Boscastle is definitely one of Cornwall’s most scenic villages. The buildings around the harbour rise inland to the village. This boasts some very attractive and old white-washed cottages, a Museum of Witchcraft, a National Trust Shop, and a Visitor Centre. There are also a number of pottery and gift shops as well as various cafes and eateries.
Boscastle is just off the B3266 road and reached from Paradise, the hilltop area around the Napoleon Inn. From there the road descends along a steep village street. At the bottom, there is plenty of car parking. From the car park, a footpath follows the beautiful Valency Valley to the old harbour and sea.
The village is on the 95 bus route from Tintagel and also Bude / Crackington Haven.
OS Explorer 111 Map. This area of Cornwall is covered by the Explorer 111 Ordnance Survey map. The map displays the area of Bude, Boscastle & Tintagel, and the South West Coast Path. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
Originally, Boscastle’s tiny harbour was built to handle slate from the Delabole quarries nearby. The National Trust now maintains the medieval harbour. The village and surrounding area sit in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The small port of Boscastle takes advantage of a natural harbour at the end of a narrow ravine. The harbour was developed in the 16th Century when Boscastle became a thriving port, serving a large area of North Cornwall. This continued up to just before the 20th Century. At its peak, the little port had a dozen or so boats of 30 to 200 tons trading heavy goods regularly. The port’s demise came when the railways arrived in North Cornwall in 1893.
Sea stacks and rocks surround the inlet leading to the harbour. This makes the approach by sailing vessels very dangerous in bad weather. Historically, boats had to be towed in by men in rowboats with additional help from men with ropes on the shore, helping to keep the boat in the middle of the channel.
Today the harbour is only used by pleasure craft and small fishing boats.
The Boscastle Flood 2004
The harbour walls and rugged cliffs protect the village from the worst storms at sea. However, in 2004 water from a different direction caused utter devastation. Very heavy rain caused a flash flood. A month’s worth of rain fell close to the village in about two hours. This resulted in two billion litres of water rushing down the river valley into Boscastle.
Nobody had any time to react, cars were swept away and many buildings were badly damaged. Thanks to the rescue operation involving helicopters, nobody died. However, there were millions of pounds worth of damage.
Since the flood, the village has put in many safety measures against flooding. Today, Boscastle is a thriving tourist destination. But, a lot of the destruction the flood caused is still evident. You’ll notice water level markings on quite a few buildings.
Boscastle – Picture Gallery
Close to the harbour is the Witchcraft Museum which has a collection of objects associated with witchcraft from around the world. These include broomsticks, animal bones, and crystal balls to paraphernalia used for spells and divination. The museum also has a collection of around 7,000 books.
The National Trust owns much of the land around Boscastle. The footpath on the left of the quayside leads to Willapark Lookout. This is a whitewashed tower on the summit of Willapark Headland, previously a coastguard lookout. It is also a useful landmark for sailors looking for the harbour entrance. From the headland, the views of the rocky and rugged coastline along to Tintagel are absolutely stunning. The headlands of Penally Point and Willapark stand on either side of the harbour entrance.
The South West Coast path runs through the village and runs North up to Penally Point on the other side of the harbour. From here there are great views of Boscastle harbour. The path then continues on a strenuous but stunning 7-mile journey to Crackington Haven.
Penally Point has an unusual feature nicknamed the Devil’s Bellows. This is a blow-hole located under the headland. With the right conditions, usually an hour before and after low tide, water rushing through the blow-hole creates a sideways jet of water that squirts halfway across the mouth of the harbour. The best place to see this is from the opposite side of the estuary.
For a different view of the coastline, you could try a boat trip from the harbour. These go as far down the coast as Long Island. If you are lucky you’ll see razorbills, guillemots, and puffins, especially if your trip is during the breeding season (May and June). Seals also inhabit this part of the coast.
Boscastle was one of Thomas Hardy’s favourite places and it provides the setting for his novel, A Pair of Blue Eyes. It was here that he met his first wife, Emma, sister-in-law of the rector of nearby St Juliot church. Hardy worked on the restoration of the Church when he was still a practising architect.
A path leads from the car park, through the woods, upwards along the river valley to the church.
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