Port Isaac to Tintagel

The walk follows the Cornish Coast Path along the rugged coastline from Port Isaac to Tintagel. The route passes the ancient settlement of Port Gaverne and follows the cliffs to Barretts Zawn where slate was carried by donkey through a tunnel from the cliff-top. The walk continues past the abandoned hamlet of Dannonchapel to the large sandy beaches of Tregardock and Trebarwith Strand. From here, the route passes Tintagel's ancient church and the castle before ending in Tintagel.
Note this is a one-way walk. If you are extremely determined, it is possible to make this circular using the 96 bus but the connection times in Camelford are now so long that we instead recommend doing this walk with 2 cars.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106,109,111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 9.7 miles/15.6 km
  • Grade: Strenuous
  • Start from: Port Isaac car park
  • Parking: Tintagel Visitors' centre. Satnav: PL340AA
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Spectacular views over Port Isaac Bay from the coast path
  • Wildflowers along the coast in spring and summer and mushrooms in autumn
  • Golden sandy beaches at Tregardock and Trebarwith Strand
  • Bizarre sea foam tornadoes during winter storms at Backways Cove
  • Ancient church of St Materiana
  • Tintagel Castle and Arthurian legend
  • Tintagel Haven and Merlin's Cave

Directions

  1. Walk down the hill from Port Isaac towards Port Gaverne to reach the old pilchard sheds at the bottom of the hill.

    There were 4 large pilchard cellars built in Port Gaverne at the start of the 1800s which can still be seen at the bottom of the hill leading up to Port Isaac. In their heydey, in the early 1800s, it is suggested that they could have processed 1,000 tons of pilchards in a week.

  2. Follow the road behind the beach to the car park on the far side of the beach.

    Cornish pilchard fisheries existed in mediaeval times, and in this period, the fish were smoked to preserve them before export to Spain and Italy. From Tudor times until the early 20th Century, Cornwall's pilchard fisheries were of national importance, with the bulk of the catch being exported almost exclusively to Italian Catholics for religious fasting (Cornish pilchards were a staple ingredient of spaghetti alla puttanesca). The pilchards were salted and then pressed to extract the oil which was sold as somewhat aromatic lamp oil. The fish were then packed with more salt into hogshead barrels which could fit up to 3000 fish per barrel. Huers (cliff top lookouts) helped locate shoals of fish. The huer would shout 'Hevva!, Hevva!' (the Cornish word for "shoal") to alert the boats to the location of the pilchard shoals. The name "huer" is from the old French verb meaning "to shout".

  3. Follow the road uphill for a short distance until you reach a flight of steps to the left.

    Port Gaverne, the tiny settlement and inlet neighbouring Port Isaac, was more prominent than Port Isaac in the past. In fact, the settlement at Port Gaverne dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded in the 1300s. The sheltered inlet made it a good place to launch boats and it is still a popular place to launch small craft today.

    The name was previously recorded as Port Kerne and on maps from the 1800s as Port Keverne. One of the quirks of the Cornish language is that "k" often transforms into "g" when placed after another word, which might have resulted in Porthgeverne (which is not far from how some of the locals still pronounce it).

  4. Climb the steps and keep left on the path out towards the headland, passing a pair of benches, until you reach a final path leading off to the right.

    During the summer, particularly at weekends, Port Gaverne is a popular spot for Pilot Gig racing.

    The six-oared elm boats known as Pilot Gigs were general-purpose work boats, but one of their uses was to transport the pilot to and from a ship, which resulted in the name. The first boat to meet a ship gained the business of transporting the captain (and thus being paid) and thus a "race" came into being, with different boats competing for business. Today, Gig Racing is of a recreational nature, but the boats are still built to the exact well-documented specification of the originals. Elm wood is highly resistant to water, so much so, that town water mains were made of elm before the widespread availability of iron.

  5. Turn right and follow the path along the edge of the coast until it comes back onto the road.

    Look out for Fulmars which nest along the cliff faces. You'll often see them soaring over the tops of the cliffs as they circle in to land.

