Tintagel to Rocky Valley

The walk starts from the Visitor's Centre and passes King Arthur's Great Halls and the Old Post Office on its way to Tintagel Castle. The route then follows the coast to Barras Nose - the first coastal land ever purchased by the National Trust - and continues past the Iron Age hillfort at Willapark to the sandy beach at Bossiney Haven. After passing Benoath Cove, the route follows the river up Rocky Valley through the woodland. It returns to Tintagel via Bossiney, where Sir Francis Drake was elected to Parliament.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111 (scan QR code on right to order from Amazon)
  • Distance: 4 miles/6.4 km
  • Grade: Easy-moderate
  • Start from: Tintagel visitors' centre
  • Parking: Visitors' centre. Satnav: PL340AA
  • Recommended footwear: walking shoes or trainers in dry weather

Maps for this walk

(dark blue corner = laminated version)

Highlights

  • Sandy beach at Bossiney Haven and Benoath Cove
  • Panoramic views over the Tintagel coastline from the headlands of Willapark and Barras Nose
  • Cream teas and quirky mystic shops in Tintagel
  • Views over Tintagel Castle and Tintagel Haven from Barras Nose
  • Tintagel Old Post Office and King Arthur's Great Halls

Directions

  1. From the entrance to the Visitors' Centre car park, turn left onto the road and follow it to the roundabout next to King Arthur's Great Halls which you may want to stop and visit.

    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.

  2. Cross the roundabout straight ahead onto Fore Street. Continue along the road past the Tintagel Arms to the Old Post Office on your left, opposite the King Arthur's Arms.

    Just after the roundabout and King Arthur's Hall, look on the right side of the road 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.

  3. From the Old Post office, continue ahead, past The Wootons Hotel and around a bend to the right, until you reach the track to the castle.

    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.

  4. Turn left down the track to the castle marked "To the coastpath". Then follow the public footpath on the left marked "To the castle" until it rejoins the castle track further down.
  5. Bear left onto the track and follow it towards the castle until you reach a signpost which includes "Main castle entrance".

    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.

  6. When you reach the signpost, bear right in the direction of "Main castle entrance" until you reach a small car park in front of the English Heritage shop.
  7. Continue ahead past the English Heritage shop to the fenced cliff edge. At this point you may want look at/around the castle and beach.

    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.

  8. From the fence below the English Heritage shop by the cliff, follow the fence to a bridge over the stream then turn right up the steps and head to the public footpath signpost in front of the café.

    English Heritage began in 1983 as part of the government responsible for that ran the national system of heritage protection and managed a range of historic properties. In 1999 it was merged with the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and the National Monuments Record. In 2015 a charity was formed called English Heritage Trust which was split off from the government to manage the National Heritage Collection (which is still owned by the state). The "English Heritage" name is now associated with this charity. The remaining government body is known as Historic England and is responsible for the statutory and protection functions that were part of the old organisation.

  9. From the signpost in front of the café, follow the path left, up and over the cliff, until you reach a waymark just after a footbridge.

    The rocky headland is known as 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".

  10. From the waymark, you have two options. The direct route is to the right, up the steps, to reach another waymark. Alternatively you can turn left to explore the headland then make your way back along the top until you reach the waymark.

    Heather plants can live up to 40 years. Heather plants have a symbiotic relationship with fungi which grows inside and between some of the plant root cells. Up to 80% of the root structure can be made up of fungi. The fungi are able to extract nutrients from poor, acidic soils that plants struggle with. Conversely the plant is able to generate other nutrients that are useful to the fungi by photosynthesis.

  11. When you reach a the waymark on the top of the headland, keep left on the coast path and follow it towards Bossiney to a gate.

    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.

  12. From the gate, continue along the coast path until you reach the second of a pair of quite closely-spaced waymarks.
  13. At the waymark, bear left and keep left along the edge of the coast until you go through a gap in the wall with a Willapark National Trust sign beside it, and reach a waymark.

    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.

  14. At the waymark, the path to the left leads out onto Willapark headland. You may want to take a short diversion from the route there to admire the view. Then follow the coast path from here, in the direction waymarked to Rocky Valley, until you reach a V-shaped stile.

    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.

  15. Follow the path down a steep descent and around the back of Bossiney Haven to a footbridge.

    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.

  16. Follow the path up the steps to a kissing gate and down into a gully where there is a waymark.

    The gully to the beach at Bossiney Haven is a holloway thought to date back to Mediaeval times. Up until the end of the 19th century, it was the route used by trains of donkeys hauling sand up from the beach for use in fertilising the fields.

  17. From the waymark, take the path on the opposite side of the gully signposted to Rocky Valley leading along the coast past Benoath Cove until you reach a bench.

    From the waymark you can turn left along 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.

  18. From the bench, follow the path down into Rocky Valley to a waymark beside a footbridge at the bottom.

    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.

  19. When you reach the waymark, bear right towards Trevillett Mill to another footbridge further upriver.
  20. Cross the bridge and bear right to a waymark, then bear left between the buildings until you reach another waymark. Follow the path from here until eventually you reach a footbridge crossing the river.

    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.

  21. Cross the footbridge and follow the path on the other side, keeping right along the fence to another footbridge (ignore the little bridge on the left).
  22. Cross the footbridge and turn left; climb the driveway of Trevillet Mill to the main road.
  23. At the top of the drive, cross the road and turn right, joining the pavement just the other side of the junction. Follow this up the hill to Bossiney until the pavement ends.

    You'll pass Bossiney chapel and its mound on your left side as you walk through the village.

    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.

  24. Continue on the road from Bossiney back into Tintagel. Carefully walk along the short stretch through Bossiney where there is no pavement then follow the pavement from Westground Way past The Butts and back to the Visitors' Centre.

    The Butts was the area used for archery training during the Middle Ages by longbow Archers. In 1252, all Englishmen between the age of 15 to 60 years old were ordered, by Law, to equip themselves with a bow and arrows.

    Mediaeval longbows were formidable weapons that pierce armour at more than 250 yards away, with the arrow leaving the bow at around 200 mph. There is a story of a fallen knight found on horseback where an arrow had gone through one leg, right through his horse and embedded itself in his other leg.

    Typical longbows had draw weights up to 120 pounds and since most people today would struggle to draw even a 60lb longbow, this took a substantial amount of practice. A trained archer was expected to shoot 12 to 15 arrows per minute and hit a target a minimum of 200 yards away.

    In 1363, it was made obligatory for Englishmen to practise their skills with the longbow every Sunday and holiday. It "forbade, on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training, especially archery practise".

    According to the New Monthly Magazine of 1827:

    The ancient Cornishmen were most excellent archers; they would shoot an arrow twenty-four score yards; their arrow was a cloth yard long. wherewith they would pierce any ordinary armour. A person named ARUNDEL would shoot twelve score with his right hand, with his left hand, and behind his head; and one Robert BONE shot at a little bird upon a cow's back, and killed the bird without touching the cow.

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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