Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

South West Coast Path - Boscastle to Tintagel

Boscastle Harbour

An 5 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Boscastle and Tintagel

A scenic walk that is not too much of a challenge to any seasoned walker. Rocky Valley presents a steep climb in and out but this really is a delight to behold and well worth the effort to get across it. The end of the walk is at Tintagel with all its Arthurian legend. Behold Camelot.

Boscastle to Tintagel Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
BoscastleView in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
TintagelView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
5.0 miles
Walk difficulty
Moderate
Terrain
Cliff top paths
Obstacles
Rocky Valley can be a challenge with steep descent and ascent

Accommodation:

Valley Camping and Caravan Park, PolzeathView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
A friendly and welcoming family owned camp and caravan site close to the beach at polzeath

Transport:

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
96 - First Group 96 service linking Wadebridge and Camelford via Polzeath, Port Isaac, Delabole
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2016-06-27
Walk Time
10:30 to 13:30
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Overcast with precipitation ranging from drizzle to light rain

Walk Notes

The walk starts as a wander along the western side of the River Valency which flows through the valley in which Boscastle is nestled. This quiet water looks benign under blue skies and calm sultry days and even on overcast drizzly days like this it appears to be no threat. But this is the stream that caused so much damage on 16 August 2004 in the infamous Boscastle floods where a torrent of water swept buildings and vehicles away with residents and holidays makers having to be scooped from rooftops by helicopters. It hardly seems possible looking at such a tranquil scene.

On the opposite side of the river to where the coast path leads down the road, there sits tea rooms, a visitor centre and a youth hostel. But the most striking building is a that of the Museum of Witchcraft. Such an idyllic Cornish village seems a strange location for a museum dedicated to the paranormal. It is true that Boscastle is a haunted village with plenty of ghostly tales but the reason for the museum is not connected to any of this. The fact is that the museum was established in 1960 by the influential English Neopagan Witch Cecil Williamson who came to settle in the village. He had opened similar museums around the country but many of these had either been closed by local opposition of by deliberate damage including arson.

The coast path leads off from the riverside road up a steady ascent along the grassy hillside before turning to climb to the top of the headland known as Willa Park, with views of the distant Forrabury Church lurking in the distance inland. According to J Murray's 1865 publication A Handbook for Travellers in Devon and Cornwall, the name of Willa Park is derived from the Cornish for 'look out field', although querying such words to the online Cornish Dictionary does not produce similar results. Such an interpretation does appear appropriate for there is a white-washed lookout tower on its summit although this is a more modern creation, the area historically being the site of Iron Age defences.

From Willa Park, the path dips down into a small valley marked as Growers Gut, then slowly ascends across abroad open meadow. There is a path around the perimeter of the meadow but, judging by the well worn track, it would appear most people cut across the diagonal of this grassed field to the far side where there is slate stile in a slate wall made of cross hatched slate. You cant slate that! It was crossing this meadow that we passed a family group walking towards Boscastle. With umbrellas. Yes Umbrellas. Umbrellas opened up in their full glory to ward against the fine drizzles of the day. Umbrellas on the South West Coast Path. I have encountered all kinds of adorned waterproof gear and wet weather attire along the South West Coast Path but never umbrellas. Umbrellas do not seem suited to the rocky terrain of the South West Coast Path. Umbrellas are the attire of the civilised, along the paved walkways of town and city, not the rugged tracks of the coast.

Having said this, I remember Christian Nock stating that on his Walk around Britain he valued an umbrella as a walk essential to the simple and limited possessions that he carried with him throughout the walk. He proclaimed that this wonderful device not only assisted in starting a fire by providing shelter from wind but it even became a life saver after he slipped down a grassy slope above the sheer drop of a cliff, when he managed to anchor himself with the umbrella. Maybe I should not be so disparaging about this simple utility. And what is more if you open it up it assists in the prevention of getting ones head wet.

Continuing ahead one comes to Ladies Window, Foot Cove and Short Island. Ladies Window is a strange name, but it is a description of an arch of a rock that is below the coast path. This is easy to miss walking from this direction, and indeed it was missed on this occasion. The arch is below the path at the point where a waymarker post is placed and the path turns on Firebeacon Hill. However not noticing this feature is either due to the fact that it was raining and eyes were concentrating on walking ahead or the arch has fallen, which has been suggested on some websites.

The path now follows Trevalga Cliff, past a caravan park and descends down into Rocky valley. This is the highlight of this walk. The path descends steeply down into the crevasse where a stream cascades down the rocks and debris. Words are not enough to describe this scene. It is breathtaking. In fact a couple walking the opposite direction had remarked on the beauty of Rocky valley and they were every bit right. It is an effort to get down and even more of an effort to get back out but it is well worth it. One just needs to stand amidst it and admire.

Rocky Valley continues inland for a mile or so where there is a 60 foot waterfall at a point known as St Nectans Kieve. Saint Nectan is a Cornish Saint, who according to legend, set his hermitage at the top of this waterfall. Given the time and effort it would be worth tracking up the valley to find the waterfall but that can wait for another walk.

The final section heads around another headland, similarly named Willapark as per the Boscastle headland, then across to another headland called Barras Nose after which Tintagel island comes into sight. At first sight it looks like another rocky Cornish island, albeit virtually attached to the mainland where a simple footbridge connects it and one wonders what questions need to be answered in order to cross it. It looks somewhat perilous and there is no clear indication on what one needs to do to traverse it. Maybe it is simply having to answer a question. Maybe a simple What is your favourite colour, or maybe a more difficult What is the capital of Assyria? or even What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow. But would that be European or African swallow. Questions, questions.