    The fulmar is a grey and white bird related to an Albatross although it can be mistaken at a distance for a gull. Close up, the beak is the giveaway: the fulmar has a tube on its beak which is visible as a black bar across the beak at a distance. The tube is a gland for excreting salt from the seawater that they drink. As a defense mechanism, the fulmar regurgitates foul smelling oil from its stomach - the name comes from the Old Norse for "foul" (full) and "gull" (mar). The oil, potentially fatally disrupts the waterproofing of predatory birds' feathers in a similar way to a crude-oil spill, so they avoid preying on fulmars.

  6. Turn left onto the road and after the wall, left up the drive of Silver Spray signposted to Trebarwith Strand and follow it to a waymark.

    The road from Port Gaverne which joins the Delabole road was quarried out in the early 1800s by the Delabole Slate company and known as "The Great Slate Road". Around 100 ships a year came to Port Gaverne to collect slate, each capable of carrying 50-80 tonnes. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses, to load a sixty ton ship. The slates were loaded by women, who then packed them in straw to protect them on the voyage. The incoming ships also brought coal from Wales and limestone, for the local limekiln, which was used to whitewash the cottages.

  7. At the waymark past Silver Spray, follow the coast path ahead along the cliff tops until it drops into a valley and you reach a footbridge.

    As you walk along the coast path, you'll likely see a number of gulls gliding along the cliff edges. The large ones, with black feathers all along their back and a red mark on their bill, are Greater Black-backed Gulls.

    The Greater Black-backed Gull is the largest member of the gull family and a bird of formidable size, with a wingspan of nearly 6ft. Unlike other gulls, the Greater Black-backed Gull is highly predatory. Young birds are a significant portion of its diet and it tends to live amongst other seabirds where it can eat the neighbours. It has also been known to swallow whole rabbits and even eat young lambs. It often steals food from other seabirds using its large size to intimidate them into dropping it, and consequently it is sometimes referred to as a pirate.

  8. From the footbridge, continue up the other side of the valley to a waymark.

    Ocean Sunfish can sometimes be seen on hot summer days basking on the surface, with their fin flapping out of the water as they lie on their side sunbathing. They are extremely weird-looking fish, resembling a large round dinner place with no real tail, just two large fins at the top and bottom and two smaller ones on the sides (doing the flapping). The average weight of a full grown adult sunfish is a tonne - the largest known bony fish, which is particularly impressive on a diet principally of jellyfish.

  9. From the waymark, follow the path ahead, signposted to Tintagel, for a mile until you descend to a stream at the bottom of a steep valley.
  10. From the bottom of the valley, follow the very steep path up the headland to a stile at the top.

    This is probably the steepest and most difficult climb on the South West Coast path in Cornwall. You can enjoy the sense of achievement when you eventually make it to the top.

  11. Cross the stile and follow the path over 2 more stiles and past one waymark to a second waymark where a path joins from the right.

    The beach at the bottom of the cliffs is Barrett's Zawn.

    Barrett's Zawn is a remote beach on the rugged coast between Port Isaac and Tintagel. It is located just north-west of the farm hamlets of Hendra. The beach can only be accessed by sea or via the now disused tunnel on the north side of Delabole Point which was known locally as the "Donkey Hole", because it was once used by donkeys bringing up slate from the beach quarry below.

    It is still just possible to crawl through the tunnel to the beach but part of the tunnel roof has collapsed and it is now not recommended to go through the tunnel as the high cliffs above are unstable. If you do decide to risk it, be aware: there is one narrow squeeze in the tunnel where you'll need to get down onto your belly to slide over a rock, though the rest of the tunnel is reasonably tall; you will also need a torch as it's pitch black in the central section of the tunnel.

  12. At the waymark, keep left on the coast path and follow it to a waymark in a quarried area at the bottom of the valley.
  13. From the waymark, follow the coast path down to the bottom of the valley to a stile and cross the river over the stepping stones. Follow the path up the other side until you reach a stile over a fence.

