Morwenstow is a wild, dramatic and isolated outpost - a Cornish hamlet suspended in time, the first settlement on the path when travelling from Devon. There are only a handful of dwellings, a church and a 13th century inn that make up the settlement. Trees here are permanently bent over at bizarre angles, testament to its harsh, windswept location, many miles from the towns and cities "upcountry".
Made famous by the eccentric Parson Hawker, an eccentric opium smoking poet and vicar posted to Morwenstow in the mid 1800's. At the time, it was reported that Morwenstow wreckers (seeking washed up treasures from wrecked ships) were happy to "allow a fainting brother to perish in the sea without extending a hand of safety." Hawker was fixated by the numbers of sea dead washed up on the rocks below the church and specifically the local practice of beach burial.
Despite a healthy proportion of smugglers and wreckers in the pews he took to bribing them with healthy amounts of gin to help him in bringing the dead back up the sheer cliffs to a proper Christian burial. He built a small hut (Hawker's Hut) from driftwood clinging to the precipitous cliffs, where he spent his time writing his poems, smoking opium and keeping watch for the shipwrecks. This driftwood hut is now the smallest property in the National Trust portfolio and is passed on the path as you leave for Bude. His antics included dressing up as a mermaid and excommunicating his cat for hunting mice on Sundays but he left his mark however as it was here he created a new service celebrated today all over the UK, The Harvest Festival.
In his churchyard you can spot a granite cross marked "Unknown Yet Well Known", marking a mass grave of 30 or more dead seafarers he had brought back up the cliffs by the villagers. From here look over at the nearby Gothic style vicarage with the towers he commissioned, one as a replica of his mothers tomb!
Amongst the wilderness, Morwenstow offers the modern walker two worthy points of shelter. The Bush Inn has been a place of refuge for travellers since 950AD when it was used by travelling monks. An appropriately atmospheric place which still has its leper's window in place where the needy were passed scraps, later used as a lookout by the wreckers and smugglers who operated from this alehouse. If that all sounds too intimidating, beside the church is the award winning Rectory Tea rooms - one of the best (and certainly one of the most remote) in Cornwall.