Bodmin Moor

Bodmin Moor is 80 square miles of moorland from which a number of granite tors rise - Roughtor and Brown Willy being the highest and most well known. Bodmin moor has over 200 Bronze Age settlements and many prehistoric stone barrows and circles.

Davidstow

Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor near Davidstow
Crowdy reservior at dawn
Crowdy reservior at dawn

Davistow Moor is the northernmost part of Bodmin Moor, famous for its creamery producing both Davidstow Cheddar and the ironically named Cathedral City cheeses (Davidstow Moor having neither a cathedral nor anything resembling a city).

The paved areas on Davidstow Moor that the road runs alongside and form an intriguing pattern on satellite maps are the remains of RAF Davidstow Moor, and the main control tower is still clearly visible. Constructed during World War 2, RAF Davidstow Moor was used as an airbase from late 1942 until December 1945. The air base was used mainly by the Americans and Canadians for training in the run up to D-Day and were visited by General Eisenhower during 1944. However, the frequent moorland mist rendered the base unusable for much of the time which is why it was closed after the war.

After the airfield closed, it became a motor racing circuit, known as Davidstow Circuit. In the early 1950s, three Formula One races were held there (the Cornwall MRC Formula 1 Races), including the first success for the Lotus marque.

Today, part of the airfield is still used by the Davidstow Flying Club (on the less misty days), and the Davidstow Airfield and Cornwall At War Museum has been set up to commemorate the work and people of RAF Davidstow Moor.

Crowdy reservoir is situated within the Bodmin Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest and is fed by run-off and drainage from surrounding moorland. The banks, except around the Nature Reserve, are open for walking and picnicking and a bird hide, open to all visitors, is a pleasant 20 minute walk from the car park along the north bank. There are often Nearctic waders in autumn and spectacular flocks of starlings around Davidstow in the winter. The lake is stocked with rainbow and brown trout. Provided you have a rod licence you can fish for free by spinning, fly or bait. In recognition of the high conservation value of this lake, no other activities, apart from free wilderness trout angling, take place at this location.

Roughtor

The road to Roughtor from Camelford on Bodmin Moor
The road to Roughtor
Dawn over roughtor
Dawn over Roughtor
Roughtor on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall
Roughtor

Roughtor and the slightly higher Brown Willy sit side by side just south of Davidstow Moor. Roughtor can be reached by the road from Camelford and there is a small car park from which you can walk up the slopes to the summit.

Rough Tor is the second highest peak on Bodmin Moor. It is pronouced "row-tor" because the local dialect word "row" meant "rough". The summit of Rough Tor is encircled by a series of rough Neolithic stone walls which link natural outcrops, to form a tor enclosure. Also on the summit are the foundations of a mediaeval chapel, built into the side of one of the larger cairns.

On the approach to Roughtor from the car park, in the open grassy moorland the north-west of the tor, is the remains of a settlement consisting of over 120 hut circles, small enclosures and fragments of field systems. The majority of the round houses are laid out in a broad north-south band and linked by the stony banks of a series of six small irregular enclosures. Excavations have shown these to date from the early-mid Bronze Age.

On the southern slopes of Roughtor are the remains of a large number of hut circles. The houses and the small enclosures probably represent an economy based on stock rearing, with perhaps a little cultivation of cereals. The extensive field system is likely to be from a later period, representing a time when arable farming was predominant.

Altarnun

Alternun
Altarnun
Alternun in Autumn
Altarnun in Autumn

Altarnun is a pretty village to the north-east of Bodmin Moor. The name "Altarnun" is a corruption of "Altar of St Nonna" although the village was originally known by the Cornish name Penpont (hence the name of the river - Penpont Water). The Old Rectory near the church was featured by Daphne Du Maurier in "Jamaica Inn".

The Rising Sun Inn, just outside Altarnun, is a 16th Century Inn built originally as a farmhouse. The pub serves local food and real ales from the award-winning Penpont Brewery in Altarnun which uses springwater drawn from the moor. There are two open fires in winter.

Altarnun church is located beside Penpont Water - a tributary of the River Inny - in the centre of the small village of Altarnun which is just to the north-east of Bodmin Moor. The 15th century church, dedicated to St Nonna, has an amazing collection of carved pew-ends from about 1520 (including one that mentions the artist - Robert Daye), a striking Norman font with the original colour still visible, and 15th century Rood screen. The church is known as "Cathedral of the moors" due to its impressive 109ft tall tower on which you can still see the deep padlocks that once held its scaffolding in place. A 6th century Celtic Cross stands in the churchyard, from the time before the Celtic Cornwall had been conquered by the Anglo Saxons.

On Leskernick Hill, near Altarnun, is the remains of a Bronze Age settlement which originally had over 44 round houses with two stone circles nearby.

