Crackington to Boscastle

Crackington Haven to Boscastle (via bus)

A one-way coastal walk, made circular via an initial bus journey, along the Shipwreck Coast from Crackington Haven to Boscastle passing the highest cliff in Cornwall and the long, sandy beach at The Strangles.

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After a bus from Boscastle to Crackington Haven, the walk follows the Coast Path around Cambeak and along The Strangles beach to reach High Cliff. The route then passes the rugged cliffs of Buckator and enters Thomas Hardy country, passing the waterfall at Pentargon before descending with spectacular views over Boscastle harbour.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

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Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 7 miles/11.2 km
  • Steepness grade: Strenuous
  • Bus: 95 from Boscastle to Crackington Haven.
  • 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)


  • Spectacular views all along the coast path
  • Sandy beach and rockpools at low tide on Crackington Haven
  • WW2 Shipwreck at Tremoutha Haven
  • Long sandy beach at The Strangles
  • Panoramic views from High Cliff - the highest cliff in Cornwall at 223m
  • Pretty wildflowers on the cliffs in spring and summer
  • Bizarre folded rock formations at Cambeak, Voter Run and Alder Run
  • Clifftop waterfall at Pentargon
  • Historic fishing village and harbour at Boscastle

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Coombe Barton Inn
  • The Napoleon Inn
  • The Wellington Hotel


  1. Start by catching the bus from Boscastle to Crackington Haven. Make your way to the track leading onto the beach from beside the phone box. Follow this over the bridge and then bear left to pass to the right of the bench and join the Coast Path signposted to Boscastle Harbour. Follow this to reach a gate.

    Until the nineteenth century, Crackington Haven was a small port, importing limestone and coal and exporting local produce such as slate. When the railways reached the district in 1893, the beach could be reached more easily (from Otterham Station) and became popular with holidaymakers.

    As the tide falls, the pebble beach gives way to a large sandy beach. It is west-facing and consequently quite popular for surfing when the tide is out, but care must be taken of the rocks on either side. The rocky ridges along the left side of the beach trap seawater, forming rockpools which support a range of shore life.

  2. Go through the gate and follow the path to a kissing gate.

    Pineapple weed is related to chamomile and is consequently also known as false chamomile. It's able to colonise poor soils on waste ground including cracks between paving. The flowers resembling little yellow balls are also quite distinctive but even more so is the pineapple scent when is trodden on or squeezed. The leaves can be eaten in salads and the leaves and flowers can also be dried to make tea.

    The winkles in the rockpools exposed at low tide leave quite artistic trails in sand wasted into the pools as they meander around grazing for algae.

    Winkles and Whelks are marine snails which can often be found on rocks exposed at low tide. Some species were widely eaten in England, rivalling France's snail-eating reputation. If you're considering foraging for these, you'll need to know your whelks from your winkles.

    Winkles (also known as periwinkles) are vegans which graze on algae on the rocks. They are fairly small and have a rounded shell, similar to a land snail but much thicker. They were a staple part of the diet of coastal communities in the past and were popular takeaway food at many English coastal resorts until recent years.

    The term "whelks" is applied to a range of shellfish species that are predatory, eating other shellfish by producing chemicals which dissolve the shells of their prey. The Common Whelk is another edible species. It is larger than a winkle and with a more elongated, wavy shell resembling a small, fluted ice-cream cone.

    The Dog Whelk, as you might guess from the name, is not regarded as edible by humans. It is more similar in size and shape to a winkle but with a notably more pointy shell (resembles a winkle with a church spire). It was collected to make purple dyes used for cloth and even to decorate the manuscript of St John's Gospel.

  3. Go through the gate and up the steps to the waymark. Follow the path to the right, indicated for Cambeak, to reach a sharp left bend at Bray's Point overlooking Tremoutha Haven.

