Cornwall is absolutely gorgeous! We saw many of the most beautiful spots in Cornwall on our tour with Becky from Penelewey Tours. We designed a custom day tour and we could even bring along Baxter! Becky’s family has been in Cornwall for hundreds of years and she is very knowledgeable. Best of all, she did all the driving! (The roads in Cornwall are TERRIFYING!) Absolutely worth every penny (full day, custom guided tour with pick-up & drop-off at our accommodation was £350.00).
- Kynance Cove
- The Lizard Point
- Lamorna Cove
- The Merry Maidens
- Carne Euny
- Botallack Mines
This beautiful spot is on the Lizard peninsula. The Lizard peninsula has a unique geology, completely different than the rest of Cornwall. Barry Wills has a great post here that explains the geology in detail and in layman’s terms.
Fans of the 2015-2018 TV series Poldark might recognize this as Nampara Cove. You can find a list of Poldark filming locations here.
Also on the Lizard peninsula, Lizard Point is the southernmost point of mainland Great Britain. (Land’s End is the westernmost, more on that later.) The beautiful colors on the side of the cliff are flowering succulents.
Moving along the coast, we reached Lamorna Cove in time for a lovely lunch of soup and a huge crab sandwich. So glad Becky was driving! The approach to this spot is winding and NARROW (even by Cornish standards). The moment the sea comes into view is a “Wow!” moment, definitely worth the trip.
The Merry Maidens
Mark and I have enjoyed visiting many of the standing stones, stone circles, and other neolithic sites around the UK. See the post on Bodmin Moor for pictures of the Hurlers. The Merry Maidens, also called Dawns Meyn or the Nineteen Maidens date from around 2500 to 1500 B.C. According to legend, the stones were nineteen maidens who were dancing in a field on the sabbath and were turned to stone along with the two pipers. Harsh! You can read more about the stones here.
A short drive from the Maidens is the Iron Age village of Carn Euny. Becky said that she took school trips here as a girl. It’s remarkably intact and the placards give a good explanation of what you are looking at and what it would have looked like at various points in history.
Cornish Tin Mines
We visited two of the iconic Cornish tin mines, Botallack and Levant. (Levant was a different day, not part of the tour with Penelewey Tours.) You see the tall smoke stacks from old mines all over Cornwall. Levant and Botallack are two of the largest and best preserved. Botallack was the location for both Wheal Leisure and Grambler mines in Poldark.
Both mines are on a cliff and extend under the sea. Botallack went out about a half mile; Levant went even further, for up to a mile. Botallack was started in the 1600s and reached it’s heyday in the 1860s. Levant was started a bit later, in 1748, and was in use until 1930. We took the tour inside the Levant engine house, home to one of the largest beam engines — and it still runs! Mark went down into part of the Levant mine. (Close, dark places are NOT my thing.)
Tin and Arsenic
I learned that one of the byproducts of tin mining is arsenic. And back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there wasn’t any agency looking out for the miners, their families, or the environment. In fact, it was the women and children who were most exposed to the arsenic due to their “lighter” duties in the mining process.
Arsenic was big business in the mid-1800s. Botallack mine produced 1,500 tons of arsenic over it’s operation. They constructed a special labyrinth to collect the arsenic when it was separated from the tin ore during processing. After the smoke and fumes cooled, the children were sent in to scrape the poison off the walls. Hey, don’t worry, they had handkerchiefs to cover their noses and mouths! Many of the other mines just let the arsenic go up in smoke through those tall chimneys. Even today, arsenic contamination is a problem, and “a study by R. S. Middleton et al  found that 69% of soils in Cornwall exceed the C4SL for Arsenic under the “Residential with Homegrown Produce” setting.” (Envirotec Magazine)
Mên-an-Tol aka The Doughnut Stone
One of the more unique stone sites we’ve seen is Mên-an-Tol (Cornish for ‘Stone of the Hole’). I called it the Doughnut Stone, maybe that will catch on. It dates from around the same time as the Maidens (2500 to 1500 B.C.). Local legends attribute healing powers to the stone. Crawling through the hole nine times was a cure for things like backaches and rheumatism, while children were passed through the hole three times to cure tuberculosis or rickets. Baxter wasn’t interested in any possible healing powers.
We had an amazing day and got to see and learn so much about Cornwall. Next up, Cornwall’s connection to King Arthur.