Port Isaac to Tintagel

Note this is a one-way walk. If you are extremely determined, it is possible to make this circular using the 95+96 buses but the overall journey takes around 2 hours.

A one-way walk from Port Isaac to Tintagel along towering cliffs, past the long, sandy beaches of Tregardock and Trebarwith, the slate pinnacles of the coastal quarries and via the mediaeval cliff-top church to the castle of Arthurian legend.

Get the app to guide you around the walk

Phone showing walk for purchase
Download the (free) app then use it to purchase this walk.
Phone showing Google navigation to start of walk
The app will direct you via satnav the start of the walk.
Hand holding a phone showing the iWalk Cornwall app
The app leads you around the walk using GPS, removing any worries about getting lost.
Person looking a directions on phone
Each time there is a new direction to follow, the app will beep to remind you, and will warn you if you go off-route.
Phone showing walk map page in the iWalk Cornwall app
A map shows the route, where you are and which way you are facing.
Phone showing walk directions page in the iWalk Cornwall app
Detailed, triple-tested directions are also included.
Phone showing facts section in iWalk Cornwall app
Each walk includes lots of information about the history and nature along the route.
Person look at phone with cliff scenery in background
Once a walk is downloaded, the app doesn't need wifi or a phone signal for the walk.
Phone showing walk stats in the iWalk Cornwall app
The app counts down distance to the next direction and estimates time remaining based on your personal walking speed.
Person repairing footpath sign
We keep the directions continually updated for changes to the paths/landmarks - the price of £1.99 for a walk includes ongoing free updates.
Loading...
The walk follows the Cornish Coast Path along the rugged coastline from Port Isaac to Tintagel. The route passes the ancient settlement of Port Gaverne and follows the cliffs to Barretts Zawn where slate was carried by donkey through a tunnel from the cliff-top. The walk continues past the abandoned hamlet of Dannonchapel to the large sandy beaches of Tregardock and Trebarwith Strand. From here, the route passes Tintagel's ancient church and the castle before ending in Tintagel.

Considerations

  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Reviews

I walked the Port Isaac to Tintagel walk on Friday 15th May. The weather was glorious and the flowers amazing -over 30 identified and whole carpets of squills.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 106,109,111
  • Distance: 9.7 miles/15.6 km
  • Grade: Strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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

Highlights

  • Spectacular views over Port Isaac Bay from the coast path
  • Wildflowers along the coast in spring and summer and mushrooms in autumn
  • Golden sandy beaches at Tregardock and Trebarwith Strand
  • Bizarre sea foam tornadoes during winter storms at Backways Cove
  • Ancient church of St Materiana
  • Tintagel Castle and Arthurian legend
  • Tintagel Haven and Merlin's Cave

Pubs on or near the route

  • The Cornishman
  • The King Arthurs Arms
  • The Port Gaverne Hotel
  • The Port William Inn
  • Wootons Inn
  • Ye Olde Malthouse

Directions

  1. Walk down the hill from Port Isaac towards Port Gaverne to reach the old pilchard sheds at the bottom of the hill.

    There were 4 large pilchard cellars built in Port Gaverne at the start of the 1800s which can still be seen at the bottom of the hill leading up to Port Isaac. In their heyday, in the early 1800s, it is suggested that they could have processed 1,000 tons of pilchards in a week.

  2. Follow the road behind the beach to the car park on the far side of the beach.

    Industrialisation of fishing and the introduction of rail transportation during Victorian times led to over-exploitation of the Cornish pilchard stocks to meet an insatiable demand from the Italian market and the population crashed. Possibly as a knock-on consequence of the lack of availability, demand from Italy dried up and this has allowed pilchard stocks to recover.

  3. Follow the road uphill for a short distance until you reach a flight of steps to the left.

    Port Gaverne, the tiny settlement and inlet neighbouring Port Isaac, was more prominent than Port Isaac in the past. In fact, the settlement at Port Gaverne dates back to mediaeval times, being recorded in the 1300s. The sheltered inlet made it a good place to launch boats and it is still a popular place to launch small craft today.

    The name was previously recorded as Port Kerne and on maps from the 1800s as Port Keverne. One of the quirks of the Cornish language is that "k" often transforms into "g" when placed after another word, which might have resulted in "Porthgeverne" (which is not far from how some of the locals still pronounce it).

  4. Climb the steps and keep left on the path out towards the headland, passing a pair of benches, until you reach a final path leading off to the right, just before the path ahead crosses a raised concrete area with an iron railing.

    During the summer, particularly at weekends, Port Gaverne is a popular spot for Pilot Gig racing.

    The six-oared elm boats known as Pilot Gigs were general-purpose work boats, but one of their uses was to transport the pilot to and from a ship, which resulted in the name. The first boat to meet a ship gained the business of transporting the captain (and thus being paid) and thus a "race" came into being, with different boats competing for business. Today, Gig Racing is of a recreational nature, but the boats are still built to the exact well-documented specification of the originals. Elm wood is highly resistant to water, so much so, that town water mains were made of elm before the widespread availability of iron.

