I spent the night at the Lower Pennycrocker Farm campsite just east of Boscastle. This was a lovely site on (surprise surprise) a farm but near the cliffs and offering wonderful views along the coast to Tintagel. It was also a quiet location, a primary concern for me when camping. Today I am walking from Tintagel to Crackington Haven. This is because the bus service between the towns is infrequent and I want to get the bus journey done at the start of the walk and the timings work best from Crackington Haven. I therefore drive down to Crackington Haven with the intention of catching the bus to Tintagel and then walking back to Crackington Haven.
I set off for the short drive soon taking in the steep single-track road into Crackington Haven. I am lucky that I only meet traffic coming the other way when there is room to pass. On reaching Crackington Haven the car park is very small but thankfully it is early and there is plenty of space, although it is not cheap. I left earlier than needed because I was ready and so decide I’d rather spend the time on the beach. So once parked up I head down to the beach for a little while although it’s still quite early so it’s too cold for a paddle.
It’s here I realise I’ve made a mistake and left my SLR camera behind at the campsite. I might just have time to drive back and get it but it will be tight and I’d rather not. Thankfully I’m such an obsessive I always carry a spare compact camera too so I will use that instead. The pictures aren’t such good quality, but they will have to do.
Soon it is time for the bus and I head back off the beach to the bus stop on the narrow road at the back of the beach. Thankfully it is a direct service which takes me via Boscastle to Tintagel and takes only 25 minutes. The bus arrives on time and the driver is a cheerful chap. Tintagel is a spectacular location and much of the town is very pretty, although it is a terrible tourist trap, with numerous shops, pubs, restuarants all dedicated to the legend of King Arthur. The old Post Office though is remarkable, with a roof so uneven you wonder how it can keep any rain out. You can visit it too, as it’s now owned by the National Trust. I can’t help but think the King Arthur stuff is getting out of hand though – I even come across King Arthurs Car Park. The King must have had amazing foresight to know a car park would be needed hundreds of years later!
The coast path though is easy to find, I just follow the well signed path out to the castle, the main tourist atttraction of the town. Despite the King Arthur stuff being very over done this is a stunning castle, now in ruins, it is located on what is now virtually an island, with parts of the castle falling off the cliffs. It is well worth a visit and I remember visiting it on a family holiday in the past, although that was a while ago and in hindsight I regret not visiting again now.
I do however head along the complex network of steps and bridges down to the beach. The tide is in so there is very little tide but there is a large cave here. The weather today is lovely with unbroken sunshine and this helps to make the sea a wonderful turquoise colour – it looks like a tropical beach.
I can see some of the castle ruins on the island from the beach. I soon head up onto the coast path and get a look back at that cave – the tide is high enough I couldn’t make it round to the cave mouth without getting wet feet and it’s a bit early in the walk for that.
Pretty soon the path begins to ascend out to Barras Nose, the rocky headland just east of the town and the height gained gives me a good overview of the castle. Although the coast path cuts off the end of Barras Nose there is a path out to the end so as is becoming a habit I head out onto it. This offers the most fantastic view back to Tintagel and the wonderful azure water. I am already hot and stop off for a drink. This is a wonderful walk already, and it has only just begun.
The walk along the coast between Boscastle and Tintagel is one that I’ve actually done twice before. Once was when I lived in Exeter and was now more than 10 years ago, when I took a coach trip to Tintagel and spent the time walking the coast instead. Later was on a holiday as I find this walk is very spectacular without being long and so can be done in an hour or two. Today I am in no hurry though.
Ahead I can see the jagged coast and the island of The Sisters (though I can only see one) ahead.
On top of the cliffs is a large hotel, the Camelot Castle Hotel, which rather dominates the scenery when you look back to Tintagel. Ahead I have a good view into the bay with the headland of Willapark ahead. Compared with other walks on the coast path the path ahead is fairly gentle once the top of the cliffs have been reached. After around half a mile I am nearing Willapark with it’s rocky beach below.
I continue up onto the headland and look back. The houses of Tintagel can be seen on the cliff top along with the Camelot Castle Hotel but the castle itself is now out of sight.
