Boscastle Harbour

Boscastle Harbour


Boscastle (Cornish: Kastel Boterel) is a village and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall, in the civil parish of Forrabury and Minster. It is 14 miles (23 km) south of Bude and 5 miles (8 km) northeast of Tintagel. The harbour is a natural inlet protected by two stone harbour walls built in 1584 by Sir Richard Grenville and is the only significant harbour for 20 miles (32 km) along the coast. The village extends up the valleys of the River Valency and River Jordan. Heavy rainfall on 16 August 2004 caused extensive damage to the village.

Boscastle lies within the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The South West Coast Path passes through the village.

*** – History – ***

The name of the village comes from Botreaux Castle (pronounced "Botro"), a 12th-century motte-and-bailey fortress, of which few remains survive. The castle was anciently in the possession of the de Botreaux family, which became under William de Botreaux (1337–91) the Barons Botreaux.

The antiquary, John Leland in the mid 16th century described the village ″... it is a very filthy town and il kept.″ Boscastle harbour is a natural inlet protected by two stone harbour walls built in 1584 by Sir Richard Grenville (of HMS Revenge). Boscastle was once a small port (similar to many others on the north coast of Cornwall), importing limestone and coal, and exporting slate and other local produce. In the early 20th century Boscastle hosted a street dance similar to the Helston Furry Dance, but it is unclear how old the tradition is or when this ceased.

The dramatic North Cornish coastline and secluded wildflower meadows of the Valency Valley was where English novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, met his first wife, Emma, in 1870. Both the place and Emma herself provided inspiration for Hardy's works for years to come. Thomas Hardy was a 30 year old architect working to restore the church of St Juliot when he met Emma on 3 March 1870. Emma Gifford was living at the rectory with her sister, the rector's second wife. The first visit lasted four days during which Hardy visited Tintagel, Beeny Cliff and the Valency Valley.

Hardy returned to St Juliot in August that same year when he stayed longer. As well as working on the church he and Emma continued to explore the North Cornwall coast including Bude, Trebarwith Strand and The Strangles beach. It was whilst visiting Tintagel Castle that they found themselves locked in and had to attract attention by waving a handkerchief.

Other visits followed and they married in London in September 1874. Thomas Hardy's third novel, 'A Pair of Blue Eyes', had been published in 1873 and Emma was the model for the heroine of the book. However, many places were deliberately disguised and created by Hardy as a fusion of great houses he once visited.

The marriage between Hardy and Emma turned sour but when she died in November 1912, Hardy, consumed with remorse, wrote several poems in her memory. He returned to St Juliot the following spring. There, he designed the memorial tablet to Emma on the north wall of the church, and had it made by a Boscastle stonemason.

The village, with its picturesque harbour, is a popular tourist destination. Among the attractions are the Museum of Witchcraft, Uncle Paul's Emporium, the Boscastle pottery shop, and access to the South West Coast Path.

Much of the land in and around Boscastle is owned by the National Trust, including both sides of the harbour, Forrabury Stitches, high above the Boscastle and divided into ancient "stitchmeal" cultivation plots, and large areas of the Valency Valley, known for its connections to Thomas Hardy. The former harbour stables (part of the National Trust estate) are now a youth hostel run by YHA, popular with walkers. The National Trust runs a shop at the harbour, and a visitor centre in the Old Smithy.

*** – Boscastle Harbour – ***

Present-day Boscastle owes its existence to two factors. One being the de Botterell family who settled in the area in the 12th century. The other being that more than 100 years ago Boscastle was the only possible place where a harbour could be considered along 40 miles of the intimidating north coast of Cornwall.

Over a century ago Boscastle was a busy, bustling place. It was a commercial port throughout most of the 19th century, for the railway did not reach north Cornwall until 1893. Before that date all heavy goods to and from an area stretching many miles inland had to be carried by sea. More than a dozen ketches and schooners of 30 to 200 tons traded regularly through the little port. In one year alone 200 ships called. Many vessels brought supplies in from South Wales and Bristol but even cargoes of timber direct from Canada came into Boscastle.

