The Commercial is a handsome inn located on the market square at St Just, close to stunning…
St Just is the most westerly town in England, and Cape Cornwall is the only Cape in England. Both were once at the heart of Cornwall’s mining industry. Mining has now ceased, but the history of St Just is of such significance that the area is now a part of the Devon and Cornwall World Heritage Mining Site.
The cliffs of Cape Cornwall are not composed of the golden granite typical of the Land’s End Peninsula. They comprise more ancient rocks, known as ‘country rock’ – the primeval sedimentary shales that were later transformed and ‘baked’ by the molten granite that erupted from deep within the earth. The intense heat, chemical reactions and physical changes that took place produced the abundant mineral deposits that made west Cornwall famous. During the heyday of Victorian mining, this area was a vibrant, if bleak, industrial landscape with more than 2,000 people employed in mining. Today, what survives are the granite chimney stacks, buildings, wheel pits and water leats of the mine processing works that once filled the valleys and cliffside with sound and fury and swirling clouds of smoke and dust.
A harsh life
Amid all of this, men, women and children worked endlessly in one of the toughest environments ever. We marvel at the romance of it all, but the reality was often brutal. Mineral ores were rich in arsenic, and the ‘calciner’ building passed on this walk was used to extract arsenic from raw ore at times when tin was unprofitable. Arsenic commanded good prices as a pesticide. The ore was ‘baked’ in the calciners, and the smoke drafted through labyrinthine tunnels. The arsenic was deposited as powder on the tunnel walls and was then scraped off, mainly by women and young boys whose lungs and skin were unprotected. Life expectancy for the arsenic harvesters was low. The ruins around Cape Cornwall serve as memorials to a dramatic industry and to a remarkable people.
Leave the car park and turn right to reach Market Square. Turn left, and at a road junction beside a clock tower go straight across (with care) and down the narrow Chapel Street.
At a T-junction, with the Wesleyan chapel opposite, turn right. At a junction with the main road, by a public footpath sign, go left along a narrow passageway in front of two cottages. Go over a stile and cross a small field to another stile. Go diagonally right across the next field towards three telegraph poles.
Go over a stile, then bear round left and alongside the field-edge to another stile. Follow the path between trees, then go over a stile and cross a road at a waste water plant. Go over a stile and a footbridge to a surfaced lane.
Turn left along the lane. Keep ahead onto a rough track at a junction by a house. At the next junction keep right along the track, and at the next junction, by a National Trust sign for Kenidjack, take the left-hand branch downhill, forking left beside extensive mine ruins. Turn left at Coast Path signs along a narrow path and across a footbridge.
Follow the path as it winds steeply uphill. Keep right where it begins to level off at a T-junction. Keep right at the next junction and follow the coast path. Turn right at a junction and pass above a whitewashed house to reach a surfaced road above Cape Cornwall. Two paces before the road, turn right along the coast path then head out onto the road opposite the entrance to a National Trust car park.
Turn right along the road past the toilets. Turn sharp left at a gateway with a ‘Private Road’ sign, and go down a series of granite steps. Turn left up a steep surfaced lane at a junction above Priest’s Cove. Turn sharply right at the next junction and follow a stony track uphill to Middle Carn Gloose.
Follow a surfaced road past the Ballowall Barrow Bronze Age grave. Turn right down a track about 150yds (137m) beyond a mine stack and opposite a bench. Keep straight ahead across two junctions to a surfaced road that leads between houses. Keep left at a broad junction and go up the lane opposite for 100yds (90m).
Turn right in front of a house called Porth Nanven Barn and go through a gate and then a kissing gate. Follow a path that becomes overgrown to a stile. Cross a field to a step stile by a tall wooden post. Turn left along the field-edge. Go over a stile at buildings to reach a lane. Turn left and carry straight on, ignoring three roads leading off to the right. Take the fourth, Market Street, to return to the car park, which is now in sight.
Mostly well defined; some coastal sections steep and rocky; may be wet and muddy; many stiles
Coastal area with industrial archaeology
Lead required in field sections where there may be livestock
OS Explorer 102 Land’s End
St Just free car park, opposite the library
St Just car park and Cape Cornwall car park
<p>The walk can be started either from St Just car park or alternatively from the National Trust car park at Cape Cornwall (Point 6), where there is a fee for non-National Trust members</p>
WALKING IN SAFETY
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover Cornwall and Isles of Scilly
Cornwall has just about everything – wild moorland landscapes, glorious river valley scenery, picturesque villages and miles of breathtaking coastline. With more than 80 surfing spots, there are plenty of sporting enthusiasts who also make their way here to enjoy wave-surfing, kite surfing and blokarting.
In recent years, new or restored visitor attractions have attracted even more visitors to the region; the Eden Project is famous for its giant geodesic domes housing exotic plants from different parts of the globe, while nearby the Lost Gardens of Heligan has impressive kitchen gardens and a wildlife hide.
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