Walk - The Merry Maidens

6.1 miles (9.9 km)

Lamorna Cove car park - TR19 6XJ Lamorna Cove car park

Challenging - There is plenty of ascent and descent, and the Coast Path is rocky in places. The footpaths through fields may be muddy or wet.

A fascinating jaunt through an ancient ceremonial landscape littered with stone circles and other monuments, some of them dating back to the Stone Age. From the highest ground there are tremendous views over St Buryan with its sixteenth-century tower, the engine house of Ding Dong Mine, and the eighteenth-century Roger's Tower, a folly built on an Iron Age hillfort. 

There are a range of wonderful places to lay your head near the Coast Path for a well-earned sleep. From large and luxurious hotels, to small and personable B&B's, as well as self-catering options and campsites. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

Bosula House

Bosula House, set in a peaceful location. Val & Paul offer a warm, friendly welcome, comfortable night’s sleep, ensuite rooms and a good breakfast to start your day.

Lamorna Pottery B&B

We offer an en-suite family room sleeping 4 as well as double & twin rooms available. Single night stays. Evening meal by arrangement. Seating area and outlook onto patio and woods.

Treen House B&B

Newly renovated vegetarian/eco-friendly B&B in an unspoilt, magical location.  All rooms en-suite. Use of guest lounge.

The Studio, Treen

The architect designed Studio is located on the west side of Penberth valley in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 8 mins walk from the Path

Sea View House

Long standing B&B offering comfortable accomodation, conveniently situated for Coast Path.

Glencree House

We're a friendly, award-winning B&B located 50 yards from the Promenade. Cozy beds and great breakfasts in an award winning B&B

The Tremont Hotel

The Tremont is approx. 300 metres from the South West Coast Path offering quality bed & breakfast, packed lunches and drying facilities. Walkers welcome.

Keigwin House

Popular 'home from home', 5 minutes from the Path and town centre. Great breakfasts and a warm welcome awaits. 2 x standard single and 2 x family ensuite rooms

Porthgwarra Holiday Cottages

Six holiday cottages in and around Porthgwarra. Porthgwarra Cove Cafe open 10-3pm daily.

Number Nine B&B

Number Nine offers extremely comfortable accommodation in a lovely Georgian house in central Penzance. Conveniently situated for the South West Coast Path.

Sunnybank House B&B

Comfortable B&B close to SWCP. Free WiFi. Sea Views. Packed Lunches with prior notice. Refreshment trays. Hair Dryers, TV

Cornerways Guest House

Close to the Path & bus/rail stations, Silver/Breakfast/Rose Awards. All rooms ensuite. Ideal touring base.

Honeydew Guesthouse

5 mins from the Coast Path, bus/train stations, town centre, pubs, and restaurants. Ideal location. We aim to make your stay a comfortable and memorable one. Dog friendly.
What is on your list of things to do when you visit the Path? From walking companies, to help you tailor your visit, with itineraries and experts to enhance your visit, to baggage transfer companies and visitor attractions there are lots to people and places to help you decide what you'd like to do. The businesses that support the Path, where you've chosen to visit, are listed here.

St Pol de Leon Church

Ancient church in village of Paul featuring unique heritage features, including World War 1 stained glass window

Western Discoveries Walking Holidays

Western Discoveries are the local experts for walking holidays in Cornwall. They are based in West Cornwall and specialise in providing self-led walking holidays along Cornwall’s stunning coast path. Accommodation, luggage transfers, maps, their own detailed route notes and arrival/departure transfers from local transport terminals are all provided with an unparalleled attention to detail.

Interactive Elevation

Route Description

  1. From the entrance to the car park at Lamorna Cove, turn left onto the South West Coast Path, signed to Penberth. The path carries on around the bottom of Tregurnow Cliff before climbing Rosemodress Cliff above Carn Barges and continuing high as it passes the lighthouse on Tater Du.

All around the district you will see the remains of extensive granite quarries. Lamorna has long been a source of granite for construction work, and buildings using the stone include the docks at Dover and Devonport and New Scotland Yard (see the Lamorna & St Loy Walk).

  1. As you head towards Boscawen Point, you pass above Zawn Gamper and Chough Zawn. Bear right to stay high as the path starts to round Boscawen Point and then drops into the stunted oak and sycamore trees on Boskenna Cliff above Paynter's Cove and St Loy's Cove.

Paynter's Cove is named after the Paynter family, who owned Boskenna for many generations before it was sold in 1957. Author Mary Wesley lived in Boskenna for a number of years, setting several of her novels here, including 'The Camomile Lawn', which was televised in 1992.

St Loy's Beach, a 'boulder storm beach', is a nationally important geological site (see the Lamorna & St Loy Walk).

  1. At St Loys Cove the path heads inland towards St Loy. Cross the small bridge to carry on uphill, crossing a track, to the stile at the top.
  2. Turn immediately right after the stile to take another one, then cross the stream on stepping stones, turning left on the far bank. Turn right on the lane as the path opens out through the trees. 
  3. Carry on along the lane beside Boskenna, taking the footpath to the right on the left-hand bend, crossing the field diagonally to come out onto a layby on the B3315 at the far right-hand corner.

