Boscastle to Tintagel

Starting with a bus journey to Boscastle, this walk follows the coast path from Boscastle Harbour over Forrabury Common, past the clifftop lookout and cliff-edge slate quarries to Trevalga. The route continues past a number of offshore islets with seabird colonies, and then descends into Rocky Valley. From here, it passes the golden sandy beaches of Benoath Cove and Bossiney Haven, and climbs the headland of Willapark where the remains of an Iron Age settlement lie beneath the gorse, before rounding Barras Nose to reach the remains of Tintagel's mediaeval castle.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 5.5 miles/8.7 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Bus: 95 from Tintagel Visitors' Centre to Boscastle
  • Start from: the public car park in Boscastle
  • Parking: Tintagel Visitors' centre. Satnav: PL340AA
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Historic fishing village and harbour at Boscastle
  • Panoramic coastal views from the two Willapark headlands
  • Spectacular coastline and seabird colonies around Trevalga
  • Secluded sandy beaches at Benoath Cove and Bossiney Haven
  • Tintagel Castle and the legend of King Arthur
  • Sheltered cove of Tintagel Haven in the Vale of Avalon and legendary Merlin's Cave
  • Panoramic views over Tintagel Castle and the Tintagel coastline from Barras Nose
  • Cream teas and quirky mystic shops in Tintagel

Adjoining walks

Directions

  1. From the car park in Boscastle, turn left and follow the road, past the shops and cafés, to the signpost on the bridge.

    As you pass the Cornish Pasties on offer, consider that the potato came from South America and wasn't widely available until the late 18th Century.

    "Pasty" was another word used for "pie" throughout England from the Middle Ages onwards, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect) seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought this probably dates from the late 1700s when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor. Even into Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. In fact, the really poor had "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all). A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no potato or swede, just meat (venison), port wine and spices.

  2. Turn right at the signpost, and follow the path along the right-hand side of the river, past the Visitors' Centre to another bridge.

    The building just before the Visitor's Centre is the old lime kiln.

    The lime kiln in Boscastle is located next to the Visitor's Centre, beside the harbour. It was built in late 18th century and was used to convert imported limestone into quicklime, using either culm (soft sooty coal found in North Devon and Northeast Cornwall) or "proper" coal shipped in from South Wales to fire the kiln. The lime was used to reduce the acidity of the soil in the fields (improving the absorption of nitrates from animal dung) and also to make mortar, plaster and whitewash for the cottages.

  3. Turn left, across the bridge, onto the other side of the river and take the track signposted for the coast path to Willapark. Follow it a short distance to a fork.

    As you cross the bridge, the terrace of cottages to your left on the opposite bank were once a manganese mill.

    The terrace of cottages opposite Boscastle's visitor's centre (on the other side of the river) was once a manganese mill. The mill was used to crush the ore to a powder which was then exported by ship for a variety of uses: glass manufacturers for colourising; cotton mills for bleach-making; and steelmakers for hardening iron. Whilst manganese is an essential trace element, prolonged high doses are toxic and the harm from the dust in the air, in mills such as this, was not known about until late Victorian times.

  4. At the fork, keep left to follow the stony track, passing one waymarked path to reach another waymarked path just before a gate.

    The small house at the end of the terrace on your left is known as The Old Store House.

    The house now known as The Old Store House is located on the harbour opposite to Boscastle Visitors' Centre. Although the name might suggest storage of cargo, in fact it was built to store horse-drawn rocket-firing equipment for marine rescue.

  5. At the waymark, bear left up the steps and follow the path a short distance to where it joins another.

    The adjoining pair of cottages by the harbour wall in Boscastle, known as Highwater and Highwater Cottage, were built at different times. The cottage on the right with four-paned windows dates from the mid nineteenth century. The left-hand cottage with the protruding upper windows is older and is thought to date from around the mid-late eighteenth century. It's thought the latter could be the former Sun Dial Inn which was listed for sale in 1792 and has since vanished. The proximity of the inn to the harbour would certainly have been good for "passing trade" from thirsty sailors coming ashore.

  6. Continue ahead from the waymark and follow it to another waymark at a junction of paths on the headland.

    The steep-sided valley of the river Valency forms a sheltered natural harbour at Boscastle. The two stone harbour walls date back to Elizabethan times, built in 1584. The outer breakwater was built in 1820, but destroyed in 1941 by a drifting mine and then rebuilt by the National Trust.