Once more the path cuts off the end of this headland, but there is a path out to the end and I know by now what’s got to be done. At the end of the headland I have good viewd back to Tintagel but the views ahead are also excellent with Bossiney Haven ahead. This is marked on my map as a sandy beach but as the tide is high there is no sand, but I can tell the sand is just below the sea because of it’s wonderful colour.
Heading further south I can see the rocks just below the surface – the sea looks so inviting and is I think the most beautiful colour I have seen so far on my coastal walk. There is a descent down to cross a stream at Bossiney Haven which I cross but I don’t bother going down to the beach here, since there isn’t any beach! The coast path is fairly gentle once I’ve climbed out of the valley and I enjoy the warm sunshine and stunning views as I round the bay.
Soon there are granite out crops jutting out above me, a sign that I am nearing the aptly named Rocky Valley.
Looking back towards Tintagel I can see another cave in the cliffs here. The coast path was formed by the customs men looking out for smuggling and I imagine these caves were a good place to hide the booty. Rounding the corner I am soon in Rocky Valley and living up to it’s name it is both rocky and a valley.
The path descends into this and crosses the fast flowing stream on a footbridge. The valley itself is called St Nectans Glen further inland and also has a watefall, but I’ve not ventured inland to see it. There is however also a small waterfall at the coastal end and at the head of the valley I can look back along the narrow strip of water to the sea. This is stunningly beautiful.
Climbing back up I can look back over the valley and all the steps into it. Coming out of the valley the view ahead is interuppted by a caravan site on the cliff top but this does not last long and I’m soon back to unspoilt natural beauty.
The walk ahead is fairly easy going now and after half a mile I reach the headland where there is the most amazing rocky arch, forming a window and known as Ladies Window. Normally you see such things at sea level but this is right at the top of the cliff and I wonder how it could have formed. It looks natural but it seems surpising the wind alone could cut this window?
Onwards I can now make out the white tower I remember from previous walks on the south edge of Boscastle harbour. The town itself it out of sight though.
The coast ahead has numerous little rocky island too and must be hard to naviagate by boat. As before the coast path is gently undulating rather than steep and throughout there are wonderful views. This does not last though and it’s soon time to descend into the valley at Grower Gut, which does not sound very nice. Ahead I can see the cliff with the lookout station on the top and the rocky island of Meachard beyond.
As before the coast path misses out the headland to the south of Boscastle but I can’t resist climbing out to it as there is also a viewpoint on the top (which begs the question – why does the coast path miss it out?). It is a wonderful view with good views back to the rugged and rocky coast back to Tintaglel. Ahead I can see the harbour mouth of Boscastle, but the buildings of the village itself are out of sight still.
This is a tight harbour to navigate into and is a very useful harbour as there are few safe harbours for boats on this part of the coast. I pass the white lookout house and now begin the descent into Boscastle. The harbour is full of water and protected by the large wall at it’s mouth.
The village itself is impossibly pretty with the stone buildings clustered below the low cliffs. Sadly as many people may remember the village was devestated by a severe flood in 2004 when a torrent of water came crashing down the valley, destroying many of the buildings and washing cars out to sea. I had visited the village before this happened and the buildings destroyed in that storm were re-built so I was interested to see what differences I noticed. I’m happy to report that the you really wouldn’t know it had happened and those who re-built these buildings have done a fantastic job. I cross the little bridge over the stream that did all this damage, and it is hard to believe sometimes the power of nature, although I am reminded of a similar devastating flood in Lynmouth many years earlier. I guess villages in deep valleys like this are always at risk.
I spend a little time exploring the village and it really is a lovely place. Yes it is touristy, but less so than Tintagel. I note the plaque on one of the buildings, “Built early 1800s, Destoryed by flood 16th August 2004, re-built 16th August 2005”. It seems that the job of rebuilding has been so good only plaques like this offer any clue as to what happened. I pass the restored Witchcraft Museum and then resume my walk on the north side of the valley.
This marks the point where I am on a section of the coast path I’ve not walked before so I am looking forward to see what other treats are instore. Soon I reach the harbour mouth and climb out to Penally Point.
This time I stick to the coast path rather than take the path out to the very end. Once up, the coast path is quite gently again and I can see ahead to the rocky beach at Pentargon.
