Hidden away from the surf, sand and fishing villages of Cornwall is a small piece of wild up-land ignored by many but loved by those that take the time to explore it. Bodmin Moor is less than 10 miles wide but contains some fantastic walks, the best inland climbing in Cornwall and plenty of quiet lanes for the cyclist to enjoy. Those with an interest in history will find everything from neolithic hill enclosures to abandoned WWII airfields, plus the remains of Cornwall’s tin and copper mining industry, now awarded World Heritage status.
Much of the moor now has open access status although, unlike its neighbour Dartmoor, it is not a National Park and almost all the moor is in private ownership. Many of the hills are topped by rocky outcrops known as Cheesewrings – eroded piles of granite sculpted into fantastical shapes that often seem to defy gravity. Lots of these tors offer short bouldering problems, while the most famous and original Cheesewring stands on the edge of Stowes Hill and the quarry that takes its name. Here climbers of all abilities will find something to suit them. The quarry lies just north of the village of Minions on the southern side of the moor. A popular spot with visitors, the village is a great place to start and finish walks and it’s where the Copper Trail, a 60-mile circumnavigation of the moor designed to be walked in five or six days, begins.
The whole of the moor is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, as well as the rocky tors, offers some stunning wooded valleys where the moorland streams leave the granite uplands and tumble down on to the softer rocks. Golitha Falls on the Fowey River are easily accessible, but those who want to explore beyond the reach of ice cream vans and Sunday afternoon dog walkers should make for the DeLank valley between Blisland and St Breward on the west side of the moor. Hidden among ancient oak woodlands rich in lichen, the river was once used to drive turbines that powered the granite quarries on the hillside above. Nowadays, unharnessed, the river thunders down to join the River Camel ignored by the many that walk or cycle the adjacent Camel Trail.
The Camel Trail is best known for the stretch between Padstow on the north Cornish coast and Wadebridge, five flat miles inland. From there it continues to Bodmin before branching off to run along the western edge of the moor. This former railway line was built to serve both the quarries and also nearby china clay works, now closed.
The north side of the moor tends to be wilder with a mixture of high hills and open spaces crossed by bogs and covered in mists. Those that are prepared to explore it are often rewarded with solitude and stunning views. Brown Willy (stop smirking in the cheap seats), the highest point in the county at 420m, gets its fair share of walkers although most climb straight to the summit cairn and then return without exploring further. But by taking the route described below you get a true Bodmin Moor day out, including Brown Willy and its near neighbour Rough Tor.
Being small, the moor is easily accessible from any of the towns and villages dotted around its edge. Even the coastal resorts of Padstow, Tintagel, Looe or Fowey are only a halfhour drive away, giving the added bonus of water-based activities. The town of Bodmin lies just off the moor and offers a selection of accommodation, pubs and restaurants. The main London -Penzance railway line runs just to the south of the town, as does the A30.