A prehistoric long weekend in West Cornwall - Friendly Guides

A prehistoric long weekend in West Cornwall

West Penwith or the Land’s End Peninsula has a terrific number of prehistoric sites most set high on the West Penwith Moors overlooking the north coast. A second, smaller group is concentrated inland of Lamorna on the south coast. These two day-long itineries are focused mainly on the earliest monuments or megaliths which date from the Neolithic or Stone Age (4000–2300BC). At that time humans were moving from a lifestyle based around hunting and gathering wild food to a more sedentary one exploiting the newly arrived technology of agriculture. Rather extraordinarily, West Penwith has monuments from this earliest period. Family or clan tombs called quoits date from the centuries around 3500BC, nearly five and a half thousand years ago. Other famous ritual monuments like stone circles are probably later and seem to date from the Bronze Age (2300–800BC).

Here are two day-long itineraries to visit the quoits and stone circles of West Penwith plus other nearby prehistoric sites. They don’t involve anything too strenuous and you can easily divert to a beach if you want a break.

DAY ONE – a tour of north coast Stone Age quoits

The quoits are perhaps the most recognisable monuments of West Penwith, Lanyon Quoit being the most famous. If you’re a prehistoric fanatic and you want to visit as many sites as possible you could start early with a short walk up to Chûn Quoit near Pendeen. It’s a relatively small example but the most complete of the quoits (most have fallen cap stones). You can continue to the top of the hill to the Iron Age (800BC–AD43) hill fort of Chûn Castle. Then back in the car to Lanyon Quoit (nearby Bosiliack Barrow is one of my favourite Bronze Age tombs). Drive a little further and stop again for a short walk up to the Bronze Age holed stone of Men-an-tol. Now for a well earned lunch at the Tinner’s Arms or cafes in Zennor. In the afternoon it’s an easy stroll down to the coast at Zennor Head for the views or, keeping up the prehistoric itinerary, a walk up to the top of Zennor Carn and the best quoit of all – Zennor Quoit (continue to Trendrine for a good hilltop tomb). Then return to Zennor village and drive to St Ives for a swim and/or a choice of places to eat.

DAY TWO - south coast stone circles and standing stones

Drive towards Lamorna on the south coast. Right by the roadside are the Merry Maidens, perhaps the most well known of West Penwith’s stone circles (the huge standing stones of the Pipers of Boleigh and Tregiffian Barrow are also nearby). Next it’s the atmospheric circle at Boscawen-ûn just south of the A30 beyond Catchall. Then take a picnic lunch to Carn Eûny Ancient Village. In the afternoon return to the coast at Treen and walk to the headland called the Logan Rock. This is thought to have been a very early Stone Age gathering place and was later fortified in the Iron Age (800BC–AD43) with earth ramparts. To the west of the headland a path winds down the cliff to a beach exposed at low tide called Pedn Vounder (Treen Cove). This is one of the most magnificently set of all Cornish beaches (there are alternative nearby beaches at Porthcurno and Porth Chapel). End the day with dinner and pint in the Logan Rock Inn in Treen, fish and chips in Sennen Cove or in posh fish meal in Newlyn.

Taken from our West Cornwall: Land's End Guidebook