Route details, maps, pubs, features, local history and folklore for a wide variety of walks focusing primarily on Norfolk and Suffolk

Monday, 16 April 2018

South West Coast Path - Bude to Boscastle

View from Buckator

An 16 mile walk along the South West Coast Path between Bude and Boscastle

A challenging walk along a spectacular part of the South West Coast Path. Although this can be achieved in a single day there is the village of Crackington haven near to the half way mark which allows one to cut the walk into two smaller options. Waterfalls to see, steep valleys to cross and some amazing views of the coastline.

Bude to Boscastle Walk - Essential Information

Walk Statistics:

Start point
Bude View in OS Map | View in Google Map
End Point
Boscastle View in OS Map | View in Google Map
Total Walk distance
16.0 miles
Walk difficulty
Challenging
Terrain
Cliff top paths with stepp valleys
Obstacles
There are some steep descents and ascents on this walk

Maps:

The following maps and services can assist in navigating this route. The links include published hard copy as well as online plots and downloadable GPX route data for importing into navigational software and apps.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map
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Online Ordnance Survey Route
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Online OpenStreetMap Route
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Online Google Route
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ViewRanger App Route
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GPX data for route (download)

Details of Accommodation used when performing this walk

Accommodation:

Upper Lynstone Camping and Caravan ParkView in OS Map | View in Google Map
Website
Description
A popular family run campsite close to Bude and with easy access to the South West Coast Path

Transport:

Details of public transport that is required for the walk

First Group - Bus Service
Service Number
95 - First Group 95 service linking Bude and Camelford via Crackington Haven and Boscastle
Timetable

Walk Data

Date of Walk
2017-07-25
Walk Time
04:00 to 14:00
Walkers
Griffmonster, Kat
Weather Conditions
Drizzle to start, brightening up to a fair day

Walk Notes

Bude to Boscastle? you will never do that in a day. That was the response from locals at the Bude Barrel micropub when questioned where we would be walking the following day. Whether this was in jest or a serious warning about the terrain to the south of Bude was inconclusive. Whatever the truth, these words did present a moment of hesitation about the proposed undertakings for the following day.

Let me fill you in here on a bit of background to walking the South West Coast Path. Many walkers undertake the amazing 635 mile journey in one expedition, taking a month or more to undertake the gruelling challenge and in the process finding an inner self that they never realized they had. This is something worth pursuing if one has both the time and finance to devote to such an adventure. Such walkers would undertake this section without a thought as to how long it would take.

Other walkers split the coast path into more manageable sections with the county borders of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall forming natural boundaries to the sections. This enables a long distance walk to be achieved in a week or two with successive walks achieving the whole of the coast path. This can be achieved with a rucksack and camping gear on ones back although this weight will bring the uninitiated into an abrupt baptism of arduous coast walking. There are business enterprises set up to cater for those who want a tailor made walk with baggage transfers and arranged accommodation. Either way this provides a great way to undertake walking the South West Coast Path. Once again, this is fairly independent of timescales with a tent on ones back and the managed walks will have the knowledge and experience to cater for ones walking abilities.

As much as I appreciate both of these methods, and the sense of freedom such long distance walking invokes, sometimes practicality has more bearings on the logistics of such an undertaking as is the case in this instance. With a single weeks holiday each year and being based on the opposite side of the country, the method adopted here was the result of exploring the best options to walk the full distance around the South West Coast Path given that there is an extensive journey to and from the South West and a train journey is prohibitively expensive. Therefore the method adopted is each year, based around mid summers day to maximize the hours available for walking, a section of coast path is undertaken using a base camp and public transport to get between each days walk. This has advantages of not having to carry additional weight, having a base with all the home comforts a large tent can bring and providing access to all the facilities the locality of the base camp provides. One still gets to walk the South West Coast Path and one still pushes to the limits of ones abilities and it is as rewarding as the other methods. In this particular case the camp was set up on the southern side Bude.

