Bossiney to Condolden

A circular walk from Bossiney through broadleaf woodland to the spectacular waterfall at St Nectan's Glen, climbing up to the burial place of a Cornish King, overlooking Tintagel, then back across the downs with views over Trebarwith Valley.

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The walk crosses fields from Bossiney to reach St Nectan's Glen. The route follows the glen alongside the river to reach St Nectan's Kieve (waterfall) and then continues upstream to the top of the valley. From here, it crosses fields and joins a lane leading to Condolden Barrow - the highest point in the area, chosen by the Celtic people during the Dark Ages to bury their leader. The return route is via tracks and footpaths, past the slate quarries of Trebarwith Valley and across Trewarmett Downs.


Did the Bossiney to Coldolden via St Nectans Glen walk yesterday, mainly in the rain (!), as a change from the coast path walks. Just wanted to say how nice to have such great, clear instructions - good job!

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 5.8 miles/9.4 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Start from: Bossiney car park
  • Parking: Bossiney car park PL340AY. Take the B3263 from Tintagel to Boscastle and turn left after some houses which are just past Ocean Cove caravan park
  • Recommended footwear: waterproof boots

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Woodland walk through St Nectan's Glen
  • Pretty waterfall at St Nectan's Kieve
  • Panoramic views over Tintagel and St Nectan's Glen from Trewinnick
  • Condolden Barrow - burial place of a Celtic King
  • Panoramic views over Port Isaac Bay and Pentire Point


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Avoid splitting the herd as cows are more relaxed if they feel protected by the rest of the herd. Generally the best plan is to walk along the hedges.
    • Do not show any threatening behaviour towards calves (approaching them closely to take photos, making loud noises or walking between a calf and its mother) as you may provoke the mother to defend her young.
    • If cows approach you, they often do so out of curiosity and in the hope of food - it may seem an aggressive invasion of your space but that's mainly because cows don't have manners. Do not run away as this will encourage them to chase you. Stand your ground and stretch out your arms to increase your size. Usually if you calmly approach them, they will back off. It's also best to avoid making sudden movements that might cause them to panic.
    • Where possible, avoid taking dogs into fields with cows, particularly with calves. If cows charge, release the dog from its lead as the dog will outrun the cows and the cows will generally chase the dog rather than you.
  6. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a gate on the far side of the field.
  7. Go through the pedestrian gate on the left of the field gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow it just past Halgabron Farm to a bend with a public footpath sign on the right.
  8. Take the public footpath to the right over a slate stile. Bear left slightly across the middle of a field, to an iron kissing gate approximately 50 metres to the right of the buildings.
  9. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path into the wooded valley until you reach a footbridge.

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

    History of St Nectan's Glen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  13. At the Welcome sign, turn left through the gap to emerge on a gravel path at a waymark. Immediately bear right to pass the metal gate on your right and then follow the path alongside the wall to reach a waymarked stile.

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

  14. Cross the stile and follow the path along the river to a stone stile.

    During Victorian times, the building of railways allowed primrose flowers picked in the Westcountry to be on sale in London the next day. Picking was done on a large scale but eventually became unfashionable, being seen as environmentally destructive. However all the evidence gathered suggests as long as the flowers were picked and the plants were not dug up, the practice was sustainable.

  15. Cross the stone stile and pass a wooden stile; then follow the path to a metal gate into a field.
  16. Climb the stile on the right of the gate and walk parallel to the right hedge to a gap in the hedge opposite.

    Bluebells grow all over the bank on the opposite side of the river.

    In Old Cornish, both bluebells and marigolds where known as lesengoc which translates to "flower of the cuckoo". In Modern Cornish, the marigold has remained more-or-less the same but the bluebell has been changed to bleujenn an gog ("plant of the cuckoo"). The association between bluebells and cuckoos exists in Welsh ("bells of the cuckoo") and Gaelic ("cuckoo's shoe"), and in some English folk names such as Cuckoo's Boots and Cuckoo Stockings. It is thought that the association is due to the time that bluebells flower coinciding with the time that the call of the cuckoo is first heard.

  17. Enter the next field and cross this, straight ahead, to the gap you can see in the hedge opposite.
  18. Go through the gap and cross the field to the wooden gate opposite.

    Rabbits were originally from the Iberian peninsula and were brought to Britain by the Normans and kept in captivity as a source of meat and fur. Rabbits are able to survive on virtually any vegetable matter and with relatively few predators, those that escaped multiplied into a sizeable wild population. Rabbits provide food for foxes, stoats and birds of prey.

  19. Cross the two stiles or go through the gate; then cross the field to the ivy-covered ruins of a mill.

    Ivy is well-known for being able to climb up almost anything but is not a parasite and is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Extracts from the plant were used in herbal remedies and still form the basis of modern-day cough medicines.

  20. Follow the footpath between the walls of the mill to reach a gate. Go through the gate and follow the path along a small meadow and stick to the main path through a wooded area to reach a stile.

    Watermills were first documented in the first century BC and the technology spread quickly across the Roman Empire with commercial mills being used in Roman Britain. By the time of the Domesday survey in the 11th Century, there were more than 6,000 watermills in England. During Norman times, the feudal system lead to a greater proliferation of mills with each manor being self-sufficient with its own mill.