    The harbour was very difficult to approach in a sailing ship and it was not safe for ships to enter under their own sail. On a ship's arrival, a boat with eight men, known as a "hobbler", would go out to tow them into the harbour, whilst men on the shore held the ship in the middle of the channel, using ropes.

  7. From the waymark, follow the steps of the coast path gradually up the headland until you reach a pair of gates.

    There are excellent views over Boscastle Harbour from this stretch of path. You can also take a short diversion to the right onto the quay, returning here to continue the walk. The rocky island in the mouth of the harbour is The Meachard.

    The Meachard is an island rock in the mouth of Boscastle Harbour. In the spring and summer, it is home to colonies of seabirds, in particular razorbills which can be seen tumbling off the edge of the rock and spreading their wings at the very last moment before hitting the sea. There is a small blowhole on the inside of the island which can be seen venting spray when the sea is rough.

  8. Go through the gate on the right, in the direction of Willapark shown on the waymark. Follow the path, bearing right when it merges with another, to reach the coastguard lookout.

    Boscastle Coastguard Lookout is located on Willapark headland, to the south of Boscastle's harbour. The coastguard lookout was built in the 1800s, originally as a summerhouse, by a successful merchant, similarly to Doyden Castle at Port Quin. After this, it was leased to the Board of Trade and used by the Revenue men to prevent smuggling. When duties were cut and smuggling collapsed, it was used as a coastguard lookout until the 1970s. After this, it was acquired by the National Trust and maintained as a folly. In 2002 it was leased to the National Coastwatch Institute and is now run as a voluntary lookout.

  9. From the coastguard lookout, head back initially in the direction you came but at the fork in the paths, keep right. Follow the path until it ends at a gate.

    On your right is Western Blackapit which is a notorious spot for shipwrecks.

    In January of 1843, the Jessie Logan was enroute from Calcutta to Liverpool, with a mixed cargo. On 16th January, a heavy gale drove it on the shore and it struck, between three and four in the afternoon, on the rocks near Blackapit, on the approach to Boscastle Harbour. All the crew perished. A great part of her cargo came ashore including bags containing rice, sugar, and some cotton. Customs officers and the coast guard attempted to protect the cargo from a crowd of locals armed with sticks, which involved punches being thrown and cutlasses wielded. Despite their efforts, a large amount was carried off by the locals. The two ringleaders were later prosecuted "for feloniously plundering and stealing from a ship" and received twelve months of Hard Labour.

  10. Go through the gate and turn right onto the coast path, keeping right along the coast, until you reach a kissing gate.

    At the bottom of the cliffs on your right, debris from the wrecked ship Alliance was washed up.

    The Alliance was a ship wrecked near Boscastle, with debris washing up just west of Boscastle near Willapark headland. In December 1884, the steam-powered cargo freighter disappeared while enroute from Cardiff to St Nazaire with a cargo of coal from the Welsh valleys. The type of coal she was carrying was liable to produce methane in wet conditions and was known to cause ships to spontaneously explode. However, an investigation found the ship to be well ventilated and in good seaworthy condition when she left port and they concluded that the ship probably foundered off the North Cornish coast in the North Westerly gale. All 16 members of the crew perished.

  11. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path, down into the valley and up the other side, to a stile.

    California Quarry is the northernmost of the coastal state quarries between Boscastle and Tintagel. You can still see the stone foundations of the wooden tower used to haul the slate up from the cliff face.

    Trilobite fossils can occasionally be found in slates in the slate tips here. They used to be common, but much of the slate tips have now fallen into the sea. If you're hunting for trilobites, look for slates with yellow or brown blotches as these are the slates from the Carboniferous period (about 340-350 million years ago) which are the ones containing fossils.

  12. Cross the stile and follow the path through a gate and down into the next valley, at Grower Gut, to a footbridge over the stream.

    The remains of Welltown quarry lies on the headland between California and Grower quarries, near Trevalga. These three quarries have been earmarked as "heritage quarries" which, in principle, could be reopened in the future for small scale extraction for repairs to heritage buildings. If so, dangling above the raging sea to extract slate from the cliff face may present some modern-day Health and Safety challenges.

  13. From the footbridge, cross a stile and a second footbridge and follow the coast path, up from the valley, to a waymark in a field beside a wooden walkway.

    Grower Quarry is situated on the coast between Boscastle and Trevalga. The slate quarried along this stretch of coast was deposited in the transition between the Devonian and Carboniferous periods, around 360 million years ago, when Cornwall was still at the bottom of the (Rheic) Ocean. The older Upper Devonian slates (which is the period in which Delabole slate was deposited) are harder and finer than those that came later. The later slates, deposited as the ocean became shallower, are more likely to contain fossils.