  5. Turn right and follow the path along the edge of the coast until another small path leads off to the left just before the path ends on a wider path.

    Look out for Fulmars which nest along the cliff faces. You'll often see them soaring over the tops of the cliffs as they circle in to land.

    The fulmar is a grey and white bird related to an Albatross although it can be mistaken at a distance for a gull. Close up, the beak is the giveaway: the fulmar has a tube on its beak which is visible as a black bar across the beak at a distance. The tube is a gland for excreting salt from the seawater that they drink. As a defence mechanism, the fulmar regurgitates foul smelling oil from its stomach - the name comes from the Old Norse for "foul" (full) and "gull" (mar). The oil disrupts the waterproofing of predatory birds' feathers in a similar way to a crude-oil spill, so they avoid preying on fulmars.

  6. Take the inner of the two paths on the left to stay back from the cliff edge, then follow the path past a number of benches until it eventually emerges on the road.

    All along the North Cornish coast, the use of shell-rich sand to fertilise the acidic soils was a major part of the local economy until the end of the 19th Century. At Port Gaverne in Victorian times, the local women and children could earn as much as their seafaring men-folk by digging the sand at low tides and placing it above high water for the farmers to collect.

  7. Turn left onto the road and after the wall, left up the drive of Silver Spray (with a Coast Path sign to Trebarwith Strand) and follow it to the end of the tarmac.

    The road from Port Gaverne which joins the Delabole road was quarried out in the early 1800s by the Delabole Slate company and known as "The Great Slate Road". Around 100 ships a year came to Port Gaverne to collect slate, each capable of carrying 50-80 tonnes. It would take thirty wagons, pulled by over a hundred horses, to load a sixty ton ship. The slates were loaded by women, who then packed them in straw to protect them on the voyage. The incoming ships also brought coal from Wales and limestone, for the local limekiln, which was used to whitewash the cottages.

  8. Follow the grassy path from the end of the tarmac past the end of the fence. Continue on the coast path ahead along the cliff tops, crossing some stiles along the way, until it drops into a valley and you reach a wooden walkway.

    As you walk along the coast path, you'll likely see a number of gulls gliding along the cliff edges. The large ones, with black feathers all along their back and a red mark on their bill, are Greater Black-backed Gulls.

    The Greater Black-backed Gull is the largest member of the gull family and a bird of formidable size, with a wingspan of nearly 6ft. Unlike other gulls, the Greater Black-backed Gull is highly predatory. Young birds are a significant portion of its diet and it tends to live amongst other seabirds where it can eat the neighbours. It has also been known to swallow whole rabbits and even eat young lambs. It often steals food from other seabirds using its large size to intimidate them into dropping it, and consequently it is sometimes referred to as a pirate.

  9. From the walkway, follow the path up to the top of the cliff to reach a waymarked kissing gate.

    Ocean Sunfish can sometimes be seen on hot summer days basking on the surface, with their fin flapping out of the water as they lie on their side sunbathing. They are extremely weird-looking fish, resembling a large round dinner place with no real tail, just two large fins at the top and bottom and two smaller ones on the sides (doing the flapping). The average weight of a full grown adult sunfish is a tonne - the largest known bony fish, which is particularly impressive on a diet principally of jellyfish.

  10. Go through the gate and follow the path ahead signposted to Tintagel for a mile, crossing some stiles along the way, until you descend to a stream at the bottom of a steep valley.

    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).

  11. From the bottom of the valley, follow the very steep path up the headland to a stile at the top.

    This is one of the steepest and most difficult climbs on the South West Coast path in Cornwall. You can enjoy the sense of achievement when you eventually make it to the top.

  12. Cross the stile and follow the path over 2 more stiles and past one waymark with a single arrow to a second waymark with multiple arrows where a path joins from the right.

    The beach at the bottom of the cliffs is Barrett's Zawn.

    Barrett's Zawn is a remote beach on the rugged coast between Port Isaac and Tintagel. It is located just north-west of the farm hamlets of Hendra. The beach can only be accessed by sea or via the now disused tunnel on the north side of Delabole Point which was known locally as the "Donkey Hole", because it was once used by donkeys bringing up slate from the beach quarry below.

    It is still just possible to crawl through the tunnel to the beach but part of the tunnel roof has collapsed and it is now not recommended to go through the tunnel as the high cliffs above are unstable. If you do decide to risk it, be aware: there is one narrow squeeze in the tunnel where you'll need to get down onto your belly to slide over a rock, though the rest of the tunnel is reasonably tall; you will also need a torch as it's pitch black in the central section of the tunnel.

  13. At the waymark, keep left on the coast path and follow it to a waymark in a quarried area at the bottom of the valley.
  14. From the waymark, follow the coast path down to the bottom of the valley to a stile and cross the river over the stepping stones. Follow the path up the other side until you reach a stile over a fence.

