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Winter Hiking and a Touch of History Around Kit Hill, Cornwall

The Tamar Valley’s highest point owes its origins to over 5,000 years of human endeavour. Kit Hill – topped by a disused mine stack – sits between the wild and scenic Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor. Its Country Park covers over 400 acres, so there’s plenty of space to explore on foot. And on a clear day, the view in all directions seems to go on forever.

Brat Tor to Kit Hill

The area is a World Mining Heritage Site, and with tin and copper mining at its roots, the Country Park is scattered with the remains of 19th century mines. Rare species of animal and plant life co-exist with these remnants of a bygone age. Hiking is well catered for with networks of paths including a two-mile circular route. Head a mile or so southwest of Kit Hill and you’ll find Callington. This market town – with its 15th century church – is an ideal spot for history buffs. It’s also famous for its unique and colourful murals.

One annual event not to be missed is the Honey Fair held on the first Wednesday in October. Its charity, craft and market stalls, entertainers and Fun Fair have become a unique and well established part of the town’s life. Callington’s Honey Fair is the last surviving fair of its type in Cornwall and also one of the largest.

For a touch of the unusual, Kit Hill Alpacas near Callington is well worth a visit. Their prizewinning herd is born and bred in Cornwall, and with a mix of Shetland wool and alpaca yarn, the warmth and quality of their products is second to none. For more details, visit www.kithill-alpacas.co.uk.

A half mile hike from Callington will bring you to the 16th century well house at Dupath. Historically, the well was reputed to have healing properties and is the largest of its kind in Cornwall. Whatever stories and legends surround it, Dupath is a very peaceful spot with stunning views stretching as far as Dartmoor, a good six miles away.

Just under three miles from Dupath, lies Cotehele, a beautifully restored Tudor manor house. Like much of Cornwall, the house is brimming with legend and its formal gardens are a sheer delight. At Cotehele Quay you’ll find the fully restored sailing barge ‘Shamrock’ built in 1899. Despite its age, the barge is still used for occasional river trips. Cotehele House opens from March 12th till the end of October and for more details, call 01579-351346.

For those keen to keep on the move, the 35 mile long Discovery Trail – Cornwall’s premier – offers variation and recreation all at once. The route takes you from Plymouth to Launceton, with an off-shoot to Lifton, the Trail – while uneven in parts – is an ideal route no matter your ability or age. As long as you’re aware of weather conditions and dress appropriately, the experience will be unforgettable.

Three miles east of Kit Hill is the large village of Gunnislake. Like much of its surroundings, the village has a mining heritage and while most of this activity ceased in the latter part of the 19th century, remnants are still visible. Today, the Gunnislake Festival is a must for visitors. This week-long celebration includes film, guided walks, barbecues and live entertainment, with a jamboree to round things off.

No matter which direction you choose, the scenery around Kit Hill is breathtaking. The village of Kelly Bray is typical of many quaint villages and hamlets dotted nearby. Before industry took over, agriculture was its main focus. Despite its size, the village is always welcoming. The Swingletree pub – one of its oldest buildings – is a great place to socialise on a chilly night.

For some unique and restful accommodation, try the Okel Tor Mine Cottages at Harewood near Calstock. These “Grade 2” listed buildings with period decor sleep two and are set in natural woodland. Like all of the region, the views from both are simply breathtaking. For booking details visit www.tinmine.com.

With easy transport links – there’s no need to take your car – and open all year round, Kit Hill and its surroundings is an ideal spot for all outdoor adventurers. You’ll find thousands of archaeological sites, picture perfect villages with quaint customs, as well as the odd folly or two. Above all there are great walks and fresh air, not forgetting the peace and quiet and the dramatic scenery.

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