  14. Bear right to cross the walkway and then follow the path across the diagonal of the field to a slate stile in the opposite corner.
  15. Cross the wall via the stile and follow the path until it merges onto a track at a waymark.

    The offshore rocks are home to colonies of razorbills and guillemots.

    Razorbills and Guillemots are the surviving cousins of the extinct Greak Auk. After centuries of being hunted for feathers, meat and eggs, the last Great Auk in Britain was beaten to death in 1840 for being a witch.

    Razorbills are the now largest of the auk species and only come to land to breed. They have a characteristic thin white stripe across their eye in the breeding season. Guillemot is a fairly loose term used for any auk that isn't a Razorbill! There are two distinct families of species referred to as guillemots: the first are the smaller members of the Razorbill family which are also black with a white belly; the second family are all black with red legs.

  16. Follow the track ahead from the waymark for a short distance until you reach another waymark in front of a gate.

    The coastline around Trevalga is particularly spectacular, with a number of offshore rocks which provide homes for seabird colonies. Guillimots, razorbills, cormorants and shags, puffins and several types of gull are known to nest here.

  17. At the waymark, take the coast path, to the right, and follow it through two kissing gates, to a waymark on the skyline.

    From the waymark, a path leads to a bench and on to The Ladies Window overlooking Short Island.

    The rock arch on the cliffs at Trevalga, known as the Lady's Window, was formed around 370 million years ago. Sediments laid down at the bottom of the ocean, initially formed crumbly shales. Around 40 million years later, when Cornwall was pushed out of the sea, the intense pressure and heat from the colliding contents transformed some of the shale into hard rocks called phillites. The softer rocks above have been worn away, exposing these hard rocks. Gradual weathering has created the hole through the middle.

  18. From the waymark, follow the path along the coast past the offshore islands and eventually down into a deep gorge at Rocky Valley, to a footbridge.

    Along this path is a viewpoint over Long Island, which is also a nice spot for a picnic in the summer. To reach it: from the waymark, follow the coast path over the ridge and over one bed of slate to a second bed of slate. The footpath to the viewpoint departs to the right where the coastpath crosses the slate.

    Long and Short Island are two rock stacks off Firebeacon hill at Trevalga. The names of Long and Short Island are known to date back at least as far as the 1750s, and are presumed to refer to the respective heights of the two rocky islets, with Long Island reported as being 300ft high. There are large seabird colonies on both islets and a few pairs of puffins are sometimes seen nesting here; before the mid-20th century, there were many more.

  19. Follow the coast path over the bridge to a waymark and bear right to follow the path up the other side of the valley until a path departs from the right, just past an overhanging rock.

    Rocky Valley, on the way out of Tintagel towards Boscastle, has been formed by the Trevillet river carving its way through the slate bedrock, and was mentioned in travel books as a place of exceptional beauty as early as 1897. The river cascades through woodland, before opening out into a canyon which meets the coast.

    About five minutes walk up the valley is the ruin of Trewethett Mill.

    On the rockface beside the waymark, about half way down Rocky Valley near Trewethett Mill, are some labyrinthine stone carvings. The age of the carvings is unknown: some historians think they could be as early as bronze age, others think they are much more recent.

  20. Keep left at the fork and follow the path up the headland to the top of the steps.
  21. Bear left at the top of the steps and follow the coast path behind Benoath Cove until you descend into a gulley at a waymark signposted to Tintagel.

    From the waymark you can turn right down the gully to explore the beach of Bossiney Haven and return to the waymark in the gulley to continue the walk.

    Bossiney Haven is a secluded cove, just north of Tintagel. There is no beach at Bossiney at high tide, but when the tide is fully out, there is a beach of golden sand which stretches around the other side of the headland (known as Benoath Cove) from the main inlet (Bossiney Haven). This makes it a lovely place to swim or paddle on a warm summer's day. There is also good snorkelling to the far left of the beach where a kelp-covered reef lies, and also to the far right when the tide is right out. The beach is not patrolled by lifeguards and combined with the steep steps down, it's not ideal for young children.

  22. From the waymark, the route continues in the direction signposted to Tintagel. Beforehand, you can take a short diversion down the gulley to the beach. To continue the walk, climb the steps to the kissing gate and follow the path on the other side, down the steps to the footbridge.
  23. From the footbridge, follow the coast path to climb up the next headland until you reach a V-shaped stile.

    The rock at the end of the headland is known as Lye Rock.