Beside you is the Boskenna Cross, one of many ancient stone crosses in West Penwith (see the Lamorna & St Loy Walk).

  1. Cross the stile in a corner of the Boskenna Cross layby and take the footpath along the right-hand hedge, carrying on ahead to the stile when the hedge turns to the right.

In the middle of the next field is one of the Boscawen-Ros menhirs, one of a pair of standing stones thought to date from the Bronze Age, around 3000-4000 years ago. Its seven-foot partner is in the hedge to the west, but is thought to have been moved from its original position sometime in the past when the field was ploughed. Many of West Penwith's ancient monuments were moved in this way, sometimes even being reused in the construction of a barn or a stone wall. In 1861 a local farmer decided to convert the famous Zennor Quoit into a cattle-shed. He had already removed one of its pillars and drilled holes into the capstone by the time a shocked archaeologist offered him five shillings to build his shed elsewhere.

The footpath crosses the north-eastern corner of the standing-stone field to a stile. Follow it alongside the hedge of the next field and into the long field beyond. Cross to the far left-hand corner and cross the stile beside the gate. Turn left and cross the next stile by a gate, onto the road. Turn right past the farm buildings and take the stile into the field on the left at the end of the track. Cross the field to come out onto the road beyond.

  1. On the road turn left and walk to the entrance to Boscawen Rose, going through the gate opposite to take the footpath straight across the field. Go through into the next field, to follow the hedge to the far right-hand corner. In the field beyond bear left to the middle of the far hedge, and in the next field again, bear left to the lane leading from the far left-hand corner. From here the footpath travels straight along the hedge ahead to the far right-hand corner. Go out onto the lane and into the field on your left. Follow the left-hand hedge to the footpath to the left, about halfway down. Take this into the field on the left to visit the Merry Maidens, in the middle of this field.

Dating from the Neolithic (Late Stone Age) period, sometime between 4000 and 2501 BC, the Merry Maidens is a stone circle formed of 19 granite megaliths. There is a gap between the stones forming an entrance at its eastern end. Some of them are as tall as 1.4 metres. The tallest ones stand to the south west, with the shorter ones opposite them on the north eastern rim. This is thought to mimic the waxing and waning of the moon, and the circle was probably used in early pagan religious ceremonies.

The monument is also known as 'Dawns Men', thought to come from the Cornish 'dans maen', meaning 'stone dance'. According to the local legend, a group of frivolous and heathen maidens were dancing here on a Sunday, accompanied by two pipers across the way. As punishment the dancers were turned to stone, and so were their musicians. As with many of the ancient stone monuments in Cornwall, the early Christian movement of the fifth and sixth centuries is thought to have adopted the old pagan sites and symbols. They associated them with the rites of the new religion, in order to bring the pagans into the Christian fold.

There are many other ancient monuments in the area, including a second 19-stone Neolithic circle at nearby Boscawen-Un and a number of lone standing stones from the same period. Some of the very old stone crosses are thought to date from this time, too, being later adapted by the church to remove the traces of the pagan religions. The nearby Tregurnow Cross, with its 'crucified' figure in relief on the granite slab may be an example. As well as the figure with outstretched arms and feet on the front of the cross, there is a four-armed wheel cross on the rear. In its original position the cross marked the churchway between St Buryan and Boscawen-Rose.

Other prehistoric features of this special landscape include many barrows from the Bronze Age and traces of settlements and hillforts from the Iron Age which followed it. The Tregiffian Barrow, beside the B3315 to the west of the Merry Maidens, dates from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. It was found to incorporate a cup-marked granite slab, whose indentations chiselled into its stone are thought to have played some part in religious ceremonies.

  1. From the Merry Maidens retrace your steps to the corner of the field, going back into the field beyond. From here bear left on the footpath across the field, to the main road ahead.

In the field across the main road, but sadly with no public access, are the Pipers standing stones. They are two massive granite menhirs, the largest surviving in Cornwall today. They date from the Bronze Age, more than 3000 years ago. In AD 931, Cornish King Howel (supported by the Danes) was defeated in battle here by the Saxon King Athelstan, who went on to conquer the Isles of Scilly.

To the north west of the Pipers is the Boleigh Fogou. Named after the Cornish word for 'cave', a fogou was a type of underground chamber. Found only to the west of the River Fal, and dating from sometime between 400 BC and AD 300, the purpose of fogous is unclear. It is thought to have been either ceremonial, or used for the storage of food. The fogou at Boleigh is extensive, with two internal passageways leading to the main vault. Its first documented use was as a hideout for a group of Royalists on the run from Cromwell's men in the English Civil War.

  1. Coming out on the main road, carry on ahead along the minor road just right of it, bearing left at the converted chapel to carry on ahead.
  2. This will bring you back to the road into Lamorna. Turn right to follow it seawards through the village and back to the quay.

Parking

In Lamorna

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