- OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
- Distance: 4.9 miles/7.8 km
- Grade: Moderate-strenuous
- Start from: the footpath to The Strangles
- Parking: Lay-by opposite The Strangles footpath. From the B2663 between Boscastle and Tresparrett Posts, turn at the staggered crossroads just before Tresparrett Posts, signposted to High Cliff. Follow the road until you reach the parking area, just before the National Trust Strangles sign on the bend. Satnav: EX230LQ
- Recommended footwear: walking boots
- Panoramic views from High Cliff - the highest cliff in Cornwall at 223m
- Pretty wildflowers on the cliffs in spring and summer
- Clifftop views over the beach at The Strangles
- Bizarre folded rock formations of Voter and Alder Run
- Large grey seal colony at Buckator
Alternative walks in same location
- From the parking area, facing the road, turn right along the lane until you reach a public footpath on the left. Follow it to reach a kissing gate.
- Go through the gate and follow the path until it forks.
- At the fork in the path, keep left down the steps and follow the path until another path joins from the right.
The Strangles is a beach between Boscastle and Crackington Haven that is reached via a public footpath crossing the Coast Path. The Strangles gets its name due to the treacherous currents and jagged rocks that have wrecked many ships trying to navigate the rocky coastline of North Cornwall. This is not a safe beach for swimming unless the sea is completely calm without much surf. There is spectacular scenery both on the walk down and from the beach itself including a rock arch and the cliffs are covered with gorse and heather flowers in early autumn.
- Keep left where the coast path joins and continue to the next waymark.
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).
- At the waymark, turn left onto the coast path and follow it until you reach a waymark marked "To Road" at the top of some steps.
If the tide is out, you may want to stroll down to the beach first, returning to this point to continue the walk.
- At the "To Road" waymark, keep right towards Boscastle and follow the coast path through a kissing gate, down to the bottom of the valley and over a footbridge to a waymark at the top of the steps on the other side.
- At the waymark, keep left to stay on the coast path and follow it to the top of the bank where there is another waymark.
Looking back towards The Strangles, there are nice views of Samphire Rock and the Northern Door.
Rock Samphire has been a popular wild food since Celtic times. It was very popular as a pickle in 16th century Britain until it almost died out from over-picking in the 19th Century. Consequently, it's currently a protected plant but is now making a good comeback. In Shakespeare's time, a rope was tied to a child's ankles and he was dangled over the cliff to pick the rock samphire that grew in crevices and clefts in the rocks.
The completely unrelated but similar-looking Golden Samphire also grows around the North Cornish coast. The leaves look almost identical, but the daisy-like yellow flowers in summer are a giveaway, as Rock Samphire has tiny green-white flowers that look more like budding cow parsley. Golden Samphire is edible, but is inferior in flavour to Rock Samphire; it is also nationally quite rare in Britain.
- At the waymark, bear left along the top of the bank to reach a pedestrian gate. Go through this follow the coast path uphill along the edge of a field until you eventually reach the top.
The corner of the field is above High Cliff. If you make your way across the grass towards the cliff edge, there is a bench on the clifftop just below the coast path.
High Cliff, near Boscastle, is the highest sheer-drop cliff in Cornwall at 223 metres (732ft). To the north, there are views along the coast across The Strangles to Cambeak. To the south, you can see the rocky islets of Boscastle, Trevalga and Tintagel. Almost directly below is the rocky promontory of Voter Run which has some impressively folded rocks that have been compared to molten toffee.
- Continue ahead to follow the coast path towards the next valley, keeping right along the coast where the path forks, to reach a kissing gate.
- Go through the kissing gate and follow the path down into the valley until you reach a footbridge.
Well-preserved fossilised remains of plants can be been found in the black shales in the landslide at Rusey Cliff near Boscastle. These date back to 320-350 million years ago during the Carboniferous period. The "main" landslide is half-way down the 680 foot high cliff in a location that isn't safely accessible, but many of the rocks dotted either side of the coast path have come from the landslide, so you may be able to find fossils if you can find a lump of shale to split.