Now, for us flatlanders of East Anglia, nothing prepares us for the hills and valleys one has to negotiate on the south west Coast Path, and despite much planning and preparation it is always difficult to estimate just how far one is able to walk in a day given the terrain. There are plenty of websites and blogs out there that provide handy information and hopefully this site also contributes additional advice to the would-be coastal walker. However, to a certain extent, each days walk is a trip into the unknown, especially on the first days walk such as this when a flatlander's legs are unaccustomed to climbing hills. Therefore, the advice from locals was taken seriously and heeded. Bude to Boscastle is 17 miles, 16 from basecamp, and, as many other walkers accounts attest, the coastline between Port Isaac and Hartland Quay is the most challenging of the whole trail.

Therefore, it is always good to have some kind of backup plan. In this case Crackington Haven is near enough midway along the route where the days efforts could be terminated and the return bus caught back to Bude if it was deemed there was not sufficient time to complete the course. Not that Crackington is not exactly half way in mileage, with the section from Bude being 10 miles whilst the remainder to Boscastle is only 6 but the terrain does equal out the two sections to a similar length of time. On most basecamp walks it is always beneficial to walk back to base camp which provides unlimited time to accomplish the task. However in recent years, especially since the demise of the Western Greyhound bus company in this part of the world, the bus services have been drastically reduced. The case in this instance is a prime example where the first bus out to Boscastle is not until after 10am which seriously curtails the number of hours in the day to achieve ones goal. Consequently the reverse option had to be undertaken.

Given the advice from the locals, it was decided the earlier to start the better. First light. Four A.M. Sounds an unearthly hour to some but I can assure anyone that in mid summer when the sun rises at this time it really is a truly awesome part of the day with the unique and unspoilt views which have an essence, a light, a peacefulness like no other part of the day.

On the day, despite the drizzly start, there are two things that put a sprightly lift in each step. Firstly the anticipation of the first day of another years coast path expedition with all the places to see, explore and scenery to gaze in wonderment at. Secondly the exhilaration of being out and about. It may be drizzly but the month of June is usually warm and this particular day was forecast to get better. Trust me, this is the best time of the day to start a walk.

The start of the walk is easy. Fairly level paths follow the clifftops to Widemouth Bay close to the road. The path descends down to the beach at the Bay and passes through the beach car park. A car passes into the car park, probably a dog walker and what would be the only person encountered until Crackington. The path then heads back up the cliff with a fairly easy ascent, then a steady descent to Wanson Mouth. The route now follows the road out of the valley, climbing to the summit of Penhalt Cliff where the views will halt anyone in their tracks to cast their eyes along the magnificent coastline. The view goes all the way to Hartland Point in the north and down to Pentire Point in the south, an amazing sight which even in the murky drizzle is positively awesome.

The path now leaves the road and soon takes an easy descent into Millook, a small cove with a couple of houses and a stream known as Millook Water cascading through it. Once again, the route follows the road out of the valley, around a hairpin bend to the clifftops. More easy walking follows the clifftops before a descent down to Sharnhole Point which is nothing too strenuous.

There is more clifftop path before the first real challenge of the day. Chipman Point. The path descends down from 150m to near sea level and then returns back to a similar height. The path is steep and well worn and many have commented on the challenge this presents. I am never too sure whether it is easier going down such paths or climbing up them with their loose shale and slippery surfaces presenting hazards for a firm foothold. I had read that this is one of the toughest climbs on this section and it is quite a challenge due to the state of the path. But as in all cases along this trail, one takes ones time and tackles each challenge as it comes. The climb out is not as bad and once at the top one can cast ones eyes across the valley and admire just what one has achieved. A boost for ones enthusiasm.

There is another small descent at Cleave Strand and then the path heads out to Castle Point which is said to have been the site of an iron age fort. The path follows the ridge of the hill with the sea on one side and the valley on the other which with a breeze blowing makes it feel a little precarious. As one proceeds along the ridge, one sees nothing but the oblivion of the end of the cliff at the end. One does wonder just how or where the path is going to go. Then as the end of the cliff is reached a path on the left steeply descends down to the valley, zig zagging its course down the 100m descent. Then it is back up with an equally steep climb to get to Pencannow Point. The path rounds the point and ahead is Crackington Haven with a path that steadily descends into this tiny hamlet.

