Discover some of Cornwall’s most iconic and fascinating monuments and landmarks, immortalised on page and on screen
08 June 2018
Cornwall is steeped in myth and legend, boasting a rich cultural heritage wedded to its landscape, where fact and lore remain forever intertwined. In a world where rugged rock meets roaring seas, the landscape is dotted with ancient monuments that hint of a mysterious, enigmatic yet tangible past; one that continues to seep into our lives.
The wild Cornish landscape has inspired countless artists, poets, writers and filmmakers over the years, leaving its indelible mark on popular culture. But while legends take root, becoming embellished over time and deeply ingrained in lore, the physical monuments and landscape immortalised on both the page and the silver screen are all-too real. As always, the best way to truly appreciate these locations and landmarks is to experience them first hand. There are countless fragments of Cornwall’s past to be found across the Duchy, with many sites being free to visit. What’s more, many of these locations are just a short drive from both Southern Halt and Stonerush Lakes, making our resorts the perfect base from which to begin your explorations.Daphne Du Maurier
One of Cornwall’s greatest ambassadors is undoubtedly Daphne Du Maurier, who, for the best part of a century, has captivated readers with deeply evocative tales set in an atmospheric Cornwall. Recent screen adaptions including the BBC’s Jamaica Inn (2014) and the release of a new film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel (2017), starring namesake Rachel Weisz, have kept Du Maurier in the spotlight, bringing her stories and their settings to new audiences. Du Maurier spent much of her time on the south coast, living in various properties over her life. Ferryside
, on the Fowey river
, is where she wrote some of her earlier works including The Loving Spirit, and the property is still owned by the family today. Later, she moved to Menabilly on the Gribben peninsula, just a couple of miles west of Fowey. Menabilly, a grand country pile owned by the Rashleigh family is a key inspiration behind Manderley, and also where Du Maurier wrote The King’s General.
Remaining in the Fowey valley, Fowey Hall
, a grand country house by the sea stakes a good claim to the inspiration behind Toad Hall, after Kenneth Grahame stayed in the area with friend and fellow author, Arthur Quiller-Couch. Heading further inland, in the heart of Bodmin Moor, you’ll find the historic coaching inn, and reputed smugglers’ haunt that inspired perhaps Du Maurier’s most renowned work: Jamaica Inn. An instant classic, this dark tale of a gang of wreckers sets the action in an ancient, brooding landscape. Make a visit to this beautiful wilderness, and you’ll swiftly understand how it makes the perfect setting for historic drama and clandestine activity. It has been populated by settling – often a place of gathering with religious associations – for thousands of years. Witness the magic yourself at the various pre-historic sites dotted across the Moor.Bodmin Moor
Forget Stonehenge; Bodmin Moor contains 16 identified ancient stone circles. On the edge of the Moor near the village of Minions, you’ll find a particularly intriguing group known as ‘The Hurlers’. It’s fairly unique in that the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age site is actually made up of three sets of stones, complete with a separate pair of stones away from the three circles, known as ‘The Pipers’. So the legend has it, the Hurlers were formed when local men who turned to stone in punishment for partaking in the traditional Cornish pastime of hurling on the Sabbath. It is said that it is impossible to count the number of stones. The Hurlers are free to visit during daylight and there is parking a short walk from the site. Dogs are welcome on leads but be mindful of sheep and ponies which graze freely in and around the area. The Moor is exposed to the Cornish elements, so wrap up warm and head off prepared for all sorts of weather!
King Arthur and the Tingatel Castle
While in the area, head to nearby Trethevy Quoit
, a fine example of a Neolithic ‘dolmen’ burial chamber, near St Cleer, dating from around 3500 to 2500 BC. The huge capstone weighs a whopping 20 tonnes – amazing when you consider that this was moved and positioned without the aid of modern machinery! Finally, complete your trip with a visit to King Doniert’s Stone
, fragments of a much later ‘Celtic’ cross dating from the 9th Century
. Keep heading passed the Moor and you’ll hit the north coast, another great source of literary and artistic inspiration. Arguably nowhere in Cornwall is enshrouded in greater mystery and legend than Tintagel Castle perched ominously on the cliffs. A key stronghold from the fifth to seventh Centuries, Tintagel was first mooted as the birthplace of the mythical King Arthur, many centuries later, by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his epic 12th Century chronicle. While Arthur’s very existence itself remains contested, there is no doubting the very palpable appeal that the legend still commands to this day, spawning countless books and Hollywood adaptations, the most recent being last year’s Guy Ritchie film. Believer or sceptic, surely no one could fail to be impressed by a visit to this ancient ruin hugging the headland. While much still remains unknown about the genuine inhabitants of Tintagel, a visit will reveal some fascinating insights and artistic reconstructions based on historic and archaeological research. Discover more at www.englishheritage.org.uk
The tour of the ruins is bound to work up an appetite, so a stop at the Beach Café is a must. We’re told the crab sandwiches are worth the trip alone! Plan your visit carefully and you’ll witness Merlin’s cave, revealed as the tide ebbs. Some say that nearby Camelford, just inland, is in fact the legendary Camelot, and you’ll find perhaps another hint further down the coast: The Camel estuary
. At the mouth of the estuary is the gorgeous Daymer Bay
, which has its own more recent literary connection – this particular stretch of the north coast is Betjeman country, inspiring several of the Poet Laureate’s greatest works. You can visit Sir John Betjeman’s final resting place, in the grounds of St Enodoc Church, a beautiful setting nestled in the dunes above the bay.Poldark
Of course, we couldn’t finish without a mention of Poldark (which returns to our screens this weekend on BBC 1
). The original books on which the series is based were written by Winston Graham in and around Perranporth, in between St Agnes and Newquay. As he walked the cliff paths, Graham formulated this colourful world in his mind’s eye, drawing on Cornwall’s rich mining heritage and the power plays and machinations of the ruling families of the 18th Century. The effect the recent television adaptation has had on Cornwall’s tourism needs no introduction, and it’s fair to say, it has become a phenomenon. Whilst the series has introduced the world to several rising stars, including Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson, arguably the biggest star of all is the stunning landscape they inhabit, beautifully shot and showcased on screen.
All corners of Cornwall are featured, from Church Cove, Gunwalloe on the Lizard
to Botallack Mine
in the far west, on the Penwith peninsul
a. Much closer to our own resorts is the historic village and port of Charlestown, home of the tall ship Phoenix, which doubles up in the series as Falmouth
. With its independent art galleries, bistros and Georgian harbour, Charlestown is a delightful place to visit. As well as Poldark, it has been used in the filming of everything from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderlan
d to an episode of Doctor Who
. Cornwall is literally laden with historic sites, iconic landmarks and coastline, cemented in local lore or wider popular culture, all waiting for you. Southern Halt and Stonerush Lakes are both well situated for exploration, so why not plan your next adventure?
To book your next Cornish break please visit our rentals page. Photo credits:
Bodmin Moor: Visit Cornwall, Paul Watts
Tingatel Castle: Visit Cornwall, Matt Jessop