|Distance : 9 miles||Grading : +++++||OS Sheet : 106, 111|
This walk begins in the beautiful village of Port Isaac and heads north east along the coast to Tintagel, legendary birth place of King Arthur and home to a spectacular castle. The walk takes in some fairly remote and rocky parts of the coast and also passes two sandy beaches, at Tregardock and Trebarwith Strand, although at high tide both beaches are covered.
Port Isaac is at the end of the B3267. This joins the B3314 the main road close to the coast between Wadebridge and Boscastle and joins the main A39 road at both ends. There is a pay and display car park on the cliff top roughly half way between Port Isaac and Port Gaverne. Do NOT be tempted to use the beach car park at the bottom of the village. Not only are the roads very narrow leading to the beach but the car park is covered by the tide and so is not suitable for long-stay parking. The roads in the older part of the village are part of a restricted zone so you cannot park there.
Port Isaac is served by bus route 584 that runs between Camelford and Wadebridge via Port Isaac, Polzeath and Rock. The bus runs 5 -6 times a day Monday - Saturday and 4 times daily on summer Sundays (no Sunday service in the winter). Most busses connect with services to and from Boscastle, Tintagel, Wadebridge and Bodmin Parkway railway station. For details see below.
Port Isaac is a village and as such, accommodation is a bit limited, but the website Port Isaac.co.uk has a large list at the bottom of their website. The Slipway Hotel is right on the beach and dates from 1527. The Old School Hotel occupies a former school building and provides hotel accommodation in the old part of the village. The tourist information centre in Padstow should also be able to suggest suitable hotel and self catering accommodation.
Port Isaac is a really beautiful little village at the end of a narrow inlet. It's narrow streets and steep hills make it particularly attractive and as such it is also a popular setting for several TV series. This walk begins from the harbour side at the base of the old village with the beach beside you. The beach doubles as a car park at low tide. From Fore Street, the road behind the harbour, with the harbour and beach behind you, turn left, heading east. Turn left and continue up Fore Street as it climbs steeply away from the harbour. The road is very narrow and you may have to watch for cars passing up and down the street. Soon you pass the Old Schoolhouse on the left, which as you might have guessed is the old school building, now a hotel. At the road junction ahead with Back Hill on your right keep straight ahead along Fore Street. Ahead, as Fore Street curves to the right turn slightly left and follow the surfaced path behind the buildings with the coast on the left. You now have fine views back down to the pretty harbour and beach you have just left. Keep to this path as it turns to the right leaving the harbour of Port Isaac behind and passes behind a couple of houses on the right. Ahead you go up some steps and the path then rejoins the road along the top of the coast. The path and road now turns to head south and brings you out into the main car park. If you're driving to Port Isaac you may prefer to start the walk from here.
Pass through the car park and take the access road from the car park back onto the road. You are now in the adjacent village, Port Gaverne, although it is not especially obvious to tell where one ends and the other starts! Port Gaverne has another narrow beach and harbour, with some sand in the rocky bay at low tide. Continue along the road, New Road heading south east, with the low cliffs just to your left. Soon the houses on the right end and you continue along the road beside the bay at Port Gaverne. Pass a single house on the right and then descend down to the pretty little harbour. The sandy beach usually has many boats moored at the back as this is more of a working village.
Follow the road around the back of the beach and keep to it as you now climb up on the east side of the beach. Soon you pass the Headland Hotel on the right a popular hotel in a stunning setting. To the left there are paths around the two headlands here, although the coast path does not follow them. Continue along the road as it turns right past the hotel with a narrow little rocky cove to the left. Just after this fork left on the road past a house and continue on the path ahead, where the road leads to the driveway to the right. The coast path now keeps right to the cliff top passing several fields on the right hand side. Ahead you come to St Illickwell Gug, where the path leaves the cliff top and descends down towards the sea into a valley and then climbs back up the other side. The coast path ahead is then easy to follow for the next mile or so, simply keep to the gently undulating cliff top path, offering stunning views over Port Isaac bay.
