Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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it was only about a mile distant.

We returned to our hotel at the time arranged for breakfast, which was
quite ready, the table being laid for three; but where was our friend?
We learned that he had gone out into the town, but we had got half-way
through our breakfast, all the while wondering where he could be, when
the door opened suddenly and in he came, with his face beaming like the
rising sun, although we noticed he glanced rather anxiously in the
direction of the remaining breakfast. He apologised for being late, but
he had not been able to obtain the conveyance he mentioned to us last
night, as it was engaged elsewhere. He had, however, found another which
he thought might suit our purpose, and had arranged for it to be at the
hotel in half an hour's time. He also brought the pleasing intelligence
that we might expect a fine day. The trap duly arrived in charge of the
owner, who was to act as driver; but some difficulty arose, as he had
not quite understood the order. He thought he had simply to drive us to
the Land's End and back, and had contemplated being home again early, so
our friend had to make another financial arrangement before he would
accept the order. This was soon negotiated, but it was very difficult to
arrange further details. Here our friend's intimate knowledge of the
country came in useful. There was no direct driving road along the
coast, so it was arranged that our driver should accompany us where he
could, and then when his road diverged he should meet us at certain
points to be explained by our friend later in the day. Mutual distrust,
we supposed, prevented us from paying him in advance, and possibly
created a suspicion in the driver's mind that there was something wrong
somewhere, and he evidently thought what fools we were to walk all the
way along the coast to Land's End when we might have ridden in his trap.
We journeyed together for the first mile or two, and then he had to
leave us for a time while we trudged along with only our sticks to
carry, for, to make matters equal in that respect, our friend had
borrowed one at the hotel, a much finer-looking one than ours, of which
he was correspondingly proud.

[Illustration: PENZANCE]


He insisted upon our seeing everything there was to be seen, and it soon
became evident that what our companion did not know about the fine rock
scenery on this part of the coast of Cornwall was not worth knowing, so
that we were delighted to have him with us. The distance from Penzance
to Land's End was not great, but by the route selected it occupied the
whole of the day, including many stoppages, and we had a glorious walk.
The weather had been rather squally yesterday, and there was a steady
breeze still blowing. We enjoyed seeing the breakers dash themselves
into foam against the rocks and thunder inside the fissures and caverns
below. Occasionally we got a glimpse of the red tinge given to the
smoother waters of the sea by the shoals of pilchards passing along the
coast, so that in the same journey we had seen the water reddened with
herrings in the extreme north and with pilchards in the extreme south of

At Newlyn we were delighted with the quaint, crooked little passages
which did duty for streets, and we were informed that the place was
noted for artists and fish - a rather strange combination. We learned
that when first the pilchards arrived at Land's End, they divided into
two immense shoals, one going in the direction of Mounts Bay and the
other towards St. Ives Bay, the record catch in a single haul at that
place being 245 millions! There was a saying at Newlyn that it was
unlucky to eat a pilchard from the head, as it should be eaten from its
tail; but why, it was difficult to define, unless it was owing to the
fact that it was the tail that guided the head of the fish towards the
coasts of Cornwall.

We also passed through a village named Paul, which had been modernised
into St. Paul. Its church had a rather lofty tower, which stood on the
hill like a sentinel looking over Mounts Bay. This place was also burnt
by the Spaniards in 1595. It appeared that George Borrow had visited it
on January 15th, 1854, as he passed through on his way to Land's End,
for the following entry appeared in his Diary for that day: "Went to St.
Paul's Church. Saw an ancient tomb with the inscription in Cornish at
north end. Sat in a pew under a black suit of armour belonging to the
Godolphin family, with two swords." We copied this Cornish epitaph as

_Bonnas heb duelth Eu poes Karens wei
tha pobl Bohodzhak Paull han Egles nei_.

which translated means:

Eternal life be his whose loving care
Gave Paul an almshouse, and the church repair.

There was also an epitaph in the churchyard over the grave of an old
lady who died at the age of 102, worded:

Here lyeth interred Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1778, said to have
been the last person who conversed in the ancient Cornish, the
peculiar language of this county from the earliest records, till it
expired in the eighteenth century in this Parish of St. Paul. This
stone is erected by the Prince Louis Lucien Bonaparte, in union with
the Rev. John Garrett, Vicar of St. Paul 1860.

