Walking to St Michael's Mount - A Cornish Camino
Walking the Cornish Camino
Having already enjoyed walking a couple of sections of the French Way in Galicia and La Rioja, it was good to find another part of the many pilgrim trails to Santiago de Compostela closer to home. The short coast to coast section of St Michael's Way from Lelant to St Michael's Mount once provided a safe route for Welsh and Irish medieval pilgrims (avoiding the treacherous seas around Land's End). They could then travel on to Spain (with just the little matter of the Bay of Biscay to cope with) to complete the 110K of the Camino Ingles to Santiago from the port of Ferrol (North West Spain).
Like the French Way, the Cornish Camino is signposted with the Shell of St James. Unlike the French Way, the path is not well trodden and often unclear (particularly when crossing open fields). A map is not essential along the French Way as shells and yellow arrows on walls, paths, trees, posts, etc. guide you in the right direction at every fork in the track and every turn. In Cornwall an OS map can be very useful. Furthermore, on the French Way, you will be sure to encounter other pilgrims going in the same direction. I even once met one, a little way from Santiago, having already walked from Germany, now going in the other direction on his way home (that is devotion!).
On our walk along the Cornish Camino we only came across one other walker, going in the opposite direction. Our conversation was brief but I didn't get the impression that he was on his way home from Santiago. The Cornish Camino first takes you West, along the coast path from Lelant to Carbis Bay. After crossing the single track railway you turn off of the coast path out of Carbis Bay up Steeple Lane to Knill's monument at the top of the hill. This steeple shaped obelisk was erected at the behest of John Knill (once customs officer and mayor of St Ives). He also instituted a pageant of jollity to be held every five years on St James's Day (25th July) at the monument, which continues to the present. You could go to the next one in 2016, if you are not already planning on being in Santiago that day. The route then takes you along a few lanes and many footpaths, across pasture land to reach Trencrom Hill. Though St Michaels' Way leads you around the side of the hill you can make a short detour from the little car park up to the summit to see its Neolithic Tor and remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort.
After another couple of miles you will come in view of St Michael's Mount, which you will keep on seeing occasionally as you head in the direction of Marazion. On the way, you pass by the pretty church and White Hart pub of Ludgvan. The route then takes you through the bird watchers' paradise of Marazion Marsh before reaching Marazion. Finally, you can walk out along the causeway to St Michael's Mount (or take to boat if the tide is in). Unlike its French counterpart (Mont Saint-Michel), there is nothing left of its Benedictine Abbey, though St Michael's Mount is still an impressive place, worthy of making a pilgrim walk to in its own right (though be warned - it is closed on Saturdays).