the musician who chose to play for them. Tales of bad luck to visitors of the Circle may have also been the Church's method to lure people away from it. Some say from a distance the stones are like 9 white maidens swaying and dancing in the sunlight everyday at noon. Another legend states that the assembled crowd were 17 brothers turned to stone for dancing. Another belief is that there is a curse placed on anyone who interferes with the stone circle. What we do know is that it is a cairn circle or kerbed cairn that stands in an area of a scattered rockfield below a tor. There are sixteen stones in the area, one uprooted outside the circle, one buried, and two leaning flat with just the tops visible. Reports through the years have stated from 10-16 remaining stones. You can look at these pictures for the number I saw on my 2010 visit. In 1985 a horror film called "The Circle of Doom" was shot here, and they had erected an additional stone for the circle - but the legend of the curse for any to interfere with the circle was believed to have struck and the sole copy of the finished film was lost in the post. St. Michael's ley-line passes through the circle narrowing from a width of 7 meters to a point here. Burials are believed to reside below. The other circle has roughly 6 stones remaining.
As I was searching for the Nine Maidens Stone Circle i soon found myself in a bog and a mine field. Not exactly the mine field one would think when one states such a thing, but rather fields of pit mines that were no longer in use or drained. This is known locally as the Ding Dong Mining Area. The Ding Dong mine at the center of all the semi-roped off shafts and pits that looked alot like sunken depressions or sinkholes. This enormous shaft mine is a historic landmark of the area. After stumbling off the proven footpath, I realized I was wandering around animal paths and trails until they vanished in the bog and I rather found myself waist deep in prickly bog plants and no stone monuments in sight. The Ding Dong Mine in this area is a landmark often used to find Men-at-Tol and Nine Maidens Circle in Cornwall as its massive tower can be seen on the horizon. It is an old mining area in the Lands End granite mass located approximately 2 miles south of St. Just to Penzance roadway. No one for sure knows why it is called "Ding Dong", but one suggestion is reference to it as such in Cannon Jennings book on the history of Madron, Morvah, and Penzance that refers to the "head of the lode" outcrop of tin on this hill. In Madron there is a "Ding Dong" bell that was rung to mark the end of the last shift for the miners each day. In 1714, the Ding Dong Mines consisted of actually three separate mines - "the Good Fortune", "Wheal Malkin", and "Hard Shafts Bounds". By the 18th century there were at least seven mines and it is believed the name "Ding Dong" was not used until the turn of the 18th century. By 1782 there were 16 working mines in the area. Ding Dong made the headlines in 1796 for copyright infringement as a 28 inch cylinder inverted engine designed by Edward Bull was put into Ding Dong as he utilized their methodology to create his own engines and claimed as his own. The one erected at Ding Dong during this year was with a conventional Boulton and Watt engine inverted by Richard Trevithick and William West. The Ding Dong mine was in its final form by 1820 as they erected a new 'fire engine' and by 1834 had two pumping engines and two winding engines. By 1850 the mine was exhausted with mining moving around the area tapping what was left. With 206 in employ, the Ding Dong mine survived the depression in tin prices that was caused by the American Civil War although manpower decreased to a crew of 121 from the 206. The mine stopped production by 1877. It was briefly re-opened in 1911 when tin prices rose and the dumps were explored for any remains. This lasted from 1912-1915 as they found 51 tons of tin concentrate left, but when metal prices dropped again - they closed. Since that time, three other attempts were unsuccessfully made to re-open the mines.
