Scenic drive along the North Cornwall Coast through Boscastle to Bude

The route heads north along the coast through Tintagel and Bossiney passing the pretty Rocky Valley and on to Trevalga, which has stunning coastal views a short walk from the road, then descends into Boscastle. It briefly turns inland to the pretty village of Tresparrett passing St Juliot Church which was restored by Thomas Hardy. The route then follows some of Cornwall's most rugged coast passing through Crackington Haven, the beatiful woodland at Millook and across Widemouth Bay to Bude. At this point you can either head back on the A39 or opt for the longer route which turns inland and heads back through the canal villages of Helebridge and Marhamchurch through Week St Mary to the bronze age hill fort at Warbstow. The longer route comes back through the pretty wooded valleys of Lesnewth and Minster.

  • Longer route:47 miles round trip (2.5 - 3 hours driving time)
  • Shorter route:42 miles round trip (1.5 - 2 hours driving time)

Map of the route


The outbound route is in blue, the shorter return route is shown in red and the longer return route is in yellow. You can double-click to zoom in and drag to scroll the map, and click on any of the icons for more information. You can also view a larger map in a new window/tab.

Directions

King Arthur's Great Halls in Tintagel
King Arthur's Great Halls
Bossiney Haven near Tintagel, photographed at low tide
Bossiney Haven
Stained glass in St Piran's Chapel, Trethevy
St Piran's chapel, Trethevy
Coastline near Trevalga between Tintagel and Boscastle
Coastline at Trevalga
Old farm buildings in Trevalga
Farm buildings in Trevalga
Forrabury Church in Boscastle by the coast
Forrabury Church
Boscastle Harbour on the North Cornish coast
Boscastle harbour
Boats beached in Boscastle Harbour at low tide
Boats at Boscastle harbour
Cobweb Inn in Boscastle
Cobweb Inn
Crackington Haven at low tide
Crackington Haven at low tide
Coastline near Crackington Haven
Coastline at Crackington
Millook Haven
Millook Haven
Rock formations at Millook Haven
Widemouth Bay
Widemouth Bay
Waves breaking over rocky ridges formed by upended strata at Bude
Upended strata at Bude
Bude Canal in Winter
Bude Canal
Marhamchurch
Marhamchurch
Week St Mary
Week St Mary
Door of Old College in Week St Mary
Week St Mary Old College
Warbstow Bury
Warbstow Bury
The Celtic wayside cross at Lesnewth church
Lesnewth wayside cross
Minster church in Boscastle
Minster church
Wayside cross at Fenterleigh, near Tintagel
Wayside cross at Fenterleigh
View over Tintagel from lane to Trelane
View over Tintagel
  • Turn left onto the B3263 and drive to Tintagel. The road comes to a roundabout opposite which is King Arthur's Great Hall.
  • King Arthur's Great Halls in Tintagel were built in the 1930's 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.

  • There is a car park to the left next to the King Arthur's Arms if you want to explore and possible stock up with fudge for the journey at Granny Wobbly's Fudge Pantry. Turn right at the roundabout in Tintagel and drive along the High Street to Bossiney.
  • Bossiney is a village on the north coast of Cornwall, now adjoined to the larger village of Tintagel which lies the the south-west. Only a large mound, next to the chapel, remains as evidence of the twelfth century castle at Bossiney. Almost certainly, the castle was built by Reginald, the illegitimate son of Henry I of England who made him Earl of Cornwall. According to legend, The Round Table of Camelot is supposed to be buried under the ruins of the Castle and on the eve of the summer solstice, the Round Table will appear when King Arthur and his knights are due to return.

    Bossiney was one of a number of small parliamentary boroughs established in Cornwall during the Tudor period. Sir Francis Drake was elected MP for Bossiney in 1584 after giving his election speech from Bossiney Mound. War broke out with the Spanish in 1585 and his attention turned to their Armada.

  • Drive out of Bossiney and down the hill and up the other side to Trethevy.
  • Trethevy is at the top of the hill, about 10 mins walk along the main road towards Boscastle from Rocky Valley. The path signposted to the waterfall passes the mediaeval St Piran's Chapel and old well on its way to St Nectan's Glen.

