Tinners Way: 8 Of The Best Ancient Sites In Cornwall
What Is The Tinners Way Hiking Trail?
The Tinners Way is a long-distance 18-mile ancient trail across West Penwith in the far west of Cornwall, and it’s fast become one of my favourite Cornish walks. I can’t believe I left it so long to explore, but a week after hiking the South Downs Way National Trail I got seriously itchy feet and the Tinners Way long-distance walk looked like it might scratch the itch. And omg did it! Yes – and then some! It’s such a great walk that I’ve included everything you need to know to plan a walk on the Tinners Way yourself at the bottom of the page.
The Tinners Way is awesome and the spectacular views and ancient sites right along the trail, from neolithic burial sites and stone circles to Iron Age Forts, definitely make this one for your to-do list. If you fancy a circular ‘challenge walk’ you can connect it to the Zennor Church Way trail to make it 30 miles, but honestly, I reckon you’ll get the most out of it if you spend some time exploring the ancient sites. And there are even more to explore off the main route if you want to make a longer day of it. (You could also make the Tinners Way and Zennor Church Way circular walk into two hikes with a stopover at St Just or St Ives, which would be a great way to do it.)
Where Does The Tinners Way Start And End?
The Tinners Way is a point-to-point walk which you can start either at Cape Cornwall or St Ives on the north coast of Cornwall
The route roughly follows the line of the South West Coast Path along the north coast, but higher up across rugged wide-open moorland (which you can see from the coast). It passes through the UK’s most westerly town of St Just in Penwith, which is a short walk from Cape Cornwall on the coast. I decided to walk it heading in a south-westerly direction from St Ives to Cape Cornwall, just because! It might be better to walk it from Cape Cornwall to St Ives in windy weather though, to keep the prevailing south-westerlies behind you.
As well as the amazingly well-preserved megalithic sites just about everywhere you look, there are fabulous 360-degree views that will take your breath away. And I chose the perfect day to make the most of it. I looked out the window one fine day in June, checked the forecast for the next day and booked my train ticket to St Ives: it was sunshine and 20 degrees for the whole day – my kind of weather! And the best kind to see the far-reaching views. But if you choose to hike it on a still, misty autumn day the atmosphere is really special, that kind of contemplative magical feeling that takes you right back in time to the distant past. (I can say that with experience: I’ve made up my own walks on the moors throughout the seasons, even though I hadn’t walked the Tinners Way.)
8 Of The Best Sites To See On The Tinners Way
1: St Ives
The sea was a sparkling turquoise when I got to St Ives early on a summer’s day (an 8am start was the earliest I could get there on public transport from Truro), and it was a relaxing place to be for a town that would be heaving a couple of hours later (a big bonus!). Even so, there were plenty of places open for a coffee or breakfast where you can sit and enjoy the bustle of a busy fishing town.
The Tinners Way begins at Smeatons Pier, but it might be worth heading up to the church on The Island before you head off. The church stands on the site of an iron/bronze-age fortress guarding the entrance to the Hayle Estuary and there are fantastic views along the coast. (The Island is also on the Zennor Church Way trail, so if you’re hiking that one too, you can save the views for later!)
2: Men Scryfa
More breathtaking and contemplative sites await, including Men Scryfa (a tall inscribed stone), Nine Maidens Stone Circle (also called Boskednan stone circle), and Men-an-Tol (the holed stone). These 3 ancient sites are fairly accessible from a lay-by about half a mile down a broad track, so it’s not often you get them to yourself in good weather (especially Men-an-Tol because you don’t have to venture far onto the moor). Even if you don’t get them to yourself though, it doesn’t detract from the atmosphere.
3: Nine Maidens Stone Circle
5: Chun Castle
Chun Castle and Chun Quoit are more remote so it’s quite likely you’ll have time to yourself here, just like I did.
When you come up over the hill and see the huge circular wall of stones of Chun Castle iron-age fort it takes your breath away: the scale of it is phenomenal. The Castle was used as a place to store metal ingots and protect the surrounding tin and copper mines, and you’ve only got to stand there a few minutes to see why – the views over the ancient landscape are as breathtaking as Chun Castle itself.
6: Chun Quoit
Then, when you leave the fort and head downhill Chun Quoit comes into view. This extraordinarily well-preserved cromlech makes the importance of this moorland landscape even more profound: Chun Quoit is over 4000 years old. I stood there for ages trying to let that sink in: 4 millennia… It’s unfathomable.
7: Tregaseal Stone Circle
Another less-visited stone circle that lies at the bottom of Carn Kenidjack is Tregaseal (one of two, possibly three, now lost). The passage of time and quarrying (aka vandalism) in the 19th century destroyed some of the stones in the circle, which were restored back into their ‘sockets’ in the early 1960s. But you’d never know: the atmosphere is still peaceful and contemplative
8: Cape Cornwall
Cape Cornwall is a place to savour and watch the waves as well as explore the remains of early Christian buildings. These were built on ancient hill forts, and, of course, there are the remains of tin-mining too explore too.
Other Sites Of Interest
There are so many things to see along this incredible trail that it’s difficult to list them all, but I loved looking out for boundary and milestones, as well as unusual churches and
If you’re prepared to walk farther than 18 miles there are even more sites to see just off-trail, including Muffra Quoit, Zennor Quoit, Ding Dong Mine, Watch Croft and so many more!
