A network of old footpaths, mapped by a local vicar to form a new long-distance trail, is dotted with reminders of a spiritual past
On the strand at Downderry, my guidebook suggests, I should pick up a pebble. “Choose one to mark the start of your journey,” it counsels. I settle on a charcoal-coloured stone featuring lots of vaguely psychedelic parallel pink lines. Some diverge and thicken as others separate, going solo. It makes me think first of a network of paths – and then of how lives are spent sometimes in solitude, sometimes surrounded by loved ones.
OK, it’s not exactly Nietzsche, but pleasant philosophical musings typify my three days on the Cornish Celtic Way: a new long-distance walking route that takes visitors away from many of the county’s over-visited spots. Dreamed up by a 55-year-old clergyman, the 125-mile trail joins existing paths, bridleways and back roads from sleepy St Germans on the River Tiddy to the coastal village of Downderry, before taking the coast path – further-flung sections of which are wonderfully quiet – all the way to Polruan at the mouth of the River Fowey. After a ferry across to Fowey town, there’s a northerly traverse through quiet countryside to Padstow, before rejoining the coast path – with occasional detours inland.
Swerving south before busy St Ives, the route heads back across the county and finishes at the small tidal island of St Michael’s Mount. That amounts to 16 stages which can be completed in two weeks at a leisurely pace, or done in smaller sections.