  • Continue to follow B3263 to Trevalga.
  • The entire village of Trevalga is owned by Marlborough College - a public school in Wiltshire. It was left in trust so that the village and parish would remain unspoiled for future generations. Consequently there are a number of original old slate buildings that have remained unchanged for many decades. In 2010, the college was told that it was breaking charity law by owning a hamlet, and thereafter placed the entire estate on the market causing uproar amongst the tenants, and became know as "The Battle of Trevalga" featuring in the national news and a radio 4 documentary. The legality of the sale is being disputed by the Trustees and Tenants of the estate and the sale has been suspended until this is resolved.

  • From Travalga, follow the B3263 towards Boscastle. Just before you reach Boscastle is Forrabury. A road to the left leads to the church.
  • St. Symphorian's Church, on Forrabury Common above Boscastle, was originally built over 900 years ago and featured in the poetry of J.S. Hawker as "the silent tower of Bottreaux". According to legend, it has no bells because the ship carrying them was hit by a freak wave and went down just off the coast, with only one survivor. In Victorian times, the main part of the church was rebuilt and extended significantly, but the original Norman tower was left intact.

  • After exploring Forrabury, take the B3263 down into Boscastle.
  • Boscastle is a small fishing village located on the North Cornish coast, just north of Tintagel. Boscastle is one of the few sheltered inlets on the North Cornish coast and therefore a likely landing point for tin traders of ancient times, possibly as far back as Phoenician traders in 2000 BC. The river also provided power for a number of mills which date back at least as far as the 12th Century. In more recent times, as well as being a fishing harbour, Boscastle was a small port (similar to the others on the north coast of Cornwall) importing raw materials such as limestone and coal, and exporting slate and other local produce. In Victorian times, as many as 200 vessels came each year, mostly from Bristol and South Wales.

    In 1302 the name was recorded as Boterelescastel which meant "castle of the Botterels". It's possible this became shortened to bos because this was the Cornish word for dwelling ("bos-castel" would have been understood by Cornish speakers as "village with the castle" as the word kastell also existed in Cornish).

  • Carry on along the B3266 out of Boscastle up Penhally Hill. After passing a staggered crossroads (left to Beeny and right to Trewannett), take the next right to St Juliot church.
  • St Juliot's Church is signposted on the right from the road from Boscastle to Crackington. The church is situated is a beautiful location with its door facing out across the Valency valley. Formerly there was a chapel on the site, dating back to mediaeval times. This was later replaced with a church with a tower dating from the 14th Century and south aisle from the 15th Century. The church was renovated by the author Thomas Hardy. The tower was in such a state of collapse that it needed to be entirely rebuilt, but the 15th Century aisle survived and now forms the nave and chancel.

  • Follow the road past St Juliot church until you reach a T-junction, turn left to Tresparrett. The Horseshoe Inn (originally a blacksmith's) in Tresparrett serves real ales and food.
  • In Tresparrett go straight across the staggered crossroads until you reach another where you turn left. This brings you to a staggered crossroads at the B3263. Go straight across and follow the coast road to Crackington Haven.
  • Until the nineteenth century, Crackington Haven was a small port, importing limestone and coal and exporting local produce such as slate. When the railways reached the district in 1893, the beach could be reached more easily (from Otterham Station) and became popular with holidaymakers.

    As the tide falls, the pebble beach gives way to a large sandy beach. It is west-facing and consequently quite popular for surfing when the tide is out, but care must be taken of the rocks on either side. The rocky ridges along the left side of the beach trap seawater, forming rockpools which support a range of shorelife.

  • From Crackington Haven, follow the road north along the coast through Dizzard down a steep hill to Millook.
  • Millook Haven is a pebble beach at mid-high tide, though there is some sand at the very lowest part of the tide. The cliffs behind the beach have impressive zig-zag folding patterns, formed 320 million years ago. The rocks are part of the "Crackington Formation": thin layers of sandstones and shales, deformed by the tectonic plate collision at the end of the Carboniferous period, that crumpled the earth's crust, giving rise to the tors of Bodmin Moor.