    The names of many coastal features are derived from words in the Cornish language:

    • Pen - Headland (Cornish for "top" or "head")
    • Pol - often used to mean Harbour (literally "Pool")
    • Porth - Port but often used to mean Cove
    • Zawn - sea inlet (from the Cornish "sawan" meaning chasm)

    Note that Haven has Saxon origins (hæfen in Old English) which is why it tends to occur more in North East Cornwall (Millook, Crackington, Bude etc).

  15. Cross the stile and follow the path over a second stile until you reach a third stile at the edge of a valley.

    Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world with adults typically reaching 20-25ft in length and the shark with the smallest brain relative to its body size. They are slowly cruise along, usually in small groups, filtering plankton. They migrate in search of plankton blooms and are seen off Cornwall between May and October. Occasionally they come in close to the shore on sandy beaches, causing much excitement for swimmers.

  16. Cross the stile and follow the path down into the valley to reach a footbridge across the stream.

    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!

  17. Cross the bridge and go through the kissing gate. Follow the path to a gate in the fence at the top of the valley.

    The white flowers along the coast in July and August which resemble a more compact version of Cow Parsley are the delightfully-named Sea Carrot. Unlike Cow Parsley, the flowers start off pink and become white as they open and sometimes have a single dark red flower in the centre. The Sea Carrot is technically the same species as a wild carrot, from which the carrot was domesticated, but is shorter, stouter and more splayed out than a wild carrot. The two converge the further north and east that you go in Britain: West Cornwall is therefore the pinnacle of Sea Carrot evolution. You should avoid touching the leaves of the Sea Carrot as they can make skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light which can result in blistering caused by extreme sunburn.

    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.

  18. Go through the gate and continue along the coast path until you reach a waymark signposted to Tregardock beside a kissing gate.

    Next to the beach below the ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, you can still see remains of a slate dressing and shaping floor located on a rock jutting out to sea below the main line of the cliffs. Here, lengths of wall enclose a level platform on the rock where there are traces of dressing waste. At the point nearest the mainland are rows of stacked finished slates, apparently never retrieved and now inaccessible. When the quarry was working, this rocky platform was probably linked to the mainland either by an aerial cableway (known as a blondin) or a horse-powered winch (known as a whim).

  19. At the waymark, continue on the coast path, in the direction signposted to Tregardock, until you reach a gate.

    The ruined hamlet of Dannonchapel, near Tregardock, is over 1000 years old and included a manor house first recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086 when it was known as Duuenant. Its Domesday entry notes that it had "land for 3 ploughs" and 40 acres of pasture. The name comes from the Cornish downans which means "deep valley". The suffix "chapel" was added later in the 1300s.

  20. Go through the gate and follow the steps down into the valley to a waymark post. Continue on the zig-zag down the valley to reach a gate and footbridge at the bottom.

    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.

  21. Go through the gate and cross the bridge over the stream then follow the path up the point. Continue through a gate near the top of the cliff until you reach a waymark beside a gate.

    In 2000, a pilot project was run at Dannonchapel for the re-introduction of the large blue butterfly in Cornwall. 12 adults and 300 larvae were released into the valley. The colony survived for seven generations before finally dying out. This showed that all the ingredients (wild thyme and red ants) are present to support all stages of the butterfly's lifecycle. A much larger population could recover from setbacks such as predation or bad weather.

  22. At the waymark, keep left on the coast path across a wooden footbridge. Follow the path alongside the fence to reach a pedestrian gate.

    In late June and July, lady's bedstraw produces clusters of tiny pale yellow scented flowers. The plant has long, thin stems with a star of very narrow leaves at intervals along the stems, a bit like rosemary, or its relative, goosegrass, but is softer than either.

    The name has arisen from its use to stuff mattresses as the scent was pleasant and also repels fleas. In Scandinavia, the plant was used as a sedative during childbirth. The plant was also used to produce red and yellow dyes. The light orange colour of Double Gloucester cheese originates from this. The flowers were used in place of renin to coagulate milk but no records remain for the method of how to do this.

    The mussel-covered rocks in the bay provide food for plaice.

    Plaice are one of the easiest flatfish to recognise by their orange spots. Young plaice eat mostly shrimps and then progress onto bigger prey such as bristle worms and mussels. Plaice are one of the quickest flatfish to be able to change their colour to blend in with their surroundings. They can complete this in as little as 10-15 min.

    Plaice can live for 40 years but due to heavy fishing, few now make it past the age of 6. It takes around 3 years before they can breed so they are at risk of overfishing. In 2006, three out of four fish stocks, including the Celtic Sea, were regarded as over-exploited by the World Wildlife Fund and in 2010, Greenpeace added plaice to their seafood red list. High discard rates of dead immature fish from trawling are particularly of concern although larger mesh sizes can help to reduce this. New fishing technology is also becoming available using water pressure or electrical pulses to raise fish from the bottom (rather than dragging heavy "tickler" chains across the seabed) which can reduce the environmental damage from trawling.