    The names of many coastal features are derived from words in the Cornish language:

    • Pen - Headland (Cornish for "top" or "head")
    • Pol - often used to mean Harbour (literally "Pool")
    • Porth - Port but often used to mean Cove
    • Zawn - sea inlet (from the Cornish "sawan" meaning chasm)

    Note that Haven has Saxon origins (hæfen in Old English) which is why it tends to occur more in North East Cornwall (Millook, Crackington, Bude etc).

  14. Cross the stile and follow the path over a second stile until you reach a third stile at the edge of a valley.

    There are more than 20 breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons along the coast from Bude to Padstow.

    The peregrine falcon can reach over 322 km/h (200 mph) during its hunting stoop (high speed dive) making it the fastest member of the animal kingdom. In 2005, a peregrine was measured at a top speed of 389 km/h (242 mph). The air pressure at this speed could damage a bird's lungs. However small bony tubercles on a falcon's nostrils guide the powerful airflow away, enabling the bird to breathe more easily while diving. In Cornish dialect, these falcons are known as "winnards" and local expressions include "shrammed as a winnard" (meaning chilled) and "rumped up like a winnard" (meaning huddled).

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path down into the valley until you reach a waymark.
  16. At the waymark, bear right to another waymark, then cross through the stream and climb some steps to a stile.

    Hanging valleys are common on the North Cornish coast and are created due to erosion of the relatively hard cliffs by the Atlantic waves being faster than erosion of the valley by a small river. In many cases, this results in a waterfall where the small river meets the sea cliff, though many of these are little more than a trickle in dry weather. When there is a strong onshore gale, the waterfalls sometimes run backwards!

  17. Cross the stile and continue along the coast path until you reach a waymark signposted to Tregardock beside a kissing gate.

    Next to the beach below the ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, you can still see remains of a slate dressing and shaping floor located on a rock jutting out to sea below the main line of the cliffs. Here, lengths of wall enclose a level platform on the rock where there are traces of dressing waste. At the point nearest the mainland are rows of stacked finished slates, apparently never retrieved and now inaccessible. When the quarry was working, this rocky platform was probably linked to the mainland either by an aerial cableway (known as a blondin) or a horse-powered winch (known as a whim).

  18. At the waymark, continue on the coast path, in the direction signposted to Tregardock, until you reach a gate.

    The ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, near Tregardock, is over 1000 years old and included a manor house first recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086 when it was known as Duuenant. Its Domesday entry notes that it had "land for 3 ploughs" and 40 acres of pasture. The name comes from the Cornish "downans" which means deep valley. The suffix 'chapel' was added later in the 1300s.

  19. Go through the gate and follow the steps down into the valley. Where a path leads off the steps to the right, follow this to zig-zag down the valley and rejoin the cliff-edge path. Continue to a gate and footbridge at the bottom.

    There is a geocache at Dannonchapel by Kernow Cachers.

  20. Cross the bridge over the stream and follow the path past a waymark (in the direction of Tregardock). Continue through a gate near the top of the cliff until you reach another waymark.
  21. At the waymark, keep left on the coastpath across a wooden footbridge. Follow the coastpath alongside several more fields until you eventually reach a kissing gate with a National Trust sign for Tregardock Cliffs.

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape. They are one of the best eating mushrooms and have firm white flesh.

  22. Go through the gate and follow the path through another kissing gate and down to a waymark at the bottom of the valley.

    When you reach the waymark, you can turn left to go down to the beach. When you're done at the beach, follow the path back up to the waymark.

    Tregardock beach is about a mile along the coast from Trebarwith Strand, in the direction of Port Isaac and is reached via a public footpath that crosses the coast path to reach the farm at Tregardock. There is no beach at high tide at Tregardock. As the tide goes out, several small beaches merge into a long stretch of sand. A waterfall plummets from the cliffs at the back of the beach and there are some caves within the cliffs. The largest part of the beach is on the left and this gets cut off as the tide rises, so check the tide times carefully and don't get stranded when the tide comes in!

