Bodmin Moor – Cornwall

Bodmin Moor, first farmed by Bronze Age settlers over 4,000 years ago, is now one of the country’s last truly wild areas. Visit the mysterious standing stones or walk through its tranquil woods and leave urban life far behind.

Much of the moor’s prehistoric and medieval past has remained untouched by the march of time,and the whole area is richly endowed with stone circles, burial chambers and mysterious ceremonial structures. While the Hurlers and Cheesewring are fairly well known, there are other impressive but rarely-visited stones, such as those near Roughtor and Carbilly.

Arthurian legends shroud many of these sites. The large, rectangular King Arthur’s Hall, in the wildest part of the moor, has steep earthen banks that were once topped with over one hundred standing stones. Far too elaborate for a cattle shelter, the structure’s true purpose is unknown. Out on Kilmar Tor, there is further evidence of the mythical king in the form of a massive stone with a coffin-sized depression, known as King Arthur’s Bed.

Those who love peaceful woods and babbling streams can follow the Fowey from the edge of Bodmin Moor at Golitha Falls. Here it drops in cascades down through dense, sessile-oak woodland. There are lush, aromatic glens and the trees are draped with rare ferns, mosses and ivy. Wagtails criss-cross the stream and a small, hidden pool opens up a few hundred yards below. On a hot summer’s day, the yellow sand of the stream bed throws a golden light on the rocks and creates a magical place to take a dip.

Further downstream, the trackways of Cabilla and Redrice Woods, Cornwall’s largest tract of ancient woodland, remain unchanged since the 16th century. The woods support a host of wild creatures, from otters living among the underwater tree roots, to bats, which sleep in the old mine workings.

The moorland lakes, relics of Bodmin’s more recent quarrying and mining history, are wonderful places to swim. At Goldiggins, St Breward and Carbilly you can take a dip in these dramatic, freshwater hollows. Once the source of stone for great structures such as London’s Tower Bridge, these deep quarries, set in stunning landscapes, now lie silent.

Fans of caves may enjoy Carnglaze caverns but those who climb the various wind-sculpted tors – Roughtor, the Cheesewring and Kilmar are three of the best – will be rewarded with breathtaking views over the lofty expanse of moorland, the perfect place to camp wild and watch the sun set.