I spent my final day in Cornwall in one of my favorite towns: Zennor. Home to the famous mermaid chair,1 Zennor is a cute little village near St Ives that boasts dramatic cliffs, ocean views, a beautiful old church, and (of course) a great pub. Usually, we hike the four miles to Zennor from St Ives via the coastal footpath, which is gorgeous. There are always raspberries and blackberries to pick along the way, and once I even encountered a couple of curious seals after wandering out on some seaside rocks. This time, though, we drove to Zennor2 and arrived (alas!) too late for our usual shepherd’s pie and lemonade at The Tinner’s Arms. Instead, I explored the church and graveyard, then hiked along the coastal path far enough to find a good spot to read my book.
Did you know: the church in Zennor is named for Senara, a Celtic saint who was condemned to be burnt by her cruel stepmother. After discovering that she was pregnant, her persecutors instead nailed her into a barrel and tossed it in the ocean. She gave birth while at sea, and an angel kept her fed and healthy until the barrel washed up on the coast of Ireland. She and her son left Ireland eventually, returning to England and founding the parish of Zennor in Cornwall. Many believe that the mermaid chair is more closely connected with Saint Senara’s aquatic origins than with the (probably more recent) mermaid legend.
- Legend has it that–hundreds of years ago–the singing of a young man in Zennor was so exquisite that it attracted a mermaid, who began to attend church services to hear him sing. They fell in love, and he followed her back to the ocean, where they both disappeared forever. The ‘mermaid chair’ is a carved bench dating back more than 600 years. The carving is of a mermaid, holding her comb and mirror. [↩]
- I was feeling a bit under the weather during my week in Cornwall. [↩]