  • Hard-working harbour.
  • The tortuous harbour entrance, with the island of Meachard as an extra hazard, meant it was never safe for sailing vessels to enter Boscastle un-assisted. They were therefore towed or 'hobbled' in by 'hobbler' boats manned by eight oarsmen. Gangs of men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel. Hauling goods up Boscastle's steep hills needed strong teams of horses, many of them kept at the Palace Stables, now the youth hostel. There are other buildings such as a lime kiln and blacksmith's forge that can still be seen in the harbour.
  • The harbour today.
  • The harbour trade declined after the railway came through Camelford in 1893. Nowadays fisherman base themselves here as well as pleasure craft. Boscastle's blow-hole beneath Penally Point is often called the Devil's Bellows. It can be seen thumping and snorting about an hour either side of low tide, blowing a horizontal waterspout halfway across the harbour entrance if the conditions are right.

    *** – Walks – ***

    Boscastle offers a walk to suit everyone. Whether you are looking for a gentle stroll around the harbour or a longer route taking in the coast and Valency Valley you will find it here.

    *** – Boscastle Harbour walk – ***

    A gentle walk around the scenic village of Boscastle. The walk allows you to take in the river, the ancient harbour, and the famous blow hole, as well as several of the local shops and sites of interest. There are maginificent sea and coastal views, and lots of interesting wildlife. Classified as Easy, this walk is one mile long and should take about 30 to 40 minutes. This is a dog-friendly walk.

    Start: Boscastle car park.

  • 1. Start at the Boscastle car park and follow the footpath alongside the river until you reach the end of the car park nearest the village.
  • 2. Turn left out of the car park onto the pavement and follow the path around past a cluster of shops on your left.
  • 3. Cross over the road onto a private road belonging to the National Trust.
  • 4. Follow this road along the course of the river and cross over the first bridge on your left.
  • 5. Turn right after the bridge and follow the road to the harbour.
  • Breaking the sea. The breakwaters were a vital component of the harbour due to the ferocity of the sea conditions on this stretch of coast. Walter White, who visited Boscastle in 1861, described the sea conditions as set in tremendous fury. The outer breakwater was built 1820, but destroyed in 1941 by a drifting mine. It has subsequently been rebuilt by the NT.
  • 6. Take the stone steps leading up to the coast path across some rocks, take care on rocks.
  • 7. On top of the steps there is a good view of the harbour, blow hole (at low tide), the old Victorian pool and remains of shellfish tanks.
  • A safe haven. Boscastle is one of the few harbours on this coast, and the only one of significance between Clovelly and Padstow. Given the tortuous harbour entrance most large ships were towed or hobbled in by an eight man hobbler boat, whilst more men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel. In Victorian times as many as 200 vessels came each year, bringing coal, ironwork and limestone from South Wales and fertiliser, timber, corn and general merchandise from Bristol.
  • 8. Return down the steps the way you came and back past the bridge.
  • The flood and the 'miracle'. Monday 16 August 2004 started as a pleasant, sunny summer day in Boscastle, with no indication that a freak cloudburst would unleash a ferocious flood that would devastate the village. A torrent of floodwater roared through the valley, crushing buildings and bridges and tearing up roads. People were left clinging to the roofs of buildings, necessitating the biggest peacetime airlift rescue that Britain has ever seen. Against all the odds, there was no loss of human life that day, due in great part to the bravery of individuals and the rescue services; this became known as the miracle of Boscastle.
  • 9. Keep going alongside the river to the main road.
  • 10. Cross over the main road and follow the pavement back to the car park.
  • 11. The National Trust looks after some of the most spectacular areas of countryside for the enjoyment of all. They need your support to help them continue their work to cherish the countryside and provide access to their beautiful and refreshing landscapes. To find out more about how you too can help their work as a volunteer, member or donor please go to
  • End: Boscastle car park. You made it!