St Breward

View over Bodmin Moor near St Breward
Bodmin Moor near St Breward
Old Inn at St Breward
Old Inn at St Breward
Open fire at The Old Inn at St Breward
Fireplace at The Old Inn

St Breward is on the northwest side of Bodmin moor and the parish covers both Roughtor and Brown Willy. The name of the village is said by some to come from the 6th century Cornish Saint Branwalader. Others say it is from a 13th century bishop of Exeter. Previously the village was called Simonward which, according to legend, was the name of the brewer to King Arthur's household although that might have been concocted in the Old Inn after a few ales.

The Old Inn in St Breward dates back to the 11th Century when it provided shelter for the monks who built the neighbouring church, and claims to be Cornwall's highest Inn. There is an open fire in winter in the 11th Century granite fireplace. The pub was used as the setting for the TV comedy drama, Doc Martin, when the baby was born to the main characters.

St Breward church claims to be the highest in the county. The tall tower can be seen easily, for many miles around. The church dates from the Middle Ages (1278).

A number of lanes run from St Breward into the middle of the moor which are an excellent for moorland walks and to see some of the prehistoric remains:

  • We have compiled some circular walks in the St Breward area
  • There are stone circles at Stannon and Fernacre
  • King Arthur's Hall is a rectangular enclosure on the downs near Casehill, which are consequently known as King Arthur's Downs. It has been known as King Arthur's Hall since at least Tudor times, and is marked on maps drawn in the early 1600s. Historians are scornful of the King Arthur connotations, but are unsure of its exact purpose. Many think that due to the standing stones, it was a ceremonial site. It has also been suggested that it may have had an altogether more practical purpose - as a cattle compound. Estimates date the structure to around 2000 BC, in the late Neolithic or early Bronze Age.

Blisland

Jubilee Rock near Blisland in Cornwall
Jubilee Rock
The elaborately decorated screen in Blisland Church
Decorated screen in the church

Blisland is a small village which lies on the western flank of the Bodmin Moor, perched above the valley of the River Camel. Unlike most other Cornish villages, the houses of Blisland are grouped around a village green indicating Saxon origins. On the corner of the green is Blisland Manor which is much more recent, dating from the 16th Century. There are 7 wayside crosses in Blisland (out of 360 in Cornwall) including one near the village post office.

The Blisland Inn lies on the north side of the village green of Blisland, located on the western flank of Bodmin Moor. The pub is renowned for real ales, winning the CAMRA National Pub of the Year in 2001; there are at least 6 real ales on tap at any one time. The landlord has had his own wooden barrels made by a retired cooper, which he sends to the local brewery to fill.

Blisland is also a good place for a number of walks:

  • We have compiled some circular walks around Blisland
  • The Camel Trail starts at Poley's Bridge on the road from Blisland to St Tudy.
  • Located near Pendrift on the northern edge of Blisland, Jubilee Rock is a large natural granite boulder which originally supported another large balancing rock (known locally as a logan stone). It is now a Grade II listed monument as it is covered with carvings of Britannia, royalty, and Coats of Arms. It was originally carved in 1809-10 for George III's Golden Jubilee by Lieutenant John Rogers. It was updated with new carvings in 1859 and 1887 for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee and the carvings were restored for the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II. A brass plate now in Bodmin Town Museum was originally fixed to the rock containing lines of verse composed by John Rogers. In 2010, the plate was temporarily reattached to the rock for a 200 year celebration which involved attempts at singing the verses John Rogers had composed.

    . To get there: take the road signposted to Pendrift, at a cross roads take the road marked 'through road', then at the end of the road walk right up the hill past the cottages, through a gate, and bear left, then right. It can be tricky to find without GPS!
  • The Trippet stones, located just off the track to Hawk's Tor farm near Bradford, is an ancient circle of stones with a modern boundary stone in the centre. Like many other stone circles, its name implies dancing and this may be a "folk memory" of one of the original functions of such sites.

  • Lavethan Wood lies just south of Blisland on the north-facing slopes of a river valley. Lavethan Wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Planted Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Most of the wood stands on the sloping, freely draining, rich brown earths underlain with Devonian slates. Bluebells are prolific in the wood between April and June. Two public footpaths cross the wood and a permissive path along the stream links the two.

The parish church of Blisland is located at the south edge of the village green, which lies on the west flank of Bodmin Moor. Blisland church is impressively ornate: thought to be on the site of a Saxon church, it was a slate and granite Norman building, but was rebuilt in the Perpendicular Gothic style in the 15th century (and restored in the 19th). It is unique in being dedicated to St Protus (known locally as St Pratt) and St Hyacinth who were brothers martyred in the late 3rd century AD. No one knows why this church was dedicated to them in the 15th century. If you have the chance to visit on 22nd September, there is a feast day procession to St Pratt's Cross and Holy Well.

Bolventor

The Jamaica Inn near Bolventor is a coaching inn built in 1750 that was made famous by Daphne du Marier in her book of the same name. Weary travellers using the turnpike between Launceston and Bodmin would stay at the Inn after having crossed the wild and treacherous moor. The Jamaica Inn is said by some to be founded by a retired Jamaican settler - whose 'bold venture' of building an inn may have given Bolventor its name. Others think the Inn may have got its name because it did a considerable trade in rum! Attached to the pub is a museum dedicated to Cornish Smuggling and Daphne du Marier.