    On a very low tide, you can walk to the left along the rocks from Crackington Haven to Tremoutha Haven. Amongst the rocks are the remains of the shipwreck of a German "E-boat" S-89 which, having survived several sea battles during the war, broke free from a tow in 1946 and ran aground. This was a high-speed torpedo boat with three V20 Daimler-Benz engines, the remains of which can be seen on the beach. Together the engines produced a hefty 2000bhp and consequently these were referred to as "Schnell boats". During service this one was moved between the Baltic and Black Sea by dismantling it and floating the parts down the Danube.

  4. Follow the path around the bend to the left, and onwards past a house. Continue through 2 kissing gates and down a flight of steps into a small valley to reach a footbridge.

    In autumn, sloes are often plentiful and can be used to flavour gin, sherry and cider. The berries can be harvested from September until nearly Christmas although more tend to shrivel as the autumn advances. Traditionalists say that you should wait until the first frosts in late November when the sloes are less bitter. This is because freezing breaks down the bitter tannins. Therefore you can pick your sloes in September before they go too wrinkly and then pop them in the freezer to achieve the same thing.

    From geography lessons at secondary school, you'll probably know that wave-cut platforms form where waves hit the cliff face and create a wave-cut notch into which the cliffs above eventually collapse. The reason the cliffs are eroded faster than the platform below them is more in the realms of physics:

    • The energy from a wave is concentrated when it breaks against the cliffs; when waves are breaking onto the gently-sloping platform, their energy is more diffuse.
    • On the platform, the force from the waves is spread along the breadth of platform as the tide recedes. However, the cliff face usually takes a beating not just at the very highest point of the tide, but also for some of the time either side.
    • The tide rises and falls sinusoidally with time, in other words, it changes at its most slowly at high tide where it can spend a bit more time bashing the living daylights out of the cliff face.

    Nevertheless, the platform does slowly erode. At Porthleven it is estimated that the platform is eroding at a rate of 1mm every 5 years.

  5. Cross the footbridge and follow the path to reach a gate and flight of steps leading to another footbridge.

    The sunny coastal fields provide an important habitat for wildflowers and the insects that depend on them.

    In early spring, queen bumblebees need to visit up to 6,000 flowers per day to gather enough nectar and pollen to establish their colony. Many commercial crops, such as oil seed rape, flower too late for the queens so the survival of bumblebees is heavily dependent on early-flowering rough ground plants and hedgerow bushes such as blackthorn.

    The point on the opposite side of the beach is recorded on OS maps as Pencannow Point.

    The imposing headland along the right-hand side of Crackington Haven is recorded on Ordnance Survey maps as Pencannow Point. The name Pencannow is a corruption of Penkenna which has persisted in some of the house names in Crackington Haven and has been revived on many of the coast path signs. Penkenna is likely to be a variation of the Cornish Pengenna, with pen meaning "head", and genna meaning "wedge-shaped".

    From the end of the point, there are nice views over Crackington Haven and across Tremoutha Haven to the Cambeak headland. In the other direction, you get a good view of Great Barton Strand and Little Barton Strand.

  6. Cross the footbridge and go through the gate on the far side. Then follow the path up the steps and go through the gate into the field. Follow along the edge of the field to reach a gate leading down into a steep valley.

    The noise that grasshoppers make is created by rubbing their hind legs against their wings. Crickets do something similar at night but just by rubbing their wings together.

    Grasshoppers "sing" for a number of reasons which include staying connected socially and sometimes simply because they are happy. Bad weather leads to grumpy grasshoppers and less singing.

    In the late 1700s, the Department of Ordnance (forerunner of the Ministry of Defence) began a mapping exercise for military purposes and the Ordnance Survey maps were born. The Ordnance Survey remains a government department but acts as a Trading Fund, raising revenue through the sale of its maps.

    The first edition OS maps were produced in the late 19th Century and were far more detailed than the previous tithe maps which were mostly concerned with land boundaries for taxation. The Ordnance Survey snapshot of the late Victorian period has been invaluable for historians to discover what was around before the 20th Century.

    The frequency with which the modern maps are updated is based on how much change there has been in a particular area together with a five-year rolling surveying programme; this means that the OS maps on sale can be out-of-date by up to approximately seven years. There is a web page on the Ordnance Survey site which gives the date when each 1:25000 raster tile was updated in their digital dataset, which will appear within the next paper map print run.

