From an encounter with a Real Mermaid to a Pilgrimage, Virgin Hill, the Last Day.

Post 177:  17 April 1998 Day 6 – St Ives to Penzance – 14 miles

Having survived the previous days encounter with the Real Mermaid of Zennor (see post 176), I started out with a skip in my step as I headed along the coast towards Carbis Bay on this my last day. Here I joined part of the Santiago de Compostela – a network of pilgrim routes, which lead to one of the three most important places of Christian pilgrimage in the world – the Cathedral of St James in Santiago de Compostela, North West Spain. No wonder I was excited. Since the ninth century, people have trekked across Europe to make their pilgrimage to the shrine of St James the Great, the brother of St John. In 1987 the Council of Europe decided to promote the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way ‘as a highly symbolic and significant European cultural route’.

The St Michael’s Way is one of the Santiago de Compostela routes, which crosses Cornwall and was particularly used by pilgrims from Ireland and Wales who wished to reach Europe, without sailing around Land’s End. The route has been signposted by a shell sign based on the Council of Europe’s sign for pilgrim routes.

After leaving Carbis Bay with its gorgeous beaches and palm trees,

Cornwall Summer 2008 019 there is a steady climb until Knill’s Monument is reached. From here there are magnificent views of Carbis Bay and the north coast. John Knill was the Collector of Customs at St Ives in 1762 and Mayor five years later. He built this monument and left money for celebrations every five years, which have continued ever since. They are held on the Feast Day of St James the Apostle, 25th July, thus creating a link with the earlier pilgrims.

I left the fine views behind to quiet enclosed ways and country lanes. I soon passed a monolithic, longstone, or menhir. After passing through undulating fields I reached a huge granite boulder, The Bowl Rock supposedly bowled here by a giant during a game. Trencrom Hill a little further on was believed to be the centre for giants. It was in fact an Iron Age hill-fort and is now in the hands of the National Trust. From the top there were superb views from coast to coast, including Mounts Bay, and I was pleased to stop here for a lunch with a view.

Descending from the hill I passed the quaint Ninnesbridge Chapel now converted into a house.

Cornwall Summer 2008 037After more undulating fields I descended a steep hill to Red River Ford, another place for a break but I had to watch out for the occasional car splashing me as it went through the stream.

Another ascent led past Ludgvan Church, noted for being where the famous antiquary and naturist, William Borlaze, was rector between 1722 and 1772. After walking along quite lanes I climbed Virgin Hill (I am not sure how or why it got its name but I can guess!) from where I enjoyed a tremendous view of St Michael’s Mount, a fairy tale scene. An island rises magnificently from Mounts Bay and perched on the top is a ‘12th-century castle’.

St Michael's MountIt was given to the monks from Mont St Michel in Normandy in 1070, and a Benedictine priory built on the summit in 1135 became an important place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. The priory, rebuilt in the 14th century, became the home of the St. Aubyn family in 1659 and the family still live there, although it is now owned by the National Trust. Fortunately the tide was out and I was able to gain access to the gardens and buildings by walking along the causeway. When the tide is in it is possible to be ferried in a boat.

As I left the Mount and followed the path above the broad beach along Mounts Bay my journey was coming to an end. Admiring Penzance church standing out above the houses it was time to reflect on a beauty and variety of this interesting walk.

I was soon on the Inter-City train heading away from this lovely peninsula back to the trappings of a busy commercial world. However, I knew I would come back……………


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