Exploring Chun castle and Quoit

Huge stone supports holding up capstone - Chun QuoitThere are so many fascinating Ancient Sites to explore here in West Cornwall and this week we revisited the once mighty Iron Age fort of Chun Castle again, set beside the remarkable preserved Chun Quoit in a commanding position high on the downs with spectacular views over West Penwith.

I had read that they had recently been cleared by volunteers so it was a perfect time to climb up onto Chun Downs once more and absorb the atmosphere of distant times.


Our visit to Chun Castle



So many years have passed since we last climbed to Chun castle but the temptation of reading that the vegetation was freshly cleared led us back once more, to wander in the Iron Age hill fort already old 2000 years ago.

Castle entrance and ditch defense

There is something reassuringly permanent about the ancient places of Cornwall. Parking was still in the farmyard as we remembered and the white stone that marks the beginning of the path is still set at the base of the hill just where the pastureland turns to scrub.

Dry Stone walls Chun castle

The original walls may have been 15 feet thick and between 15 – 20 feet high


We were soon panting in huge lungful of cool clear air as the gradient began to take its toll but forged onwards picking our way up a track as so many other people had done before us over thousands of years.

We finally picked our way through the defensive banks and ditches to the entrance – originally this would have been staggered between the walls for defensive purposes but these day the front door is invitingly open.

Stones scattered from castle walls used fro quarry

The massive walls that stood over thousand of years are no more than a deep scatter of stones robbed to build Penzance Madron and Madron workhouse but still giving the impression of the immense width and what might have been so very long ago.

Twin stones frame Chun castle entrance

Tread carefully in Chun castle, there is still history to be found lying amongst the scatter of stones – I was intrigued to find a stone drilled in a regular pattern and after making later enquiries to Ancient Cornwall on Facebook I can now tell you

Merriment stone Stone artifact


“It’s a merriment stone. The holes were packed with black powder and then lit. It’s said that with the right amount powder in the holes some stones could play a simple tune.” Ancient Cornwall


Cornish Archaeology 26 1987 p 81 “Drill holes and merriment holes Drilling contests are a well recorded feature of feast days in mining and quarrying areas. The drill holes thereby produced are regular in size and straight-sided and the surface of the drilled boulder is usually peppered with them. Such stones would sometimes be used to stage ‘firework displays’ when the holes were packed with gunpowder and linked by a trail of powder which, when set alight, would go off with a series of spectacular bangs and flashes. These holes were once known as ‘merriment holes’ (P. Herring, pers.comm.) “

Outline of building within chun Castle

Although abandoned over 2000 years ago here was a brief reoccupation of the castle four or five hundred years later and oblong huts and a furnace were built over the original round structures within the stronghold so closely guarding the smelting of tin to produce ingots. Pottery dating to 2nd and 3rd century BC.

Part demolished walls - Chun castle

We carefully explored and circled the walls that day pausing  to take in the sweeping views to the sea, the villages in the valleys looking like tiny models so far below and the old Engine houses for the Tin mine and finally the unchanging landscape of the field systems.

We think we spotted the well again the steps were still clearly visible when Borlase visited in but these days a moist green depression marks the spot.

Depression within Chun castle walls


For a guide to a suggested walk near Chun castle https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/print-walk/705/

Chun Quoit


Chun Quoit - ancient stone monument from

Finally we moved on to the Chun Quoit believed to have been built around 2400 B.C. set within sight of the castle entrance but separated in time by nearly four thousand years.

The capstone weights nearly nine tons

The capstone weights nearly nine tons


This ancient place of ceremony set high above the sea  seemed almost untouched and unyielding to time set on the heathland still clothed with the spare beauty of the bleached grasses of winter.


Huge stone supports holding up capstone - Chun Quoit



Footpath across downland

We picked our way down the hillside – Look carefully and you will see our car far below

Our journey to Chun Castle – other sites nearby


national Trust sign for Lanyon QuoitIt has been several years since we visited so many of the Ancient sites of West Cornwall and I had plans to revisit Chun Castle so many times that somehow the chance has never come until now.

It was early afternoon by the time we reluctantly passed Madron Well saving it for another day but stopped to dallying en route at Lanyon Quoit – impressively tall still despite being reset at a lower height after it collapsed after gale (probably aided by the enthusiastic excavations of treasure hunters).

Lanyon Quoit - ancient place to visit

We stopped to look at Lanyon Quoit on the way to Chun Castle


Rusted metal road sign - Chun CastleWe passed the packed car park for Men-an-Tol along the way on our right – this is an ancient healing stone with a captivating walk across the downs Bronze Age barrows and the Nine Maidens stone Circle. Chun Castle that lays just a little further on the opposite side of the road.

Sat Nav postcode : –  TR20 8NR


About Christine Taylor

Christine has written a weekly blog about life at Ednovean Farm and interesting places to visit in West Cornwall for over ten years now, concentrating on those off the beaten track places that only the locals find. Charles and Christine Taylor have hosted Luxury Bed and Breakfast at Ednovean Farm Nr Penzance in West Cornwall since 1991 and live there with three cats and five horses, including a Spanish Stallion called Danni. Ednovean Farm has been awarded AA five star gold for Bed and breakfast and is included in The Michelin Guide and The Alastair Sawday Guide . The Farmhouse and gardens has been featured in BBC Homes and Antiques, Homes and Gardens. Period Living and 25 Beautiful Homes as well as being used as a film and photo shoot location.

Comments are closed.