    *** – Boscastle and the Valency Valley walk – ***

    Beginning in the picturesque seaside village of Boscastle, this walk explores the cliffs above Boscastle’s medieval harbour before heading inland across the Valency Valley and through peaceful woodland, alongside the meandering Valency River. Classified as Moderate, this walk is four miles long and should take about two and a half hours. This is a dog-friendly walk. There is a public toilet (not National Trust) next to main harbour car park (charge applies).

    Start: Boscastle car park.

  • 1. Leave Boscastle car park and turn left. Follow the road down through the village to the riverside tarmac track, heading for the quayside in the harbour.
  • Boscastle village and old village. The charming village of Boscastle is sheltered in the steep sided Valency Valley. From the reign of Elizabeth I, right up until the end of the 19th century, the practice of pressing and preserving pilchards was a vital source of income for the village and was carried out in the building that is now a National Trust gift shop. Pass some attractive old cottages dating back to the 15th century as you walk the Old Road.
  • 2. Ascend the steps next to the breakwater and bear left onto the South West Coast Path. Here there are views of the Meachard, an island rock, where there are seabird colonies in summer.
  • Thomas Hardy connections. The area around Boscastle provided inspiration for one of Thomas Hardys early books, A Pair of Blue Eyes. It's also where Hardy met and courted his first wife, Emma. He returned to the wild cliffs of North Cornwall in 1913, after Emma had died, and was once again inspired by the landscape, resulting in twenty-one of his most emotional poems.
  • 3. When the path splits, take the right-hand fork sign-posted Willapark. Follow a steep path to the Coast Watch Tower, then bear right as you descend and right again to rejoin the coast path.
  • Coastal wildlife around Willapark. The cliffs above Boscastle Harbour are frequented by birds such as kestrel, peregrine, stonechat, gannet and fulmar. The blowhole in the harbour booms and spouts water two hours each side of low tide - an impressive sight if youre lucky enough to catch it!
  • 4. Bear left to follow the path around the Forrabury Stitches to St Symphorians church. Go through the churchyard where you will pass a medieval cross.
  • Forrabury Common. At Forrabury Common youll see evidence of a medieval way of farming, the Forrabury Stitches. The long strips or stitches were individually farmed to grow food crops in the summer and used for grazing in winter. Many of the original strip boundaries are still visible and the practice continues today.
  • 5. On leaving the churchyard, turn left, go downhill then cross the main road. Go down the slip road opposite and turn right. Take the public footpath on the left near the top of the street just before the main road. Pass between a house and small pond with an aggressive gander! Go through the gate.
  • 6. Turn left onto a path marked Home Farm and way-marked Minster Wood. Follow hedge on left and cross a stile. Take the faint track straight across the field. Go through the gap in the wall, to the gate in the corner of the field.
  • 7. Pass through Cold Frame Orchard, exit via stile and keep left. Cross another stile then follow a faint track diagonally across the field to a gate, then take the track way-marked Valency Valley through Minster Wood.
  • 8. Keep the Valency River on your left and, climbing now, follow the woodland path to Minster Church. Here you have the option to shorten the route: cross the stepping stones over the river, turn left and follow valley path to Boscastle.
  • Valency Valley. The Valency Valley is rich in wildlife. Its meadows are filled with wild flowers in summer, attracting butterflies like the rare pearl-boarded fritillary, and the oak woodlands are home to colonies of protected horseshoe and lesser horseshoe bats. The secluded paths running alongside the Valency River offer a peaceful retreat.
  • 9. If you don't take the shorter route, then go through a kissing gate below the church and descend through Peters Wood to the footbridge, crossing the river.
  • Minster church. The church is nestled between Minster and Peters Woods in the Valency Valley. The original church at Minster is Norman and dates back to the 12th century. The valley landscape changed immensely after the heavy floods in 2004, but is gradually growing back into its natural woodland habitat.
  • 10. Turn left off the footbridge and follow the valley path back to Boscastle and the car park.
  • End: Boscastle car park. You made it!