The infamous holey-stone known as "Men-an-tol" is located in tip of Cornwall near Madron and Lanyon Farm. This is one of England's most highly photographed megalithic sites. The name "Men-An-Tol" means "holed stone". Its purpose is unknown, but theorized to be a Druid ritual site, A Faerie Portal, A calendar, A gateway to the Otherworlds, A burial site, A ritual site, as well as a half a dozen other suggestions ... but the truth is, its purpose still remains a mystery. There are only four stones remaining that are known parts of the monument - two upright stones with the holed stone inbetween them, and a fallen stone at the foot of the western upright. It is believed, especially from antiquarian illustrations, that through the ages, these stones have been moved around and re-arranged at various times. In the 18th century, William Borlase describes the layout as triangular. During the 19th century, JT Blight proposed that the site is the remains of a stone circle. If this was the case, the holed stone would probably be aligned along the circumference of the circle and have a special ritual significance by providing a lens through which to view other sites or features, or as some propose, a window into other worlds. Archaeological theory proposes it as a component of a burial chamber or cist dating from the Bronze Age but lacks but since no extensive excavations have been conducted. WC Borlase in 1885 discovered a single flaked flint. Holed stones are rare in Cornwall, and outside of this site - there is only the Tolvan Stone near Gweek. All the others are much smaller with holes less than 15 cm in diameter, too small for a human (adult or infant) to pass through. There is much folklore surrounding the 'men-at-tol' as well as traditions. The site is known for curing many ailments, especially rickets in children, by passing the sufferer through the hole. It is also utilized in rituals and rites to travel between various worlds. There is believed to be a faerie or piskie guardian who lives here that makes the miraculous cures. It is believed that changeling babies were brought here and passed through the stone in order for the mother to get the real child back. Local legends state that if at full moon a woman passes through the holed stone seven times backwards she would soon become pregnant. For centuries children with rickets were passed naked through the hole to heal them. The circular stones line up exactly with the center stone at Boscawen-Un. It has been known as a alternative cure for 'scrofulous taint" or the "Kings Evil". Men-At-Tol was also legendary for fixing back problems. This mere fact gave it the name "Crick stone". Some saw the site as a protection against witchcraft and ill-wishes, while others feel it can be utilized for augury or fortune telling. With the three upright granite stones - the round stone in the middle holed out with two small standing to each side in front and behind the holey stone, form a three-dimensional "101".
Real close to Lanyon Farm lies a single megalith called "Lanyon Quoit". Barely noticeable from the road as the stone property walls block the direct view from the roadway, is a little walk-through with a National Trust sign signifying the monument. As you walk up to the stone megalith - the sense of awe and history overwhelms you and enchantment of times long past of the people to came to this place to raise these large stones. Burial marker or tomb? Solar calendrical stones? Faerie Fort? No one really knows the true nature of the monument. This is one of Cornwall's most ancient and popular monuments. It is believed to date from the Neolithic period (3500-2500 BCE), from a time where the only tools that existed to create these monument stones were themselves stones, sticks, and natural materials. The huge capstone of this monument had originally stood atop four upright stone columns, but through time it had collapsed to the ground, smashing some of the original stone supports during a storm in 1815. So the Quoit that is seen today, is the re-erected one, at right-angles to its original position, on top of what remains of the uprights. It was originally tall enough for a horse and rider to pass underneath it, that is no longer possible, as it is just over a meter tall at present. Sitting beneath it rewards the pilgrim an intense meditation and prophecy for the spiritual, and a moment of awe for the non-religious. Current archaeological theorie believes these quoits in the area as grave markers or funeral sites. Some have theorized that bodies were laid on top of the capstone to be eaten by carrion birds ans similar sites show evidence of bones from several individuals and its thought the bones were moved to sites such as this one for use in rituals to communicate with ancestors and the spirit world.
This is one of Cornwall's most actively sacred sites and blessing wells. It is throughout Cornish history known as a Cornish sacred site that was dedicated to Madron or Mabon, the Earth Goddess, as a site for the granting of wishes, answering of prayers, and its healing waters. To this day, people flock from all over the world to make requests or petitions by offerings of pins or coins to the well or by tying 'clouties' (or pieces of cloth) to the nearby bushes to appease the water spirits within the well to grant blessings. The well has a long history of healing properties. Up until the 18th century it was the only source of fresh water for Madron and Penzance. A stone baptistry was built near the well dating to the 6th century that was utilized for baptisms and blessings making use of the sacred waters that flow in this area. The baptistry is now just stone ruins measuring 7 x 5 meters with no roof (no evidence there was ever a roof). The blocks are made of granite. Spring water flows through the granite blocks into a basin located within the southwest corner of the ruins. A low altar stone, believed to be Pagan, can be found along the eastern wall with stone seats lining the walls. During my visit in June of 2010, the altar was in use as a memorial for a girl named Cherry who loved this site. I can only assume she recently passed away. The waters flowing from this Spring, feeding both the baptistry and the Pagan well is buried in lore about it hosting healing waters. The true 'Pagan' well is believed to be buried further into the marsh (approx. a half a mile from the baptistry) and not at the actual spot where people traditionally have been tying the clouties.
