Driving through the rolling hills of Cornwall, the remnants of volcanic activity surround you. One such example of geological activity is the great hill of Carn Brea, not far from the fairly large town of Redruth. Here you’ll find centuries worth of history; from the remains of a medieval castle to a smuggler’s cove, there’s plenty to see and visit…
Carn Brea: An Important Neolithic Settlement
Carn Brea is also one of the most important Neolithic sites in the UK, making this site (which sits 700 feet above sea level), well worth a visit. Overlooking an azure blue sea and approachable only by a steep climb (or dirt road if you’re looking to visit by car), it’s hard to imagine how this spot was once home to a thriving community.
In total, over 700 stone flints have been found on the site and it’s thought that the village was once home to 100-150 people. The Neolithic settlement operated between 3700 and 3400 BC and the remains of 14 longhouses have been found. The site is thought to have been centered around what is now home to the Bassett Monument.
At the base of the Bassett Monument, to its left if you’re looking at the monument face on, you’ll find the Cup and Saucer Rock. Local legend suggests that some of these stones were once used for human sacrifice. Although it must be noted that these claims are dubious at best, the cup and saucer rock, as well as other rocks surrounding the Bassett Monument are well worth a look… If only to examine their unusual formations.
It is around here that the smuggler’s cove is also located. Once upon a time, Cornwall was filled with pirates and smugglers. It is through using tunnels such as the one located at the top of Carn Brea that they smuggled their goods into an illegal market. However, the council blocked off the entrance to this tunnel in the late 1980s for safety reasons, and so all that is left is a small pile of stones.
The memorial cross of Basset Monument sits at the highest point of the hill and is the tallest point for miles around. Built in 1836 in a Celtic Cross style, the monument was originally intended to be a tribute to Francis Bassett. Once the owner of the nearby Carn Brea Castle, Mr. Bassett came from one of the most important mining families in the area.
He was known for looking after those who worked for him and as a philanthropist in the local community. At a time when workers had no rights, Francis Bassett did as much as he could to improve the lives of those working for him. Standing at 90 foot high, today the Monument is a manmade reminder of the rich history this landscape has to tell.
Carn Brea Castle
The entirety of Carn Brea site is located on a ley line. Separated from the rest of the world by means of a large hill and steep climb, the lone silhouette of Carn Brea Castle strikes a captivating image on the barren hillside.
This 14th-Century former hunting lodge was thought to have been built on the location of an ancient chapel dedicated to St Michael (one of Cornwall’s Patron Saints). Chapels and churches dedicated to the Saint are prevalent in the area; the most notable being the nearby St Michael’s Mount.
The Carn Brea Castle you see today was constructed by the Bassett family and was completely refurbished at some point during the 18th-century. The style of the Castle is a romanticized version of medieval gothic and is built on a set of large granite boulders.
Wandering the hillside, you can imagine how bleak the castle must have looked at a time prior to cars and good communication. One local myth suggests that there’s a secret tunnel leading from the castle right down through the valley and into the church below. These rumours have never been confirmed, nor have they been denied…
Carn Brea Castle Today (Restaurant)
The Castle fell into disrepair during the 1950s. It lay abandoned, haunting the landscape until it was bought and completely restored in the late 1970s. Today the former castle and hunting lodge is the site of a successful restaurant.
Specializing in Middle Eastern/ British fusion cuisine, main dishes are priced around £10-15. There is no electricity in the castle, and so all meals are taken by candlelight. Only cash or cheques are accepted and a visit is by booking only. I’m told that there’s a rooftop terrace as well, from which the views over the surrounding valley are fantastic.
Address: Carn Brea Castle Carn Lane | Pool, Redruth TR16 6SL, England / Telephone Number: 01209 218358
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then there’s a piece of film trivia associated with the castle. In 2006, the Ford Angelina (you know, the one Ron steals from his Dad) was stolen from the Harry Potter Film Set. A couple of months later, it turned up in the Carn Brea Castle carpark. No one knows how it got there. After all, it had no engine and no one ever claimed responsibility…