    .
  23. Go through the gate and continue on the coast path alongside several more fields until you eventually reach a kissing gate with a piece of bed lashed to the fence.

    Thrift is a tough plant, able to withstand salt-laden winds and high levels of copper in the soil from mining. The name "thrift" has been suggested to arise from the plant's tufted leaves being economical with water in the windy locations where it is found. It's common all along the Cornish coast and in April-June produces pale pink flowers, hence its other common name: "Sea Pink". The plant grows in dense circular mats which together with its covering of pink flowers gives rise to another less common name: "Ladies' Cushions".

    The Common Toadflax is recognisable from its pale yellow flowers which appear from June all the way though to October. The flowers are said to be shaped liked toads and are completely closed, only opening when a bee forces its way in to reach the nectar. Only larger species of bee, with long enough tongues, are able to reach to the bottom of the flower. In early summer the plant is regarded as resembling a flax plant, hence the name.

    Along the coast, in the late summer and autumn, you can sometimes find parasol mushrooms, obvious from their huge size and umbrella shape. They are one of the best eating mushrooms and have firm white flesh.

    Cornwall has the longest stretch of coastline of any county in the UK, stretching for roughly 400 miles around 80% of the county, and there are over 300 beaches. Wherever you are in Cornwall, you are never more than 16 miles from the sea, and from the majority of hills you can see it on a clear day.

  24. Go through the gate and follow the path through another kissing gate and down to a waymark at the bottom of the valley.

    When you reach the waymark, you can turn left to go down to the beach. When you're done at the beach, follow the path back up to the waymark.

    Tregardock beach is about a mile along the coast from Trebarwith Strand, in the direction of Port Isaac and is reached via a public footpath that crosses the coast path to reach the farm at Tregardock. There is no beach at high tide at Tregardock. As the tide goes out, several small beaches merge into a long stretch of sand. A waterfall plummets from the cliffs at the back of the beach and there are some caves within the cliffs. The largest part of the beach is on the left and this gets cut off as the tide rises, so check the tide times carefully and don't get stranded when the tide comes in!

  25. At the waymark, take the coast path towards Trebarwith Strand. Follow the path over a slate footbridge and up the side of the valley to a gate.
  26. Go through the gate and follow the coast path across Treligga Common, passing over the headlands of Tregonnick Tail and Start Point, until you reach a slate bridge at the bottom of the deep valley at Backways Cove.

    Between Tregardock and Backways Cove lie the remains of Treligga Aerodrome (HMS Vulture II). Both the observation/control tower and the reinforced hut near the sea (towards Backways Cove) are still standing, as are the accommodation and service huts near Treligga village. The control tower has quite recently been repaired and converted into accommodation.

    Before the Second World War, HMS Vulture II was used as a glider site. However the Admiralty requisitioned 260 acres of land in late 1939 for the purposes of constructing an aerial bombing and gunnery range. Unusually, the entire operation at HMS Vulture II was staffed by the Women's Royal Naval Service.

    On 16 September 1943, an American B-17 Flying Fortress was forced to make an emergency landing at HMS Vulture II. The pilot, Capt Jack Omohundro, had ignored a red flare warning him to keep clear. The plane was chronically short of fuel and running on three engines after a raid on U-boat pens at Nantes in France. The bomber had left its formation to try and preserve what little fuel it had left. Spotting the tiny Treligga airstrip, he skilfully landed "wheels-down" just 50 yards short of the Wrens quarters.

  27. Cross the bridge and bear left to cross a wooden footbridge over a stream.

    From here you can follow the paths to the left to explore the rocky beach of Backways Cove. The path to the left, before you cross the slate bridge, leads down to the cove but is slippery in wet weather. On the other side of the footbridge, paths lead to the remains of the quarry workings.

    Backways Cove is a small rocky inlet and beach at the bottom the the valley below Trebarwith Village, just south of Trebarwith Strand. The location features in "The International Directory of Haunted Places":

    "Backways Cove, a North Cornwall inlet just up the coast from Trebarwith Strand, is still haunted by many unidentified presences who are thought to be the spirits of shipwrecked sailors whose bodies washed up there after they drowned. Numerous ships were torn apart on the jagged rocks offshore, and the shadowy spirits of their crew are still trying to make it to shore."
  28. After exploring Backways Cove (via the path leading towards the sea) return to the footbridge and then go up the steps and follow the path up the headland to reach a waymark.

