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Walk the Pilgrim route from Lelant to St Michael's Mount

30 January 2019

You may have heard of El Camino in Spain, the final section of the legendary Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Way. But did you know that part of the pilgrimage could be found here in Cornwall?

A vast network of trails in Europe leading to St James’ Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, El Camino is world famous. With roots dating back to pre-historic times between 10,000BC and 410AD, it has been followed by missionaries and pilgrims for thousands of years.

Of immense spiritual significance, St James’ Cathedral is believed to hold the remains of St James the Great, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles, and has drawn millions of worshippers. These days, people of all denominations and faiths follow part or all of the trail to strengthen their faith, find peace, or to simply enjoy the walk.

With many branches of the Pilgrim route all over Europe, a lot of people don’t realise that Cornwall is home to part of the pilgrimage. Starting in Lelant near St Ives and finishing at our very own St Michael’s Mount, St Michael’s Way is a 12.5-mile walk stretching from coast to coast.

If you’d like to experience the walk for yourself, the route officially begins at St Uny Church. Nestled on a sandy headland, the church perches high above the medieval harbour town of Lelant, affording walkers with beautiful views over the Hayle Estuary. With origins dating back to the 6th century, St Uny Church has been nearly lost to encroaching sand twice in its lifetime. Make sure you pop inside before heading off and read about the local history.

Once you’re ready, your trail awaits. From St Uny Church, wander along the shell-marked path, passing Porth Kidney Sands along the stunning Cornish coast and arriving at Carbis Bay. A beautiful golden sand beach, Carbis Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a lovely spot to cool off your toes in the crystal-clear sea. Treat yourself to an ice cream, drink in the views and march on.

From Carbis Bay, St Michael’s Way heads inland. Cutting through rich, verdant countryside, St Michael’s Way is said to follow the route chosen by pilgrims arriving from Ireland and Wales. Choosing to walk from coast to coast instead of sailing their ships around the perilous waters of Lands’ End, they would abandon their vessels and set off on foot.

Enjoy the scenery and wander through rolling fields to Trencrom Hill. Looked after by the National Trust, the impressive Trencrom will test your legs but it is well worth it upon reaching the top. Standing alone at 550ft above the Hayle Estuary, it is believed to have been a Neolithic hill fort and boasts some of the most beautiful views in Cornwall.

Once you’ve snapped a few pictures and taken a well-deserved breather, head off once more. Stroll over Ninnes Bridge towards Ludgvan, past Ludgvan Church (once used as a meeting point for pilgrims) and eventually pop out on the south coast near Penzance. From here, St Michael’s Way leads you east towards Marazion and the magnificent final stretch of the walk.

After a long 12.5 miles drenched in history and unbelievable landscapes, St Michael’s Way finishes here at St Michael’s Mount. A fitting end to an incredible walk, you can climb to the top of the mount and look back towards the bay. Offering a totally unique vantage point and setting, reward yourself with a hearty meal on the island and let your feet rest and your mind unravel.