    There is a geocache just above Tregardock Beach courtesy of Kernow cachers.

  23. At the waymark, take the coast path towards Trebarwith Strand. Follow the path over a slate footbridge and up the side of the valley to a gate.
  24. Go through the gate and follow the coast path across Treligga Common, passing over the headlands of Tregonnick Tail and Start Point, until you reach a slate bridge at the bottom of the deep valley at Backways Cove.

    Between Tregardock and Backways Cove lie the remains of Treligga Aerodrome (HMS Vulture II). Both the observation/control tower and the reinforced hut near the sea (towards Backways Cove) are still standing, as are the accommodation and service huts near Treligga village. The control tower has quite recently been repaired and converted into accomodation.

    Before the Second World War, HMS Vulture II was used as a glider site. However the Admiralty requisitioned 260 acres of land in late 1939 for the purposes of constructing an aerial bombing and gunnery range. Unusually, the entire operation at HMS Vulture II was staffed by the Women's Royal Naval Service.

    On 16 September 1943, an American B-17 Flying Fortress was forced to make an emergency landing at HMS Vulture II. The pilot, Capt Jack Omohundro, had ignored a red flare warning him to keep clear. The plane was chronically short of fuel and running on three engines after a raid on U-boat pens at Nantes in France. The bomber had left its formation to try and preserve what little fuel it had left. Spotting the tiny Treligga airstrip, he skillfully landed 'wheels-down' just 50 yards short of the Wrens quarters.

  25. Cross the bridge and bear left to cross a wooden footbridge over a stream.

    From here you can follow the paths to the left to explore the rocky beach of Backways Cove. The path to the left, before you cross the slate bridge, leads down to the cove but is slippery in wet weather. On the other side of the footbridge, paths lead to the remains of the quarry workings.

    Backways Cove is a small rocky inlet and beach at the bottom the the valley below Trebarwith Village, just south of Trebarwith Strand. The location features in "The International Directory of Haunted Places":

    "Backways Cove, a North Cornwall inlet just up the coast from Trebarwith Strand, is still haunted by many unidentified presences who are thought to be the spirits of shipwrecked sailors whose bodies washed up there after they drowned. Numerous ships were torn apart on the jagged rocks offshore, and the shadowy spirits of their crew are still trying to make it to shore."
  26. After exploring Backways Cove (via the path leading towards the sea) return to the waymark beside the footbridge and follow the path up the steps to reach a waymark.

    There is a geocache near Backways Cove courtesy of SMacB.

  27. Turn right in the direction indicated by the waymark, to stay on the coast path and follow it to the next waymark.

    A tale of Backways Cove was recounted by a folklore enthusiast called Kath:

    Many years ago a man with two sons farmed in the vicinity, and on his death left his entire estate to his eldest son, cutting out the younger one without a penny. The younger son went away wracked with jealousy that fomented over time to be an obsession until, convinced that he had been cheated of his birthright he set out to wreak revenge on his elder brother. One night he crept onto the farm and set fire to the buildings. The blaze took hold and the entire property was razed to the ground. The ruins of this once prosperous farm may still be seen near Backways - a few stones from the farmhouse and outbuildings were all that remained. Only in the morning did he discover that his brother had died the day before - and left the entire estate to him.
  28. Turn left at the waymark and follow the coast path to a waymark beside the fence near the top of the headland.

    During stormy weather, sea foam is driven into Backways Cove by the wind and vortices form against the sheer cliffs resulting in small tornadoes of sea foam.

    Sea foam (also known as "spume") is formed due to organic compounds known as surfactants present in seawater. Under turbulent conditions, the surfactants form persistent bubbles which float to the surface, stick to each other through surface tension and are driven onshore by the wind. The surfactant compounds themselves arise from processes such as the offshore breakdown of algal blooms.

    On beaches, sea foam can conceal deep pools and gullies with an apparently flat, uniform surface. Tread carefully, especially on beaches you don't know well, to avoid walking off the edge of a precipice or vanishing into icy cold water.