    *** – Crackington cracker walk – ***

    Explore a stunning stretch of North Cornwall’s coastline on a walk that leads you from Crackington Haven’s sandy beach, to magnificent vistas of Cambeak Headland and the cliffs beyond, before returning by the sheltered woodlands of Ludon Valley. Intriguing rock formations and varied wildlife are just some of the highlights you’ll discover on the way. Classified as Moderate, this walk is three miles long and should take about two hours. This is a dog-friendly walk.

    Start: Crackington Haven car park.

  • 1. From the car park in Crackington Haven (not National Trust), cross the road bridge and follow the South West Coast Path south (clearly marked with an acorn symbol).
  • Soay sheep and wildflowers. Soay are a traditional, rare breed of sheep with large curled horns. They graze the cliff top heath and grassland in winter, along with goats and cattle. This helps to limit the growth of scrub so rare wildflowers can flourish. Colourful blooming wildflowers cover the rich maritime grasslands on the cliff-tops in spring and summer. Some have weird and wonderful names like kidney vetch, birds foot trefoil, tormentil and thrift. In autumn look out for the purple and yellow blaze of gorse and heather.
  • 2. The path climbs to cliffs above Tremoutha before descending into a series of small, hanging valleys, with footbridges crossing the streams. There are spectacular views across Tremoutha Haven to the Cambeak headland from Crackington. On a clear day you can see as far as Trevose Head near Padstow to the south and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel to the north.
  • 3. Just below Cambeak Headland there is an option to cut up a permissive path through a spur valley to your left, rejoining the main coastal trail a short way further on. The coast path itself climbs a steep slope to Cambeak Headland where there are fantastic, far-reaching views. Continue on the coast path with the vast under-cliff and bays of Little Strand beach and Strangles beach below you.
  • Rock formations. This stretch of coast is renowned for striking rock formations and slumped and fissured under-cliffs, dating back over 300 million years ago. The excellent exposed rocks help geologists interpret the areas history. Look out for contorted rock layers at Crackington and a natural archway at Strangles called Northern Door.
  • 4. Optional route: When you reach a sign pointing to Strangles car park (200m inland), there is a path to your right to Strangles beach. This route is steep in places, with steps and a rocky descent, but it rewards you with golden sands, rock formations, smooth striped pebbles and interesting flotsam and jetsam.
  • 5. Follow the path off the coast path and inland to a minor road, then bear left, skirting around the north side of Trevigue Farm to a pond on the left.
  • Trevigue Farm. A farmstead has existed on the site of Trevigue Farm since the Norman Conquest. The current farmhouse dates back to the 16th century. Trevigue Farm is now run by Trust tenants who practice wilidlife-friendly farming. See heathland butterflies, such as common blue, clouded yellow and small copper. Look out for birds like kestrel, buzzard, stonechat and linnet here too.
  • 6. Walk towards the white cottage on the right and go through the gate set in a stone wall to the left of the white cottage. Descend into the Ludon Valley across open fields.
  • Ludon Valley. This peaceful valley is a stark contrast to the exposed coast. Mature broadleaf trees of oak and ash, mixed with streamside hazel and willow, provide homes for a lot of wildlife. If you're lucky you may spot birds such as the pied flycatcher or willow warbler.
  • 7. Turn left at the valley bottom and head north alongside a stream towards Crackington. Stay on the path as it enters woodland, keeping the water to your right.
  • 8. Cross two footbridges at the far edge of the woodland before following a quiet, residential track back to the car park.
  • End: Crackington Haven car park. You made it!


    Crackington Haven

    Crackington Haven

    *** – Crackington Haven – ***

    The small coastal village of Crackington Haven in North Cornwall has great wildlife and geology, found amidst beautiful scenery. It began life as a small port importing limestone and coal for the lime kiln and exporting slate from small, local quarries. Traces of a donkey path going down to Strangle Beach where sand, stone and slate were collected can still be seen.