    The Millook Valley, above Millook Haven, contains an area of anciend woodland. The broad-leaved woodland is now owned by the Woodland Trust and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, an Ancient Woodland Site and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are primroses in spring, wildflowers including orchids in summer and blackberries and sloes in autumn. Fauna includes dormice, otters and smooth snakes.

  • From Millook follow the coast road north to Widemouth Bay.
  • Widemouth Bay is the southernmost of the sandy beaches around Bude. As the name implies, this is a substantial stretch of sand and faces west into the Atlantic. Consequently, when there is a big surf running, there can be some absolutely monster waves at Widemouth which can make you wonder why going surfing seemed like a good idea at the time. In the autumn and winter, it's a good place to see expert surfers.

    In the past, sloops from Wales would use Widemouth as a port (in the most basic sense), unloading goods such as coal and limestone; and taking Cornish wares back to Wales such as granite, slate, tin, copper and even Cornish pasties! The beaches in the bay are now the landing points for many Transatlantic cables linking the USA and UK, supporting an altogether different kind of surfing.

  • Follow the coast road towards Bude.
  • Whilst much of the rock along the Tintagel and Boscastle coast is slate, the rocks around Bude are sandstones and shales. Where the softer upended rock layers have been eroded by the sea, a series of ridges has been formed such as at the sides of the beaches at Widemouth, Northcott Mouth and Sandymouth, creating many rockpools.

  • In bude the road crosses the Canal and immediately on the other side is the main car park which also contain the Tourist info centre.
  • Bude is a small resort town on the northern part of the North Cornish coast. The Bedes, meaning wise men, attended the chapel on the rock and consequently the location was refered to as "Bede's Haven". In Cornish it was known as Porthbud. Locals pronounce it "bood" which probably stems from the Cornish version of the name.

    In Victorian times, Bude was a popular seaside resort and many of the Victorian buildings remain. In more recent times, Bude has become famous for its Jazz Festival in August. There is a Tourist Information Centre in the main car park.

  • From Bude carry on along Bencoolen Road onto Kings Hill (A3073) through the hamlet of Kings Hill and onto the A39.

At this point you can opt for the shorter route by following the A39 south through Wainhouse Corner and Otterham Station and following the signs to Tintagel though Slaughterbridge, alternatively you can follow the instructions below for the longer route:

  • Follow the A39 down to Helebridge where the Bude Canal now ends. Turn left towards Marhamchurch into Helebridge where a pair of bridges cross the river and the canal.
  • Bude Canal runs from Helebridge, through the centre of Bude, to the sea lock near Summerleaze beach. The canal was built in the 1820s to carry sea sand and lime inland for use as fertiliser and the original canal system spanned 35 miles reaching Launceston. The canal closed in 1901 when competition from the railway, bringing cheap manufactured fertilisers, rendered it uneconomical. Today, roughly 2 miles of canal remain filled with water.

  • From Helebridge follow the road coming off the A39 to Marhamchurch.
  • Marhamchurch is just south of Bude, once along the route of the Bude Canal. The village was named after the fifth century Celtic Saint Merewenne (one of the children of the Celtic King Brychan), who founded a monastic settlement here. The 14th Century church of St Marwenna, with its magnificent (and heavy!) old oak door and 'sanctuary knocker', and intricate slate floor, stands in a beautiful position surrounded by thatched cottages. Just over the road is a stone building which was built using the stone from a deconstructed village school once known as 'Church House'. The reconstruction was completed in 1873, and the new school opened.

    If you're around on the first Monday after the 12th August, make for the Marhamchurch Revel to see the Revel Queen crowned by Father Time in front of the church, and a procession to the Revel Ground for displays of Cornish Dancing and Cornish Wrestling.

  • In the centre of the village there is a hotel/pub that serves local food and the road bends and heads south. Follow the road south to Week St Mary through Trelay and Langford Barton. As you approach Week St Mary, take the left turn which leads into the centre of the village. You'll see the impressive church tower as you approach the village.
  • On the tower of Week St Mary Church, there are some fine carvings. If you look high up on the west side of the tower you can see hounds chasing a hare. The tall tower has been struck by lightning several times. In 1935, the southwest pinnacle was hit during a hailstorm and fell into the church. There are impressive photos on the village website.