  29. At the waymark, stop to admire the view and get your breath back, then follow the coast path to a gate.

    Gull Rock lies approximately 500 metres offshore from Trebarwith Strand and has given its name to RR Gordon's crime thriller set in the area. It is made of a very hard volcanic material that has withstood the sea whilst the slate around it has been worn away. On the seaward side, where a chunk of the rock has cracked off, you can see the tightly folded volcanic rocks within.

    Recently the rock has turned green during the spring and summer, and brown in autumn, due to Rock Samphire colonising the side facing the beach, which is sheltered from the westerly winds, helped by fertiliser provided by the seabirds also colonising the sheltered side of the rock.

    In the 1800s, the rock at Trebarwith (or Trebarrow as it was known then), was known as Otterham Rock, or Rocks, acknowledging the rocks to the side of the main rock which protrude a small amount from the water. Below the surface of the water, these are part of an extensive reef.

  30. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate, and bear left on the path towards the rock outcrop. Follow it around the headland until it meets a corner in the fence.

    The headland on the far side of the bay is Penhallic Point and the one you are now standing on is known as Dennis Point.

    Dennis Point is thought to be a corruption of the Cornish word "Dinas" meaning "castle". Clifftop forts on top of headlands such as this were common in the Iron Age. An area on Penhallic Point opposite is also known as "Dennis Scale" which is thought to have similar origins. However no evidence has so far been found that there was a fort on either headland, so it remains an unsolved mystery. The name Dennis crops up elsewhere in Cornwall such as Dennis Hill at Padstow, which is thought to get its name from the rocky outcrop on the hill that looks a bit like a fort.

  31. Keep left along the fence behind Port William beach until you reach a flight of steps.
  32. Descend over 100 steps to a reach a waymark.

    There are spectacular views of Trebarwith Strand and Penhallic Point on the way down. Make sure you stop walking to admire the view (or read this!) and look where your feet are going when descending the steep steps.

  33. Follow the path from the waymark and descend a last flight of steps, then follow the path to a waymark just before a stile.
  34. From the waymark, cross the stile and follow the track to the Port William pub, where a well-deserved refreshment may be in order.

    The Port William Inn sits on the cliff top above Trebarwith Strand. The outdoor terrace and conservatories of the Port William offer spectacular views of the beach and coastline for weary walkers to enjoy some well-deserved refreshment. The interior is decorated with various trophies recovered from ship wrecks such as brass propellers, lanterns and even half of a rowing boat!

  35. After suitable fortification, follow the coast path down to the road at Trebarwith Strand.

    Several small beaches make up Trebarwith which, at low tide, join to form a mile long ribbon of golden sand:

    • Port William round to the left is strewn with rocks except at the lowest point of the tide. It's popular with local surfers but not recommended for novices due to the rocks and strong currents.
    • Trebarwith Strand is in the centre and is the lifeguard-patrolled area. It's sandy on the left and, to the right side, there are more rocks including some good rock pools.
    • Lill Cove around to the right. There is a gully between rocks that makes it possible to get through to Trebarwith when access is cut off by the sea (though this route isn't available at high tide). There is also a footpath up from Lill Cove joining the coast path which is accessible at all times of the tide.
    • Vean Hole, further to the right, is a continuation of Lill Cove once the tide is a little way out, but is technically a separate beach.
    • Hole Beach to the far right. There is some good snorkelling along the right-hand edge of Hole Beach and due to the large numbers of Sea Bass, it's a good spot for beachcasting. Apart from at the lowest couple of hours of the tide, Hole Beach is cut off by the sea.
  36. Take the public footpath on the right of Trebarwith Surf Shop, climbing up the path to the cliff top until you reach a waymark.

    If the tide is out, there are some rockpools on the right-hand side of Trebarwith Strand towards Lill Cove.