    Lye Rock, facing into the bay at Bossiney is barely attached to the headland of Willapark and will soon (in geological terms anyway!) become another rock stack like The Sisters. It has a seabird colony that once housed the biggest Puffin colony in Cornwall. In 1948 there were estimated to be 2000 puffins here. By 1982 there were none. There is still a sizeable guillemot and razorbill colony and some cormerants too.

  24. Continue to the top of the steps then bear left to stay on the coast path, following it to a waymark beside a bench.

    On December 20 in 1893, the Italian ship "Iota" was driven against the cliff at Lye Rock near Bossiney Haven. The crew were able to get onto the rock and, apart from a youth of 14, were saved by four local men who received medals for bravery. The boy who died is buried in the churchyard of St Materiana on Glebe Cliff, and his grave marked with a wooden cross.

  25. At the bench, the walk route continues to the left in the direction signposted to Tintagel and the path to the right leads onto Willapark headland, which you may want to explore first. To continue the walk, bear left through the gateway and follow the coast path to a kissing gate.

    The large headland in Tintagel to the east of Barras Nose is known as Willapark, not to be confused with Willapark in Boscastle where the coastguard lookout is based. The name Willapark is based on two old Celtic words meaning 'enclosed' and 'lookout'. The headland was fortified by an earth rampart across the neck of the headland to create a hill fort in the Iron Age. When the gorse was burnt off, circular marks became visible indicating the positions of huts. Much of the ramparts were removed or adapted to allow quarrying from the headland, so relatively little remains now.

  26. Go through the gate and the keep right along the coast path. Follow it past a number of waymarks until you eventually reach a a pair of pedestrian gates.

    The Sisters are two small islets that were once part of the headland of Willapark on the opposite side of the bay from Tintagel Castle. Underwater, they are still linked: the protruding islets are surrounded by a large shallow reef with a depth of less than 2 metres around the rocks. The Sisters are home to a large breeding colony of razorbills and guillimots and also have a sizeable population of cormerants.

  27. Go through the rightmost gate (ahead) and follow the coast path until you reach a waymark to Glebe Cliff.

    The rocky headland on the right is Barras Nose.

    Barras Nose is a rocky headland located just east of Tintagel Castle and its island, to the north of the village of Tintagel. This was the first piece of coastal land ever bought by the National Trust in 1897. In Victorian times, the Castle Hotel was originally planned to be built on Barras Nose which gave rise to a local campaign to purchase the headland and save it. It's a popular spot with locals for fishing as there is a rock platform and several surrounding reefs. From the top of the headland there are excellent views to the right, across to Willapark, and to the left, of the castle.

    A rocky scarp runs nearly all the way across the neck of Barras Nose, forming a natural defence similar to those that were created by hard labour at the cliff castles on surrounding headlands. It's therefore quite possible that Barras was adopted as a "prefabricated" hillfort and flint tools have been discovered which show there was human activity here from at least 4,000 years ago. The name itself may also hint at its history: in the 1890s, it was known as "Barrows Cliff".

  28. From the waymark, the route continues in the direction of Glebe Cliff down the steps to another waymark at the bottom. Beforehand, you may want to walk out onto Barras Nose to admire the views. You can return from the headland via the path descending the left side to reach the waymark at the bottom of the steps.

    The many caves along the coast here provide ledges where seals haul themselves out of the water. Many caves are not accessible from the land so the seals are safe from predators; although there are few land predators today which would be unwise enough take on a seal, they were once hunted here by bears as well as humans.

    Seals are not closely related to other marine mammals. In mediaeval times seals were classified as fish and could therefore be eaten during lent and on fridays and saturdays. However, as you might be able to guess from their features, seals are closely related to dogs, bears and otters. In fact, a dog is very much more closely related to a seal than a cat. The seal species most frequently seen along the Cornish coast are grey seals and common seals.

  29. From the waymark, follow the coast path over the next headland, in the direction of Tintagel Castle, until you descend to a footpath sign by the seating area outside the restaurant.

    The rocky cove in front of Tintagel Castle is Tintagel Haven, known locally as "Castle Beach".

    Below the the island upon which Tintagel Castle is perched, there is a small sheltered pebble beach, known locally as Castle Beach although on maps you'll see it marked as Tintagel Haven. Slate from the coastal quarries was brought here by donkey, and loaded onto beached ships which also brought in cargoes such as Welsh coal. Beside the waterfall is the remains of a derrick which was used to winch the cargo to and from the beach. In order to manoeuvre them around the dangerous rocks, ships were "hobbled" (towed by rowing boats then manoeuvred by gangs of men pulling on ropes).

