Brown Willy is the tallest point in Cornwall, situated on Bodmin Moor in the heart of the county. The circular walk around Roughtor and Brown Willy is a moderate 5.2 mile route, passing through a number of prehistoric settlements and stone circles en route. It typically takes a couple of hours to complete, plus however much time you spend at the top. I love this hike, it’s quintessentially Cornish and a great example of the moorland landscapes the south west is famed for. If you’re looking to embark on your first moor hike, I highly recommend giving this route a go!
This hike was actually the location for one of The Favourite Human and I’s first dates. It was equidistant to us at the time, so we met up one Sunday to hike there with the dogs. Unfortunately The Favourite Human wasn’t able to be with us to celebrate our first year together. However we did manage to revisit Roughtor and Brown Willy to recreate this date before he went away.
Brown Willy is affectionately known as Cornwall’s Mountain, though at only 420m above sea level, it’s technically a tor (a term used in the south west to describe a hill or rocky peak.) Nevertheless, it makes for a great vantage point, with uninterrupted panoramic views across Bodmin Moor. Rough Tor is slightly smaller, standing at 390m above sea level. There’s also Little Rough Tor and Showery Tor on the first ridge. When you arrive at the car park, Brown Willy is obscured, however once you reach the top of Roughtor, you’ll be able to see it in the distance.
The route up to Roughtor is very bouldery, however there is a grassier section through the centre of the ridge. We saw a couple of people carrying bouldering mats up the tor when we were hiking, I’d love to try out some of the climbing routes here on a future visit. Keep your eyes peeled for stone circles and prehistoric settlements on your scramble up, they can easily blend in to the boulders around Roughtor!
There’s no set footpath per se, however the tors can get pretty bouldery in places. The route to Roughtor is easily manageable and is a popular day hike for families. The hike to Brown Willy is a little more strenuous. We clung to the fence line on our descent from Roughtor and joined the path across the river, which took us right to the top of Brown Willy. There are a couple of stiles on the ascent to be aware of. However there are gates nearby you can use if your dog doesn’t like being lifted over.
One thing I must mention is the weather, which is particularly temperamental on the moors. We started our hike in glorious sunshine but it soon became blustery, particularly at the trig point on Brown Willy. I highly recommend bringing a day pack with enough clothing for all types of weather. The first time we hiked here it poured with rain. We were soaked to the bone when we got back to the car park! Sturdy hiking boots with adequate ankle support are a necessity too, as the path is very uneven in places. You’ll also be walking through long grass too, so remember to check both yourself and your dogs for ticks after your walk!
We kept Woody and Hen on lead the entire hike, as we do whenever we’re walking on Bodmin Moor or Dartmoor. Dogs are restricted to lead walks on Bodmin Moor between 1st March and 31st July. This is to protect ground nesting birds during breeding season. Leads must not be longer than 2m. Another reason we keep the dogs on lead on the moors is due to the unpredictability of livestock. Both times we’ve visited Roughtor and Brown Willy there have been horses, sheep and cattle on the moor. Woody and Hen can’t be trusted around livestock, so it’s safer for everyone if they’re kept on lead. Don’t forget, it’s an offence dogs to cause worry to livestock in the UK, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The views from the top of Brown Willy are breathtaking. Cornwall is a relatively flat county, however this means on a good day you’ll be able to see for miles. The first time we hiked up here the weather was so miserable we could barely see past the tor. It was lovely to see the views on a slightly clearer, albeit still cloudy day. I hope one day we get to experience the views on a sunny day, I bet they’re amazing. It was particularly windy when we reached the top, so I was thankful we packed an extra layer. We bring a picnic with us whenever we visit Roughtor and Brown Willy, to enjoy as a treat once we reach the top.
Have you hiked Roughtor and Brown Willy before? What was the weather like when you reached the top?
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