Wednesday 27th April 2011
12 miles officially, and a couple of extra miles to allow for detours
Toilets: various public toilets in St Ives and Porthminster Beach; the White Hart Inn, Ludgvan; Marazion; St Michael’s Mount; various pubs in Penzance.
We were lucky enough to spend a wonderful week in St Ives, Cornwall, where we had amazing weather with no rain, and miles of coastline with beautiful views.
St Michael’s Way is an inland route stretching from the north coast to the south coast. It’s often listed as being twelve miles long, but there are two different starting points at St Ives and Lelant, and the path splits into two at Ludgvan. I gave up trying to find out exactly which route the twelve miles referred to, and took to measuring it on the map with a piece of thread. According to my *ahem* highly accurate measurements, it’s 12 miles long if you start at St Ives Station and then take the route choice that goes via Marazion. The signposting is good, but definitely not excellent, so you do need to pay attention to the map. We took a couple of wrong turnings during the day and had to retrace our steps.
We set out at 9.30am. The route at first follows the South West Coast Path, with stunning scenery.
After a while, the path turned off to the right and we headed inland. Cornwall is a very hilly place. There aren’t any particularly high hills, but there’s a definite shortage of flat land and the walk was very tiring. It was also quite hot, and as we weren’t in too much of a hurry we stopped for a few rests along the way.
We eventually reached Knill’s Monument.
The next part of the walk continued along a road. I’d love to say that it was scenic, but we seemed to be hemmed in by tall hedges and couldn’t really see much beyond them. Later on there was a standing stone. It was in this field that we missed the path and ended up right down at the brook with no way of crossing, so we had to go all the way back up the field again, and finally joined the path by crossing what seemed like a broken fence. I’m still not sure where the official turning was, if there was one at all.
It was also the time of year for the cows to be out and about in fields, and we edged cautiously around a few of them, especially just after Ninnes Bridge where a wire fence was broken and they walked down to the footpath to keep us company.
A mile or two before we were due to reach Ludgvan, we arrived at a field full of cows with their young ones, and it seemed a bit too crowded. You should never walk between a cow and her child, and even just walking through the field can make them nervous, so we took a bit of a detour via Mount View, adding about a mile to our total.
At last, at 1.50pm we reached the White Hart Inn at Ludgvan, where we stopped for lunch. It’s worth noting that food is only served from 12-2.30pm and 6-9.30pm. In addition, the pub itself closes from 3-6pm, but we were sitting in the beer garden out the back and they didn’t appear to chuck us out.
The walk from Ludgvan down to St Michael’s Mount was much easier, going across obvious footpaths and a lovely nature reserve called Marazion Marsh, and taking just under an hour.
St Michael’s Mount itself is a beautiful place. You can only walk across the causeway at low tide, and we arrived just after high tide so we opted for a boat trip. At the time of writing (April 2011) it costs £1.50 in each direction, so £3 for a return journey unless the tide happens to go out while you’re there. We saw several people attempting to wade across, realising they’d be up to their knees or waists in water, and changing their minds.
The route then rejoins the South West Coast Path. Walking along sand can be very difficult, so we stuck to the higher path as much as possible, taking over an hour to reach Penzance. Finally, with achey feet, we collapsed into the Dolphin Inn for some welcome food served in huge portions. Several vegetarian options are available, which was especially impressive for an area with such an active fishing industry. A couple of hours later we caught the last train back to St Ives.