An absorbing walk through the historic tin and copper mining country of the Land's End Peninsula.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 4hrs
Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Coastal footpath, field paths and moorland tracks
Landscape Spectacular coastal cliffs, old mining country and open moorland
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 102 Land's End
Start/finish SW 383344
Dog friendliness Please keep dogs under control in field sections
Parking Free car park in centre of Pendeen village, opposite Boscaswell Stores, on the B3306
Public toilets Pendeen car park and Geevor Tin Mine
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Turn left out of the car park and follow the road to the entrance of the Geevor Tin Mine. Go down the drive to the reception building and keep to its left down a road between buildings, signposted 'Levant'.
2 Just beyond the buildings, turn left along a narrow path that soon bears right and becomes an unsurfaced track between walls. Turn left at a huge boulder and head towards a very tall chimney stack ahead. Continue across broken ground to the Levant Engine House.
3 Follow the bottom edge of Levant car park and then follow a rough track to reach the Botallack Count House. Keep on past Manor Farm and reach the public road at Botallack. Turn left, the Queen's Arms pub is straight down the road ahead.
4 Go left at the main road (watch for fast traffic) then turn left along Cresswell Terrace to a stile. Follow field paths to Carnyorth. Cross the main road, then follow the lane opposite, turning right at a junction, to reach a solitary house.
5 Keep left of the house, go over a stile and cross the field to the opposite hedge to reach a hidden stile. Follow a path through small fields towards a radio mast. Cross a final stile onto a rough track.
6 Go left, then immediately right at a junction. Keep on past the radio mast, then follow a path through gorse and heather to the rocky outcrop of Carn Kenidjack, (not always visible when misty).
7 At a junction abreast of Carn Kenidjack, go back left along a path past a small granite parish boundary stone, eventually emerging on a road. Turn right and in about 140yds (128m), go left along an obvious broad track opposite a house.
8 Keep left at a junction. By two large stones on the left, bear off right along a grassy track. Go left over a big stone stile directly above the church and descend to the main road. Turn right to the car park.
The tin and copper mines of Pendeen on the north coast of the Land's End Peninsula are redundant, as are all of Cornwall's mines; the culmination of the long decline of Cornish mining since its Victorian heyday. The deep mining of Cornwall lost out to cheap ore from surface strip mines in Asia and to the vagaries of the international market. At Pendeen the area's last working mine of Geevor closed in 1990 after years of uncertainty and false promise and despite vigorous efforts by the local community to save it. Today, the modern buildings of Geevor have been transformed into a fascinating mining museum, but it is the ruined granite chimney stacks and engine houses of the 19th-century industry that have given this mining coast its dramatic visual heritage. Below ground lies the true heritage of hard rock mining.
To walk through this post-industrial rural landscape is to walk through a huge slice of Cornish history and character. Early in the walk you reach the Geevor Tin Mine and then the National Trust's Levant Engine House. From Levant the coast path runs on to Botallack, where the famous Crown's Mine Engine Houses stand on a spectacular shelf of rock above the Atlantic. The workings of the Crown's Mine ran out for almost 1 mile (1.6km) beneath the sea, and the mine was entered down an angled runway using wagons. You can visit the Crown's Mine Engine Houses by following a series of tracks down towards the sea from the route of the main walk. Flooding was a constant problem for these mines and some of the the earliest ever steam engines were developed to pump water from the workings. On the cliff top above the Crown's Mine the National Trust has restored the 19th-century façade of the Botallack Count House. This was the assaying and administrative centre for all the the surrounding mines.
From the Count House the way leads to the old mining villages of Botallack and Carnyorth, before climbing steadily inland to the exhilarating moorland hills of Carnyorth Common. This is the famously haunted landscape of Kenidjack Carn which local superstition identified as the playground of giants and devils. From the high ground the linear pattern of Pendeen's mining coast is spread out before you with the glittering Atlantic beyond. The walk then leads back towards Pendeen and past the Church of St John, built by the mining community in the 1850s from the hand-quarried rock of the hills above, yet another token of the remarkable skills of the Cornish hard rock miner.
Halfway along the route is the Queen's Arms in Botallack village, a traditional miners' pub that has retained much of its character. Pub meals are available. The North Inn at Pendeen is another traditional inn at the end of the walk and the Geevor Museum has a café.
Just below the track that runs past the Botallack Count House lie the ruins of an arsenic labyrinth. Mineral ore was often contaminated with arsenic. In the 19th century during times of low tin prices, this arsenic was collected by roasting ore in a calciner and passing the smoke through enclosed tunnels, the labyrinth. The cooling vapour deposited the arsenic on the labyrinth walls as a powder that was then exported, mainly to America as a pesticide against the boll weevil in the cotton fields. Its effect on both the labyrinth workers and cotton pickers does not bear thinking about.
A visit to the Geevor Tin Mine is worthwhile for the background to the history of Cornish mineral mining. Part of the experience is an underground tour and a visit to the old treatment sheds. The National Trust's restored engine house at Levant Engine House contains a remarkable reconstruction of a Cornish beam engine, the great driving force of every Victorian mine. The engine is regularly 'steamed up' to go through the stately rocking motion that powered deep water pumps and facilitated the movement of ore from below ground.