This really is an incredible walk that follows a ‘trail of tin’, through moorland landscapes over thousands of years. It’s a whole different experience from hiking the coast path and gives you a much deeper perspective into Cornwall’s ancient landscapes and the people that inhabited them. I can’t recommend it enough – and was I pretty sad when the day came to an end. Still, there’s always time for a consolatory cider in St Just! And I’ll definitely be back.
Thanks for reading. Check out the section below for planning your own walk on the Tinners Way. There should be everything you need to know, but feel free to leave a comment if I’ve missed anything off – I really want you to try this walk (or sections of it) because I’m certain you’ll love it!
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Plan Your Walk
Easy terrain without too many steep hills.
It can be muddy and boggy in places and after heavy or prolonged rain you might prefer to use some walking poles. However, I didn’t use them on this particular day after a spell of dry weather, even though I took some.
What To Wear – The Weather On Penwith Moors
Wear walking shoes or boots with a good grip – you’re likely to get wet feet in walking sandals even after a dry spell. I wore shorts but my legs were pretty scratched from brambles and furze. There’s also a fair amount of bracken so be aware of ticks. I wore a t-shirt because of the heat but carried an extra layer because it can get windy. Bear in mind that this is an area very exposed to the elements, so bring suncream in summer – you never know, it might actually be sunny! During colder times of the year, there can be exceptionally strong winds and rain and the mists will make you cold and wet. I recommend you always carry an extra layer, whatever time of year, and unless it’s forecast for sun all day bring some waterproofs too.
Tinners Way Maps, GPX And Guide Book
Guide Book To The Tinners Way
The Tinners Way was originally researched by Craig Weatherall, but a guidebook was written by Ian Cooke. It’s out of print now, but you might still find a copy on Ebay.
- Tinners Way, St.Just to St.Ives: Visiting Over 15 Ancient Sites by Ian Cooke (Paperback, 1991. Note that this was written before the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, so paths may be easier to follow than described)
The Tinners Way Fully Waymarked GPX File
Neither the Tinners Way nor Zennor Church Way is marked on the map as a national trail so you’ll need a GPX file to plan it. Don’t rely on the GPX file to follow the route ‘on the ground’ though because the signal can be pretty patchy (EE). I recommend you print off the route when you download the file and copy the route onto a paper map to make life easier.
You can download my fully waymarked GPX file via OS Maps (free):
Paths on open access land may be confusing or difficult to find in poor visibility, so a compass and paper map will be useful:
OS Explorer Map 102, Penzance and St Ives – A weatherproof map is good for wet and misty weather on the moors!
How To Get To The Tinners Way
How you get to the Tinners Way is fairly straightforward, but it does involve a bit of planning – especially where public transport is concerned.
Note: there are limited services on Sundays and possibly out of season
Walking From St Ives To Cape Cornwall
- Take the train to St Ives via the branch line at St Erth
- At the end of the route at Cape Cornwall walk into St Just town centre to the bus terminus in Market Street. Take the number 18 bus to Penzance bus/rail station where the bus connects with the mainline train station and stops at St Erth. (It’s worth noting that you can go to St Ives and return from Penzance on the same ticket.)
Walking From Cape Cornwall to St Ives
- Take a train to Penzance
- The bus station is right outside the train station and you take the regular First Kernow bus number 18 to Pendeen getting off at St Just bus terminus in Market Street. You can either start the walk in St Just or head down to the coast at Cape Cornwall and then retrace your steps back to St Just to continue
- When you get to St Ives catch a train back to the mainline station at Penzance (changing at St Erth) (as mentioned above, it’s worth knowing that you can travel to Penzance on the mainline and return from St Ives branch line back to the mainline on the same ticket)
Travelling By Car And Public Transport
Starting at Cape Cornwall
- Follow the links below to find car parks in either Cape Cornwall or St Just. Walk the route to St Ives and return to St Just via First Kernow buses (timetable link above) from St Ives to Penzance (number 17). You can also take the train to Penzance via the St Ives branch line to St Erth and from there to Penzance. From Penzance take a bus to Pendeen (number 18) getting off at St Just. If you’re walking in June/July you can use the First Kernow Lands End Coaster opened top bus – but it takes forever (hours)!
Starting at St Ives
- To start the Tinners Way from St Ives I advise you to use the park and ride at St Erth train station (which is much easier than parking in St Ives), where you take the train into St Ives (about 10 mins). Walk the Tinners Way to St Just and take the First Kernow bus number 18 to Penzance where you catch the mainline train back to St Erth, or onwards to your destination.
Is There Parking On the Tinners Way?
Yes, but it’s not possible to walk the Tinners Way with one car without also using public transport. You could do it with two cars though, leaving one at either end of the walk.
- Long-stay parking in St Ives is possible but can be difficult during busy times of the year and it’s expensive. You can use the JustPark website and app to find car parks and book a space in advance where possible (it’s probably much easier to use the St Erth Park and Ride as mentioned above.)
- There are limited spaces at the National Trust car park at Cape Cornwall itself
- Parking in St Just is much easier: use St Just Car Park in Market Street (at the bus terminus), or you may be able to find on-street parking
An alternative to walking the Tinners Way as an 18-mile point to point long-distance walk is to make it a 30-mile circular walk and join the Tinners Way trail to the Zennor Church Way trail (12 miles). Try it as one walk or break it into two and stopover in St Just/St Ives.
There are no amenities to speak of on the way, but you can get everything you need in St Ives and St Just. Make sure you carry plenty of water and something to eat!
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Lots of love S x