Bossiney, St Nectan's Glen and Rocky Valley

A short circular walk through the woods of St Nectan's Glen and canyons of Rocky Valley, past the ruined mills and labyrinthine carvings, and along the coast to the golden sandy cove at Bossiney Haven.

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The walk starts from Bossiney, heading out across fields to the hamlet of Halgabron then down into the woods of St Nectan's Glen. After circling the Glen the walk follows the lane to Rocky Valley and then follows the Trevillett river as it winds through ancient woodland out into a canyon leading to the sea. The route then joins the coast path, climbing up onto the headland and behind Benoath Cove and finally on to Bossiney Haven.

Reviews

Brilliant. We really enjoyed this walk and at first found it like a treasure hunt. The maps and info are clear and the alerts were very useful. Will definitely get more of these. Recommended!!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.2 km
  • Grade: Moderate
  • Start from: Bossiney car park
  • Parking: Bossiney car park PL340AY. Take the B3263 from Tintagel to Boscastle and turn left after some houses which are just past Ocean Cove caravan park
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Woodland walk through St Nectan's Glen
  • Pretty waterfall at St Nectan's Kieve
  • Neolithic stone carvings in the ancient woodland of Rocky Valley
  • Spectacular coastal views over Willapark headland and Darvis's Point
  • Secluded sandy beaches at Benoath Cove and Bossiney Haven

Directions

  1. From the car park, cross the main road, turn right and follow the road towards Tintagel until you reach the Ocean Cove holiday park on the right.

    Bossiney is a village on the north coast of Cornwall, now adjoined to the larger village of Tintagel which lies the the south-west. Only a large mound, next to the chapel, remains as evidence of the twelfth century castle at Bossiney. Almost certainly, the castle was built by Reginald, the illegitimate son of Henry I of England who made him Earl of Cornwall. According to legend, The Round Table of Camelot is supposed to be buried under the ruins of the Castle and on the eve of the summer solstice, the Round Table will appear when King Arthur and his knights are due to return.

    Bossiney was one of a number of small parliamentary boroughs established in Cornwall during the Tudor period. Sir Francis Drake was elected MP for Bossiney in 1584 after giving his election speech from Bossiney Mound. War broke out with the Spanish in 1585 and his attention turned to their Armada.

  2. At the junction opposite the Ocean Cove holiday park, turn left in the direction indicated by the public footpath sign. Cross the tarmac to a path between fences and follow this to a road in the holiday park.

    Unlike places such as Padstow which remained largely undiscovered by tourists until the 20th century, Tintagel was extremely popular in Victorian times. When Tennyson published his Idylls of the King across the mid-late 1800s, Arthurian legend had a renaissance and this put Tintagel in the spotlight. This also coincided with the railway being extended into Cornwall.

    By the 1890s the railway had been extended to Camelford and a hotel was even built which advertised itself as being "on the spot where Tennyson received his inspiration for Idylls of the King". Consequently the village of Tintagel has been heavily shaped by the tastes of the Victorian tourists and the kitsch element of Tintagel's tourist trade could well be a surviving remnant of this.

  3. Bear right onto the road and keep right at the junctions to follow it downhill until you reach a signpost at the top of some steps.

    The Cornish language has at least 8 different words for "valley".

    • nans - valley
    • golans - small valley
    • haunans - deep valley with steep sides
    • keynans - ravine
    • glyn - large deep valley
    • deveren - river valley
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream
    • tenow - valley floor
  4. At the signpost, bear right down the steps to a footbridge and cross the bridge and the stile into the field. Bear left slightly up the field, heading between the telegraph pole by the barn and the one to the right of it, to a waymarked stile.

    The stream is a tributary of the Trevillet River which you'll encounter again as it crosses under the drive at Trevillet Mill, just before the confluence. The stream velocity is such that something floating past now might just about meet you again as you cross the river later in the walk. Before releasing any rubber ducks, note that the stream goes through a few pipes which may have grilles.

  5. Climb the stile and cross the next field in the direction of the telegraph pole to the waymarked stile opposite.

    The number of cows in Cornwall has been estimated at around 75,000 so there's a good chance of encountering some in grassy fields. If you are crossing fields in which there are cows:

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  6. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a gate on the far side of the field.
  7. Go through the gate and turn left on the lane; follow it downhill until it meets a road.

    On a clear day you can see Lundy Island on the horizon as you walk down the hill.

    Lundy is largest island in the Bristol Channel, situated about one-third of the way to Wales. It is an outcrop of granite, which rises 400ft out of the sea and was England's first marine reserve.

    The entire island is owned by the National Trust who lease it to the Landmark Trust and thus development has been tightly controlled: the island doesn't have a single tarmacked road, pavement or streetlight, and the electricity is turned off a night, resulting in incredible views of the night sky.

  8. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow it to a bend with a public footpath sign on the right.
  9. Take the public footpath to the right over a slate stile. Bear left slightly across the middle of a field, to an iron kissing gate approximately 50 metres to the right of the buildings.
  10. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path into the wooded valley until you reach a footbridge.

