On top of a 20 metre tall granite outcrop looking out at the atmospheric Bodmin Moor and china clay “mountains” of St. Austell stands Roche Rock Hermitage. The ruined chapel, built in 1409, is dedicated to Saint Michael and has been surrounded by myth and mystery for hundreds of years. The hermitage has two floors, with the top room originally serving as the chapel. Although the west wall is all but gone, the east wall still stands at almost its full, original height.
According to local folklore, a hermit and his daughter once lived within the rocky structure. The hermitage was last occupied by a family of local landowners who, when they contracted leprosy, stayed here to avoid infecting the village of Roche.
The hermitage is associated with a number Cornish folk tales, most notably the story of Jan Tregeagle (Cornwall’s own Faust), a tortured sinner who made a pact with the devil and tried to find refuge in the chapel when being chased by demons. It is said he thrust his head through the East window in order to gain sanctuary from the hell hounds on his trail.
It’s also said that the doomed lovers Tristan and Isolde, from a medieval legend, hid here when their love had been discovered by Isolde’s husband, King Mark. The area is reputed to be haunted by a miner, he makes his presence known either by making noises within the chapel, or by a shadow that flits from rock to rock with no earthly presence to cast it.
Even today, the Hermitage is touched by a bit of mystical mystery. If you visit when there’s a gale, listen carefully, as it’s believed you can hear a Cornish giant howling around the rock.
The hermitage is located in the village of Roche, St. Austell. Getting up to the chapel can be dangerous. There are only a few rusty step ladders to help you up, so do take care when making your way up to the hermitage.
Below are a selection of photographs from my visit there.