    Behind a piece of castellated wall in Week St Mary, hides one of the most historic buildings - The Old College. The Old College was restored by the Landmark Trust who now let it as a holiday cottage. Originally, the house would have been set in a square courtyard, and approached from a courtyard door opposite the front door - where the mainly 19th century house called 'New College' now stands (look out for the odd bit of Old College masonry in New College's wall). The windows either side of the door would have been gothic. If you peek around the back of the Old College, you can see examples of these. The far, west, side of the building would have been much longer, and would have joined to further buildings, filling the west side of the courtyard where there is now just a farm gate.

    The story began with the birth of the remarkable Thomasine Bonaventure in Week St Mary in 1450. She married three times, each marriage gaining her more money and status, until she was finally left as the widow of Sir John Percival, the Lord Mayor of London. At this point, Lady Percival returned to Week St Mary and began charity work. In 1506, she founded a school - Week St Mary College, with an endowment to pay for a schoolmaster, graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, who would also pray for her soul in the parish church. 40 years later, it was written about in glowing terms, but then suddenly something mysteriously caused the school's collapse and decay and the children were moved to a school in Launceston.

  • Follow the road through Week St Mary, turning right to Canworthy Water when the road forks, passing Week Orchard - a 17th century cob cottage with a thatch of wheat. Follow this road to Langdon where it ends in a T-junction. Turn left to Canworthy Water.
  • In Canworthy Water turn right and follow the road to Warbstow.
  • Warbstow is a parish in north-east Cornwall alongside the River Ottery. Warburghstow was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. The original manor house of Downwinney stood at one end of the village green, but only the Norman door, porch, and an upstairs window have survived.

  • Follow the road out of Warbstow past the Bury and then turn right at the crossroads to Trelash. Follow the road through Trelash to Otterham Mill and past Otterham to the A39.
  • On the A39 pass the 2 turnings to Marshgate and take the next right to Lesnewth. When you reach a junction turn left, then right at the T-junction which should take you past the church.
  • St Michael & All Angels Church in Lesnewth is in a lovely location, just next to a deep-sided stream, marked by an ancient Celtic wayside cross. The original Saxon church was said to be built here in the dip to hide it from marauding Vikings at sea, but they found and pillaged it nonetheless. Sadly, little remains of the Norman church that followed; the present church is mostly Victorian, dominated by an impressively tall 15th century tower. On one of the walls inside is a nicely inscribed slate memorial with a carved coat of arms.

  • Follow the road through Lesnewth down the hill round some bends until it comes out at a T-junction. Turn left and go through the Minster Valley.
  • Minster (St Merthiana's) Church, in a valley on the outskirts of Boscastle, is on a site which dates back 1500 years to Celtic times. It was originally known as "Tolcarne" which means literally "rocky hole" and has been interpreted as meaning a chapel made from rocks. Parts of the church there today dates back to 1150, built by William de Bottreaux. The church was restored twice after falling into disrepair, so there are some features that date back to the Tudor period and others to Victorian times. Look out for the mysterious carved scissors on the tower wall. No one knows why they're there! Suggestions include a trademark of the stonemason, or an homage to the wool trade which funded the church restoration. In early spring, the church is surrounded by a carpet of daffodils and wild garlic.

  • Carry on past Minster Church and turn left at the crossroads. The lane comes out onto the B3266 - turn left onto the B3266 and follow the road past a staggered crossroads.
  • When you read a proper crossroads turn right. Follow the lane past Trevillet quarry until you reach a crossroads with a wayside cross at Fenterleigh.
  • There are said to be 360 wayside crosses in Cornwall. In the mediaeval period, stone crosses were sometimes placed by the road or path. There have been various reasons for erecting these: markers placed along routes used by Christian pilgrims, or as a shrine in reverence, perhaps to a saint who has some connection to the locality. Others mark burial sites, a disaster, a miracle, or some other event that should be remembered. In some cases, they were erected to mark meeting places for Christian worship and later churches were built adjacent to the cross, resulting in the cross being within the churchyard or close by.

  • Turn left towards Trenale and follow the lane which comes out in Trewarmett next to the post box.