    Rockpool fishing is quite a popular childhood pass-time as a number of species can be lured out from hiding places by a limpet tied on a piece of cotton (leave a trailing end as if anything swallows the limpet, very gently pulling both ends of the cotton will cause it to release the cotton-tied limpet from its gullet). If you are intending to put the creatures into a bucket: ensure it is large, filled with fresh seawater and kept in the shade; ideally place in a couple of rocks for the creatures to hide under; do not leave them in there more than a couple of hours or they will exhaust their oxygen supply; ensure you release them into one of the rockpools from which you caught them, preferably a large one (carefully removing any rocks from your bucket first to avoid squashing them). Species you're likely to encounter are:

    • Blennies which are fish about 5-10cm long, often found hiding under rock ledges. They can change their colour from sandy to black within a couple of minutes in order to match their surroundings. They have strong, sharp teeth for crunching barnacles and will bite if provoked.
    • Shore crabs and sometimes edible crabs which can also sometimes be found hiding under rocks (carefully replace any rocks you lift up). Shore crabs have a fairly narrow shell which is almost as deep as it is wide. They vary in colour from green through brown to red (the redder individuals are apparently stronger and more aggressive). Edible crabs have a much wider shell which resembles a Cornish Pasty and are always a red-brown colour. Both have powerful claws so fingers should be kept well clear.
    • Shrimps and prawns - do you know the difference? Prawns are semi-transparent whereas shrimps are sandy coloured and generally bury themselves in sand.
  37. When you reach the waymark, follow the coast path up the steps. Continue to reach another waymark where the path to Treknow rejoins the coast path.

    In 1886, an iron-hulled sailing ship, named the "Sarah Anderson", got into difficulties off Tintagel Head in a violent gale then blew up and sank off Trebarwith Strand. According to one source, the ship was carrying a cargo of 966 tons of manganese ore and 15 tons of dye. According to another source, it was hinted that she might also be carrying copper, silver and gold. Due to the huge waves, the Port Isaac lifeboat was unable to launch and the ship was out of range of the marine rescue rockets brought to the shore at Trebarwith Strand. All the 14 crew and 4 passengers (2 women, including the captain's wife, and 2 children) perished. Divers report that the hull is now almost entirely gone. One section (presumably the stern) stands about 3m high and is separated from the main wreckage; the remainder consists of the ore cargo with the odd piece of steel protruding.

  38. Follow the path left, up the steps, until you reach another waymark at a junction of paths.

    The beach at the bottom of the cliff to your left is Lill Cove.

    A small water-powered copper mine existed on the cliff slopes above Lill Cove and was worked until the early-mid 19th Century. A hollow in the cliff was dammed to form a reservoir which was fed by a leat; the reservoir in turn was used to drive a waterwheel to pump out the groundwater draining into the mineshaft. Little remains now as some massive landslips on this part of the cliff have obliterated the majority of the mine workings.

  39. At the waymark, bear left in the direction indicated to Tintagel and follow the coast path up to the rock outcrop. From the top continue along the cliff until you reach another waymark (to Treknow) at the start of the coastal quarries.

    Coastal slate quarries are confined to a small area of about five miles either side of Tintagel and relatively little is known about their history. In order to work the vertical cliff face, strong points were built from stone above the working areas. From these, ropes were dropped down the quarry face. Men were lowered down the faces on these ropes to split blocks of slate from the face. The slate was hauled up the cliff face on these cables which were wound using "horse whims" - capstans powered by horses or donkeys walking around a circular platform. The stone was split and shaped on "dressing floors" on the cliff top, originally covered with sheds. The remains can be seen as level terraces and are marked by screes of waste rock on the cliff below. Splitting was (and still is) done with a bettle (hammer) and chisel, hence the name of the pub in Delabole.

  40. At the waymark, continue straight ahead on the coast path passing the rock pillars at West quarry and following the wall behind Lanterdan quarry until you reach a waymark.

    There are 9 slate quarries along the coast path between Tintagel Church and Trebarwith Strand. Slate quarrying began here in the early 14th Century and ended just before The Second World War. The slate was exported from Tintagel Haven and later from boats moored along Penhallic Point.