    A tale of Backways Cove was recounted by a folklore enthusiast called Kath:

    Many years ago a man with two sons farmed in the vicinity, and on his death left his entire estate to his eldest son, cutting out the younger one without a penny. The younger son went away wracked with jealousy that fomented over time to be an obsession until, convinced that he had been cheated of his birthright he set out to wreak revenge on his elder brother. One night he crept onto the farm and set fire to the buildings. The blaze took hold and the entire property was razed to the ground. The ruins of this once prosperous farm may still be seen near Backways - a few stones from the farmhouse and outbuildings were all that remained. Only in the morning did he discover that his brother had died the day before - and left the entire estate to him.
  29. Turn right in the direction indicated by the waymark, to stay on the coast path and follow it to where the well-worn path bends sharply to the left.

    The carpets of tiny blue flowers on the coast during April and May are the appropriately-named spring squill, which up close is a star-shaped pale blue flower with a dark blue stamen. They achieve their early flowering by storing energy over the winter in a bulb so they can be the first flowers out on the cliffs before they become overshadowed by larger plants. They thrive in locations which are beaten with wind and salt-laden spray which they are able to tolerate but other plants, which might otherwise out-compete them, cannot.

    The small ridges in steeply-sloping fields are known as terracettes and are caused by soil creep and their formation is accelerated by animals using them as tracks.

    When the soil gets wet, it expands and particles are lifted up at right angles to the slope. When the soil dries out, it contracts, but the particles fall vertically under gravity, landing a millimetres further downhill from where they started. Over a long period of time, the soil gradually creeps downhill.

  30. Turn left to stay on the well-worn path and follow this to a waymark beside the fence near the top of the headland.

    During stormy weather, sea foam is driven into Backways Cove by the wind and vortices form against the sheer cliffs resulting in small tornadoes of sea foam.

    Sea foam (also known as "spume") is formed due to organic compounds known as surfactants present in seawater. Under turbulent conditions, the surfactants form persistent bubbles which float to the surface, stick to each other through surface tension and are driven onshore by the wind. The surfactant compounds themselves arise from processes such as the offshore breakdown of algal blooms.

    On beaches, sea foam can conceal deep pools and gullies with an apparently flat, uniform surface. Tread carefully, especially on beaches you don't know well, to avoid walking off the edge of a precipice or vanishing into icy cold water.

  31. At the waymark, stop to admire the view and get your breath back, then follow the coast path to a gate.

    Looking back across Port Isaac Bay, the headland on the far side is The Rumps. The island off the end is Newland. The Mouls (also known as Puffin Island) is less clear as it's directly in front of the headland.

  32. Go through the kissing gate next to the gate, and bear left on the path towards the rock outcrop. Then bear right to follow the path around the headland and along the fence until you reach a corner in the fence.

    Gull Rock lies approximately 500 metres offshore from Trebarwith Strand and has given its name to RR Gordon's crime thriller set in the area. It is made of a very hard volcanic material that has withstood the sea whilst the slate around it has been worn away. On the seaward side, where a chunk of the rock has cracked off, the tightly folded volcanic rocks within can be seen.

    Recently the rock has turned green during the spring and summer due to rock samphire colonising the side facing the beach which is sheltered from the westerly winds, helped by fertiliser provided by the seabirds also colonising the sheltered side of the rock.

    In the 1800s, the rock at Trebarwith (or "Trebarrow" as it was known then), was known as Otterham Rock, or Rocks, acknowledging the rocks to the side of the main rock which protrude a small amount from the water. Below the surface of the water, these are part of an extensive reef.

  33. Keep left along the fence until you reach a flight of steps.

    In the spring, it's possible to use the wildflowers as a compass. On the Backways Cove side of the point, spring squill and thrift grow on the south-facing slope facing the sun. The north side facing Trebarwith Strand gets much less sun so shade-loving plants such as bluebells and red campion grow here.

  34. Descend 170 steps to a reach a level area of path.

    There are spectacular views of Trebarwith Strand and Penhallic Point on the way down. Make sure you stop walking to admire the view (or read this!) and look where your feet are going when descending the steep steps.

  35. Continue on the path to descend a flight of 33 steps, then follow the path to a waymark just before a stile.

    The headland on the far side of the bay is Penhallic Point and the one you are now standing on is known as Dennis Point.

    Dennis Point is thought to be a corruption of the Cornish word dinas meaning "castle". An area on Penhallic Point opposite is also known as "Dennis Scale" which is thought to have similar origins. Clifftop forts on top of headlands such as this were common in the Iron Age. However no evidence has so far been found that there was a fort on either headland, so it remains an unsolved mystery. Whether there's any connection to the old name Trebarrow used for Trebarwith Strand is also not clear. The name "Dennis" crops up elsewhere in Cornwall such as Dennis Hill at Padstow, which is thought to get its name from the rocky outcrop on the hill that looks a bit like a fort.

  36. When you reach the waymark, bear left and cross the stile. Follow the track to the Port William pub to reach a small path with a coast path sign departing to the right.

    The Port William Inn sits on the cliff top above Trebarwith Strand. The outdoor terrace and conservatories of the Port William offer spectacular views of the beach and coastline for weary walkers to enjoy some well-deserved refreshment. The interior is decorated with various trophies recovered from ship wrecks such as brass propellers, lanterns and even half of a rowing boat!