Under the guidance of our friend, who of course acted as leader, we now
passed on to the famous place known as Mousehole, a picturesque village
in a shady hollow, with St. Clement's Island a little way out to sea in
front. This place, now named Mousehole, was formerly Porth Enys, or the
Island Port, and a quay was built here as early as the year 1392. We saw
the cavern, rather a large one, and near it the fantastic rocks
associated with Merlin the "Prince of Enchanters," some of whose
prophecies applied to Cornwall. At Mousehole there was a large rock
named Merlin's Stone, where the only Spaniards that ever devastated the
shores of England landed in 1595. Merlin's prophecy in the Cornish
language reads:

_Aga syth lyer war and meyne Merlyn
Ava neb syth Leskey Paul, Penzance
hag Newlyn_.

which means, translated:

There shall land on the stone of Merlyn
Those who shall burn Paul, Penzance,
and Newlyn.

Jenkin Keigwin. There was a

[Illustration: THE CAVERN, MOUSEHOLE.]

They also burnt Mousehole, with the exception of one public-house, a
house still standing, with walls four feet thick, and known as the
"Keigwin Arms" of which they killed the landlord, rock here known as
the "Mermaid," which stood out in the sea, and from which songs by
female voices were said to have allured young men to swim to the rock,
never to be heard of again.

We next came to the Lamora Cove, where we walked up the charming little
valley, at the top of which we reached the plain of Bolleit, where
Athelstan defeated the Britons in their last desperate struggle for
freedom. The battle lasted from morning until night, when, overpowered
by numbers, the Cornish survivors fled to the hills. After this battle
in the light of the setting sun, Athelstan is said to have seen the
Scilly Islands and decided to try to conquer them, and, if successful,
to build a church and dedicate it to St. Buryana. He carried out his
vow, and founded and endowed a college for Augustine Canons to have
jurisdiction over the parishes of Buryan, Levan, and Sennen, through
which we now journeyed; but the Scilly Islands appeared to us to be
scarcely worth conquering, as, although they comprised 145 islets, many
of them were only small bare rocks, the largest island, St. Mary, being
only three miles long by two and a half broad, and the highest point
only 204 feet above sea-level; but perhaps the refrangible rays of the
setting sun so magnified them that Athelstan believed a considerable
conquest was before him.

We next went to see the "Merry Maidens" and the "Pipers." They were only
pillars of stone, but our friend assured us they were lively enough once
upon a time, and represented seven young but thoughtless ladies who
lived in that neighbourhood. They were on their way to Buryan church one
Sabbath day when they saw two pipers playing music in a field, who as
they went near them began to play dance tunes. The maidens forgot the
sacred character of the day, and, yielding to temptation, began to
dance. By and by the music became extremely wild and the dancing
proportionately furious. The day was beautifully fine and the sun shone
through a clear blue sky, but the pipers were two evil spirits, and
suddenly a flash of lightning came from the cloudless sky and turned
them all, tempters and tempted, into stone, so there they stand, the
girls in a circle and the pipers a little distance away, until the Day
of Judgment.

By this time we were all getting hungry, as the clear air of Cornwall is
conducive to good appetites; but our friend had thoughtfully arranged
for this already, and we found when we entered the inn at Buryan that
our conveyance had arrived there, and that the driver had already
regaled himself, and told the mistress that she might expect three other

The old church of St. Buryan was said to be named after Buriena, the
beautiful daughter of a Munster chieftain, supposed to be the Bruinsech
of the Donegal martyrology, who came to Cornwall in the days of St.
Piran. There were two ancient crosses at Buryan, one in the village and
the other in the churchyard, while in the church was the
thirteenth-century, coffin-shaped tomb of "Clarice La Femme Cheffroi De
Bolleit," bearing an offer of ten days' pardon to whoever should pray
for her soul. But just then we were more interested in worldly matters;
and when, after we had refreshed ourselves in a fairly substantial way,
our friend told us he would take us to see a "Giant's Castle," we went
on our way rejoicing, to regain the sea-coast where the castle was to
be seen, but not before the driver had made another frantic effort to
induce us to ride in his trap.