    On the left side of the beach is Merlin's Cave, and to the back of the beach is a waterfall where the stream running through the Vale of Avalon meets the sea.

  30. At the sign next to the restaurant, turn right and follow the path past the viewpoint to a waymark. Then follow the path down some steps and across a bridge over the stream.

    According to Arthurian Legend, Merlin lived in a cave below the fortress of Tintagel during Arthur's childhood, and was his teacher. Tennyson made Merlin's Cave famous in his Idylls of King Arthur, describing waves washing infant Arthur to the shore, and Merlin finding him in a sea cave and carrying him to safety.

    The cave is 100 metres long and passes completely through the island beneath the castle, where the sea has eroded a fault containing a band of softer rock. At high tide, the cave is flooded (so one can assume Merlin was a good swimmer!), but at low tide you can walk through from Tintagel Haven to the rocky West Cove on the other side.

  31. After having a look at/around the castle and beach, make your way to the car park above the English Heritage shop.

    Tintagel Castle (also known as "King Arthur's Castle") is perched on an island which was joined by a land bridge in the Middle Ages. The ruins of Tintagel Castle that you see today were built in the 13th century by Richard Earl of Cornwall. From coins and pottery fragments found at the site, it is thought that before this, the site might have originally been a Roman settlement, and later, in the early Middle Ages, a Celtic settlement. There is speculation amongst historians that the site was a summer residence for one of the Celtic kings, perhaps leading to the legends of Arthur.

  32. Follow the track up from the bottom of the valley until you reach a signpost (or to save a climb, you can catch a landrover to the top, skipping the next 2 directions).
  33. When you reach a signpost, stay on the track until you reach a footbridge opposite another signpost.
  34. Bear right onto the second footpath signposted to Tintagel Village. Follow it, parallel to the track, to reach the top of the track.

    The modern-day village of Tintagel was known as Trevena ("place of the women") until the Post Office established 'Tintagel' as the name in the mid 19th century (until then Tintagel had always been the name of the headland and of the parish). In Norman times, a small castle was built at Bossiney; Bossiney and Trevena were established as a borough in 1253 by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall who built Tintagel Castle.

  35. Bear right onto Fore Street and follow it, past the turning to Vicarage Hill until you reach Tintagel Old Post Office opposite the King Arthur's Arms.

    Tintagel Old Post Office is a 600-year-old Cornish Longhouse set in cottage gardens, retaining its mediaeval slate-paved hall and fireplace. It was built in the 14th Century when Tintagel Castle belonged to the Black Prince. In the 19th century, the house was used as the district Post Office when the introduction of the penny post meant the trek to the Post Office in Camelford became too much of a burden. For over 100 years, it has been owned by the National Trust.

  36. Once you've had a look at the Old Post Office, continue along Fore Street until you reach the roundabout.

    Just before the roundabout and King Arthur's Hall, look on your left for Aelnet's Cross, which is behind the railings in front of some flats.

    Aelnet's Cross is located on Fore Street in Tintagel next to King Arthur's Great Halls, behind the railings of what used to be the Wharncliffe Arms Hotel (now converted into flats). It is just over 4 feet tall and has a sort of wheel-head cross on both sides along with Latin inscriptions. The cross itself is of the 5th-century, though the carvings and inscriptions could be later (possibly 10th or 11th century). Originally it stood at nearby Trevillet where it was in use as a gatepost.

  37. Cross straight over the roundabout and follow Bossiney Road past the Methodist Church to the Tintagel Visitor Centre.

    King Arthur's Great Halls in Tintagel were built in the 1930's by a custard millionaire whose company is thought to have invented "hundreds and thousands". The Halls of Chivalry are built from 53 different types of stone and are big enough to hold 1000 people. 72 stained glass windows by Veronica Whall (a pupil of William Morris) tell the story of King Arthur and show the Coats of Arms and weapons of the knights. Over two million people have visited the Halls since they opened in June 1933.

Help us with this walk

You can help us to keep this walk as accurate as it possibly can be for others by spotting and feeding back any changes affecting the directions. We'd be very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa
  • If you have a large dog, let us know if you find problems with the stiles on this walk (e.g. require the dog to be lifted over). A rough idea of how many problematic stiles there are is also useful.

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

A free way to not kill penguins: discarded ink cartridges float in rainwater, can wash into rivers, be broken up by the sea into reflective shards eaten by dopey fish, and build up in the stomachs of seabbirds, causing them to starve to death. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?