  37. Follow the signposted Coast Path down to the road at Trebarwith Strand.

    Trebarwith Strand is in the centre and is the lifeguard-patrolled area. It's sandy on the left and, to the right side, there are more rocks including some good rock pools. The large pool beside the rocks on the right side of the beach is known as "Horse Pool" from when horses were used to transport slate and sand, and this provided somewhere for them to cool off from their heavy work.

  38. Take the public footpath on the right of Trebarwith Surf Shop. Follow the path up to the cliff top to reach a waymark at a junction of paths.

    If the tide is out, there are some rockpools on the right-hand side of Trebarwith Strand towards Lill Cove.

    Rockpool fishing is quite a popular childhood pass-time as a number of species can be lured out from hiding places by a limpet tied on a piece of cotton (leave a trailing end as if anything swallows the limpet, very gently pulling both ends of the cotton will cause it to release the cotton-tied limpet from its gullet). If you are intending to put the creatures into a bucket: ensure it is large, filled with fresh seawater and kept in the shade; ideally place in a couple of rocks for the creatures to hide under; do not leave them in there more than a couple of hours or they will exhaust their oxygen supply; ensure you release them into one of the rockpools from which you caught them, preferably a large one (carefully removing any rocks from your bucket first to avoid squashing them). Species you're likely to encounter are:

    • Blennies which are fish about 5-10cm long, often found hiding under rock ledges. They can change their colour from sandy to black within a couple of minutes in order to match their surroundings. They have strong, sharp teeth for crunching barnacles and will bite if provoked.
    • Shore crabs and sometimes edible crabs which can also sometimes be found hiding under rocks (carefully replace any rocks you lift up). Shore crabs have a fairly narrow shell which is almost as deep as it is wide. They vary in colour from green through brown to red (the redder individuals are apparently stronger and more aggressive). Edible crabs have a much wider shell which resembles a Cornish Pasty and are always a red-brown colour. Both have powerful claws so fingers should be kept well clear.
    • Shrimps and prawns - do you know the difference? Prawns are semi-transparent whereas shrimps are sandy coloured and generally bury themselves in sand.
  39. When you reach the waymark, follow the middle path (indicated by the yellow arrow and acorn) up the steps. Continue to where the paths rejoin and a few paces further to reach another waymark.

    In 1886, an iron-hulled sailing ship, named the "Sarah Anderson", got into difficulties off Tintagel Head in a violent gale then blew up and sank off Trebarwith Strand. According to one source, the ship was carrying a cargo of 966 tons of manganese ore and 15 tons of dye. According to another source, it was hinted that she might also be carrying copper, silver and gold. Due to the huge waves, the Port Isaac lifeboat was unable to launch and the ship was out of range of the marine rescue rockets brought to the shore at Trebarwith Strand. All the 14 crew and 4 passengers (2 women, including the captain's wife, and 2 children) perished. Divers report that the hull is now almost entirely gone. One section (presumably the stern) stands about 3m high and is separated from the main wreckage; the remainder consists of the ore cargo with the odd piece of steel protruding.

  40. At the waymark, follow the path left, up the steps, until you reach another waymark at a junction of paths.

    The beach at the bottom of the cliff to your left is Lill Cove.

    A small water-powered copper mine existed on the cliff slopes above Lill Cove and was worked until the early-mid 19th Century. A hollow in the cliff was dammed to form a reservoir which was fed by a leat; the reservoir in turn was used to drive a waterwheel to pump out the groundwater draining into the mineshaft. Little remains now as some massive landslips on this part of the cliff have obliterated the majority of the mine workings.

  41. At the waymark, bear left in the direction indicated to Tintagel and follow the coast path up to the rock outcrop. From the top continue along the cliff until you reach another waymark (to Treknow) at the start of the coastal quarries.

    Coastal slate quarries are confined to a small area of about five miles either side of Tintagel and relatively little is known about their history. In order to work the vertical cliff face, strong points were built from stone above the working areas. From these, ropes were dropped down the quarry face. Men were lowered down the faces on these ropes to split blocks of slate from the face. The slate was hauled up the cliff face on these cables which were wound using "horse whims" - capstans powered by horses or donkeys walking around a circular platform. The stone was split and shaped on "dressing floors" on the cliff top, originally covered with sheds. The remains can be seen as level terraces and are marked by screes of waste rock on the cliff below. Splitting was (and still is) done with a bettle (hammer) and chisel, hence the name of the pub in Delabole.

  42. At the waymark, continue straight ahead on the coast path passing the rock pillars at West quarry and follow along the wall behind Lanterdan quarry until you reach a waymark for Tintagel, just before a track departing to the right.

    There are 9 slate quarries along the coast path between Tintagel Church and Trebarwith Strand. Slate quarrying began here in the early 14th Century and ended just before The Second World War. The slate was exported from Tintagel Haven and later from boats moored along Penhallic Point.