  7. Go through the gate and descend, crossing a wooden bridge and walkway at the bottom to reach a fork in the path at a waymark post.
  8. The route continues on the zig-zag path to the right to reach a waymark post near the top of the hill. The views from the top are spectacular but if you'd prefer to avoid the climb you can follow the path to the left instead indicated by the white waymark and skip the next two directions.

    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. In return, the plant is able to generate other nutrients (e.g. sugars by photosynthesis) that are useful to the fungi. A similar partnership between plants and fungi occurs in lichens.

    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.

  9. From the waymark, continue a little further on the zig-zag path to another waymark at a junction of paths, then follow the path uphill indicated by the yellow arrow to reach the top.

    The wheatear can often be seen on the coast during the summer month as it nests in rock crevices or rabbit burrows but returns to Sub-Saharan Africa every winter.

    For a long time, the wheatear was thought to be a member of the thrush family but genetic studies have revealed they are actually members of the (Old World) flycatcher family which also includes stonechats.

    The name "wheatear" is a 16th-century linguistic corruption of "white arse", referring to the bird's prominent white rump.

    Since modern birds don't have teeth to chew up their food, they swallow stones to do this for them. Gizzard stones have also been found in some dinosaur fossils (some herbivorous dinosaurs also had beak-like mouths) indicating that they used a similar approach.

  10. At the top, turn left, to keep the coast on your right, and follow the path down to a waymark where the easier path joins.

    Wild thyme grows along the coast and flowers from June to September with tiny pink flowers. During mediaeval times, the plant was a symbol of bravery, possibly due to derivation from the Greek word thumos, meaning anger or spiritedness. An embroidered motif of a bee on a sprig of thyme is said to have been given by mediaeval ladies to their favoured knight.

    Coastal land management including removal of excess gorse and grazing to keep taller plants in trim has allowed wild thyme to become more widespread as well as the Cornish chough. Wild thyme is a nectar source for many bees and butterflies and the food plant for young caterpillars of the large blue butterfly.

    Soay sheep are a rare breed, with large curled horns, that can be seen grazing the clifftop heath and grassland near Crackington Haven in winter. This helps to limit the growth of scrub so that rare wildflowers can flourish. This primitive breed is descended from a population of feral sheep, on the Isle of Soay in the Western Isles of Scotland, which is believed to be a survivor of the earliest domesticated sheep kept in northern Europe.

  11. From the waymark where the paths rejoin, keep right along the coast. Follow the path through one kissing gate and continue until you reach a kissing gate at the bottom of a small valley.

    The clumps of red strands in the gorse are dodder.

    If you come across a gorse bush covered in red threads, this is dodder - a parasitic plant. The red colour is because the dodder contains no chlorophyll. Instead of manufacturing its own food by photosynthesis, it pierces another plant (often gorse) and siphons nutrients from this. Its leaves have shrunk to tiny proportions for the same reason - they aren't needed to catch any sunlight.

    Once a dodder seed sprouts, the dodder seedling only has 5-10 days of energy reserves to reach a host plant before it dies. It uses chemo-sensors (equivalent to taste and smell) to locate and home in on a green plant.

    The name comes directly from mediaeval English and is thought to be unrelated to the verb "to dodder". It also has a range of folk names - some refer to the colour (e.g. fireweed and devil's guts), some refer to its parasitic nature (strangleweed and beggarweed) and others refer to its structure (wizard's net and witch's hair).

  12. Go through the gate, up the steps, and through a gate into the field. Follow the path along the edge of the field until you pass through a pedestrian gate and reach a waymark for Trevigue.

    The ridges of rock leading into the sea are known as Voter Run and Alder Run. They are formed of hard rocks which have been melted and folded by a tectonic plate collision. The cliff ahead is the highest in Cornwall and appropriately named "High Cliff".

  13. When you reach the waymark to Trevigue, keep right on the coast path and follow it until it joins the path to The Strangles beach.