[Illustration: THE "KEIGWIN ARMS," MOUSEHOLE. "They (the Spaniards) also
burnt Mousehole, with the exception of one public house, a house still
standing, with walls four feet thick and known as the 'Keigwin Arms.'"]

The castle of Treryn, which our friend pronounced Treen, was situated on
a small headland jutting out into the sea, but only the triple vallum
and fosse of the castle remained. The walls had been built of huge
boulders, and had once formed the cyclopian castle of Treryn. Cyclops,
our friend explained, was one of a number of giants who had each only
one eye, and that in the centre of the forehead. Their business was to
forge the iron for Vulcan, the god of fire. They could see to work in
mines or dark places, for their one eye was as big as a moon. Sometimes
they were workers in stone, who erected their buildings chiefly in
Europe and Asia, and their huge blocks of stone were worked so nicely
that they fitted together without mortar. Treryn Castle was the
stronghold of a giant who was stronger than most of the other giants who
lived in those parts, and was, in addition, a necromancer or sorcerer,
in communication with the spirits of the dead, by whose aid he raised
this castle by enchantment from the depths of the sea. It was therefore
an enchanted castle, and was kept in its position by a spell, a magic
key, which the giant placed in a hole in a rock on the seacoast, still
named the Giant's Lock. Whenever this key, which was a large round
stone, could be taken out of the lock, the castle and the promontory on
which it stood would disappear beneath the sea to the place from whence
it came. Very few people had seen the key, because its hiding-place was
in such a very dangerous position that scarcely any one was courageous
enough to venture to the lock that held it. To reach the lock it was
necessary to wait for a low tide, and then to walk along a ledge in the
side of the rock scarcely wide enough for the passage of a small animal,
where in the event of a false step the wanderer would be certain to be
dashed to pieces on the rocks below. At the end of this dangerous path
there was a sharp projecting rock in which was a hole wide enough for a
man's hand and arm to pass down, and at the bottom of the hole he could
feel a rather large but smooth stone in the shape of an egg, which he
could easily move in any direction. Then all he had to do further was to
draw it out through the hole; but the difficulty was that the stone was
larger than the aperture, and the mystery was who placed it there.

[Illustration: ROCKS NEAR LAND'S END.]

The dangerous nature of the approach, in addition to the difficulty of
getting back again, was quite sufficient to deter any of us from making
the attempt; even if we gained possession of the magic key we might have
been taken, with it and the castle and promontory, to the enchanted
regions below, so we decided to refrain, for after all there was the
desirability of reaching home again!

It was a very wild place, and the great rocks and boulders were strongly
suggestive of giants; but our friend would not have us linger, as we
must go to see the famous Logan Rock. In order to save time and risk, he
suggested that we should secure the services of a professional guide. We
could see neither guides nor houses, and it looked like a forlorn hope
to try to find either, but, asking us to stay where we were until he
came back, our friend disappeared; and some time afterwards he
reappeared from some unknown place, accompanied by an intelligent
sailorlike man whom he introduced to us as the guide. The guide led us
by intricate ways over stone walls, stepped on either side with
projecting stones to do duty as stiles, and once or twice we walked
along the top of the walls themselves, where they were broad enough to
support a footpath. Finally we crossed what appeared to be a boundary
fence, and immediately afterwards found ourselves amongst a wilderness
of stones and gigantic boulders, with the roar of the waves as they beat
on the rocks below to keep us company.