    Cutting the stone and loading it onto boats was harsh work and could be lethal. A local man - Alan Menhenick - recalled in the 1920s: "we worked with the tides, around the clock. I've been at the quarry at four in the morning. When the tide was in, we blasted; when the tide was out, we went down and collected the slate". In 1889, three men vanished into the sea when the face that they were boring sheared off the cliff.

  41. Continue straight ahead at the waymark, past more of Lanterdan quarry and along the edge of a wall to a stile.

    The Lanterdan and West quarries above Vean Hole and Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were once some of the biggest in North Cornwall. In Lanterdan quarry there is a tall, distinctive, pinnacle of rock. This was left behind as the slate in the pinnacle was not of a sufficiently good quality; shorter pinnacles were left in West Quarry for the same reason. These chunks of inferior-quality slate were known locally as "scullocks".

    The quarry workings never reached the shoreline as there is a fault along the base of the quarry, known as the Trambley Cove Formation. This is made of volcanic lava which was no good to the quarrymen. Lanterdan Quarry is now owned by the National Trust and is a site of geological interest for two reasons. The first is that it contains brachiopod (shellfish) fossils. Second, a rare mineral called monazite is present which contains rare-earth (lanthanide) metals.

  42. Cross the stile and follow either of the paths which rejoin at a waymark; continue around the cliff edge to another waymark on the other side.

    The vertical cliffs of Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were the site of Caroline Quarry. The hole in the cliff, from which the beach gets its name, was excavated to quarry out a chunk of good quality slate. Caroline together with the neighbouring Lanterdan and Bagalow quarries, were some of the last still operating at the start of the 20th century but production had ceased by the Second World War.

  43. Keep left at the waymark, along the coast path behind Hole beach, until you reach a stile in a stone wall.

    The crumbling stone walls and the outlines of buildings are the remnants of Bagalow quarry.

    Bagalow Quarry is located above Bagalow Beach, next to Hole Beach and just south of Trebarwith Strand. It is one of the smaller coastal quarries in the Trebarwith area and dates back to at least the 1800s. The quarry face runs from sea level all the way to the top of the cliff. At the top of the cliff are remnants of a powder magazine (some low banks are all that remain) and a horse whim used to haul the slate up from the quarry face.

  44. Cross the stile into a field and follow the fence on the left to a stile in the far left corner before the gateway.
  45. Cross the sequence of two stiles and follow the path along the wall above the cliffs of Dria quarry on your left, until you reach a kissing gate.

    Dria quarry, between Bagalow Quarry and Penhallic point near Trebarwith Strand, was developed from a natural cove (Dria Cove). No processing areas or lifting equipment have been found above the quarry, so it is assumed that this was shared with Bagalow Quarry. Dria Cove is no longer accessible due to landslips on the cliffs between the two quarries.

  46. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path around to the left towards the bench on the point.

    Penhallic Point is the long headland along the northern edge of the bay at Trebarwith Strand. In the late 1800s, a wharf (which has now been taken by the sea) was constructed at Penhallic Point where the cliff edge was trimmed to form a 100ft vertical face. Ships could lie against this face as there is a natural deep-water berth alongside the point. The slate was lowered by crane down into their holds.

    A path from the top of the point zig-zags down to a grassy platform where there is a lifebuoy. It's possible to get down onto the rocks from here, but only in the summer when the rocks are dry.

  47. From the bench on Penhallic Point, keep right and follow the path along the coast via Higher Penhallic Point to a kissing gate.

    Wild chives are rare in the UK, but can be found next to the paths and rocky ledges along the cliffs around Tintagel, particularly where a spring seeps water out across the cliff. There is a large cluster of them on the path down to Penhallic Point, near Trebarwith Strand, where water seeps across the path. In summer when they flower, they attract large numbers of bumblebees and butterflies.