    Trevigue is a farm just south of Crackington Haven, near The Strangles beach. The current farmhouse at Trevigue dates back to the 16th century, but a farmstead has existed on the site since the Norman Conquest. Today, the farm is partly tenanted from the National Trust as its 800 acres includes three miles of coastline, including The Strangles beach.

  14. Keep right on the path and follow it to a fork in the path at a waymark.

    From here, if the tide is out, you may want to stroll down to the beach, returning back to this point.

    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.

  15. At the fork, take the path on the left and follow it until you reach a waymark, marked "To Road", at the top of some steps.

    In autumn, honeysuckle produces shiny red berries that resemble redcurrants. They are toxic to humans and to dogs, but not to birds.

    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).

  16. 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.

    Between the two species, some gorse is almost always in flower, hence the old country phrases: "when gorse is out of blossom, kissing's out of fashion" (which is recorded from the mid-19th century) and "when the furze is in bloom, my love's in tune" (which dates from the mid-18th century). Common gorse flowers are bright yellow. Western gorse flowers are very slightly more orange - more like the colour of the "yolk" in a Cadbury's creme egg. Also like creme eggs, gorse flowers are edible but are significantly better for use in salads and to make a tea, beer or wine.

  17. 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 has a strong, characteristic, slightly lemony flavour and recently has become more well-known as a flavouring for gin. 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.

    Also completely unrelated is marsh samphire (also known as glasswort) which looks more like micro-asparagus. This is what typically appears on restaurant menus or in supermarkets as "samphire".

  18. At the waymark, bear left along the top of the bank to reach a pedestrian gate. Go through this and 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.

  19. 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.

    Seals are easily disturbed by the presence of humans (and dogs) and this is can be the difference between life and death for seals in several different ways. Perhaps the most obvious is that a panicking seal is liable to injure itself rushing for the water. When breeding, even mild disturbance can lead to mothers abandoning their pups which then starve to death. More subtly, disturbance also causes seals to burn up their precious energy reserves. Even in a "good" year, 75% of young seals can end up dying due to insufficient energy reserves (95% in a very bad year!). If a seal looks at you, this should ring alarm bells as it means you're too close. To watch seals responsibly, it's important to keep your distance (at least 100m), avoid being conspicuous (e.g. on the skyline) and minimise noise.

  20. 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.

  21. From the footbridge, follow the path to a waymark where the coast path turns uphill.

    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.

  22. At the waymark, bear left and then keep following the waymarked coast path uphill until you reach a kissing gate at the top of Rusey Cliff with a waymark pointing ahead for Beeny Cliff.

    To make wine from dandelion flowers, pour a gallon of boiling water over a gallon of flowers and steep for 2-3 days in a covered container, stirring occasionally. Then boil, add 1.5kg sugar and allow to cool. To the basic liquor, citrus is often added (lemon/orange juice and zest) which gives some acidity, and chopped raisins or grape concentrate can be used to give more body to the wine. Ferment with a white wine or champagne yeast.

    In the past, when the cliffs were grazed regularly, this provided habitat for wild thyme and red ants on which the large blue butterfly depends. As farming became more intensified and cliff-top grazing stopped, the cliffs became overgrown and there was too much shade. Consequently the large blue became extinct in the UK in 1979. Now the cliffs are once more being grazed and the conditions are suitable, work is underway to reintroduce the large blue to Cornwall after highly successful reintroductions in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

  23. Go through the kissing gate and follow the coast path to reach a gate and stile.

    The large square building on the headland in the distance is the Camelot Castle Hotel.

    Camelot Castle Hotel in Tintagel was formerly named King Arthur's Castle Hotel and is referred to by locals as simply Castle Hotel. The building was designed by Silvanus Trevail, Cornwall's most famous architect, and opened in 1899. Originally it was planned to be built on Barras Nose but after a local campaign with the National Trust to save Barras, it was built on the site formerly known as Firebeacon. The dramatic Victorian building was used for Dr Seward's Asylum in the 1979 film Dracula, starring Laurence Olivier (and the baby thrown out of the window in the film was in fact Dave - our software developer). It also featured in the ITV Comedy Drama, Doc Martin, as the location for Doc Martin's meeting with the Health Board.