    Cutting the stone and loading it onto boats was harsh work and could be lethal. A local man - Alan Menhenick - recalled in the 1920s: "we worked with the tides, around the clock. I've been at the quarry at four in the morning. When the tide was in, we blasted; when the tide was out, we went down and collected the slate". In 1889, three men vanished into the sea when the face that they were boring sheared off the cliff.

  43. Continue straight ahead at the waymark, past more of Lanterdan quarry and along the edge of a wall to a stile.

    The Lanterdan and West quarries above Vean Hole and Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were once some of the biggest in North Cornwall. In Lanterdan quarry there is a tall, distinctive, pinnacle of rock. This was left behind as the slate in the pinnacle was not of a sufficiently good quality; shorter pinnacles were left in West Quarry for the same reason. These chunks of inferior-quality slate were known locally as "scullocks".

    The quarry workings never reached the shoreline as there is a fault along the base of the quarry, known as the Trambley Cove Formation. This is made of volcanic lava which was no good to the quarrymen. Lanterdan Quarry is now owned by the National Trust and is a site of geological interest for two reasons. The first is that it contains brachiopod (shellfish) fossils. Second, a rare mineral called monazite is present which contains rare-earth (lanthanide) metals.

  44. Cross the stile and follow the paths to a waymark beside a stone stile. Continue on the coast path around the cliff edge to another waymark with two yellow arrows where the path forks.

    The vertical cliffs of Hole Beach at Trebarwith Strand were the site of Caroline Quarry. The hole in the cliff, from which the beach gets its name, was excavated to quarry out a chunk of good quality slate. Caroline together with the neighbouring Lanterdan and Bagalow quarries, were some of the last still operating at the start of the 20th century but production had ceased by the Second World War.

  45. Keep left at the waymark, along the coast path behind Hole beach, until you reach a stile in a stone wall.

    The crumbling stone walls and the outlines of buildings are the remnants of Bagalow quarry.

    Bagalow Quarry is located above Bagalow Beach and stretches around to Hole Beach. It dates back to at least the 1800s and was still working at the start of the 20th Century. The quarry face runs from sea level all the way to the top of the cliff. At the top of the cliff are remnants of a powder magazine (some low banks are all that remain) and a horse whim used to haul the slate up from the quarry face.

  46. Cross the stile into a field and follow the fence on the left to a kissing gate in the far left corner before the gateway.

    Ribwort plantain is a common weed on cultivated land with unmistakable black seed heads on the end of tall stalks often with a halo of white flowers. Generations of children have worked out that by knotting the stem, the seed head can be launched as a projectile at unsuspecting adults.

    A tea made from the leaves is a popular herbal remedy used as a cough medicine. Care should be taken where the plant is harvested as it is not only highly tolerant of high metal levels in the soil but also accumulates these. It will even tolerate and accumulate arsenic which is normally toxic to plants. It therefore has the potential to be used for cleansing soils contaminated with mine waste.

  47. Go through the gate and cross the stile then follow the path along the wall above the cliffs of Dria quarry on your left, until you reach a kissing gate.

    Dria quarry, between Bagalow Quarry and Penhallic point near Trebarwith Strand, was developed from a natural cove (Dria Cove). The quarry was worked in Victorian times and shown as still working in the 1880s but closed by the early 1900s. No processing areas have been found above the quarry, so it is assumed that this was shared with Bagalow Quarry. The 1880s OS map shows a small platform associated with Dria Quarry but it's possible some of the lifting was also shared with Bagalow quarry. Dria Cove is no longer accessible due to landslips on the cliffs between the two quarries.

  48. Go through the kissing gate and follow the path around to the left towards the bench on the point.

    Penhallic Point is the long headland along the northern edge of the bay at Trebarwith Strand. In the late 1800s, a wharf (which has now been taken by the sea) was constructed at Penhallic Point where the cliff edge was trimmed to form a 100ft vertical face. Ships could lie against this face as there is a natural deep-water berth alongside the point. The slate was lowered by crane down into their holds.

    A path from the top of the point zig-zags down to a grassy platform where there is a lifebuoy. It's possible to get down onto the rocks from here, but only in the summer when the rocks are dry.

  49. From the bench on Penhallic Point, keep right and follow the path along the coast via Higher Penhallic Point to a kissing gate.

    Wild chives are rare in the UK, but can be found next to the paths and rocky ledges along the cliffs around Tintagel, particularly where a spring seeps water out across the cliff. There is a large cluster of them on the path down to Penhallic Point, near Trebarwith Strand, where water seeps across the path. In summer when they flower, they attract large numbers of bumblebees and butterflies.

    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.

