Visiting Penwith? - Ancient Penwith

Go to content

Main menu:

Visiting Penwith?

If you're visiting West Cornwall from abroad or if you're British and you've never been here before, this page is for you. It's an introduction to West Penwith, its landscape and ancient sites.


West Penwith and its main town of Penzance is about four hours from Bristol and six hours from London - Penwith means 'the far beyond'.

It's a small and concise promontory area about 12 x 15km in size, surrounded by sea cliffs and beaches on three sides and by land to the east.

You can catch a train from many cities in Britain to Penzance, or drive down the M5 and A30 or catch a shuttle plane from London Gatwick or other British airports to Newquay (NQY).

PenzancePenwith has three towns - Penzance (20,000 people), St Just and St Ives, perhaps also Hayle, a number of villages and many dispersed farms and houses.

It is well known as a holiday area, busy in July-August, pleasant and cheaper in May-June and September-October, and you need a good attitude toward wind and rain in winter, from November to March. We have a changeable Atlantic oceanic climate.

Penwith's ancient sites

West Penwith has a profusion of ancient sites, denser than anywhere in Britain and dating back two to nearly six millennia ago - the same period as dynastic Egypt, the Minoans of Crete and Sumer-Babylon. This website is all about these ancient sites and the prehistoric landscape of the area.

The Merry MaidensThere are four stone circles to visit (though once there were more). The Merry Maidens and Boscawen-ûn (Boscaw-noon) are easy to get to, and Tregeseal and the Nine Maidens need more of a walk.

There are two easily accessible ancient iron age villages (2,000ish years old) at Chysauster and Carn Euny, and others (mainly piles of stones) dotted around the peninsula.

There are many menhirs (standing stones) and cairns, barrows and tumuli (mounds).

Gurnards Head and Pendeen WatchSome of the cliff sanctuaries (cliff castles) are worth a visit, for inspiration and coastal panoramas. Try Treryn Dinas, Gurnard's Head, Bosigran Castle or Cape Cornwall. Officially they are dated to the iron age 2,000ish years ago but, on this site, it is suggested that they date back to the neolithic, about 4,500 or more years ago.

The quoits (cromlechs) go back about 5,500 years - the best to visit are Chûn, Mulfra and Zennor Quoits, though the easiest is Lanyon Quoit (but it is no longer in its original form, having been faultily restored in Victorian times).

Neolithic tor enclosures (Carn Galva, Carn Kenidjack, Trencrom Hill and St Michael's Mount) go back to a similar time. Carn Galva and Carn Kenidjack can be combined with a visit to the Nine Maidens and Tregeseal stone circles, respectively.

St Euny's WellThen there are fogous (underground chambers, 2,000ish years old) and holy wells (try Sancreed, Madron and St Euny's Well), Celtic rounds (enclosures), early Christian crosses (800-1,500 years old), old churches, oratories and special hilltops (such as Sancreed Beacon, Chapel Carn Brea, Bartinney Castle, Zennor Hill and Castle-an-Dinas).

So there are plenty of places to visit - and when you get there, stop still for a while and go within yourself, since these places are good places for contemplation.

At some places it is possible to visit various sites in close proximity. Try:

  • Mên-an-Tol, the Nine Maidens and Bosiliack Barrow;
  • Sancreed church and holy well and Sancreed Beacon;
  • Carn Euny village and holy well and Bartinney Castle, plus perhaps Chapel Carn Brea;
  • Tregeseal stone circle, the Botallack Common cairns and holed stones, and Carn Kenidjack;
  • Chûn Quoit and Chûn Castle;
  • Zennor Hill and Zennor Quoit;
  • Pordenack Point and Carn Lês Boel (start from Land's End).
  • Trencrom Hill is worth a climb (it's a neolithic tor enclosure and iron age camp);
  • Of the cliff sanctuaries, try Bosigran Castle, Gurnard's Head, Treryn Dinas (Logan Rock), Cape Cornwall or Carn Lês Boel.

About our research

Carn Kenidjack from Chun CastleThis website takes an approach that is wider and deeper than customary archaeology, using a broader spectrum of evidence. Phase one of the project involved mapping all Penwith's known ancient sites and identifying their alignments to each other - as reported on this site.

These alignments ('leylines') are important, even though they are frequently rubbished and ignored by archaeologists, who find them culturally and intellectually challenging. A consequence of this is that the meaning and purpose of ancient sites is missed in academic circles.

Brane chambered cairnThe megalith-builders of the neolithic and bronze ages accurately aligned the ancient sites they built, and the maps on this site show these alignments.

Why did they do this? It all had something to do with working with the subtle energies of land and sky and a kind of geo-engineering that sought to balance and enhance natural processes in the land, the climate and people's relationship with the wider universe.

If you are interested in consciousness and inner growth, you will find that, at many ancient sites, it is easy to enter an altered or meditative state than at other places - 'the veils are thin'.

Men ScryfaThe Ancient Penwith project's future research involves a field survey of various locational and other factors, focusing on about fifty of Penwith's main sites. These factors include archaeo-astronomical orientations, intervisibility of sites, underground water and subtle energy (identified through dowsing), plus the aesthetic landscape placing of sites. Results will be reported on this site in future years.

Penwith is a very good laboratory for such work, being a concise and integrated landscape where a good number of geomancers and archaeologists live and visit. Also, there is now a lot of accumulated research to draw on, collated particularly in the journal Meyn Mamvro and in the archaeological literature and a number of books.

Welcome to West Penwith!

St Michael's MountDo enjoy your visit. This is a great area for leaving your worries and concerns behind, finding inspiration, getting some exercise, visiting some excellent ancient sites and having some wonderful oceanside experiences.

We recommend a minimum of four nights' stay, giving you three full days - one for ancient sites, one for clifftops and coves and one for an easygoing time. Otherwise you're likely to find yourself driving back upcountry up the A30 wishing you'd stayed longer!

If visiting with a group, it is possible to engage the services of an expert guide: contact us.

To progress into this site, try: Ancient Sites of Penwith, Prehistoric Eras, About Alignments, Research Findings or, for a quick summary, In a Nutshell
Back to content | Back to main menu