  21. Cross the stile and follow the path along the fence, to reach a footbridge.
  22. Cross the footbridge and a stile into a field. Turn right and follow the right hedge to a waymarked stile near the right-hand corner of the field.

    In summer, damselflies and dragonflies can often be seen in the riverside meadows.

    Their two sets of wings beat out of phase, and the frequency, amplitude and the angles of each set of wings can be controlled. This allows dragonflies to hover in a completely stationary position for over a minute, perform extravagant aerobatic manoeuvres and even fly backwards.

  23. Cross the stile, footbridge and 3 more stiles to reach a wooded area at the bottom of a field. Turn left and follow the path uphill into a field.
  24. Follow the right hedge of the field to a gate at the top right corner.

    The reason moles create tunnels is that these act as worm traps. When a worm drops in, the mole dashes to it and gives it a nip. Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes earthworms and the immobilised live worms are stored in an underground larder for later consumption. Researchers have discovered some very well-stocked larders with over a thousand earthworms in them! To prepare their meal, moles pull the worms between their paws to force the earth out of the worm's gut.

    Moles have a special form of haemoglobin that allow them to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide in the low-oxygen environment within the tunnels. In wetland areas where there is no gradient available to retreat uphill, moles construct a large mound protruding around half a metre above the ground to act as an emergency flood shelter.

  25. Go through the gate and keep right along the track to reach a waymarked gate.
  26. Go through the gate and bear left across the field to a stile in the middle of the far hedge.
  27. Cross the stile and bear left across the next field (towards the left of the barn next to the white house in the distance) to a pair of gates in the corner of the field.
  28. Go through the gate on the left. Follow the right hedge a short distance to a stile. Cross the stile and bear left slightly towards a wooden structure (swings) and polytunnel on the opposite side of the field to reach a wooden gate.

    The settlement of Trewinnick was first recorded in 1327 as Trewynnec. The name is thought to be based on a personal name from the early mediaeval period, i.e. "Wynnec's farm".

  29. Go through the gate and ahead to the farmyard. Turn left and follow the track away from the farmyard until it eventually ends at a road.

    It may be an urban myth that Eskimos have a large number of words for "snow" but it's cast iron fact that there are at least this many words for "hill" in Cornish:

    • Meneth was often used to refer to Cornwall's higher peaks, or (outside of Cornwall) to mountains.
    • Tor was used for hills with rock outcrops protruding (and for the rock outcrops themselves)
    • Brea was used to refer to the most prominent hill in a district.
    • Ryn refers to a 'hill' in the sense of projecting ground, or a steep hill-side or slope.
    • Garth was used to refer to a long narrow hilltop.
    • Ambel refers to the side of a hill.
    • Mulvra refers to a round-topped hill.
    • Godolgh is a very small hill.
    • Bron means 'breast' as well as hill.
  30. Turn left onto the road and head uphill to a junction signposted to Camelford.

    As you reach the junction, the inscribed signpost dates from 1825. It uses the old local spelling "Lanson" for Launceston, which is still how the name is pronounced by many locals.

  31. Turn right towards Camelford and follow the lane over the hill until you reach a track leading off to the right (which is signposted as a public footpath).

    The location, overlooking Tintagel, and massive proportions of Condolden Barrow suggests that a figure of considerable importance is buried here. Thomas Hardy presented it as the final resting place of Queen Isolde in his play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall, about a pair of doomed lovers, Tristan and Isolde, who were much like Lancelot and Guinevere.

    Many scholars believe that the barrow is the burial place of Cador, the sixth century king of Cornwall. In the 12th century poem The Dream of Rhonabwy, Cador is described as one of Arthur's knights and is said to have led the British warriors in their rout of the West Saxon army at the Siege of Mount Badon. Cador is also mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain as Arthur's sword bearer at his coronation and a caretaker of Guinevere.

  32. Turn right onto the track and follow it, keeping right past a number of gateways to the left, until it ends in a kissing gate.

    Towards the end of the lane there are nice views over Port Isaac Bay. The island furthest out to sea is Newland, with the headland of The Rumps to the left of this and the island of The Mouls obscuring part of headland from this angle. The more distant headland sticking out beyond this is Trevose Head - you can just about see the lighthouse. The small islands off this are The Quies. The larger island between the two headlands is Gulland in from this, nestled between the two larger headlands, is Stepper Point at Padstow on which it's just possible to see the daymark tower.

  33. Go through the gate at the end of the track and bear right slightly to cross the field diagonally to the opposite (far right) corner of the field to reach a pair of metal gates.
  34. Go through the gates and turn right onto the track. Follow the track until it meets a lane.
  35. Turn right to Jasmine Cottage, then immediately left at the junction leading downhill. Keep following the lane downhill until it eventually emerges in Tintagel at the Catholic Church.
  36. Turn right beside the Catholic Church and follow the road back to the parking area in Bossiney, taking care on the stretch where the pavement ends after Westground Way.

    Before you reach Westground Way, the road you pass is called The Butts.

    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 very grateful if could you look out for the following:

  • Any stiles, gates or waymark posts referenced in the directions which are no longer there
  • Any stiles referenced in the directions that have been replaced with gates, or vice-versa

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