The small town of St. Columb is located to the Southwest of Wadebridge at a distance of around seven miles. It is referred to as St. Columb so that it can be easily distinguished from the much smaller village called St. Columb Minor that stands along the coast and is very close to Newquay. A designation of ‘Major’ is often associated with this place to highlight the fact that it is much larger in size and also further inland than its coastal neighbour.
This picturesque town has a long history of sheltering settlers, running back to the days of the prehistoric era. The nearby Castle-an-Dinas, a hill fort built in the Iron Ages, stands testimony to activities of settlers as recent as the Bronze and Iron Ages. The better part of the land around this town is used for agricultural purposes, consisting of small wooded areas and fields. The eastern and northern areas also have some stretches of moorlands, and this is a part of the Goss Moor. The absence of any inhabitants in this area makes it highly popular among walkers.
St. Columb stands surrounded by a number of smaller villages. Though it is not close to the coastal regions, the town is a popular tourist destination for those individuals who enjoy a comparatively relaxing type of holiday.
Though it has been said that there has been habitation around St. Columb since prehistoric times the proof of major settlements having an influx appears around the Bronze and Iron Ages. There are a number of ancient monuments in the nearby region that date back to these periods. The Castle-an-Dinas is a structure that immediately comes to mind. A large hill fort built in the Iron Ages it still holds its earth banks and huge ditches.
It is believed that the Nine Maidens were erected during the late Stone Ages, and they are among the largest row of standing stones in the Cornwall region of the UK. The Devil’s Quoit, or King Arthur’s Stone is believed to have been dropped by the Devil. However, close inspection reveals that it is no more than a Neolithic Tomb that would have probably consisted of three or more upright stones with a large stone capping it off. It is this larger stone that is still visible today.
As far as the legend of it being King Arthur’s Stone is concerned, there are four deeply immersed marks on it in the shape of a horseshoe. According to the legend, these marks were made by King Arthur’s horse as he rode out to hunt on the moors while residing at Castle-an-Dinas. This place also has a folly from the 18th century which is known as Rogers Tower.
While St. Columb’s church may not be of much visual treat to tourists, it is of significant historical interest. The church had been badly damaged in the year 1676 when an accidental explosion had blown up a large section of the church. The explosion had been triggered by three local youngsters who had set fire to a large haul of gunpowder inside the building, set aside for use in defending the town. Apart from killing the three youths and damaging the church, the big bang had also resulted in considerable damage to other establishments around the place. The 15th century bell tower had miraculously survived the explosion but was damaged severely when the rebuilt church was struck by lightning in 1690. Further restoration work was carried out on the 12th century church in 1846 during which medieval frescos were discovered. These had been covered up earlier while rebuilding the church. At the same time, numerous evidences of damage from the gunpowder explosion were also found.
Apart from St. Ives, St. Columb is the only other place that still practices the game of hurling the Silver Ball. An ancient game, it was once commonly played throughout the county with Shrove Tuesday being the day on which it was hosted. Windows around the local shops are boarded up with the formation of scrums around mid-afternoon as the “countrymen” and “townsmen” divide themselves. A silver ball is passed around by the teams between their member hurlers until they can reach their respective goals. These goals are ideally set as much as two miles apart along the parish boundaries. At the end of the game, beer is shared by the winners. It is believed that the beer has received blessings from the silver ball.
St. Columb Major houses a number of shops and provides other amenities to the other smaller villages in the vicinity. There are also a few old houses, some of which accommodate tourists.
If you like the idea of spending a day or two relaxing in a typical English countryside with vast stretches of greenery yet you don’t want to miss the fun of pubs and good restaurants, then St. Columb is just the right place to include in your travel itinerary for your next visit to Cornwall.