The walk had taken nearly four hours. That provided the confidence that we would complete the walk to Boscastle before the last bus back at 17:30. It is always preferable to catch the penultimate bus, which in this case was at 15:30, as these days one never knows if a service will turn up as the bus companies absolve their responsibility to commit to getting a passenger their destination.

However before continuing it was worth a rest and some breakfast. In this small cove there is a pub, which was obviously not open at this hour, and two cafes either side of the car park. The Haven Cafe was yet to open but The Cabin Cafe was preparing for trade and gladly accepted out custom. It is quite amazing that in the 19th century this little cove was considered to be a suitable site for a harbour with a connecting railway to Launceston. As can be plainly seen this did not happen. A full description of this can be found in the main feature to this walk below.

The path follows Tremoutha Haven out to Cambeak. The initial part of this is not too bad but there is a steep ascent to the point at Cambeak. The path originally went straight up the steep grassy cliff side but there is now an zigzag up the ascent with the original route which crosses it throughout being fenced off, most likely to prevent many feet from eroding it. There is a descent at Little Strand where the impressive Samphire rock can be looked back upon once one gets ones breath back on the other side. The path from here becomes a lot rougher than the earlier sections with frequent descents and ascents until it reaches the highest cliff in Cornwall at the appropriately named High Cliff which stands at 223m. From here there is a rapid descent of 100m before the path climbs back up to 222m presumably Cornwall's second highest cliff which is between Rusey Cliff and Buckator.

The path becomes a little easier around Fire Beacon Point but then it drops down into the valley at Pentargon to cross a stream which cascades over the cliffs in a 80 ft waterfall although it is not too obvious from within the valley but it can just be seen at the start of the descent. There is a steep ascent out of the valley and then an easy walk out to Penhally Hill where the path doubles back to head into the cove where Boscastle hides at its head.

They had said it was not achievable in a day. We arrived and was supping a pint of ale at 1:30, nine and a half hours after starting out. That is not a boast but something to provide a gauge of the time it takes for other walkers looking to do this stretch of coastpath. We had not rushed and I am certain those fit souls with their mind upon conquering this section without much thought to the landscape could undertake the section much less time. This was an average speed walk over some tough terrain with a decent stop for breakfast at Crackington Haven. The effort is rewarding. the scenery is awesome. And a pint of beer at the end is the reward that relieves the aching legs.

Boscastle from Penally Point
Boscastle from Penally Point

Directions

The South West Coast Path is clearly marked with the usual acorn markers of a national trail

From the Upper Lynstone campsite there is a path on the southern side that leads out to the coast path. If starting from bude one needs to proceed down the side of the Bude canal, this will add an additional mile to the journey.

Follow the waymarkers throughout. Do not attempt to stray from the official path as some paths lead to sheer drops.

View from Penhalt Cliff looking back towards Widemouth Bay
View from Penhalt Cliff looking back towards Widemouth Bay

Pubs

The Wellington Hotel, Boscastle View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Harbour, Boscastle
Website

This 16th century coaching inn nestles in the valley at Boscastle and retains much of its traditional decor and charm. Friendly and inviting, the hotel has boasted many notable guest over the years including Thomas Hardy and members of the Royal Family.

The hotel is reputably haunted and has featured in the TV paranormal investigation series Most Haunted in 2004. The ghostly entities include dark indistinct shadows on the stairs, and the ghostly figure of a man in leather gaiters, frock coat, frilled shirt and boots who is said to haunt the area by the reception desk.

Pub food with daily specials made from the local produce brough in fishrmen and farmers, plus traditional Sunday roast dinners. A range of local ales available.

Review

After an exhausting hike, to sit down at the bar of this establishment and refresh ones palette with a crisp hoppy pint of Skinners ale was sheer heaven. I did attempt to question the bar staff over the ghostly visitors that are supposed to haunt the pub but they were not very forthcoming upon the subject. I did take a photo of the stairs in the hope that something may show up. You will probably be very surprised to learn that on viewing the photo after returning home, there was the distinct impression of absolutely no ghostly character whatsoever.

