Fishing harbours at the foot of King Arthur’s Tintagel – Boscastle, Tintagel to Port Isaac
Legends of King Arthur enrich the natural magic of a spectacularly wild, wave lashed coast. Among its most dramatic spectacles is Cornwall’s highest cliff, aptly called High Cliff. There are many sandy beaches, but most involve walks over fields or through deep, wooded valleys carved by stream. The little harbour at Boscastle and the old fishing village of Port Isaac are two of the few places where buildings run right down to the sea.
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Port Isaac – The little harbour with its boats, nets and lobster pots nestles at the foots of the steep slopes lined with whitewashed cottages. The streets are so narrow in some places that there is only just enough room for a car to thread between th buildings. One passage is called Squeezibelly Alley.
Made famous around the world as the location used in the TV show Doc Martin known as Portwenn. It has become a draw for visitors from many countries including the United States.
At Low tide, car park on a stretch of fine shingle at the head of the harbour, and areas of sand are uncovered. The harbour is sheltered from the west by Lobber Point, where a clifftop path leads to Pine Haven, a secluded rock and shingle cove.
Port Gaverne – In the 19th century, a period notable for huge shoals of pilchards, Port Gaverne was a natural haven for fisherman. Those stone built cellars where they stored their nets and proceed to catch still stand behind the pebbled beach at the head of a narrow, cliff framed inlet from which slate was also shipped in Victorian times. The road over the headland to Port Isaac passes a car park with superb views north-eastwards to Tintagel.
Tregardock Beach – Paths cross the fields from Tregardock and the tiny village of Treligga to a secluded beach reached by zigzagging steps. The ebbing tide reveals an expanse of sands with scattered rocks. The clifftop path towards Port Gavernve passes Barratt’s Zawn, a collapsed tunnel through which slate was hauled.
Trebarwith Strand – The cliff-backed beach which runs northwards popular towards Penhallic Point makes Trebarwith a popular place for surfers, but the sands submerged at high water. The crumbling cliffs were once quarried for slate that was lowered down by windlasses to sailing ships which crept onshore on the rising tide. Coal was brought by boat from South Wales was dumped in to the sea, then loaded in to carts when the waves retreated. The road down to the beach was made in the early 19th century to enable carts to carry shell-sand to farms inland for use as a fertiliser.
Seaward views are dominated by Gull Rock, which looks like a smaller version of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde.
Tintagel – Spread out along a clifftops, set back from the sea and more than 300 ft (90m) above it, Tintagel has been one of Cornwall’s most powerful magnets since the 19th century, when Tennyson’s The Idylls of the Kings publicised the village’s legendary links with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table…. [ Read More ]
Bossiney Haven – A 10 minute walk from Bossiney across fields and down steps cut into the cliff leads to a popular surfing beach whose sands are covered at high tide.
The beach, known locally as Bossiney Cove, is crossed by a small stream which runs down a high wall of vertical rock clad with glistening, dark moss. Lye Rock, on the bay’s western headland, is a breeding ground for puffins, fulmars, cormorants, razorbills and other cliff nesting birds.
Bossiney Castle, a grassy mound north east of the village, is said to be the burial place of King Arthur’s Round Table. According to legend, the Round Table rises from the ground on Midsummer’s Eve.
Rocky Valley – Starting near a small car park on the B3263, footpath runs towards the sea down a deep, wooded valley sunk between crags entwined with ivy. The path passes a rock, sheltered by a ruined mill, bearing intricate carvings believed to date from the Bronze Age. The 10 minute walk ends where the valley’s stream foams seawards through a miniature gorge cut deep into smooth rocks.
Boscastle – Its deep, narrow, fiord-like harbour wriggles inland to a picturesque cluster of buildings restored and preserved by the National Trust. Although difficult to enter unless the seas is millpond calm, the harbour provides one of the very few havens on a long stretch of coast that can be formidably hostile in bad weather. Its reputation in the days of sail is recalled by a local saying ‘ From Padstow Bar to Lundy Light. Is a sailor’s grave by day or night’
The inner jetty embraces a small area of low-tide sand and was rebuilt in 1584 by Sir Richard Grenville, the Elizabethan hero and captain of the Revenge, who died fighting the Spanish. The outer breakwater dates from early in the 19th century, when slate was shipped from Boscastle, but it was shattered by a drifting sea-mine in 1941. National Trust masons restored it 21 years later.
One of the old harbours building houses the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Exhibits include what are said to be remains of Ursula Hemp, a ‘witch’ executed in 1589.
The road to Boscastle village, set on a hill above the harbour, skirts Forrabury Common, where a Celtic system of land tenure known as ‘stitchmeal’ has survived for more than 1,000 years. Individuals raise crops on their ‘stitches’ – long, rectangular plots – during the summer months, but the land becomes common grazing in the winter.
Pentargon – This small, rocky cove, hemmed in by dark cliffs, is notable for a stream which cascades down a 120ft precipice to meet the sea. The cove can be reached by following a footpath from the B3263.
The Strangles – Just south of Trevigue, an isolated farm-house high above the sea, a footpath crosses the gorse covered clifftop before descending steeply to the Strangles. As its sinister name implies, the beach claimed many storm-tossed victims in the age of sail. More than 20 vessels were wrecked during a single year in the 1820s. The ebbing tide reveals broad expanses of sand between rocks, but swift currents and strong undertows make a beach unsafe for swimmers.
The clifftop path runs southwards to climb High Cliff, a superb viewpoint owned by the National Trust from which Lundy Island, more than 30 miles away, can be seen on a clear day. Towering 731 ft (220m) above the sea, it is the highest cliff in Cornwall and one of the highest anywhere in England’s coastline. The cliffs inspired a scene in Thomas Hardy’s novel A Pair of Blue Eyes. Hardy, then a young architect, visited Cornwall in 1870 to work on the restoration of St Juliot’s Church near Boscastle. It was there that he met his future wife, Emma Gifford.