  24. Go through the gate or cross the stile and continue on the path to reach a wooden walkway crossing a marsh.

    The caterpillars of the large blue butterfly 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.

  25. Go through the gate at the end of the walkway and cross the stepping-stones then keep following the coast path. Continue past a waymark and through a kissing gate until you reach a kissing gate leading into a field.

    During winter months, kestrels mostly hunt from perches rather than by hovering as this burns too much energy at a time when food resources are scarce. The reason the birds don't do this all year round is that hovering is a much more productive way to catch prey so when temperatures are warmer and food is more abundant they switch strategies.

  26. 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.

    Betony is a grassland herb, common on the coast, with pretty purple anthers that stick out from the plant. The name is derived from the ancient Celtic words bew (meaning head) and ton (meaning good) as it was used as a cure for headaches. From Roman times onward, it was believed to be a cure for a number of things (the Romans listed 47!) including drunkenness; even as late as the 1800s, Richard E. Banks stated that you should "Eat betony or the powder thereof and you cannot be drunken that day" and John Gerard (1597) said that "It maketh a man to pisse well". Betony was also used to ward away evil spirits (hence it is planted in a number of churchyards) and also to make a dark yellow dye for wool.

    Due to the curvature of the earth, the distance you can see to the horizon depends on your height above sea level. This increases with the square root of height (i.e. with diminishing returns). An adult typically sees the horizon about 3 miles from the beach. From the top of a 100 foot lighthouse, it is about 12 miles away. At the top of the highest cliff in Cornwall it is roughly 33 miles out but if a 100ft tower were built all the way up here, it would only allow an extra 2 miles to be seen.

  27. Go through the kissing gate and follow the fence on your right then cut the corner of the field to an opening in the far hedge.

    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.
  28. Go through the opening and follow the fence on the right to a kissing gate.

    Skylarks are the most common member of the lark family in Britain and are often known simply as "larks".

    Skylarks are one of the most widely distributed of all British birds, found from coastal dunes to mountain tops. In Cornwall, they can be seen both in coastal fields and on Bodmin Moor. The coastal heath is a particularly good habitat for them, being mild but with fairly short vegetation in which they can hunt for insects.

  29. Go through the gate and follow the path between the fences to a kissing gate.

    Gorse is also known (particularly in the Westcountry) as furze from the Middle English word furs. This itself is from the Old English word fyres, closely related to the Old English word for fire.

  30. Go through the gate and walk a few paces to a gate on the left where you have a choice. You can either follow the steep coastal descent ahead marked with a yellow arrow or the less steep descent through the gate to the left (keep left once through the gate to follow the path beside the hedge), rejoining the coastal path via a gate just before the coastal path climbs a flight of steps.

    There is evidence that at the time of the Danish invasions, the Saxons used beacon fires to warn their people to retreat to strongholds (in fact "beacon" is an Anglo-Saxon word). However most of the "Fire beacon" coastal place names are likely to stem from the early warning system put in place during Tudor times by Mary I. Initially this was to defend against a possible French invasion, but it was invaluable when the Spanish Armada approached Cornwall in 1588 and continued to be used throughout the Napoleonic wars.

  31. After the paths rejoin, climb the steps on the coast path and follow this over the headland until you reach the footbridge over the stream at the bottom of the valley at Pentargon.

    Common gorse flowers have a coconut-like scent but rather than fresh coconut, it is reminiscent of desiccated coconut or the popular brand of surf wax, Mr Zoggs. However, not everyone experiences the smell in the same way: for some people it's very strong and for others it quite weak. One complicating factor is that Western Gorse flowers don't have any scent, so you need to be sniffing a tall gorse plant to test yourself.

    Flower scents are volatile organic compounds which drift though the air and has evolved as an advertisement to pollinating insects that nectar is available. Squeezing the flowers releases these compounds onto the surface where they can evaporate and therefore intensifies the smell. Similarly the warming effect of sunlight helps the compounds to evaporate faster and so the smell is more intense on sunny days.