But as we stand there pondering, we soon come to notice that the island has ruins cluttered about its grass and rocky structure. Stone Walls. Arches. Castellated walls. One cannot escape the fact that Tintagel is marketed with all the legends and mystery of King Arthur and this island is the reputed location of Camelot. Yes, Camelot. Having ventured miles along this rugged coastline we have finally come upon Camelot. We stand in awe and wonder at the sight of this legendary place imagining the great things it may behold. But as we stand there all we see is people on the island having their fun. Rummaging around the ruins. Tourists doing what tourists do. Dancing and prancing and singing and shouting. And it is at this point that the vision of the scene of Monty Pythons Holy Grail suddenly springs to mind where King Arthurs knights gaze upon the sight of Camelot and imagine similar things.

We're knight of the round table,
We dance when e'er we're able,
We do routines and parlour scenes,
With footwork impecc-able.
We dine well here in Camelot.
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot.
.

In war we're tough and able,
Quite indefatigable.
Between our quests we sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable.
It's a busy life in Camelot.
.

I have to push the pram a lot.
.

On second thoughts, let us not go to Camelot, for it is a silly place. Now pass me my coconut shells and let us hurry forthwith to the pub.

Barras Nose looking towrds Tintagel Island
Barras Nose looking towrds Tintagel Island

Directions

The South West Coast Path is clearly marked with the usual acorn markers of a national trail

Follow the road on the western side of the river towards the sea. The Coast Path branches off this on the left up the grass banked hill. From this point onwards it is well waymarked through to Tintagel.

Looking back to Grower Rock and the distant Meachard Island
Looking back to Grower Rock and the distant Meachard Island

Pubs

Ye Olde Malthouse Inn, Tintagel View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
Fore Strand, Tintagel
Website

Ye Olde Malthouse Inn is a 14th Century tavern and bed and breakfast guest house offering accommodation, local ales and food.

Review

The main reason for choosing this pub was the fact that they had Tintagel Ales. In retrospect, other Tintagel pub also serve these ales and we could have had a better choice as the only example of their ale on offer here was the Cornish Gold, a mighty fine pint of beer all the same. Having said this, the pub really is worth the visit with all its nooks and crannies and a very rustic feel with plenty of stone floors and stone walls and numerous old artefacts.

Coastpath waymarker at Ladies Window
Coastpath waymarker at Ladies Window

Features

Spooky BoscastleView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The village of Boscastle appears to have more than its fair share of paranormal activities. To start with there are the ghostly peel of church bells that have been heard ringing from out at sea. The local church of Forrarbury does not posses any bells although such items were ordered during the middle ages as an attempt to ward of the plague. However the ship that was transporting the bells down the coast sank close to the shore during a storm and its cargo was never recovered. Ironically Lord William who had ordered the bells died from an outbreak of plague. Ever since those times, the sound of bells are said to ring out across the bay when a storm gathers.

On the eastern side of the cove, overlooking the harbour is Penhally House which was built in 1836 by William Slogatt. He had a reputation for smuggling and was said to have used the house as a store for his retrieved contraband. He was almost certainly involved in such a shady business as his three sons were all transported to Australia after being convicted of such crimes. Subsequent owners of the house have reported it to be haunted by ghostly footsteps and shadowy figures.

Below the house, the harbour is also said to be haunted, with witnesses reporting a staring man in tweed jacket and carrying stick. His eyes stare at the witness and then he disappears into thin air.

Arguably the most haunted location of the village is the Wellington Hotel which has featured on the Most Haunted TV series in 2004. Among the sightings over the years have been:

  • A man in leather gaiters, frock coat, frilled shirt and boots, with his hair tied back who drifted past the reception desk and disappeared through a wall.
  • An indistinct figure wearing a cape that drifted across the landing and through the wall into a guest room
  • Dark shapes that float down the cellar stairs

The most telling of all reports is that left by a guest on Trip Advisor who rated the Hotel with just one star after her night was disturbed by the unexpected and later they were offered no sympathy by the staff. The review entry is titled DON'T STAY HERE...IT'S A NIGHTMARE!!!!! which leads into a detailed account of her stay. Although the guest did not specifically see a ghost, it was an experience which she attested to have frightened the life out of me. Earlier that day she had perused a book in the hotel lounge on the history of the inn which included information on its haunted reputation, particularly to the room she was staying in. Even so, the description of what occurred that night is telling, as she recounts

I was lying on the bed when suddenly I felt a really strange sensation and said to myself "oh my god it's here" as those words ran through my mind I suddenly felt what can only be described as someone walking up the bed behind me and then a rush of cold air and then total paralysis of my body....I couldn't move I was frozen.

Eventually after 30 seconds, still frightened and scared, she managed to find the power to pull herself out of the bed and go next door to her friends room to relate the experience. Admittedly one could argue that the book she had perused earlier may have lay a seed in her mind. Having said that, why does this not happen to all and sundry who read a good ghost story before retiring for the night and hiding under the sheets. That is something I have done many a time but it has never left me with anything adverse happening during the night.

It is also interesting that another guest has commented on the same website, somewhat light-heartedly The price of the three night stay including dinner and breakfast was extremely good value. And I even saw a ghost!

References
Rocky Valley
Rocky Valley

Images

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on any image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Click on an image below to view the Image Gallery

Maps

Below is the route depicted on the OpenStreetMap, Ordnance Survey Map and Google Map. Links to full page versions are found in the Essential Information

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: ... 2017-04-04

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