    The sea fish known traditionally in the UK as bass, but internationally as the "European seabass" (to distinguish from river species particularly in North America), is a member of the perch family. Given they are normally found in the sea, bass are surprisingly tolerant of freshwater and sometimes venture quite a long way upriver. Bass is very nice to eat but is a slow-growing species and therefore threatened by overfishing. Since 2010, two-thirds of the population has been wiped out in what has been described as "an unfolding environmental disaster" and although there are emergency EU measures in place to restrict both commercial and recreational catches, there is evidence that commercial catches are still well above sustainable levels.

  50. Go through the kissing gate and take the path waymarked for Tintagel to the left. Follow this past more quarry workings to reach another waymark at a fork in the path.

    On the point opposite Tintagel Youth Hostel is the remains of Gull Point Quarry. The quarry face on the rear of the cove was known as Lambshouse Quarry (Lambshouse is the name of the cove). Both were worked in the 19th Century, and jointly for much of their later life. The round platform near the top is the remains of a "horse whim", where a blindfolded donkey used to circle, operating the winding gear.

  51. At the waymark, take the left path and follow this until it emerges onto the track to the Youth Hostel.

    Long Grass Quarry on Dunderhole Point was the last working quarry along the Tintagel coast, closing in 1937. The old office, engine and blacksmith's shop of the quarry have been converted into Tintagel youth hostel. You can see the slate waste from the dressing floors on the cliff face below it.

  52. Turn left onto the track towards the Youth Hostel then bear right to a waymark. Take the small coastal path beside the waymark and follow this to another waymark and remains of a concrete structure. Continue until the path eventually emerges onto a larger gravel path at a waymark.

    The Dunderhole is a 100ft deep split in the cliff face at Dunderhole Point at the end of Tintagel's Glebe Cliff. The name is a corruption of "Thunder hole"; when a big swell is running, the reason becomes apparent. When waves surge into the cavern at the bottom, they compress the air, which then exits through the Dunderhole with a sound that you do not so much hear, as feel resonate through your entire body.

  53. At the waymark, turn left and follow the gravel path until you reach a waymark inscribed Glebe Cliff with a yellow and white arrow.

    The cliffs around the church are known as Glebe Cliffs.

    A glebe was an area of land used to support the parish priest (in addition to a residence in the form of a parsonage or rectory). Occasionally the glebe included an entire farm. It was typically donated by the lord of the manor or cobbled together from several donated pieces of land.

  54. At the waymark, keep right (white arrow) along the gravel path and follow it towards the church until you reach a junction with another path beside a picnic bench.

    Gillow quarry lies part-way down cliffs near Tintagel church, just below a rocky ridge along which the coast path runs before it joins the path from the church to Tintagel Castle. A pair of capstans, known as horse whims, were used to haul slate up from the quarry. A track ran up the cliff beneath the ridge, eventually emerging onto the path to Tintagel Castle. Slate would have been transported by donkey to Tintagel Haven and loaded onto the boats there.

  55. At the church car park, facing St Materiana's church, turn left and follow the path marked "Coast Path and Access to Castle View" until you reach a waymark signposted to Tintagel Castle.

    Tintagel Parish church, dedicated to St Materiana, is located on Glebe Cliff at the end of Vicarage Lane. The first church on the site was thought to be in the 6th century, founded as a daughter church of Minster in Boscastle which is even older. The current church was built in the late 11th or early 12th century with the tower added in the late Mediaeval era. The Norman font bowl by the south wall is believed to have been brought from St Julitta's chapel at Tintagel Castle. The church also contains a Roman stone from the 4th century bearing the name of the Emperor Licinius which may be evidence that there was once a Roman camp nearby.

  56. At the waymark, continue ahead (signposted to Tintagel Castle) until the path forks at the bottom of a flight of steps.

    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.

  57. Keep left at the fork, over the stile, and follow the path along the wall to reach the black signpost at the entrance to Tintagel Castle.

    A very large amount of 5th and 6th century Eastern Mediterranean pottery was found at Tintagel Castle in the 1930s, more than the total found in all other Dark Age sites in Britain. This included massive Tunisian oil jars, Carthaginian dishes, Aegean amphorae and Byzantine jars. Some examples are on display in the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

  58. At this point you have two choices: You can pay to enter the castle and leave past the steps to the beach and along the fence until you reach the bridge over the stream. Alternatively, you can turn right here at the signpost, then left down the steps to descend to the car park; then turn left past the English Heritage shop and keep right to reach the bridge over the stream.

    The small cove at the bottom of the valley is known locally as Castle Beach, although its formal title is Tintagel Haven.

    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.

  59. 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).
  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. Cross straight over 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.

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

Take a photo and email contact@iwalkcornwall.co.uk, or message either IWalkCornwall on facebook or @iwalkc on twitter. If you have any tips for other walkers please let us know, or if you want to tell us that you enjoyed the walk, we'd love to hear that too.

Please recycle your ink cartridges to help prevent plastic fragments being ingested by seabirds. Google "stinkyink" and click on "free recycling" for a freepost label.
If you found this page useful, please could you
our page on Facebook?