One week based in Boscastle
Boscastle is a coastal village in northern Cornwall where we based ourselves for several days. Of many potential destinations, Boscastle was the lucky recipient of our collective presence because my great-great-great-great grandfather lived there once upon a time. Mum had been there before and was keen to return.
If you were to drive to Boscastle direct from London it would take around five hours. We drove from Bath with considerable phaffing along the way so it took much longer.
England has such a diverse mix of roads, from fast multi lane highways to the most narrow lanes. Our journey to Boscastle and the ensuing week covered the lot, with satnav often taking us through the network of back country lanes.
Boscastle has an old and new part. We had planned to stay down in the old town near the harbour, in a self-contained cottage that used to be a carpenter’s shop in our family. Unfortunately there was a botch up and we had earlier learned that our booking hadn’t been received and couldn’t be reinstated. We found an alternative place up in the new town. It was fine though didn’t have the same significance, and we were more reliant on the car up there.
Boscastle originated in three distinct parts: the area built near the harbour; an area further up the hill around ‘Bottreaux Castell‘ (from which Boscastle derives its name); and a farming area on top of the hill. Today old has blended with varying degrees of new and these parts have spread into each other.
The harbour area has a definite old feel to it: stone shops and cottages, potted flowers, narrow streets, cobblestones. Many of the buildings here have been converted to accommodation for the tourist market. A destructive flood in 2004 changed the face of the town permanently, though today you’d never know it happened.
The village has a few pubs – though nothing like the 20-odd it had in the 1700s – which we made our way around for some of our evening meals.
Volcanic rock created a natural harbour inlet that a couple of entrepreneurial settlers enhanced into a small port. Boscastle used to be a busy port up until the railway arrived in the region. Today it is the domain of a few fishing boats.
The main pier is on the south side of the harbour and is supported by a smaller outer barrier on the north side. What looks like a walking path to the outer pier, especially at low tide, and albeit with some wet and slippery looking patches, is not actually a walking path, though it could be that the sign advising this is not really noticed until one has in fact completed the return walk along it.
There are a couple of good short walks from the village alongside the harbour and up to elevated points on either side. For the more extreme walker, there is a coastal path which extends some seven miles.
Headland & coast
Some consolation for not staying down near the harbour were the features of interest up near us.
Forrabury & common
Internet access was a frustrating aspect to the week, mainly as I had hoped to keep more on top of the blog than was possible in reality. Access existed here and there if you knew where to find it and this information was hard to come by. I sniffed out 3G access and a couple of inns in town had wifi, I eventually realised, which prompted some of our evening meal routines.
Unfortunately during this week my DSLR camera sucked the kumara. First the autofocus went on the shorter lens and for several days I diddled around with manual focusing, which I grew to enjoy. But then an error message kept appearing when using both lenses and I gave up on it in disgust. So for half the trip I had to use my little Canon compact.
We didn’t spend all that much time around the village as several day trips were planned. Below is a summary of the week, though many things will require separate follow up posts to do them justice.
Day 1: After a welcome sleep-in the plan was to take advantage of the good forecast and jump back in the car for a day trip back into Devon. This also seemed like a good way to mark that it was Mother’s Day in NZ. We lunched in the nearby town of Bude and stopped again at the village of Kilkhampton where mum chanced a visit with someone she knew. Our main destination though was Clovelly, the very quaint village which I have covered separately.
Day 2: A wet day so we hung around Boscastle. It only rained lightly and cleared up in the afternoon. While it was still grey and moody I ventured up to the Stitches and Willapark and found some great views of the wild coastline. Later on we ventured down into the village and moseyed through the shops – I did not come away empty handed – and along the harbour. In between that and dinner I zoomed back to Bude to pinch some wifi. This was before I knew that we’d find good wifi at the Napoleon Inn where we went for tea.
Day 3: A long day out and about. We stopped by the coastal towns of Port Isaac (where Doc Martin is filmed, those of you who this means anything to), Padstowe, Penzance and Mousehole. The main destination was the southern-most point in England, The Lizard. I preferred to go here rather than perhaps the more obvious Lands End. Not far from here is a big naval air base and we scooted into a viewing area as a helicopter was landing which was pretty cool. On the way home we drove through Bodmin Moor and dad and I were stoked to find the road goes through an old air force base, complete with ruins of buildings and runways.
Day 4: We drove to Tintagel, a few miles from Boscastle, to look at the castle ruins. I had planned to walk five miles of the coastal path from there back to Boscastle, but upon seeing the walk required over to the castle and the extent of the ruins, and given that the castle is quite legendary with reputed links to King Arthur, I put the walk on the backburner. We returned to Bodmin Moor in the afternoon for mum to stop at a couple more family churches and for dad and I to go through the museum of the old air base we came across the day before.
Day 5: Another big day in parts of Cornwall and Devon. Our southern route took us through Launceston, Tavistock, Dartmoor, and Widcombe-in-the-Moor, and possibly another church or two. Dad had well and truly lost count by this stage. Our main destination was the coastal city of Plymouth where there was loads to look at including navy ships, memorials for wars and ships of settlers bound for NZ, and preparations for hosting the Olympic torch relay. This was our final night in Boscastle.
I really liked Cornwall and would like to return to see the things I didn’t get time to. That family originated there is a nice bonus as I just really enjoyed its picturesque and historical features.