The neolithic tor enclosures, the first constructed ancient sites, were important in the mid-3000s BCE.
In Penwith they are found at Carn Galva, Trencrom Hill, Carn Kenidjack and St Michael's Mount.
Penwith also has a variety of hill camps and holy hills from later times and these are featured on another page.
Carn Galva as seen from Caer Brân
This tor enclosure was the central place, the axis mundi, of West Penwith in the mid-3000s BCE. Everything revolved around it (like the centre of town), and many Penwithians lived not far away.
Like a classic magic mountain it can be seen from many places quite a way away. Above left, it can be seen from Caer Brân, several miles distant.
It's a humpbacked dragon hill when seen from side-on, but when seen from the south it looks like a rounded pyramid, and from the north, from Bosigran Castle, it looks very different again.
The north end of Carn Galva
Carn Galva from Men Scryfa
Carn Galva from the south
Carn Galva from Rosemergy
Carn Galva from Men Scryfa direction
This bold neolithic tor hovers over the Tregeseal stone circle and it is visible from far away - even from the Isles of Scilly. On the right is its outline as seen from Chûn Castle.
It has a number of interesting stones that might be placed or position-adjusted stones.
Back in the bronze age, the tribe who looked after the Tregeseal and Carn Kenidjack complex of sites probably also controlled Cape Cornwall, Ballowall Barrow and Cape Kenidjack.
Between Carn Kenidjack and Chûn Castle the land was probably wooded, but the Tregeseal complex in the lap of the Carn might have been parkland, open toward the west, visually connecting Tregeseal with the Scillies.
Carn Kenidjack from Chun
Carn Kenidjack as seen from Botrea Barrows
Carn Kenidjack from Tregeseal stone circle
Carn Kenidjack from Tregeseal, at a rather special moment
St Michael's Mount from Long Rock
St Michael's Mount
Around 1700 BCE, this neolithic tor became a tidal island - the woodlands around it were inundated by the sea, possibly by a tsunami. Since time's beginning, sailors have landed at the Mount or just offshore, and it has been a trading harbour with regular contact with Brittany, Normandy and Iberia.
It was occupied through the neolithic, bronze and iron ages, through medieval times to today. In the mid-19th Century the railway came and Penzance outgrew it. It has been a harbour, a village, a market, a fortress and a monastery.
The Mount is a key, focal ancient site in West Cornwall and a major alignments centre. It was Penwithians' point of contact with visitors from far-off lands.
St Michael's Mount as seen from Cudden Point
St Michael's Mount from Caer Bran
St Michael's Mount from Trencrom Hill
St Michael's Mount from Penzance harbour
Cudden Point and St Michael's Mount from Halzephron Cliff in the Lizard - with Watch Croft behind
Trencrom Hill from the Towans
Tor Crom is a tor enclosure that guarded Penwith from the wild folk upcountry. In a way, it still does. Later, in the iron age, it was upcycled into a hill camp or hillfort.
Looking eastwards, it has a rare view of both the north and south coasts of Cornwall. The summer solstice sun rises NE above St Agnes Beacon and the winter solstice sun rises SE over Godolphin Hill.
Here, people were able to live on top of the hill. It has a hilltop well, and look for the remains of iron age roundhouses and a rather grand ceremonial rock platform at the SE corner of the top of the hill. The enormous perched Money Rock, on the way up from the car park, is worth checking out too.
On Trencrom Hill
The ancient well on Trencrom Hill
On top of Trencrom Hill
Trencrom Hill as seen from St Michael's Mount
The ancient well on Trencrom Hill
Trencrom Hill from Porthtowan, up the north coast of Cornwall
Trencrom Hill, with Carn Brea behind, as seen from near Castle an Dinas
Trencrom Hill with Carn Brea behind
After about 3200 BCE the neolithic tors lost their primacy and the neolithic went into a downturn. By the late 2000s, a millennium later in the bronze age, the stone circles became the main centres of activity in Penwith. By then the landscape had changed, and 30-50% of the wildwood had been cleared, creating new, man-made landscapes never seen before.
To find out more about neolithic tors, see:
For the most information: Chapter Four in Shining Land.
See also, on this site: A History of the Neolithic