The Cobweb Inn, Boscastle View in OS Map | View in Google Map

Image of pub
Address
The Bridge, Boscastle
Website

This peculiarly named pub dates from the 1700s when it was used as a bottling plant for beers wines and spirits that were brought in by ship. Although it had an off-licence, it never became a pub with a full licence until the after the first world war after transferring the licence from the Ship Inn. In the 1940s the ground floor was con verted to the bar and due to the thick blanket of cobwebs which had been encouraged in order to keep the flies away from the kegs, the pub naturally took the name of the Cobweb.

The cosy and rustic bars make an excellent snug to sit an enjoy ones drinks and food. A varied menu is available and a good selection of Cornish ales from the likes of St Austell, Tintagel and Sharps breweies.

Review

There was a brief half an hour till the bus arrived for Bude. After a pint at the Wellington it only seemed reasonable to investigate another old inn before leaving, albeit it only a brief and fleeting visit. This proved a well founded idea for the Cobweb was a worthy discovery. This really is what a pub should be like and so good to see some Tintagel ales on offer. Their Harbour Special was a sensation for the taste buds. Hints of citrus and a full bodied ale.

The steep descent at Chipman Point
The steep descent at Chipman Point

Features

Duke of Cornwall's HarbourView in OS Map | View in Google Map

The 19th century saw a huge expansion of the railway network throughout Britain. Cornwall's terrain made it a particularly difficult challenge to build railways in the county but nonetheless schemes and projects were put forwards to conquer the Cornish landscape. The first railway in North Cornwall was the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway which opened in 1834. Two years later on July 28th 1836 an Act of Parliament (6 and 7 will iv c. cxxiv) was passed to build a railway between Launceston and Crackington Haven.

This particular railway was part of a larger and more ambitious proposal to create a harbour at Crackington Haven, which would be known as the Duke of Cornwall's Harbour, beneath the north facing cliffs that protrude out to Cambeak. The proposal proffered that the cliffs that stood opposite, out to Pencannow Point, together with a new breakwater would form a natural haven with a western entrance for the ships that plied their trade up an down the Bristol Channel between Bristol and Lands End. This stretch of coastline was notoriously treacherous with many a ship succumbing to the stormy tempests as they headed for the nearest safe haven. It was claimed that the new harbour would provide refuge for shipping and once built would accommodate up to 500 vessels. In addition the port would provide a prosperous income for the local area and a healthy return for the benefactors who would fund the project.

The port would be named Port Victoria and the railway to service the port would be known as the Launceston and Victoria Railway. In addition, the estimated costings of £91,693 for the harbour £53850 for the railway included the provision for nearly 17 miles of track, warehouses, sheds and two steam locomotives and fifty wagons. There was also speculations about extending the railway all the way through to Plymouth.

The project had a lot of support from the local population although a few notable voices offered some well founded doubts to the ideas. The suitability of the harbour site was questioned by those who knew the sea all too well and there were doubts about the existence of the named engineers involved.

A detailed survey of the route of the railway was conducted by Roger Hopkins and Sons, a Civil Engineering company from Plymouth, and they concluded that the scheme was not viable. This all looked to be nothing more than an investment scandal in an era which eventually became known as Railway Mania. This epithet encompassed the speculation frenzy where the number of speculators investing in railway shares snowballed leading to an inevitable collapse. Naturally, during this period, some took advantage of the frenzy by proposing impossible projects with the sole intention of diverting investors capital into other ventures. This appears to be what occurred in the case of the Port Victoria and Launceston and Victoria Railway proposal but with assistance from the Railway Times the fraudalent scheme was exposed. It is thought that up to a third of all proposed railway development from the mid 19th century failed during this period of Railway Mania.

References
Crackington Haven
Crackington Haven

Gallery

Below are a selection of images taken from from the photo album for this walk. Feel free to browse through these or click on an image to view a larger version in the Gallery.

Summary of Document Changes

Last Updated: 2018-04-16

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