Dozmary Pool is located on the southern part of the moor near Bolventor. It is Cornwall's only natural inland lake which has no visible inlets, and is fed by rivulets underneath the heathland peat. Locals once said it was bottomless, but in the 19th century this was proved to be false when the bottom was revealed during a drought. Another legend was that the giant Treheage was made to drain it using a limpet shell - a task he achieved with such vigour that he flooded St Neot. Tennyson's famous poem on the "Mort d'Arthur" featured Loe Pool as the location for a ghostly hand rising from a lake to grasp Arthur's sword Excalibur, but many people claim that Dozmary Pool is a more likely location for the legend.

The Priddacomb Downs nature reserve is located on the north side of the A30 from the Jamaica Inn.. The reserve consists of over 200 acres of open moorland, with views of Brown Willy and Roughtor. It was acquired by Cornwall Wildlife Trust in 2001 and a less intensive grazing regime has allowed vegetation to re-establish, providing habitats for a variety of bird species. At the top of the downs is one of the best preserved examples of a Bronze Age platform cairn in the country.

The Loveny Reserve is an area of Bodmin Moor to the south of the A30. The nature reserve is an important ornithological site which includes Colliford Lake and surrounding moorland. It is jointly owned between the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society.

St Neot

River cascades at Golitha Falls in Cornwall
Beech Avenue at Golitha Falls
River cascades at Golitha Falls in Cornwall
Golitha Falls
Golitha Falls
Forest at Golitha Falls

St Neot is the southernmoust part of Bodmin Moor set within an area of outstanding natural beauty and special scientific interest, just south of Colliford Lake. The village was originally founded on wool, tin and slate.

The London Inn in St Neot was origally a coaching inn on the route to the capital. Before the A38 was constructed in the 1830's through the Glynn Valley, the main road from Bodmin to Liskeard was via St. Neot. The hill leading east is still locally known as 'London Bound'.

At the Golitha Falls National Nature Reserve, the River Fowey cascades through a pretty valley covered in a mixture of ancient woodland and a beech avenue. A circular path of about 1km runs around the reserve. There is also a shorter paved route of about 400m.

In spring, the valley is carpeted with bluebells and in autumn, the trees are vivid colours. In summer, look out for woodland butterflies such as the orange and black silver-washed fritilliary; the males are attracted to orange items including car indicators and Sainsburys' carrier bags!

More info

Minions

Cheesewring near Minions
Cheesewring near Minions
Horse grazing on Bodmin Moor
Horse grazing on Bodmin Moor

Minions is a small village on the south-east corner of Bodmin Moor. Near the car park, one of the engine houses of the South Pheonix mine has been converted into the a heritage centre which interprets the history of the surrounding landscape. The area surrounding Minions offers a wealth of archaeological interest from early Bronze Age to the Tin and Copper Mining which finished early in the last century. Most of the village is over 300m, and Minions claims to be the highest village in Cornwall, rivalling St Breward.

The Cheesewring is a tor on Stowes Hill near Minions. The tor gets is name because it is topped with a natural rock formation that looks like the press with a stack of weights that was used to make cheese (and also cider as the apple pulp was known as "cheese"). The cheesewring was a well-known landscape feature by Tudor times and it featured in large illustrations in the margins of Cornwall maps at the end of this period. The granite slabs, which appear to have been balanced, were created by erosion over many thousands of years.

A number of prehistoric sites are nearby:

  • The Hurlers and The Pipers Bronze Age stone circles - the legend is that the three stone circles of the Hurlers are teams of sportsmen, turned to stone for playing hurling on a Sunday and the nearby two Pipers standing stones provided the musical accompaniment
  • King Doniert's Stone, located near Golitha Falls, consists of two stone fragments of an ancient memorial cross which is thought might have originally been topped with a wooden cross. It dates from the 9th Century and commemorates the death of Dungarth the King of Cornwall, who drowned in the River Fowey nearby at about the time when the Anglo-Saxons were gaining control of eastern Cornwall. The shorter stone has an Anglo-Saxon inscription which has been translated as "Doniert has asked prayers for his Soul".

  • Trethevy Quoit is a 4000 year old burial chamber

The tiny village of Crow's Nest is located close to the Trethevy Quoit, near Minions. The Crows Nest Inn is a pretty 17th Century building which became an alehouse when the nearby Glasgow Mine was set up and the miners received some of their pay in beer.

Siblyback Lake is a lake located to the west of Minions. Siblyback is an artificial reservoir managed by the South West Lakes Trust and is used to buffer the water levels in the River Fowey in the summer. The water is collected downriver for domestic drinking water at the Restormel treatment works. The habitat that has been created by the reservoir supports plenty of bird life and there is a bird hide beside the reservoir though it's quite old so you are just as likely to find birds inside it.

Bodmin Moor walks

There is also a treasure trail for Bodmin Moor

More information about Bodmin Moor