- From the footbridge, follow the path to a waymark where a path descends to Rusey Beach (dangerous and not recommended).
- At the waymark, bear left to follow the waymarked coast path until you reach a kissing gate at the top of Rusey Cliff.
There is a quite large feral population of goats roaming free on the cliffs near Crackington Haven which are used to graze down the vegetation in the difficult-to-access areas on the high cliffs along this part of the coast. The grazing encourages wildflowers and provides the coastal heath habitat that may allow the Large Blue butterfly to be reintroduced.
- From the kissing gate, follow the coast path until you eventually reach a footbridge crossing a marsh.
In the past, when the cliffs were grazed regularly, this provided habitat for the Large Blue butterfly and the red ant on which it depends. The caterpillars secrete honeydew, which causes ants to carry the caterpillar down into their nests, to feed on this. The caterpillar then proceeds to eat some of the ant eggs and larvae without the ants appearing to care. In fact, the ants even escort the butterfly to the surface, and protect it from predators whilst its wings dry.
What's even stranger is that if the ant colony produces more than one queen, at this point the ants seek out, kill and eat the caterpillars. It's possible this is an evolutionary response to raise the "birth rate" in the colony, by removing predation from the caterpillars, prior to a potential split-off of a satellite colony with the new queen.
As farming became more intensified and clifftop grazing stopped, the cliffs became overgrown and there was too much shade for red ants. Consequently the Large Blue became extinct in the UK in 1979. Now the cliffs are once more being grazed and the conditions are suitable for red ants, it is hoped that one day soon it will be possible to reintroduce the Large Blue.
- From the footbridge, keep right along the coast path past a waymark and through a kissing gate until you reach a kissing gate that emerges in a field.
Grey Seals are one of the rarest seal species in the world and the biggest land breeding mammal in the UK. Roughly half of the world population of grey seals is found in Britain, a large proportion of which are found in Cornwall. They are big animals with the larger males often over 10ft long; the females are somewhat smaller at around 6ft and usually lighter colours than the males. The latin name for the grey seal translates to the somewhat unflattering "hooked-nosed sea pig" and the alternative common name of horsehead seal isn't much better.
- Go through the gate and follow the right hedge of the field and go through another gate onto the cliffs. Follow the path to reach a kissing gate emerging into a large field beside a waymark.
Buckator is a remote beach at the base of sheer cliffs, just north of the hamlet of Beeny and about 2 miles north-west along the coast from Boscastle. Buckator is the largest seal colony on the North Cornish coast and one of the four key seal "haul out" sites in Southwest England (the others being Lundy, Godrevy near St Ives, and the Scilly Isles). Seal numbers in the Buckator colony peak in the winter and early spring.
You can just about see the seals on the beach from the bench next to the coast path, overlooking the bay. However, the best view down onto the beach is actually from the top of the hedge behind the bench. In front of the bench, the unfenced cliff slopes steeply into the sea; walking forwards to try to get a view could be dangerous.
- Go through the gate next to the bench, turn left and follow the hedge inland to a gate.
Seal pups have been seen in every month of the year but the majority are born in the autumn and early winter. Female seals mate soon after weaning their pups whilst the males are still around defending and patrolling the beaches. For just over three months the fertilised embryo does not attach to the wall of the uterus and does not develop. There then follows a gestation period of just under 9 months. This evolutionary strategy - known as delayed implantation - results in the pups being born at the same time every year.
- Go through the gate and down a path which brings you out on a lane.
- Turn left and follow the lane until you reach a track on the left.
- Continue along the lane until you reach a second track to the left with a "To the coastpath" sign.
- Turn left onto the track and follow it to a T-junction onto a lane.
- At the junction, turn left onto the lane and follow it back to the car park.
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