There is another waterfall here and this of course means a steep descent. This time I don’t go down onto the beach but instead keep going on the coast path climbing back up the other side and as I am nearing the top spot a kestrel on top of one of the fence polls ahead. The camera I am using does not have a very good zoom so I can’t get a good picture but hopefully you can still see it.
The path on the other side offers a good view back. Sadly by now some cloud has come over, but it is still very warm. Looking back at the coast I’ve walked I can see the rock of Meachard but Boscastle is once more out of sight. North from here the path keeps at a fairly low level, with much of the cliff above me. Rounding Fire Beacon Point the coast path becomes rocky again and gains height to return to the tops of the now high cliffs.
As I head east to Gull Rock there has obviously been a land slip as the coast which until now had been green is bare rock of many colours with an ominous pile of boulders at the bottom. Thankfully the coast path has survived though so no need for a diversion here.
North from here the coast path initially keeps to the cliff tops but soon descends down to a valley in the rocks. The cliffs look unstable here and this area looks to be an area of coast that has slumped in the past, leaving high but gently sloping cliffs.
Rounding the first valley I come to a steeper one and take the narrow path along the cliffs into the valley and back up the other side, where there is a handy seat but it is occupied by a man with a very sweaty back.
I am now on the aptly named High cliff. Below I can see the sandy beach of Lower Strangles.
There is a rough path that descends down to the beach. It is a long way down and I have to come back the same way, but I can’t resist going down despite the condition of the path. In fact I think it was signed as closed, but I carried on down anyway. The beach is sandy backed by grey rocks with a lovely rocky arch in the centre, Samphire Rock, which has a wave cut arch into it. It is beautiful here and the beach is deserted, suprising for such a good day.
I stop for a paddle which refreshes my tired feet. After a rest I make my way back up the rather dodgy cliff path (which has a rope at the last bit). Soon back up I can look back down onto the still deserted beach. As I near the top there is a part with a rather dodgy camber which might be another reason the path is meant to be closed. It is a very long way back up and I am tired and sweaty at the top but it is worth it for the wonderful view of the beach now far below. Onwards I pass Samphire Rock from above and can look down onto the beach at Little Strand.
Approaching Cambeak there is more wonderful geology with the rocky cliffs devoid of vegetation, so probably either too steep, too unstable, or both, and a little flat bit of a rock sticking out from the cliff face. Once more the coast path misses out the end of the cliff, but I go out to the end and I can see my destination in sight, Crackington Haven.
Once on the north side of the cliff there is heather growing, a contrast to the bare rock on the other side. I’m not done yet though for the coast path has one more twist, as it descends to a steep valley, Cam Dean, and back up the other side.
I climb back up the steps to the now lower cliff tops and the rocky beach of Tremoutha Haven. The path is soon enclosed by bushes and small trees as I make the final descent down to Crackington Haven. As I am reaching Crackington Haven the sun breaks through again revealing the now much busier sandy beach (although still not exactly crowded).
I soon reach the beach and sit down on the beach for a while. I am shattered as although those extra descends down to beaches and extra miles out onto headlands have started to take their toll. However this is such a brilliant walk I would happily do it again and again (although I’d want a rest first). I still remember the western part of this walk vividly as my first walk on the coast path in Cornwall and I think it is a fabulous introduction.
If you only do one walk on the North Cornwall coast I think this one probably wins. It has such a wonderful and spectacular variety of scnery, with some beautiful villages and good sandy beaches in between. These beaches are remote and for me just what I like about walking the coast – discovering these unspoilt, uncrowded and beautiful beaches away from the maddening crowds.
I have loved this walk, no doubt helped by the lovely weather.
After a rest I wander around the village and notice a plaque on the wall here too saying the little road bridge here was also re-built in 2004. I guess more than just Boscastle suffered on that wet day.
Here is details of the public transport needed for this walk.
Western Greyhound route 595 : Bude – Widemouth Bay – Crackington Haven – Boscastle – Bossiney – Tintagel – Camelford – Helstone – St Teath – St Kew – Wadebridge. Note that since the last walk I posted about (Crackington Haven to Bude) the summer service has been introduced on this route. This means there is a more frequent service Monday – Saturday and also a Sunday service.