    During June and July, you might come across a plant on the coast with long and very bright yellow flowers, a bit like elongated gorse flowers. This is likely to Dyer's Broom (also known as Dyers Greenweed). As the name implies, the bright yellow flowers were used to dye clothing. As green was generally a more popular colour than yellow, the yellow fabric was often re-dyed with a blue dye such as woad or indigo to create green cloth. During Victorian times, there was so much demand for the dye that the plant was grown commercially. In West Cornwall, there is a variety of the plant that isn't found anywhere else in Britain.

    The 10ft long Porbeagle shark caught and released off Boscastle in May 2012 was estimated at 550lb which would make it the largest shark ever caught in British waters. The Porbeagle feeds on a variety of fish and is fast enough to chase mackerel, herring and pilchards which shoal around the Cornish coast hence is sometimes known as the "Mackerel Shark". Despite its size, there are very few reported attacks on humans (and these are questionable). The reverse however cannot be said: the Porbeagle has been overfished to the point of being endangered and continues to be caught both intentionally and as by-catch. Strict regulations and greatly reduced fishing quotas introduced in 2000 have begun to reverse the stock decline, though recovery is projected to take decades.

  32. From the bottom of the valley, follow the path ahead up 197 steps until you reach a kissing gate at the top of the valley.

    Large daisy-like flowers on the coast are likely to be oxeye daisies, also known as the dog daisy or moon daisy - the latter is said to be because they are so bright that they appear to glow in the evening. The flowers of oxeye daisies are edible and can be used in salads or deserts. The flower buds can also be picked in vinegar and spices and used like capers.

    Hanging valleys are common on the North Cornish coast and are created due to erosion of the relatively hard cliffs by the Atlantic waves being faster than erosion of the valley by a small river. In many cases, this results in a waterfall where the small river meets the sea cliff, though many of these are little more than a trickle in dry weather. When there is a strong onshore gale, the waterfalls sometimes run backwards!

  33. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge a short distance to another gate.

    English Stonecrop grows as a mat in rocky places and is recognisable in summer as dense clumps of star-shaped white or pale pink flowers. This is now being actively encouraged to grow on roofs in eco-housing projects to provide insulation.

    The leaves turn pink in dry conditions when moisture to move nutrients around the plant is limited. This causes sugars created by photosynthesis to build up in the leaves. At high concentrations, these react with proteins in the sap to produce red anthrocyanin compounds. This is the same process that causes autumn leaves to turn red when the plant cuts off supplies to the leaf.

    Thomas Hardy wrote the following poem, entitled Beeny Cliff, in remembrance of his wife:

    O the opal and the sapphire of that wandering western sea,
    And the woman riding high above with bright hair flapping free—
    The woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me.

    The pale mews plained below us, and the waves seemed far away
    In a nether sky, engrossed in saying their ceaseless babbling say,
    As we laughed light-heartedly aloft on that clear-sunned March day.

    A little cloud then cloaked us, and there flew an irised rain,
    And the Atlantic dyed its levels with a dull misfeatured stain,
    And then the sun burst out again, and purples prinked the main.

    —Still in all its chasmal beauty bulks old Beeny to the sky,
    And shall she and I not go there once again now March is nigh,
    And the sweet things said in that March say anew there by and by?

    Nay. Though still in chasmal beauty looms that wild weird western shore,
    The woman now is—elsewhere—whom the ambling pony bore,
    And nor knows nor cares for Beeny, and will see it nevermore.

  34. Go through the gate and follow the path along the wall, past a stile on your left to the Farm Shop, until you reach a gate.

    Amongst the better known pasties and clotted cream that you're likely to find at a Farm Shop, more esoteric Cornish fayre includes Hog's Pudding.

    Hog's Pudding is a type of sausage produced in Devon and Cornwall which as akin to a haggis. However, more popular recipes do not include offal but typically consist of pork, suet, bread, and oatmeal or pearl barley formed into the shape of a large sausage. These ingredients are similar to a "white pudding" of Scotland and Ireland, but Hog's Pudding is a lot spicier than white pudding as it also contains black pepper, cumin, basil and garlic.

