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.
Beautiful country lanes, narrow though they were
Not only are the lanes somewhat narrow, often you can’t see any of the countryside on account of the hedging, let alone around the next corner
Bit breezy in these parts?
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.
Our cottage in Forrabury Hill
Departure day pic outside our cottage with its views to the other side of Boscastle
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.
This was the original cobblestoned high street of the old town
Valency River running toward the harbour. The 2004 flood swept down this, taking with it 75 cars, several boats and buildings. Around 100 other buildings were destroyed
Dinner at Cobweb Inn, a great Boscastle pub with tonnes of atmosphere. Dad is doing his usual trick of talking while the photo is being taken
The Wellington Hotel, we had dinner here on our last night
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.
On the main pier behind the inner harbour looking back toward the village. In behind, the harbour winds in an S shape from the mouth to the outer pier, which was rebuilt in the 1960s after being destroyed through the combination of a drifting German mine post-WWII and subsequent storms
The entry to Boscastle Harbour
Headland & coast
Some consolation for not staying down near the harbour were the features of interest up near us.
Track up to the Coastwatch Lookout at Willapark. This headland was home to a fort around 2500 years ago. The building you can see was originally a summer house in the 1800s, then used as a lookout to deter smuggling, before becoming a coastguard station. In the last 10 years it has resumed its function as an active coastal lookout
Along the cliff tops at the left you can see the coastal path. I was keen to walk some of this but ended up running out of time
From Willapark looking down to Penally Point and the harbour entry
Forrabury & common
Forrabury Church, St Symphorian’s, has an elevated position above town and was 2 minutes walk from our house. It is a family church so mum visited a couple of times. I liked the graveyard… and the fact that 3G coverage was possible just beyond the church
Forrabury Common (or ‘Stitches’) lies between the church and the sea and dates back to Celtic times. The land has been divided into strips, about 40 in this case. These days it is owned by the National Trust but is still farmed using the original crop rotation method. Locals also walk their dogs there
Sunset over Willapark and the Lookout
Me freezing while watching the sunset just beyond the church
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.
The Falcon Hotel in the nearby town of Bude with me sitting in front using their unsecured wifi
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.