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Roche Rock

OS Grid Ref:- SW9959

Roche RockThe dramatic ruins of a fifteenth century chapel surmount the volcanic upthrust of grainte known as Roche Rock. Many myths and legends cling to this atmospheric site.

Situated around six miles from St. Austell and eight miles from Bodmin, the chapel is dedicated to St. Michael. Roche Rock (pronounced Roach) has long been a significant local religious centre.

A particularly ancient legend relates that St. Conan, one of the first Bishops of Cornwall, took refuge at the site. A further legend attached to the rock states that when the chapel fell into disuse it was occupied by a hermit who was a leper.

Roche RockThe legend relates that his daughter Gunnett or Gundred climbed the rock each day to tend to him and brought water for drinking and washing from a neaby well, reputedly Roche's Holy Well.

The rock also features in the legends of Tristan and Isolde. Tristan was the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, who accidentally shared a love potion with his uncle's intended bride Isolde, resulting in Tristan and Isolde falling hopelessly in love. Thereafter, their lives involved a series of furtive trysts, while they sought to escape the traps laid for them by King Mark. It is thought that Roche Rock may have been the site of the hermit Ogrin's chapel, where the lovers found refuge while trying to escape from Mark.

There is also a story which associates the unscrupulous Jan Tregeagle with the rock, Tregeagle, a notorious magistrate, lived in the seventeenth century and acquired a great deal of wealth through devious means and is said to have stole the estate of an orphan and sold his soul to the Devil.

As punishment for his transgressions he was set the task of emptying Dozmary Poll with a limpet shell, Tregeagle, so the story goes, managed to escape from his demon guards and fled, pursued by them, to Roche Rock, where he managed to get his head through the east window, to acquire sanctuary of the church. His body remained stuck outside and was exposed to the full fury of the storm and the demons. After a few days the local priest could bear no more of his dreadful screams and the howling of the demons, so with the aid of two local saints removed Tregeagle to the beach at Padstow

The rock occupies an area of heathland with open access. It can be reached by public footpath from the road leading out of Roche towards Carbis. A winding track over broken rocks leads up to the remains of the chapel.

Image copyright Neil Kennedy