Circular walk through St Nectan's Glen and Rocky Valley to Bossiney Haven

Bossiney, St Nectan's Glen and Rocky Valley

The path to Bossiney Haven is closed due to a rock fall. This does not affect the walk route, just the optional diversion to the beach.

A short circular walk through the woods of St Nectan's Glen and canyons of Rocky Valley, past the ruined mills and labyrinthine carvings, and along the coast to the golden sandy cove at Bossiney Haven.

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The walk starts from Bossiney, heading out across fields to the hamlet of Halgabron then down into the woods of St Nectan's Glen. After circling the Glen the walk follows the lane to Rocky Valley and then follows the Trevillett river as it winds through ancient woodland out into a canyon leading to the sea. The route then joins the coast path, climbing up onto the headland and behind Benoath Cove and finally on to Bossiney Haven.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 3.9 miles/6.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Moderate
  • 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)


  • Woodland walk through St Nectan's Glen
  • Pretty waterfall at St Nectan's Kieve
  • Labyrinthine stone carvings in the ancient woodland of Rocky Valley
  • Spectacular coastal views over Willapark headland and Darvis's Point
  • Secluded sandy beaches at Benoath Cove and Bossiney Haven


  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.

    Cornwall 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
    • tenow - valley floor
    • coom - valley of a tributary or small stream (from Old English)
  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 Ramblers Association and National Farmers Union suggest some "dos and don'ts" for walkers which we've collated with some info from the local Countryside Access Team.


    • Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
    • Be prepared for farm animals to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
    • Try to avoid getting between cows and their calves.
    • Move quickly and quietly, and if possible walk around the herd.
    • Keep your dog close and under effective control on a lead around cows and sheep.
    • Remember to close gates behind you when walking through fields containing livestock.
    • If you and your dog feel threatened, work your way to the field boundary and quietly make your way to safety.
    • Report any dangerous incidents to the Cornwall Council Countryside Access Team - phone 0300 1234 202 for emergencies or for non-emergencies use the iWalk Cornwall app to report a footpath issue (via the menu next to the direction on the directions screen).


    • If you are threatened by cattle, don't hang onto your dog: let it go to allow the dog to run to safety.
    • Don't put yourself at risk. Find another way around the cattle and rejoin the footpath as soon as possible.
    • Don't panic or run. Most cattle will stop before they reach you. If they follow, just walk on quietly.
  6. Cross the stile and follow the right hedge to a gate on the far side of the field.

    Lady's thumb, also known as "redshank", grows on moist, disturbed ground often along field edges and tracks. It is related to water pepper and has similar long leaves but the lady's thumb leaves have a dark blotch (hence the thumbprint basis of the name). Its flowers are also in bigger clusters of pink rather than the puny white strand that water pepper produces. It is edible but without the chilli-like heat of water pepper (which provides a more memorable way to tell them apart).

    The plant has a plethora of local names in different parts of the UK but East Anglia deserves a mention for its baffling "saucy alice" and - an alternative suggestion for how the leaves got their markings - "devil's arse-wipe".

    Halgabron is likely to date from the early mediaeval period but the first record is from 1302. The name is thought to be from the Cornish words for "marsh" and "crow" so the gist is something along the lines of "crow's marsh". Although the farm is up on a hill, the fields slope down to the stream so the marsh could have been here.

  7. Go through the gate and turn left onto the lane. Follow it to a bend with a public footpath sign on the right.
  8. Take the public footpath to the right over a slate stile. Head down the middle of a field to a metal gate approximately 50 metres to the right of the buildings.
  9. Go through the 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 AD 500. 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 the 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 trout that supermarkets and trout farms stock is the Rainbow Trout (which has a red flush along its side) and is native to North America not to the UK. Our native trout is 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.

    The flooded quarry pits, farm ponds and pools in small streams in Cornwall provide ideal habitats for Freshwater Eels. Freshwater Eels have such an eccentric life cycle that it was a mystery for many years. The adult eels migrate from the lakes in which they grew up, across land, down rivers and 4,000 miles across the ocean to the Caribbean where they spawn and die. The larvae then drift for 300 days in the ocean currents from the Sargasso Sea to Europe. The tiny "glass eels" then migrate up rivers and across fields to find suitable homes.

    Eels have been a popular food for centuries as their rich, oily flesh is very tasty. Due to overfishing, pollution and also changes in ocean currents, the Freshwater Eel is now a critically endangered species. Since the 1970s, the numbers of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90% (possibly even as much as 98%). A research project has been started to breed eels in captivity. This is not straightforward as the eel is generally only able to reproduce after having swum 4,000 miles. The researchers have therefore developed an Eel Gym to help the eels find their mojo.