It is told that local Pagan groups have located the original well and made the true location more accessible. The well is outlined by a stone surround and is located near the green mound known as "St Madderns" bed where pilgrims would sleep upon as part of the healing cure. Clouties or pieces of cloth are often cut from a person's clothes, like I did with the shirt I wore to the site, and hung / tied to a thorn on the hawthorne tree for luck. Also tearing a piece of cloth off of the body where the body is ill will result in a cure for that which is ailing the requestor. East Cornish lore also has a custom of bathing in the sea on the three first sunday mornings in May - after which the children were brought to this site before sunrise to be dipped in the running water so that they may be cured of rickets, skin diseases, colic, shingles, aches, pains, and other child disorders. After being stripped naked, the children are plunged three times into the water, parents facing the sun, and passed around the well nine times from east to west. They were then dressed and laid by the side of the well to sleep in the sun - and if the water bubbled when they lied down, it was good sign the prayer/petition was heard. Not a word was spoken of the even for the whole time for fear it could break the spell. The water from the well has magical healing properties if drunk or applied to the body of the ill. The site is also used for love magic. Young girls often would visit the site in May to find their sweethearts by dropping crooked pins or small heavy things into the well in couples, and if the items stayed together the pair would be married. The number of bubbles surfacing from the fall will show the time that will elapse before the match is made. Sometimes two pieces of straw were weaved into a cross and fastened to the center by a pin to be utilized in these divinations. The area is extremely magical and enchanting. Walking in the forests around the Well on a breezy day will result in great tree chatter and omens revealed by dryads. Water naiads are also abundant in the Spring who grant the wishes/petitions. In 1996 there was an incident where unidentified persons who took offense to the Pagan practices of the Spring cut down to branches upon which the clouties were tied. Folklore states that the Bishop of Exeter brought a crippled man named John Trelille here ... who was paralysed from the waist down. Upon bathing in the waters on the first three thursdays in May, each time sleeping on St. Maderne's bed, was miraculously cured of the paralysis.
This small little parish village of granite cottages that is located near Penzance and served as one of Penzance's notable water sources. It is approximately 3 km / 2 miles northwest of the Penzance town center. The town is most notorious for the location of the fabled Madron Well - a healing spring that was dedicated to Madron or Mabon - the Mother Goddess. The Parish and village is named after the Patron Saint "St. Mabyn" who is named after the Goddess Mabon or Madron. The population is roughly 1,500 inhabitants. Its believed that the area that is now the town began as a medieval habitation site. This is assessed by the finding of a couple of inscribed stones - one of which was found in the wall of the village church and the other as built into the Northern wall of the North Aisle, west of the entrance door of the church. Both are missing. Madron was recorded in the Domesday Book. Madron is also home to the Penzance Union Workhouse that was formed in June 1838 and used until 1948.
From the distance this appears as a round of trees in the middle of a field on the top of a hill roughly a mile west of the town of Penzance. Once entering this 'round' one can find a stone and earthen-mounded defensive wall/boundary nestled around where the trees were planted creating a unique defensive position. The term "Lesingey Round" means "hedged stronghold". It is 1.5 acre circular enclosure formed by a broad and high annular mound of earth. Natural slopes within the round are not very steep. Good views of the countryside and surrounding area can be spied from the round. A field wall has been erected around the outer perimeter of the ditch and the whole of the area enclosed is densely wooded. There is historical debate that this is the actual historic "Castle Horneck" which is the current label of a Georgian styled Manor a couple of fields away utilized as a Hostelling International Youth Hostel. Another name for this round is "Timber Castle" or "Lesigney Round". These are the earthwork remains of an Iron Age hillfort that was probably re-occupied during the medieval period. The rampart stands 12-15 feet high from the bottom of the circular ditch that forms the round. Some scholars believe this to be the site of the C12 castle report and place name now utilized by Castle Horneck approximately 400 meters west of the site. These timber castles are quite common along the Cornish countryside. They are of the motte and bailey or ringwork forms where that formulated the vast majority of castles in the early conquest period and during the Marches of the 11th-12th century as well as placed in the Anarchy during the reign of Stephen. During medieval times, these were short-lived even though some of the castles survived for centuries with timber buildings and defenses being replaced occasionally via timber or masonry. The site is yet unprotected as of this writing but is scheduled for protection by law in the near future.
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