It was a circuitous and intricate course by which our guide conducted
us, up and down hill, and one not altogether free from danger, and we
had many minor objects to see before reaching the Logan Rock, which was
the last of all. Every precaution was taken to prevent any accident at
dangerous places on our way. Amongst other objects our guide pointed to
the distant views of the Lizard Point, the Wolf Rock Lighthouse, and the
Runnel Stone Bell Buoy, and immediately below us was the Porthcurnow Bay
and beach. Then there were some queerly shaped rocks named the Castle
Peak, the "Tortoise," the "Pig's Mouth," all more or less like the
objects they represented, and, as a matter of course, the giants were
also there. Our guide insisted upon our sitting in the Giant's Chair,
where King Arthur, he said, had sat before us. It was no easy matter to
climb into the chair, and we had to be assisted by sundry pushes from
below; but once in it we felt like monarchs of all we surveyed, and the
view from that point was lovely. Near by was the Giant's Bowl, and
finally the Giant's Grave, an oblong piece of land between the rocks,
which my brother measured in six long strides as being eighteen feet in
length. The Logan or Swinging Stone was estimated to weigh about eighty
tons, and although it was quite still when we reached it, we were easily
able to set it moving. It was a block of granite, and continued to
oscillate for some little time, but formerly it was said that it could
not be moved from its axis by force. This led to a foolish bet being
made by Lieutenant Goldsmith of the Royal Navy, who landed with his
boat's crew on April 8th, 1824, and with the united exertions of nine
men with handspikes, and excessive vibration, managed to slide the great
stone from its equilibrium. This so roused the anger of the Cornish
people that the Admiralty were obliged to make Mr. Goldsmith - who, by
the way, was a nephew of Oliver Goldsmith, the author of the _Vicar of
Wakefield_ - replace the stone in its former position, which, owing to
its immense weight and almost inaccessible situation, was a most
difficult and costly thing to do. Mr. Davies Gilbert persuaded the Lords
of the Admiralty to lend the necessary apparatus from Pymouth Dockyard,
and was said to have paid some portion of the cost; but after the
assistance of friends, and two collections throughout the Royal Navy,
Goldsmith had to pay quite £600 personally, and came out of the
transaction a sadder, wiser, and poorer man.

Like other stones of an unusual character, the Logan Rock was thought to
have some medicinal properties, and parents formerly brought their
children to be rocked on the stone to cure their diseases; but the charm
was said to have been broken by the removal of the stone, which did not
afterwards oscillate as freely as before. It was reinstated in its
former position on November 2nd, 1824. We also saw the Ladies' Logan
Rock, weighing nine tons, which could easily be moved. In a rather
dangerous portion of the rocks we came to a "wishing passage," through
which it was necessary to walk backwards to obtain the fulfilment of a
wish - doubtless in the case of nervous people that they might get away
from the rocks again in safety.

The rocks hereabouts are very vividly coloured at certain times of the
year, and in the spring are covered with lichens and turf, with blossoms
of the blue scilla.

[Illustration: THE LOGAN ROCK.]

Porthcurnow, which runs a short distance into the rocky coast, is one of
Cornwall's most picturesque little bays. Round the foot of the rocks we
saw what appeared to be a fringe of white sand, which at first sight we
thought must have been left there by the Giant Tregeagle, as it was part
of his task to sweep the sands from Porthcurnow Cove; but we ascertained
that what we thought was white sand was in reality a mass of extremely
small shells. The surface of the rocks above abounded with golden furze,
which in summer, mingled with purple heather, formed a fine contrast. In
the background was a small and dismal-looking valley known locally as
the "Bottoms," which was often obscured by mists rising from the
marshes below, and which few people cared to cross after nightfall. It
was near the "Bottoms" that a mysterious stranger took up his abode many
years ago. He was accompanied by an evil-looking foreign man-servant,
who never spoke to any one except his master - probably because he was
unable to speak English. No one knew where these strange people had come
from, but they kept a boat in the cove, in which they used to start off
to sea early in the morning and disappear in the distance, never
returning until dead of night. Sometimes when the weather was stormy
they remained out all night. Occasionally, but only on stormy and dark
nights, they stayed on shore, and then they went hunting on the moors,
whence the cry of their hounds was often heard in the midnight hours.


At length the mysterious stranger died and was buried, the coffin being
carried to the grave followed by the servant and the dogs. As soon as
the grave was filled in with earth the servant and the dogs suddenly
disappeared, and were never heard of again, while at the same time the
boat vanished from the cove.

Since this episode a ghostly vessel had occasionally appeared in the
night, floating through the midnight air from the direction of the
sea - a black, square-rigged, single-masted barque, sometimes with a
small boat, at other times without, but with no crew visible. The
apparition appeared on the sea about nightfall, and sailed through the
breakers that foamed over the dangerous rocks that fringed the shore,
gliding over the sands and through the mist that covered the "Bottoms,"
and proceeding in awful silence and mystery to the pirate's grave, where
it immediately disappeared; and it is an ill omen to those who see that
ghostly vessel, the sight of which forebodes misfortune!

