Cornwall

Chysauster Ancient Village, near Penzance

Tucked away close to Penzance, Chysauster is the remains of a small community who lived and worked the land between the late first century and the end of the third century AD, although its origins are said to date back to the middle Iron Age, around 400 BC. Whilst most of the rest of Britain was under Roman rule, this wild corner of the country remained undiscovered, leaving its inhabitants to live peacefully amongst themselves.

Commanding a slightly raised position amongst the rolling, low-lying hills of West Penwith, the settlement today is preserved and looked after by English Heritage. Parking is about a half-mile walk from the main site, and access is through fields along a steep path, but well worth the amble with pretty countryside views. Dogs on leads are very welcome if you have one with you. You’ll pass the shop which is about half way up to the site where you can purchase tickets.

The site itself is the remains of a collection of stone-walled, detached houses, each comprising of several rooms around a central courtyard with a small garden plot. This unique layout is found only in late Iron-Age/Romano-British settlements in West Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, whilst previous aerial photography has also revealed the remains of prehistoric field systems and small dwellings, probably dating back to the Bronze Age (2300 – 800 BC) which is incredible, considering how remote this part of Cornwall is.

Wandering around the well-tended site, where huge, roughly-hewn stones form thick walls covered in grassy humps and the sea wind blows continuously, it’s not difficult to imagine how hard life must have been for the small community – ten households and perhaps 50-70 people in total lived in this spot.

Untouched by the Roman occupation (there were just three forts in Cornwall and the nearest Roman administrative centre was in modern day Exeter), the inhabitants were left to their own devices growing crops and grazing sheep, whilst within the village vegetables were grown and pigs kept. It is thought they may have also mined tin here – using stream water to separate tin ore from sediment.

Slightly separate from the main dwelling is the enigmatic fogou (from the Cornish meaning cave).  Only found in the far west of Cornwall, they are stone built caves, usually a long tunnel with a chamber at the end. Mostly built in the Iron Age, their purpose is unknown, but many believe them to be storehouses or refuges during conflict whilst others feel that they were used for ritual or ceremonial purposes. It remained accessible until 1986 when it became unstable – it has never fully been excavated.

Perfectly positioned with far-reaching views (to spot potential attackers) and a natural water source, its easy to see why our ancestors settled here. Today, it’s a gorgeously peaceful spot to wander around – explore the houses, admire the breath-taking views and look out for wild flowers and wildlife that live peacefully here today.

Please note that Chysauster is not open all year – check out their website for full details.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in West Cornwall here.

Chysauster Ancient Village, Newmill, Penzance TR20 8XA | https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/chysauster-ancient-village/

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