Boscastle to Tintagel coastal walk

Boscastle to Tintagel (via bus)

A one-way coastal walk, made circular via an initial bus journey, along the dramatic coastline of islands and arches from Boscastle to Tintagel, rated as one of the top five walks in Cornwall.

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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.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 5.5 miles/8.7 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • Bus: 95 from Tintagel Visitors' Centre to Boscastle.
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

OS Explorer 111 OS Explorer 111 (laminated version)

Click or tap on map for more info (blue=laminated)


  • 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

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cornishman
  • The King Arthurs Arms
  • The Napoleon Inn
  • The Wellington Hotel
  • Wootons Inn
  • Ye Olde Malthouse


  1. Start by catching the bus from Tintagel Visitors' Centre to Boscastle car park. 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 onward, and did not necessarily imply the characteristic shape and crimping we associate with the Cornish Pasty. A pasty recipe from 1746 contains no veg, just meat (venison), port wine and spices. The first "Cornish pasty" recipe is from 1861 which contained just beef and no veg.

    Even during Victorian times, main meat available to poor people would have been pork. The Cornish dialect word for a pork flatbread eaten in the mines during the 18th and 19th Centuries is hogen (pronounced "hugg-un") which evolved into "oggy" - the dialect word for pasty. The really poor had a "tiddy oggy" (with no meat at all).

    The "traditional" Cornish Pasty recipe contains beef, onion, potato and swede (referred to as "turnip" in the local dialect from its more formal name of "Swedish turnip") seasoned with salt and pepper. It's thought that this probably dates from the late 18th Century (when the Poldark novels were set) when potatoes and turnips were a staple diet for the poor but the first documented "traditional" recipe is not until 1929. Over 120 million Cornish pasties are now consumed each year.

  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. Bear right at the junction and follow the path 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. Pass around the coastguard lookout to face inland then follow the path along the right-hand side of the headland. Keep following 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 en route 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 waymark for Tintagel in front of a 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 en route 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 gate and follow the path down into the valley and across the bottom to reach 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 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. When you reach 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 stile consisting of slate footholds in the opposite corner.

    There are several quite common plants (catsear, hawkbit and hawksbeard) which all have yellow flowers similar to dandelion. Their main flowering period is later in the summer (late June and through July) than dandelion which itself peaks in April-May. If you want to have a crack and figuring out exactly which you are looking at, the leaves offer a good clue.

    Catsear is the most common, especially along the coast, and is the easiest one to tell apart as the leaves are hairy (hence the name).

    Hawkbit and hawksbeard both have non-hairy, deeply toothed leaves like dandelion but the leaves are narrower than dandelion. Hawksbeard has very well-defined "shark teeth" along most of the stem leading to the solid patch of leaf on the tip that all three have - these teeth are as wide as the widest part of the leaf. In hawkbit, these teeth are so tiny that the stem is nearly bare for about half its length.

    One other plant with flowers similar to the dandelion is the sow thistle but this is easily recognised by its spiky thistle-like leaves.

    Purple loosestrife usually grows in damp places such as next to a stream and can be spotted from spikes of bright purple flowers in August-September.

    The common name is thought to be the result of a 16th century mistranslation of the Latin name. Attempts were then made to make "loose strife" fit with reported uses for the plant to try to rationalise the wacky name. The Latin name is now thought simply to refer to the name of city in Thrace (Greek-Turkish border) which perhaps had the plant growing along its watercourses.

    Stonechats are robin-sized birds with a black head and orange breast that are common along the Cornish coast all year round.

    A similar-looking bird called the whinchat is also present in the summer but this can be identified by a white stripe across its eye. Both stonechats and whinchats can often be spotted perching on dead sticks or brambles protruding above gorse and heather, and consequently the term "gorse chat" or "furze chat" has been used locally to mean either species. For a long time, stonechats and whinchats were thought to be members of the thrush family but genetic studies have revealed they are actually members of the (Old World) flycatcher family.

  15. Cross the wall via the stile and follow the path until it merges onto a track.

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

    Razorbills and guillemots are the surviving cousins of the extinct great 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 members of the razorbill family which are also black with a white belly; the second family are all black with red legs.

  16. Bear right onto the track and follow this to where a path departs to the right marked with a Coast Path signpost, just before 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 signpost, turn right off the track onto the coast path towards Tintagel Castle 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.

    More about The Lady's Window.

  18. From the waymark, follow the path along the coast 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 coast path 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 rock face 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.

    More about the Rocky Valley carvings

  20. Keep left at the fork and follow the path up the headland to the top of the steps.
  21. When you reach the grassy area at the top of the steps, bear left and follow the coast path until you descend into a gully and reach a wooden signpost.

    From the signpost, you can turn right down the gully to explore the beach of Bossiney Haven and return to the waymark in the gully 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 gully 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.

    Jackdaws have been found to share food and will share more of a preferred food than an unpleasant one. Although the sharing often takes place in courtship and parenting, the behaviour has also been observed in unrelated birds. It is thought that this pro-social behaviour might be a sign of reciprocity ("do unto others...") and possibly empathy.

  23. From the footbridge, follow the coast path to climb up the next headland to 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 cormorants too.

  24. Cross through the stile and follow the path to approach a stone wall. Continue to reach a waymark beside a gap in the wall, just after 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 waymark, 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 gap in the wall 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 follow the coast path ignoring any paths to the left until you eventually reach a pedestrian 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 cormorants.

  27. Go through the gate and follow the coast path until you reach a waymark for 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, bear right a few paces to a junction of paths. The route continues downhill to another waymark at the bottom of the valley. 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 valley.

    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.

    Research by the Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust has found that the majority of seals in Cornwall are tourists, stopping over on their way to somewhere else. Very few seals spend the whole year in one place and some of those visiting Cornwall have been identified in Wales and others in France.

  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 fenced area 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 uphill past the buildings to the small car park.

    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 "Footpath to the village" sign (or to save a climb, you can catch a Land Rover to the top, skipping the next direction).
  33. Bear right onto the footpath signposted to Tintagel Village. Follow it 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.

  34. Cross the road and turn right. Follow the pavement until you reach the King Arthur's Arms with Tintagel Old Post Office opposite.

    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.

  35. Continue along the road from the Old Post Office 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.

  36. Continue straight ahead at 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 1930s 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.

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