Nestled in the secluded, peaceful Valency Valley, by the sea, sits bewitching Boscastle. It is not difficult to fall under the village’s spell.
The 2004 flood put previously undiscovered Boscastle on the map, where previously most people had headed for Tintagel instead. It also brought the community together and is now a beautiful – and safe – spot to visit. However, it has retained its magic and its receptiveness to the supernatural/New Age vibe, rather like a mini-Glastonbury.
The A30 is the dual carriageway from the M5 to Bodmin, with the Atlantic Highway A39 connecting Bude, Camelford, Wadebridge and Padstow. Alternatively, opt for the A39 to Bude at Junction 27 on the M5 and then head out on the A39. Boscastle is about 20 minutes from Bude by car, or there is a frequent Stagecoach 595 bus.
Trains are more difficult, as public transport takes just under 2 hours, with a change and a walk.
View looking out to sea through the fjord-like entrance to the harbour and village at Boscastle, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images Chris Lacey
The harbour at Boscastle, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images Hugh Mothersole
Bustling Boscastle has a number of good eating options. Personal recommendations include the haunted (by, among others, Thomas Hardy and his wife, no less) Wellington Hotel highly-rated for customer service and food (a French woman was overheard praising the moules for the quality and overall taste. The mezze is also well worth trying).
If seafood is your thing, head to The Rocket Store. Its small blackboard menu changes daily depending on what fresh produce is available. They only use local suppliers, and serve fresh seafood from their boat and meat from their nearby farm.
For sheer quirkiness and British eccentricity, the Cobweb Inn is a wonderful example of a traditional Freehouse with great pub food and choice of ales. The perfect place to stop if you have walked from Crackington Haven.
The National Trust café is good for coffee, cake or a pasty down by the harbour and has an attractive shop.
Just up the steep hill is Boscastle Farm Shop with its home-baked frittatas, quiche, scones, sausage rolls and pasties, etc., as well as great customer service (note parking can sometimes be difficult sometimes as it is always busy and popular with locals as well as visitors).
Boscastle, to be honest, is far better for adults than small children, but there are places nearby, such as a treasure trail around Port Isaac. If you want a beach, then Boscastle is not the best place for you, but certainly worth a day visit. Try Bude, Widemouth or Crackington instead, if you have small children.
Tintagel Castle's new bridge, Island Courtyard for English Heritage
For adrenaline adventures, Cornish Rock Tors is situated in nearby Port Isaac, offering coasteering, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and open water swimming. There is plenty of surfing on offer at nearby Crackington Haven but also at Widemouth Bay and Bude. Saltwater Safari also offers coasteering, surfing and SUP adventures at various sites around north Cornwall, including nearby Bossiney.
The medieval harbour is the main attraction, so while there is no beach, there is a blowhole beyond the outer harbour wall, best seen at low tide when the sea outside the harbour is rough.
The Harbour at low tide at Boscastle, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images Mel Peters
The nearest accessible beaches are at Crackington Haven and Bossiney Haven. Crackington is sandy at low tide, with plenty of rock pools and summer lifeguards. Cafes, a pub, toilets and car parking are all available. Bossiney is for the more adventurous. A beautiful hidden gem, this large sandy beach is only accessible at low tide via a footpath over farmland and steep man-made steps down the cliff.
Boscastle has a range of small, independent shops, where you are spoiled for choice. Down by the harbour, try Things for quirky and unusual gifts: lovely scarves, local items and jewellery from Italy.
For Cornish ceramics, try Boscastle Pottery. Then there is Otherworld which is all spiritual New Age items – fascinating, like a mini-Glastonbury, while Uncle Paul’s Emporium also sells crystals, geodes, and other unusual items/gifts.
Foodwise, Boscastle Farm Shop is excellent for fresh produce, foodie stuff and you can buy freshly made quiche, sausage rolls, pasties and scones for your cream tea. Cornish Stores also sells fresh local produce.
There are a couple of ladies’ clothing shops and a little art gallery gift shops that sells lovely prints and cards. Regatta clothing outlet is based at the bridge, in case you need some great value outdoor clothing. The Leather Shop sells bags, belts, wallets, etc.
You must try the unique The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic which is a well-loved, independent museum, situated here since 1960; it is full of magical, occult and supernatural artefacts. It might scare children but is a great, reasonably-priced excursion for adults. The National Trust Cafe/Shop also has a small exhibition about the Boscastle flood.
Well, the aforementioned Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is unique but also not far from this ethereal place is St Nectan’s Glen. Mesmerising woodland and 60ft waterfalls combine in an awesome natural phenomenon that is not to be missed.
Walking tends to be on the strenuous side. If you walk here on the coast path from Bude, you will definitely feel it. Try Pentargon waterfall, a short walk north in the direction of Crackington Haven or walk to the Coastwatch lookout. Head south west down the coast path, and you can see it from the harbour. Or why not walk to Tintagel on the coast path.
For something a little different, Forrabury stitches is a medieval strip field system. Found by the Coastwatch lookout, these date back to medieval times and are managed by the National Trust to maximise wildlife diversity.
Willapark and Forrabury Stitches, North Cornwall. The imposing cliffs of Penally Point and Willapark guard either side of the entrance to Boscastle harbour. Adjoining the 317ft-high promonotory of Willapark, sits the ancient Forrabury Stitches. ©National Trust Images Rhodri Davies
Walk the Valency Valley. The river by the main village car park is the Valency so why not follow it inland to discover this wonderful valley. Walks tend to moderate to strenuous around here but this one from Lesnewth Church to Hallwell Woods is easy-moderate!
Visitors walking on the granite stepping stones across the River Valency at Boscastle, Cornwall. ©National Trust Images Chris Lacey
Boscastle is best known to many because of the terrible flash flood there on 16th August, 2004, when exceptional rainfall devastated the village, washing 100 cars out to sea, destroying 1000 trees and depositing 20 years worth of river sediment. 100 people were airlifted. Historic buildings were ruined. Amazingly, Boscastle was rebuilt, strengthened, and amazingly, everyone survived and £10 million of investment was poured into making the village safe and secure.
Just outside Boscastle, tucked away in a rural hamlet, is St Juliot’s Church. It is easy to miss, as you traverse single track lanes and cross a ford to reach it, but well worth a visit for its Thomas Hardy links. In 1867, the medieval church was in poor repair, so a young architect from Dorset was drafted in to survey it for restoration. The aspiring young architect was Thomas Hardy, who promptly fell in love with a young local, Emma Gifford. The couple married four years later, and Hardy wrote a novel about their courtship, entitled ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes‘. Sadly, the marriage was unhappy but when Emma died in 1912, he returned and erected a memorial. The full story is here.
It does attract many people interested in witchcraft, of which there is loads of information in the link. Others are fascinated by crystals and tarot, so there is plenty for you in that department, here.
Because it is in a valley, it can at times feel very warm in Boscastle, so is not ideal for dogs on a hot day. Weather is usually hottest in July, with average temperatures said to be between 20-25 degrees. The coldest month is February, when the temperature drops to an average of 6 degrees. April is the driest month (contrary to April showers predictions) and November the wettest.
Public (20p pay) toilets are available by the car park entrance/exit, or you can use the National Trust Cafe ones for free if you are using the cafe.
Full of charm and history, making Boscastle a popular choice for a Cornish getaway.