Experience Penzance: Ding Dong
Experience Penzance: Ding Dong
While the Land’s End route has gravel options and the Carn Euny route has a short section of rough to get to Carn Euny itself, this route is where the riding gets wild on the moors of the West Cornwall interior.
You get there by riding up a beautiful road valley, with optional detours to two of Cornwall's most amazing and memorable sites. Ding Dong - which is a UNESCO World Heritage site of huge tin mining and prehistoric significance - and Trencrom Hill castle, which we only found after getting diverted by a herd of escaped cows.
That’s the kind of thing that makes the ancient land of Kernow such an incredible place to explore by bike, and with a truly iconic ending rolling through Marazion to St Michael’s Mount, the last but not least cliché really applies here.
This is one of three routes starting from the Cycling UK EXPERIENCE hub in Penzance and Marazion.
Ding Dong mine
Starting from the station, you’ll have to cope with a bit of traffic heading east for a few hundred metres to the edge of town. The climb up under the A30 immediately separates you from most motorists though and as you continue to climb past Trythogga (you have to love the names of a Cornish tongue that dates back thousands of years), the traffic will disappear almost entirely.
That leaves you free to truly appreciate the views across the valley where prehistoric hut circles sit on the crest at several points.
Be sure to take the left split onto a super narrow road that stays high rather than dropping down, but if you do find yourself running alongside the densely wooded stream, just take the turn signposted to Ding Dong in Newmill.
This takes you on an optional detour to West Cornwall’s oldest tin mine which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, complete with a legend that it was visited by Joseph of Arimathea accompanied by a young Jesus Christ.
What we definitely know is that it shares sweeping views south over the bay with the Nine Maidens stone circle as well as the Men-an-Tol and Lanyon Quoit prehistoric burial sites.
Whichever era grabs your interest, it’s well worth pushing up the footpath to the site before continuing the ride on-road through the tiny hamlets of Boskednan (which has its own stone circle) and Tredinneck which looks up onto Mulfra Hill, with the prehistoric burial cairn Mulfra Quoit and several other prehistoric barrow sites.
No wonder that the next section of this route feels deeply mystical, as a narrow singletrack bridleway takes you north and then east across wild moorland commons. It’s only fair to warn you that it is slightly technical riding in places and will definitely need a well-treaded tyre in winter, but if you want to avoid a potential push for a few metres then you can drop back to Newmill and continue up the valley.
Either way you’ll join a short section of tarmac which then becomes fast gravel heading east onto the Amalveor Downs. Prepare for a thrilling descent off the Downs down a rocky gully, but take care or you’ll end up fixing a flat like we did.
Hopefully still inflated, you’ll carry the downhill momentum all the way along the area's signature contouring, foxglove lined back lanes into Nancledra.
Trencrom Hill fort
Rising towards Trelocke, we had planned to take you along a farm track straight into Canon’s Town but when we recce’d the route a herd of escaped cows distracted us from the GPS and we ended up climbing up the road to Polpeor instead.
That put us at the foot of Trencrom Hill and a push and carry (or just hide your bike in a bush) to the top of this ancient hill fort instantly reveals why it’s been occupied from the Neolithic period. Looking out over the surviving ramparts and Iron Age hut circles, the 360-degree view takes you from the north coast of St Ives right round to St Michael’s Mount. According to Cornish mythology the Mount is also where the local giant Trecobben killed Cormelian - the wife of Cormoran, the giant who lived on the mount - by throwing his hammer all the way to the island.
That’s the route you’re ultimately following too, but first you need to drop down a rocky bridleway crossing a stream either through a shallow ford or over an ancient stone slab bridge and then up the far side. Here you rejoin our original route (so feel free to short cut if you’re not a prehistory or panoramic view fan) and then it’s a rapid track down to the busy road crossing at Canon’s Town.
While a sudden burst of traffic can be quite a shock after so much time without seeing any, you’re back onto super quiet back roads immediately, gradually climbing over the Penzance railway past Rosevidney to the old mining site at Gwallon. Ducking under the main coast road you’ve got a last bit of climb before an incredible reveal as you crest the top of the hill behind Marazion.
Take your time to admire the historic buildings of a town that archaeology suggests has been a Cornish centre for pan European trade several thousand years before it was even mentioned by classical Greek historian Herodotus.
A stop to admire or even walk/ferry (depending on the tide) across to the iconic monastery/castle site of St Michael’s Mount should definitely be in your ride plan and there are plenty of places to fuel up or just chill out for the final furlong back into Penzance.
To make that transition as pleasant as possible we’ve looped the final leg of the ride slightly inland, crossing the main road using the dedicated bike path junctions on the A30 roundabout. Past the turn to Tremenheere sculpture gardens (well worth a stop if you have time) you’ll run parallel into Gulval before joining the short bike path back into Penzance to complete the route.
The development of these routes has been funded through EXPERIENCE, a €23.3 million project co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF, €16 million) through the Interreg VA France (Channel) England Programme 2014-2020, boosting visitor numbers in six pilot regions across England and France. This project will harness the experiential tourism trend to extend the season (October – March), generating 20 million new off-season visitors spending €1 billion across the Channel region by June 2023.