NGR: SW 7855 1745
The coastal path to the south of Coverack follows the line of Chynalls Cliff, a rugged coastal slope with craggy outcrops that falls away to the rocky foreshore below. A cliff castle is sited on Chynalls Point at a place where the underlying serpentine rock, reinforced by a series of basalt dykes, forms a jutting rocky promontory.
Chynalls cliff castle is formed by two earthen banks built across the neck of the promontory, with a ditch between. The inner rampart is stone revetted and the original entrance was probably at the centre where the footpath now runs. The site has never been excavated, but there are no obvious traces of any houses or other internal features.
As with its neighbour, Lankidden, which lies some 4 km (2.5 miles) further along the coastal path to the west, Chynalls would have provided a prominent focus within a landscape quite densely populated by contemporary settlements or ‘rounds’.
Like the hillforts, cliff castles date from the middle of the Iron Age (around 500 BC) and both site types are thought to have served a range of social, administrative or ceremonial functions, rather than being merely another form of domestic or agricultural settlement. They are constructed in exposed positions and are subject to the full force of gales which frequently lash the coast, and it seems likely that occupation was seasonal or that they were utilised only on appropriate occasions. They may have served as important trading centres which could be easily defended if the need arose. The area was also an important source for ‘native copper’ (ie pure copper growing as sheets in fissures in the rock) and metalworking or related activities may also have featured as one of the cliff castle’s functions. Recently, traces of briquettage (the coarse pottery dishes used in evaporating sea water to produce salt) have been found on the cliff top to the south of Chynalls Point and this again may be associated with the site.
Cliff castles appear to have had long histories as significant places in the natural landscape, and impressive cliffs and headlands, like the granite tors of the uplands, seem to have exercised a particular fascination on people as far back, at least, as the Neolithic period. Certainly, Bronze Age activity seems to be well represented on these sites and their utilisation has been long and continuous up until the end of the Roman period when they seem to have gone out of favour.
It is not unusual for the stone from disused structures to be taken for reuse in later mediæval and post-mediæval times, and at Chynalls stone from the ramparts has been used in the construction of the nearby cliff gardens.
The strategic situation of the cliff castle is echoed in the construction of a pillbox on the north eastern flank of the promontory during World War II as part of the defences for Coverack harbour (although there are no remains of this visible today). Many cliff castles are sited adjacent to little coves which would have provided sheltered havens for beaching boats.
Chynalls Point is accessed from the coastal path which can be joined at Coverack. However, it is also possible to walk along the coast from Kennack Sands, a route which passes close to Lankidden cliff castle, another site well worth a visit.
Bird, E, 1998. The Coasts of Cornwall. Alexander Associates.