It does seem in the south-west that Exmoor and Dartmoor receive all the attention and hog the moorland limelight, but Cornwall has its own moor as well, often overshadowed by its beautiful coastline. So, if you fancy a day or two away from the beach, then take a trip to Bodmin Moor and experience a completely different side to Cornwall.
Bodmin Moor is one of Cornwall’s many designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is beautifully bleak, and a remote heather covered granite moor still grazed by moorland ponies. The moor is cut in half by the A30, and so is easily accessible for visitors from all parts of Cornwall.
North of the A30 is two tors or large rocky outcrops, Rough Tor and the even taller, Brown Willy, which is 420 meters above sea level but just 20 meters taller than Rough Tor. The name, Brown Willy, is actually a corruption of the Cornish, ‘Bronn Wennili’ which literally translated means ‘hill of swallows.’ There has been a campaign running for a few years now to revert the name back to the original Cornish. Over 100 Bronze Age hut circles have been discovered on the slopes of Rough Tor along with a Neolithic Tor Enclosure and the foundations of a medieval chapel. This area is referred to as ‘high moor’ and is home to Cornwall’s highest church in the village of St. Breward. It is a wild and mystical place with plenty of opportunities to walk and ride. If you like your stone circles, then there are two to visit near the village of Blisland, the Trippet Stones and the Stripple Stones Henge plus the Jubilee Rock, which stands at ten feet high and the odd arrangement is known as King Arthur’s Hall.
South of the A30 on that section of the Moor sits Siblyback Lake, which is a great location for watersports away from the sea with tuition and equipment for hire. There is a smaller, and some say creepy pool called Dozmary Pool where rumor has it, King Arthur’s sword Excalibur lies deep in the water. No trip to the Moor would be complete without a visit to Jamaica Inn, which was made famous by the novelist Daphne du Maurier. It doesn’t take much imagination on a windswept and rainy Cornish day to feel the ancient history of smuggling and the danger of the Moor, remote and beautiful but deadly in more ways than one.
The Moor has its fair share of ghost stories and myths, notably the legends which surround the Beast of Bodmin, which is one of the most current and famous. But it is probably for its archaeological heritage that Bodmin Moor is most famous with numerous examples to visit. One of the most impressive is Trethevy Quoit near the village of Minions (yes, really), a great destination for small children as long as you can manage the disappointment on arrival. Trethevy Quoit is not alone, and there are the famous stones called the Hurlers and The Cheesewring, a circle of granite rocks balanced on top of each other.
Bodmin was heavily mined during the 19h century, just like other parts of Cornwall, mined for tin and copper, and there is an interesting visitor center on the Moor’s mining heritage located in Minions.
On the southern edge of the south moor sits Cardinham Woods with 650 acres of forestry commission woodland dotted with trails for walking and mountain bikes. Beautiful valleys with gentle streams and lush glades contrast with the powerful and rugged Moor which sits above it. Cardinham Woods is the perfect destination for families with ideal spots for picnics and barbeques and a full range of activities for visitors of all ages.
What else is Bodmin Moor famous for?
The Moor made many regular appearances in the TV series, Poldark, for the exterior of Ross Poldark’s cottage, Nampara, and many of the riding scenes – the rugged and dramatic moorland added to the atmosphere and drama of the tale.
The Beast of Bodmin is reputed to be a large panther-like cat, and if you visit the Moor it is easy to understand how it might give rise to such stories. There have been at least sixty sightings of the beast, which varies anywhere from three to five feet long with white-yellow eyes. The sightings have been supported by mutilated livestock, usually sheep, and there was enough evidence gathered for the government to launch an official investigation in 1995. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to verify the presence of a big cat on Bodmin Moor, so the rumors and tales continue unabated. In 1998, video footage was released showing a large black cat about three and a half feet in length. Theories abound, is it an escape from a private collection, unreported because it was illegally imported? Some believe it is a species of big cat that was believed extinct in the UK for more than 100 years, and others blame the paranormal. Whatever the truth, it is a continued source of speculation and conjecture
The Moor is actually mostly privately owned, but since 2000, it has been designated as open access land, so there is plenty of opportunities to hike and ride on the Moor.
Bodmin is the only Cornish town to be recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and was Cornwall’s county town until the title was handed over to Truro in the 19th century.
Bodmin Moor provides a totally different view of Cornwall. It is wild, rugged, and hugely atmospheric, particularly in bad weather. Because nowhere in Cornwall is more than 20 miles from the sea, it is easy to combine a visit to the Moor with a seaside holiday. It makes for a great alternative, a break from the beach, a chance to connect with somewhere remote, wild, and unspoilt. Whether you want to savor the walks, the history, enjoy the legends or just appreciate the views and the wildlife, it is a chance to connect with Cornwall’s past.
To find a beautiful place to stay, check out https://www.cornishsecrets.co.uk/property-locations/bodmin-holiday-cottages/