  12. Follow the path along the walkways, up the steps and past some derelict buildings until you reach the Welcome sign for the waterfall (which you may want to stop and visit - there is an admission charge).

    A kieve was a mining term for a wooden tub used for concentrating tin ore. After having the living daylights 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. From the Welcome sign, go up the two steps and turn left. Walk up the steps towards the toilets then bear left to follow the track uphill. Continue for about half a mile until you reach a junction with a chapel on the left and a well ahead.

    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. At the junction with the well and chapel, turn left, signposted to the waterfall. Follow the track down to the bottom of the hill where a small concrete path departs to the right.

    The chapel in Trethevy dates from mediaeval times, first recorded in 1457 mentioning a chapel dedicated to St Piran. Most things dedicated to St Piran occur further west in Cornwall but the association here dates back at least to Norman times when the Domesday book records that the nearby manor of Tregrembri was owned by the monks of "St Pieran". After the dissolution of the monasteries during the Tudor period, the chapel was used as a farm building. This continued until 1941 when its owner gave it back to the Church of England and it was rebuilt in 1942. The first mass was held in the chapel on 8th February 1944 and he died later that day.

    St Piran's Well at Trethevy is recorded in 1880 and included a hand pump behind it to draw water. The pyramidal slate structure above the well is relatively recent, built in the mid-20th Century. This was built onto the slate support for an open-fronted hut for a cart which formerly stood next to the well.

  15. Bear right onto the small path and follow this along the river to reach the footbridge that you crossed to enter St Nectan's Glen.
  16. Cross the bridge on the right and follow the path back up through the woods to the pedestrian gate.

    Ferns produce 2 different types of leaf (although they often look quite similar). The normal leaves are used for photosynthesis of sugars just like in other plants. Ferns also produce a special kind of spore-bearing leaf which can often be identified from the dots on the underside. In hart's tongue ferns, these are really obvious.

  17. Go through the pedestrian gate and continue ahead up the field until the stile comes into view, then make for this.
  18. Cross the stile and turn right onto the lane. Follow it down the hill until it ends in a junction.
  19. Cross the road and head for Trevillett Mill on the other side, in the direction indicated by the public footpath sign. Walk down the drive (which is a public right of way) until you reach a small footbridge on the right.
  20. Cross the footbridge and follow the path along the fence to a footbridge over the main river.

    The Trevillet River runs for approximately 3 miles from its source on the downs near Condoldon Barrow, down the steep valley situated between Condoldon and the line of hills at Trethevy. The river has a population of Brown Trout and there was once a trout farm, breeding Rainbow Trout, at Trevillet Mill. The Cornish name for the river is Duwy meaning "dark river".

  21. Cross the footbridge and turn left, following the path along the river to a waymark next to the ruins of a mill.

    The simplest design for a waterwheel is known as an undershot wheel where the paddles are simply dipped into flowing water. This works well in large rivers where there is a strong current.

    However, in hilly areas with smaller streams (such as Cornwall), the overshot design is more common where the water is delivered via a man-made channel (leat) to the top of the wheel where it flows into buckets on the wheel, turning the wheel through the weight of the water. An overshot design also allowed the mill to be located slightly further away from the main river which had obvious advantages during floods.

  22. From the waymark, follow the path between the buildings and around to the right to a footbridge. Cross the footbridge and follow the path downriver until you reach a coast path sign above another footbridge.

    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

  23. At the coast path sign, bear left and follow the path up the left side of the valley to where a path departs from the right, just past an overhanging rock.

    When you reach the rock, the (dead-end) path leading off to the right offers a nice viewpoint over the waterfalls.

  24. Keep left at the fork and follow the path up the steps to the top of the headland.

    A bird you may well encounter in the bushes along the coast is the stonechat.

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

    During the summer months, stonechats eat invertebrates. As temperatures drop and there are not so many of these about, they make do with seeds and fruit such as blackberries. Quite a few die in cold winters but this is offset by their fast breeding rate during the warmer months.

  25. At the top of the steps, turn left and follow the coast path until you descend steps into a gully and reach a signpost.

    The rocky island at the end of the headland on the far side of the bay is 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.

  26. From the signpost at the bottom of the steps you can turn right along the gully to explore the beach of Bossiney Haven and return here to continue the walk. To complete the walk, follow the path uphill, signposted to Bossiney, which ends at a gate into the car park.

    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.

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