Ahead you come to Lower Hendra. Here there is a steep valley where you descend down virtually to sea level and back up the other side of the valley on the steep path. Beyond the valley you round a rocky little cove and beyond this path path cuts a little corner, avoiding Delabole Point although there is a path around this if you choose to take it. The path returns to the cliff top beyond running along the top of the very rocky cliffs and then soon down to another valley, where the path again drops almost to sea level, this one being the Dinnabroad Valley. Cross the stream around the cliff top past another small rocky and sandy beach to the left and continue on the very obvious cliff path, climbing away from the valley. As soon as you reach the top you come to yet another deep valley, the Tregragon Valley where the path again descends steeply to the valley floor and back up the zig-zag path back to the cliff top. Beyond this valley you now have around 3/4 of a mile of fairly level cliff top walking along Tregardock Cliff. This spectacular path follows the rather crumbly high slate cliffs offering fine views north along the coast and soon down to Tregardock Beach below. Soon you come to the path leading down to the beach. The coast path continues north, rather than take this path. The path down to the beach is very steep, with many steps and can be uneven in places. If you can spare the energy though the climb down rewards you with an excellent and probably nearly deserted sandy beach, backed by spectacular rocks. It is a beautiful and remote spot.
Returning to the coast path the path briefly leaves the very edge of the cliffs following close to a field edge on the right soon returning to the cliff top, passing the little cove at Flat Hole. After around 3/4 of a mile you come to another rocky cove, Blackways Cove, where the path descends back to sea level. The path zig-zags down to this very rocky cove. There are numerous caves at the back of the cove and the cliffs you have just followed show some evidence of the slate quarrying that used to be very common in this area. Near the bottom of the valley you pass the foundations and some ruined walls of an old building, likely something to do with the quarrying. The two fireplaces are still very clearly visible. Nearing the bottom of the valley the path turns right, to lessen the gradient, crosses the stream and then climbs back the other side. Climbing up the other side you very soon descend back down, past some more ruined quarries and caves to Trebarwith Strand. This valley, unlike the others we have passed, does have a road and a little village, making it a popular spot for surfers, but at high tide the golden sands of the beach are totally covered, meaning that there is only the rocks to sit on instead. The village also provides welcome refreshment facilities after the remote section previously along the path.
Descending down you come to the pub car park and turn right along the road until you reach the surf shop. Here you can cross the valley leading to the beach, or take the path to the left down to this lovely beach. To continue along the coast path head along the lower road towards the beach and to the right of the second to last building the path goes up steep steps and returns to the cliff top via another climb. You now have fine cliff top walking around the back of Trebarwith Strand and the second beach to the north, Hole Beach. You pass more evidence of quarries on the left as you come to Lower and Higher Penhallic Points. Soon you come to Tintagel Youth Hostel, probably an old quarry cottage in this otherwise quite remote part of the coast. You really couldn't ask for a more spectacular location than this, with fine views out to sea.
Continue north on the obvious path along the cliff top, soon offering fine views back to Higher Penhallic Point and Dunderhole Point. Soon you pass Tintagel Church on the right, 1/4 of a mile or so from the rest of the village, it also enjoys a stunning location. As you enter the car park for the church, turn left back along the coast path. Ahead now you can clearly see Tintagel Head, now virtually an island and home to the famous castle. The Legend Of King Arthur is a very famous legend in these parts and this is said to be his castle. The coastal erosion means parts of the castle have been lost to the sea, but what remains of the ruins are indeed spectacular and well worth visiting. The site is cared for by English Heritage and there is an admission charge. As you approach the point, the path zig-zags down from the top of the cliffs coming down into Castle Road by the castle with the toilets, shop and visitor centre at the end of the track at the bottom. The walk ends here, but it is worth spending some time visiting the castle. The village can be found around 1/4 of a mile away by turning right along the track. Although it is very touristy it has many beautiful buildings, in particular the old post office and is also well worth visiting.
To get back to Port Isaac take bus service 594 towards Camelford. This departs from Bossiney Road further up in the village. At Camelford you may need to change onto bus service 584, but in many cases (as it did when I used the service) the same bus becomes service 584, so it is in fact a through journey. If not, the buses are timed to connect. Ask the driver when boarding for a ticket to Port Isaac and check if the bus is a through service or not. The service runs once every two hours Monday - Saturday all year round and also 4 times a day on summer Sundays between late March and late October. For details see the link below or the Western Greyhound website.
Here are some photos of the walk. Click each picture for a larger version and description.
Ordnance Survey Explorer maps 106 and 111 cover this area of the coast path and are available from most book shops nationwide and many local shops including in Tintagel.
Streetmap is a web site which provides maps of the UK, including the area between Rock and Port Isaac. The links below cover the coast between Port Isaac and Tintagel.