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Cornwall’s own Camino: Walking the Way of St Michael


IIt was daylight when we got off the train at Lelant. Lelant is a village in the bay near St Ives. With the early morning light still building, the thrush’s distinctive, repetitive high-pitched call awakens this sleepy corner of west Cornwall.

My friends and I were walking a pilgrimage in Cornwall— st michael’s road From Lerant to St. Michael’s Mount – I first set foot there a few years ago. At the time, I was alone, fresh out of a toxic relationship, and trying to piece together my life against the backdrop of resurfacing trauma. But I haven’t reached the point where I feel melancholy because not long ago I discovered the power of these ancient tracks. I say this as a non-believer.

When people think of pilgrimage, they usually think of weeks-long walking tours. But the pilgrimage can be as long or as short as you like. There are many meaningful examples of recorded pilgrimage routes that can be completed in a single day, or truncated portions of longer routes that can be just as valuable as multi-day missions. The main criterion is that they are “purposeful walks”. I believe they can help us all find meaning, no matter what our beliefs are.

Phoebe Smith (right) and friends holding pilgrim passports

I’ve made many of these “mini-pilgrimages” over the years, including the last five miles saint birinus road In Thames Valley, 3.5 miles st thomas road Llankafan (one of 13 full-day circular pilgrimages of the same name between Swansea and Hereford), and one of 2 15-mile loops Pollock Pilgrim’s Trail Each time, I’m truly amazed by the clarity I get from these trails, no matter the length.

With a silent nod—the way a lot of communication goes between two old friends—we begin walking the Way of St. Michael beside the purple rose bushes of towering Viper Bugloss. We passed a sign with a scallop shell on it, marking the route as the official Camino de Santiago route (as of 2016), one of nearly 300 routes totaling more than 50,000 miles and crossing 29 countries , people can reach their final destination on foot.

St Uny Church in Lelant, near the start of the route. Photography: Caroline Eaton/Alami

Next to it is St Unni’s Church, named after a Celtic missionary who converted Cornish pagans to Christianity in the sixth century. He wasn’t the only one to come across the ocean. Although it was only designated a pilgrimage trail in 2014, old shipping records show that souls traveling to England from Wales and Ireland would not have ventured into the treacherous seas around Land’s End, but would have disembarked at Lelant and made their way to As far south as St. Michael’s Mount, some even continue on to Spain.

Since we had nearly 14 hours to cover just under 14 miles, we took it at an easy pace. We grabbed and stamped our “Pilgrim Passports” (available at the church) and spent time looking for the holy well above the cliff. carbis bay We then abandoned the hunt in favor of a cup of coffee by the water. We head inland to climb Worvas Hill, sharing recent life events along the way: work projects, life changes and our love of the outdoors, taking a break from it all.

We pass the huge iconic granite bowl rock, said to have been abandoned by two bowl-playing giants, before stopping for a packed lunch at the top of Trencombe Hill to admire the old Neolithic enclosure repurposed as a hillfort in the Iron Age Traces of Here we have our “Monte do Gozo” (Mountain of Pleasure on the Camino de Santiago) moment: we can see our destination, the tidal island malazaneIts Cornish name (Karrek Loos yn Koos, meaning “white rocks of the woodland”) suggests that it was once covered by forest and had no water.

Neolithic ruins on Trencrom Hill with Hayle Beach in the distance. Photography: Roger Driscoll/Alamy

On my last visit, I learned that the giant Trecobon would throw rocks at his coastal neighbor, the lazy cormorant, but accidentally hit and killed his wife. These legends form key clues to the site’s history, and even her grave is marked on Ordnance Survey maps.

As we walked from the Celtic Sea to the English Channel, we weaved more stories: from my own past – losing my mum as a teenager, overcoming an eating disorder – and about the natural history of Rosspeth, said to be a British Where the last wolf was found A pirate grave in Gurdwara Church is filled with skulls and cross bones, and local legend comes to life again.

Our feet ached as we reached the promenade on the outskirts of Penzance and headed east towards Marazion. We rejuvenated ourselves with the taste of wild black brassicas, but arrived too late to catch the last boat to the mountain and the tide was too strong. Far across the causeway.

Foot baths above Carbis Bay. Photography: Phoebe Smith

We reluctantly made our way to All Saints Church, feeling a bit deflated that our destination had been denied. We were not here to pray, but as we relaxed on the benches and reflected on our journey, a meditative state seemed to descend upon us.

We learned about saints and sinners, confessed secrets to each other, and shared many laughs. We have stood on the mountaintops of giants, tracked the last wolves, and followed in the footsteps of our ancestors. And tie it all together in one walk. Exploring while giving ourselves space to reconnect with the bits and pieces of our own lives – I find this happens on many micro-pilgrimages.

Before leaving we found the passport stamping station and found not one but two – including our missing last St. Michael’s Mount stamp – to stay here for those souls who were close but missed the boat to the island . We thought we’d found the destination we failed to reach – but here we are, getting a second chance to get it done.

Catholics might call it providence—but I call it the magic of pilgrimage.



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