The stretch of path that runs between Bosacstle
covers a daunting twenty six miles but can easily be broken up into two sections: Boscastle to Port Isaac
(14.5 miles) and Port Isaac to Padstow (12 miles). There is also a range of accommodation available at Tintagel
and a campsite just outside Port Isaac at Port Gaverne
Leaving Boscastle the path climbs up the cliff to Willapark and Forrabury with views of Short and Long Islands, before descending into the fascinating Rocky Valley, a ravine containing rare Bronze Age carvings dating back 3500 years.
On to the infamous Tintagel, thought by many to have been the home of King Arthur
, where you can take a detour down to the beach to find Merlin's Cave
. Looking up from the beach it is possible to see the bleak ruins of what is thought by some to have been a Celtic monastery clinging to the cliff. Stick to the coastpath and you won't be disappointed by the frankly tacky town.
On leaving Tintagel the path enters a landscape dotted with reminders of a more industrial past. Of particular interest is an 80 foot pinnacle near Lanterdan Quarry where men were suspended down the sheer cliff faces to collect pieces of slate, and the end of a disused tunnel known as Donkey's Hole, through which blindfolded animals were sent to transport the slate from the virtually inaccessible beach below.
On to Trebarwith Strand
, thought by some to be Cornwall's very best beach, although the half-mile of golden sand is mostly underwater at high tide and care should be taken to avoid getting cut off.
After Trebarwith comes a remote stretch of coastline. Prospectors used to pan for Cornish gold and silver along this stretch, which is now home to peregrines, buzzards and kestrels.
The path continues to Port Gaverne, a harbour settlement where old, cob-walled fish cellars bear testament to another slice of history. At one time more than 1.5 million fish were salted and preserved here every week.
Just around the headland is Port Isaac
. A typical Cornish fishing village, this working harbour is characterised by tiny lanes, one of which goes by the appealing name of 'Squeezebelley Alley
', art galleries, cafes, shops and a working pottery. Much of the fish caught here is sold to high-quality local restaurants, and it is well worth spending the night here simply to eat at one. Port Isaac, with its whitewashed cottages and slate roofs set at the mouth of a steep-sided valley, has been a conservation area since 1969 and has been used as a location for many high-profile films
, including 'Oscar and Lucinda
' and 'Saving Grace
After Port Isaac the path continues to Port Quin, a collection of derelict cottages that were mostly abandoned in the early years of the last century. The exodus was probably due to lack of fish, although more dramatic theories abound, including epic storms and smuggling deals gone terribly wrong!
The path continues along the cliff top to Pentire Point
, a wild headland that offers great views of the Camel Estuary
. Take a detour to Rumps Point
to see the remains of an Iron Age promontory fort
and gaze across at a small island called The Mouls
that supports colonies of seabirds and grey seals.
Over Brea Hill, site of a Bronze Age barrow and past St Enodoc, where you can take a detour to see the tiny, crooked church and burial place of John Betjeman. The Vicar used, on occasion, to have to enter the church through a skylight because of shifting sands.
The path heads inland slightly, up the Camel Estuary towards Rock
, where it is soon necessary to cross a dangerous sandbank known as the Doom Bar
. Three hundred vessels have sunk here and three lifeboats have been lost trying to save them, which is perhaps why the sandbank is said to have been cursed by a mermaid
who was injured by a fisherman who mistook her for a seal. A six hundred-year-old passenger ferry called the Black Tor
will take you safely over to Padstow, an attractive working fishing port made famous by Rick Stein
and an ideal place to stop for the night.