    In 1836, plans were drawn up to create a development called Port Victoria, with grand ideas for a 12 acre harbour and docks, a new town and a rail link to Launceston. As is evident today, the scheme didn't materialise.

  • Geology.
  • Crackington Haven is a fascinating place for its geology and has even had a geological phenomena named after it; the Crackington Formation, a fractured shale that's been bent and contorted by the Earth's movements millions of years ago. The cliffs to the north and south of Crackington, particularly at St Gennys and Rusey, have interesting geological exposures, and the best example of strata folded into dramatic zig-zags is at Milook. Where the rock meets the sea the waves are winning the battle; landslips are common, and the cliff slopes are angled with ledges and platforms which tell of past slippages.
  • Wildlife.
  • The rich vegetation on the cliff tops and slopes provide habitats for several species of birds, including linnet, whitethroat, meadow pipet, skylark, dunnock and stonechat, as well as larger birds such as jackdaws, magpies and kestrels. The steep sided valleys in the summer months are home to a variety of butterflies, including red admiral, ringlet, gatekeeper, meadow brown and the small pearl bordered fritillary. Out to sea, Atlantic grey seals and occasionally bottle-nosed dolphins and basking sharks make this area their home.

    Other interesting features include:

  • The remote Dizzard Forest to the north of Crackington. Watch a short video about Dizzard Forest.
  • One mile south of Crackington is High Cliff, Cornwall's highest cliff standing at 735ft (223m) high.
  • The stone and slate farmhouse of Trevigue dates from the 16th century, with a number of more recent alterations. It continues to be a working farm, that has won awards for nature conservation, but has also diversified into the hospitality trade.

  • *** – Shopping and Eating – ***

  • The Shop.
  • The National Trust shop shop has reopened. For the safety of staff and visitors they have introduced social distancing measures and changes to payment, which will be via card only. In line with government guidance visitors to their shop will be required to wear a face covering from 24 July. Please bring one along with you. It is through your purchases that we are able to continue looking after Boscastle for everyone, for ever.

  • The Café.
  • The National Trust café is reopening on Wednesday 15 July, and will initially be serving a limited range of takeaway hot and cold drinks and some light snacks. They have introduced new safety measures including closure of their seating areas, screens at their till and collection points, and waymarked routes. They will also only be accepting card payment. In line with government guidelines you'll be required to wear a face covering in their cafés and food outlets in England from 24 July. Please bring one with you. They look forward to welcoming you back and know that you will support us to make this a safe experience for everyone.


    *** – Facilities – ***


  • • In line with government guidelines you'll be required to wear a face covering in our shops, cafés and food outlets in England from 24 July. Please bring one with you.
  • • Public toilets (not National Trust) next to main harbour car park.
  • • Dogs welcome, but should be kept under control in the harbour.
  • • Holiday cottages and apartments in the harbour and secluded valley locations.
  • • Cafés and pubs in Boscastle village and harbour.
  • • Stroll along the peaceful Valency Valley to Minster church.
  • • Follow the coast path and discover Forrabury church.
  • Family:-

  • • Baby changing at Gateway building toilets.
  • Access:-

  • • Pay and display, 100 yards (not National Trust).
  • • Disabled parking and facilities in main car park (Non NT).
  • • Level tarmac riverside roads in harbour area.
  • • Level access to National Trust café/shop/Visitor Centre.

    Location : Boscastle, Cornwall, PL35 0HD

    Transport: Bodmin Parkway (National Rail) then 555 bus to Wadebridge. Bus Routes : First Kernow Bus 95 from Bude or Wadebridge

    Opening Times : Cafe/Shop 10:30 to 16:00; Countryside Dawn till Dusk.

    Tickets : Free.

    Tel: 01840 250010