    St Nectan's Glen is an area of verdant woodland near Tintagel, upstream of Rocky Valley along the Trevillet river. At the top of St Nectan's Glen is a 60ft waterfall known as St Nectan's Kieve (there is an admission fee to the waterfall). According to local legend, St Nectan is supposed to be buried under the waterfall, along with the treasure he collected. Pilgrims visiting St. Nectan's Shrine have used the Glen path since 500AD. There used to be a church dedicated to him, where there is now a Hermitage (with tea gardens during the summer). Once, it was said, a couple of witches lived in the chapel, and locals blamed every disaster on their evil ways.

  11. Cross the footbridge and turn right onto the path along St Nectan's Glen. Follow this path upstream until you reach a noticeboard by a footbridge.

    You can often see small trout in the pools along this stretch of the river.

    Trout are members of Salmon family who all have an extra tiny (adipose) fin on their back towards their tail, that most other fish don't have. No-one is quite sure what the purpose is of this fin but a neural network in the fin indicates that it has some kind of sensory function.

    The native trout in the UK is not the trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock (the Rainbow Trout, which has red flush along its side and is native to North America), but the Brown Trout which has well-defined dark red spots along its sides. You can often make out the spots when you see them lying in pools. Rainbow Trout are often stocked in fishing lakes so do sometimes escape into the wild.

    Small trout typically feed on invertebrates whereas larger trout generally feed on other fish but have been known to eat anything of a suitable size unlucky enough to fall into a river. In fact in New Zealand, mouse-shaped lures are sold for trout fishing!

  12. Cross the footbridge next to the notice board. Follow the path over another footbridge and onwards to a wooden walkway leading to a flight of steps.
  13. Follow the path along the walkways, up the steps and past some derelict buildings until you reach the Welcome sign for St Nectan's Kieve waterfall (which you may want to stop and visit; there is an admission charge for the waterfall).

    A Kieve was a mining term for a wooden tub used for concentrating tin ore. After having the bejesus bashed out of it by teenage girls with lump hammers, the powdered ore would be swirled around, rather like a whirlpool, so the lighter fragments of unwanted rock could be skimmed off whilst the heavy crumbs of metallic ore sank to the bottom of the Kieve.

  14. From the Welcome sign, turn left and follow the steps towards the toilets. Then follow the track uphill. Continue for about half a mile until you reach a junction with a chapel on the left and a well ahead.

    St Nectan was the eldest son of the 5th century Celtic king Brychan. Having received a vocation to become a monk earlier in his life, he and many of his relatives sailed to North Devon. Nectan settled by a spring at Stoke, in the then dense forest of Hartland, north of Bude, where he lived as a hermit. It is claimed he also spent some time in the Glen near Tintagel, which at about 30 miles south of Stoke, is not inconceivable.

  15. At the junction with the well and chapel, turn left, signposted to the waterfall. Follow the track down to the bottom of the hill where a small concrete path departs to the right.
  16. Bear right onto the small path and follow this along the river to reach the footbridge that you crossed to enter St Nectan's Glen.
  17. Cross the bridge on the right and follow the path back up through the woods to the waymarked pedestrian gate.
  18. Go through the pedestrian gate and continue ahead up the field until the stile comes into view, then make for this.
  19. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow it down the hill until it ends in a junction.
  20. Cross the road and head for Trevillett Mill on the other side, in the direction indicated by the public footpath sign. Walk down the drive (which is a public right of way) until you reach a small footbridge on the right.
  21. Cross the footbridge and follow the path along the fence to a footbridge over the main river.

    The Trevillet River runs for approximately 3 miles from its source on the downs near Condoldon Barrow, down the steep valley situated between Condoldon and the line of hills at Trethevy. The river has a population of Brown Trout and there was once a trout farm, breeding Rainbow Trout, at Trevillet Mill. The Cornish name for the river is Duwy meaning "dark river".

  22. Cross the footbridge and turn left, following the path along the river to a waymark next to the ruins of a mill.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    In hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water.

  23. From the waymark, follow the path between the buildings and around to the right to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and follow the path downriver until you reach a waymark above another footbridge.

    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.

  24. At the waymark, bear left and follow the path up the left side of the valley to where a path departs from the right, just past an overhanging rock.
  25. Keep left at the fork and follow the path up the steps to the top of the headland.

    A bird you may well encounter in the bushes along the coast is the stonechat.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round. Their name comes from the sound of the call which sounds like stones being knocked together.

  26. At the top of the steps, turn left and follow the coast path until you descend steps into a gulley to reach a waymark signposted to Tintagel.

    The rocky island at the end of the headland on the far side of the bay is 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.

  27. From the waymark at the bottom of the steps you can turn right along the gully to explore the beach of Bossiney Haven and return here to continue the walk. To complete the walk, follow the track uphill, waymarked to Bossiney, which ends at a gate into the car park.

    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.

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.

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