  35. Go through the gate and follow the right hedge to a kissing gate.

    The white boulders in the field and also built into the walls are quartz.

    Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on Earth and chemically one of the simplest - it's just silicon dioxide. Pure quartz is colourless and forms hexagonal crystals where there is enough room to grow into an empty space (e.g. cave or geode). However, it is most often encountered as cloudy white lumps which have formed in a confined space so the crystals are all intermingled.

    Small amounts of metallic minerals such as iron can colour quartz pink (known as rose quartz) and can also create clear yellow (known as citrine) or purple (known as amethyst) crystals.

  36. Go through the gate and follow along the right hedge of the field a short distance to reach a stile.

    Swallows are often found near herds of livestock where the flies that swallows catch are more numerous. It is thought that swallows were much rarer before humans started keeping animals. Consequently, the rise of veganism is not good news for swallows - a decline in dairy farming and increase in arable will inevitably result in their decline.

    In Cornwall, cliffs erode at an average rate of between roughly 3cm - 30cm per year depending on the hardness of the rocks and location. In reality this often happens in infrequent sudden collapses rather than as a steady, gradual process. It was found that one massive storm in 2014 caused around 100 times the average amount of erosion. There are obvious implications from climate change leading to more frequent or more intense storms.

  37. Cross the stile and turn left onto the coast path. Follow this along the wall on the left, passing through a kissing gate, until you eventually reach a kissing gate at the very end of the wall.

    The small stream at Pentargon, just north of Boscastle, drops down a 120ft waterfall from a hanging valley to the sea. In contrast, the larger Valency River at Boscastle has cut a deep canyon, forming the harbour, and the valley floor slopes to meet the sea.

  38. Go through the kissing gate to a waymark and turn left. Follow the path down towards the harbour until you reach a waymark at the top of a flight of steps.

    Towards the end of Penally Point, the headland that forms the right side of the natural harbour, is a natural blowhole.

    Below Penally Point, the headland which forms the right wall of the natural harbour of Boscastle, is a natural blowhole. Around an hour each side of low tide, when a swell is running (which is most of the time in North Cornwall), the blow hole shoots a horizontal jet of water across Boscastle harbour and emits a thundering sound, hence it is also known as the Devil's Bellows. There is a cave all the way through Penally Point from the blowhole, following a fault in the rock. Inside is a large cavern and when the water rushes through from the outside, it compresses the air in the cavern which vents through the blowhole. Eventually the sea will erode away all the rock along this fault, forming a new island at the mouth of the harbour.

  39. Follow the steps down to emerge onto the path below and turn left. Follow the path until it emerges by a terrace of cottages.

    Penally Terrace in Boscastle gets is name from Penally Hill on which it is situated, above the Harbour Light café. Penally Terrace was formerly a fish cellar, purpose-built in the late 18th century when the pilchard trade was at its heyday. The original arrangement would probably have been open sheds on the ground floor and net lofts above, arranged around the central courtyard. They were converted into domestic accommodation in the early to mid nineteenth century. It seems that Boscastle's pilchard industry may have peaked a little earlier than Port Isaac where the new cellars were not built until the 1820s.

  40. Walk along the front of the cottages and bear right down the drive to reach the bridge over the river, next to the Visitors' Centre.

    Boscastle's Visitors' Centre is located on the north bank of the river, just before it reaches the harbour. The building housing the Visitors' Centre is the former pilchard cellars of the fishing village, which were known as the "Bridge Cellars". By the mid-eighteenth century, the quay had been improved and repaired and was receiving salt from Bristol for the pilchard industry. Around this time, the cellars, that have since been converted to the Visitor's Centre and café, were constructed as purpose-built fish cellars arranged around a central courtyard.

  41. At the bridge, turn left and follow the path past the Visitor's Centre to reach the main road; turn left to reach the car park.

    The building just past 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.

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