It was near St. Levan's Church that the stranger was buried, but when
this happened was beyond record. St. Levan himself appeared to have been
a fisherman, but only for food, not sport; the valley in his day was not
the dreary place it was now, for grass and flowers sprang up in his
footsteps and made a footpath from his church to the sea. He only caught
one fish each day, as that was sufficient for his frugal meal. One
evening, however, when he was fishing, he felt a strong pull at his
line, and on drawing it up found two fish (bream) on his hook. As he
only needed one and desired to be impartial and not to favour one more
than the other, he threw them both into the sea. Then he threw his line
in afresh, and again they both came on the hook, and were again thrown
back; but when they came a third time, St. Levan thought there must be
some reason for this strange adventure, and carried them home. On
reaching his house he found his sister St. Breaze and her two children
had come to visit him, and he was glad then that he had brought the two
fish, which were cooked for supper. The children were very hungry, as
they had walked a long distance, and ate fast and carelessly, so that a
bone stuck in the throat of each and killed them!

St. Levan must have been a strong man, for he once split a rock by
striking it with his fist, and then prophesied:

When with panniers astride
A pack-horse can ride
Through St. Levan's stone
The world will be done.

The stone was still to be seen, and in the fissure made by the saint the
flowers and ferns were still growing; but there did not appear to be any
danger of the immediate fulfilment of the saint's prophecy!

[Illustration: SENNEN CHURCH.]

We now walked on to one of the finest groups of rocks in the country,
named "Tol-Peden-Penwith" - a great mass of granite broken and shattered
into the most fantastic forms and wonderfully picturesque. It formed the
headland round which Tregeagle had to carry the sand, and the remainder
of the coast from there to Land's End and beyond formed similar
scenery. We were quite enraptured with the wild beauty of the different
headlands and coves pointed out to us by our friend; but suddenly he saw
a church tower in the distance, and immediately our interest in the
lovely coast scenery faded away and vanished, for our friend, pointing
towards the tower, said he knew a public-house in that direction where
he had recently had a first-class tea. We all three hurried away across
stone fences towards the place indicated until we reached a road, and we
had just turned off on coming to a junction, when we heard a stentorian
voice in the distance saying, "Hi! That's not the way!" We had forgotten
all about the driver for the moment, but there he was in another road a
few fields away, so we shouted and motioned to him to follow us, and we
all had tea together while his horse was stabled in the inn yard. The
tea, for which we were quite ready, was a good one, and when we had
finished we walked on to the Land's End, giving our driver an idea of
the probable time we should be ready for him there.

The name of the village was Sennen, and near the church was a large
stone 8 feet long and 3 feet wide, said to have been the table-stone at
which seven Saxon kings once dined. An old historian gave their names as
Ethelbert V, King of Kent; Cissa II, King of the South Saxons; Kinigils,
King of the West Saxons; Sebert, King of Essex or the East Saxons;
Ethelfred, King of Northumbria; Penda, King of Mercia; and Sigebert V,
King of East Anglia. It was also supposed that King Alfred had on one
occasion dined at the same stone after defeating the Danes at

The mile or so of moorland over which we now walked to the Land's End
must have looked very beautiful earlier in the year, as the gorse or
furze was mingled with several varieties of heather which had displayed
large bell-formed blooms of various colours, and there had been other
flowers in addition. Even at this late period of the year sufficient
combination of colour remained to give us an idea how beautiful it must
have appeared when at its best. From some distance away we could see the
whitewashed wall of a house displaying in large black letters the words:
"THE FIRST AND LAST HOUSE IN ENGLAND," and this we found to be an inn.
Here we were practically at the end of our walk of 1,372 miles, which
had extended over a period of nine weeks. We had passed through many
dangers and hardships, and a feeling of thankfulness to the Almighty was
not wanting on our part as we found ourselves at the end. We had still
to cross a narrow neck of land which was just wide enough at the top for

Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 65 of 66)