  48. Go through the kissing gate and take the path to the left, passing more quarry workings, to reach a waymark.

    On the point opposite Tintagel Youth Hostel is the remains of Gull Point Quarry. The quarry face on the rear of the cove was known as Lambshouse Quarry (Lambshouse is the name of the cove). Both were worked in the 19th Century, and jointly for much of their later life. The round platform near the top is the remains of a "horse whim", where a blindfolded donkey used to circle, operating the winding gear.

  49. At the waymark, take the left path and follow this until it emerges onto the track to the Youth Hostel.

    Long Grass Quarry on Dunderhole Point was the last working quarry along the Tintagel coast, closing in 1937. The old office, engine and blacksmith's shop of the quarry have been converted into Tintagel youth hostel. You can see the slate waste from the dressing floors on the cliff face below it.

  50. Turn left onto the track towards the Youth Hostel then bear right to a waymark. Take the small coastal path beside the waymark and follow this to another waymark and remains of a concrete structure. Continue until the path eventually emerges onto a larger gravel path at a waymark.

    The Dunderhole is a 100ft deep split in the cliff face at Dunderhole Point at the end of Tintagel's Glebe Cliff. The name is a corruption of "Thunder hole"; when a big swell is running, the reason becomes apparent. When waves surge into the cavern at the bottom, they compress the air, which then exits through the Dunderhole with a sound that you do not so much hear, as feel resonate through your entire body.

  51. At the waymark, turn left and follow the gravel path until you reach another waymark.

    The cliffs around the church are known as Glebe Cliffs.

    A glebe was an area of land used to support the parish priest (in addition to a residence in the form of a parsonage or rectory). Occasionally the glebe included an entire farm. It was typically donated by the lord of the manor or cobbled together from several donated pieces of land.

  52. At the waymark, keep right along the gravel path and follow it towards the church until you reach a junction with another path beside a picnic bench.

    At this point you may wish to take a short detour to visit the church, returning to this point to continue the walk.

    Tintagel Parish church, dedicated to St Materiana, is located on Glebe Cliff at the end of Vicarage Lane.The first church on the site was thought to be in the 6th century, founded as a daughter church of Minster in Boscastle which is even older. The current church was built in the late 11th or early 12th century with the tower added in the late Mediaeval era. The Norman font bowl by the south wall is believed to have been brought from St Julitta's chapel at Tintagel Castle. The church also contains a Roman stone from the 4th century bearing the name of the Emperor Licinius which may be evidence that there was once a Roman camp nearby.

  53. At the church car park, facing St Materiana's church, turn left and follow the path marked "Coast Path and Access to Castle View" until you reach a waymark signposted to Tintagel Castle.

    Gillow quarry lies part-way down cliffs near Tintagel church, just below a rocky ridge along which the coast path runs before it joins the path from the church to Tintagel Castle. A pair of capstans, known as horse whims, were used to haul slate up from the quarry. A track ran up the cliff beneath the ridge, eventually emerging onto the path to Tintagel Castle. Slate would have been transported by donkey to Tintagel Haven and loaded onto the boats there.

  54. At the waymark, continue ahead (signposted to Tintagel Castle) until the path forks at the bottom of a flight of steps.

    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.

  55. Keep left at the fork, over the stile, and follow the path along the wall to reach the a waymark at the entrance to Tintagel Castle.

    A very large amount of 5th and 6th century Eastern Mediterranean pottery was found at Tintagel Castle in the 1930s, more than the total found in all other Dark Age sites in Britain. This included massive Tunisian oil jars, Carthaginian dishes, Aegean amphorae and Byzantine jars.

  56. At this point you have two choices: You can pay to enter the castle and leave past the steps to the beach and along the fence until you reach the bridge over the stream. Alternatively, you can turn right here at the waymark, then left down the steps to descend to the car park; then turn left past the English Heritage shop and keep right to reach the bridge over the stream.

    The small cove at the bottom of the valley is known locally as Castle Beach, though its formal title is Tintagel Haven.

    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.

  57. 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).
  58. When you reach a signpost, stay on the track until you reach a footbridge opposite another signpost.
  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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 also very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • 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 useful as some single women can just about manage one or two but not a dozen.

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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