The Strangles to Buckator

A circular walk along the volcanic coastline north of Boscastle including Cornwall's highest cliff, North Cornwall's largest grey seal colony and The Strangles beach with its spectacular arch known as the Northern Door.

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Each walk includes lots of information about the history and nature along the route.
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The walk starts by heading out onto the coast at The Strangles. The route follows the Coast Path behind the bizarre folded rock formations of Voter Run to the top of High Cliff, then along the fossiliferous Rusey Cliff to the Buckator seal colony. The return route is relatively quick, along small lanes and a track.


  • Route includes paths close to unfenced cliff edges.

Vital statistics

  • OS Explorer: 111
  • Distance: 4.9 miles/7.8 km
  • Grade: Moderate-strenuous
  • Recommended footwear: walking boots

OS maps for this walk

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


  • Panoramic views from High Cliff - the highest cliff in Cornwall at 223m
  • Pretty wildflowers on the cliffs in spring and summer
  • Clifftop views over the beach at The Strangles
  • Bizarre folded rock formations of Voter and Alder Run
  • Large grey seal colony at Buckator


  1. From the parking area, facing the road, turn right onto the lane and continue until you reach a National Trust Strangles sign marking public footpath on the left. Follow this a few paces to reach a kissing gate.
  2. Go through the gate and follow the path until it forks.

    Blackthorn is one of the first trees to flower: the white blossom appears before the leaves in April. In warm weather, the leaves may quickly catch up and this is when it can get mistaken for hawthorn, which produces leaves before flowers. However, there are a few other ways to distinguish them: blackthorn pollen is orange whereas hawthorn is pink, fading to black; hawthorn petals overlap each other whereas blackthorn is more "gappy"; hawthorn leaves have bits sticking out like oak whereas blackthorn is a classic leaf shape with a serrated edge.

    A cordial can be made from blackthorn blossom by dissolving 100g of sugar in 1 litre of warm water mixing one large handful of blossom, scaled up to produce the quantity you require.

  3. At the fork in the path, keep left down the steps and follow the path until another path joins from the right.

    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.

  4. Keep left where the coast path joins and continue to the next waymark.

    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).

  5. At the waymark, turn left onto the coast path and follow it until you reach a waymark marked "To Road" at the top of some steps.

    If the tide is out, you may want to stroll down to the beach first, returning to this point to continue the walk.

  6. 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.
  7. 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".

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

  9. 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.

    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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    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.

  13. From the kissing gate, follow the coast path to reach a gate and stile. 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.

  14. 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.

    Kestrels are the most common bird of prey in Europe although in Britain numbers have declined in recent years. They are easily spotted when hovering, watching their prey. Whilst hovering, they have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds. They feed mostly on mice, voles and shrews, but will also take birds as large as starlings, and will feed on insects if larger prey are not available.

  15. 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.

    Buckator is a remote beach at the base of sheer cliffs, just north of the hamlet of Beeny and about 2 miles north-west along the coast from Boscastle. Buckator is the largest seal colony on the North Cornish coast and one of the four key seal "haul out" sites in Southwest England (the others being Lundy, Godrevy near St Ives, and the Scilly Isles). Seal numbers in the Buckator colony peak in the winter and early spring.

    You can just about see the seals on the beach from the bench next to the coast path, overlooking the bay. However, the best view down onto the beach is actually from the top of the hedge behind the bench. In front of the bench, the unfenced cliff slopes steeply into the sea; walking forwards to try to get a view could be dangerous.

  16. When you reach the gate (with a bench to the right), go through the gate, turn left and follow the hedge inland to a gate.

    From the bench during the winter and spring, you can sometimes see the seals on the beach or in the bay.

    Seal pups have been seen in every month of the year but the majority are born in the autumn and early winter. Female seals mate soon after weaning their pups whilst the males are still around defending and patrolling the beaches. For just over three months the fertilised embryo does not attach to the wall of the uterus and does not develop. There then follows a gestation period of just under 9 months. This evolutionary strategy - known as delayed implantation - results in the pups being born at the same time every year.

  17. Go through the gate and follow the path until it ends on a lane.

    A popular misconception is that a butterfly was originally called "flutterby". In fact, the name stems from the Old English word buttorfleoge which literally means "butterfly". The term "flutterby" is thought to have been coined by Shakespeare.

  18. Turn left and follow the lane for just over a quarter of a mile until you reach a track on the left.
  19. Continue along the lane for another roughly 300 metres until you reach a second track to the left with a "To the coastpath" sign on the left.
  20. Turn left onto the track and follow it for roughly three-quarters of a mile to a T-junction onto a lane.

    Pineapple weed grows on the more well-worn areas of the track.

    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.

  21. At the junction, turn left onto the lane and follow it for roughly a mile back to the car park.

    Cornwall had a number of its own peculiar units of measurement:

    • A Cornish Gallon was a unit of weight (10 lbs) rather than volume. A Cornish Apple Gallon however was 7 lb, rather than 10 lb. Given the strength of Cornish Rattler, this is probably wise.
    • A Cornish Acre was a generous 120 acres. A unit of land consisting of 4 Cornish Acres was known as a "Knight's fee".
    • When counting fish, a Cornish hundred was, in fact, 132.
    • Finally, a Cornish Mile is 1.5 miles. Though you may suspect otherwise when walking up a steep hill, our walk distances are not measured in Cornish Miles.

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, 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.

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