133b Boscastle to Crackington Haven

After lunch I walk up the side of Boscastle Harbour, following the South West Coast Path and heading for Penally Point. The tide is out and the water in the harbour is low. But the sun is shining and this has brought many people out for a stroll.

Boscastle Harbour, Ruth's coast walking

I climb steadily up the slope of Penally Hill, and pause to take a photograph of Boscastle village below.

Boscastle, Ruth walking around the coastline of the UK

From the top there is a wonderful view of the coast and I can trace the course of the coastal path along the side of the cliffs. The tallest point is Fire Beacon Point. After that I can see the long finger of Cambeak. My destination is out of sight on the other side of Cambeak, a place with a northern sounding name – Crackington Haven.

 Fire Beacon Point and Cambeak beyond, Ruth Livingstone

But first I have to cope with a steep drop into a gully, at the bottom of which I cross over a stream. This place is called Pentargon.

Down to the Pentargon Waterfall, Ruth walking the SWCP, CornwallI don’t realise it at the time, but the stream falls over the cliff and down to the sea as a waterfall. Of course, I can’t see the waterfall properly from the top.

The climb down into the gully is long and steep and so is the climb up the other side. I stop for a rest, look back across and take a photograph of the path down. (If you enlarge the photo, you can see the tiny figure of a walker making his way back up the slope.)

Once on top of the cliffs and I come to a divergence in the path and am forced to make a decision.

Optional route to Fire Beacon, Ruth walking around the coast of Cornwall


For some reason, the main path seems to veer inland, although an ‘optional’ route is indicated and this continues straight along the coast. I pull out my map and the inland route is not even marked. Now, do I go inland or do I stick to the ‘optional’ coast path?

Straight ahead the path looks well trodden and I don’t anticipate any problems. So, I choose the coastal route, of course!

(But in retrospect, I realise I should have questioned why an alternative route was provided. I am soon going to find out…)

Beeny Cliff, Ruth walking the coast in Cornwall, SWCPThe route runs along the side of a steep, grassy slope. This is Beeny Cliff and ahead I can see the group of rocks called the Beeny Sisters.

The path is very narrow and, when I meet an oncoming group of European walkers, I am forced to balance on the side while I wait for them to pass.

Perhaps this is why the route is ‘optional’? A narrow path and a steep slope? Yes, that would explain it.

But a little further on and this is what I see ahead of me.

 Up to Fire Beacon Point, Ruth's coastal walk, CornwallA great towering mass of rocks. And the path seems to disappear straight up. Am I going to have to start rock-climbing? Is there some mistake?

I pull out my map and check. This must be Fire Beacon Point. The map does show the path crossing a number of tightly packed contour lines, implying something steep. But I didn’t realise it would be a precipice.

I climb up slowly. The rocks are loose and I am glad of my poles. I stop for a breather and take a photo of the view ahead. Cambeak is the nearest promontory. In the distance I can see as far as Hartland Point, many days walking away.

great view to Bude and Hartland Point, Ruth Livingstone

Suddenly I come across a small, flat area. And a bench. It is dedicated to the memory of Paul Heard from the Cornwall Ambulance Service, who died in 1994. I am surprised to find the seat in such an isolated spot, and in such excellent condition.

Paul Heard's bench, Ruth's coastal walk on Beeny Cliff

It takes me 1/2 an hour to climb to the top of Fire Beacon Point. The view is worth it. I can see all the way back to Tintagel and can even make out a couple of headlands beyond, although I can’t work out what they are. Rumps Point near Padstow? And then what? Trevose Head? Maybe.

 looking back to Tintagel, From Fire Beacon Point, Ruth's coastal walk

And looking straight out to sea, I think I can see something out there. Is that Wales? It can’t be. Or an island?  I look at my map but it doesn’t show any land out in the sea.

Lundy Island, from Fire Beacon hill, Ruth's coastal walk

[Later I realise I am looking at Lundy Island, about 30 miles away and well outside the range of my current map, beyond Hartland Point.]

From here the path follows the top of the cliff, running straight and flat. I stop for a drink and a snack and am surprised when a family with young children come strolling past. Despite the apparent isolation of the area, a short footpath connects the coastal path with a small road that runs a few hundred yards inland, just over the ridge.

 easy walking, Ruth on South West Coast Path, north Cornwall

Below, a steep cliff ends in harsh rocks and a blue sea. It is a beautiful place.

Rocks below, SWCP, Ruth in north Cornwall

I walk on and notice the land falls down to the beach ahead of me. But I am not too worried, being convinced from my map that the path will continue around and along the top of the cliffs. But it doesn’t.

Rusey Cliff, Ruth's coast walking, SWCP, CornwallThis is Rusey Cliff. Below is a rocky beach and the footpath leads down, winding down a drop of around 200 metres, almost to sea level.  It is not the path down that worries me. It is the near vertical steps up the other side.

 steps up Rusey Cliff, SWCP, Ruth's coast walkingTo give some sense of scale, I have blown up a small segment of the climb in the photograph on the left.

The steps are steep and go on and on and on.

It takes me half an hour to climb them and, by the time I reach the top, I am exhausted. This is my fourth massive climb today. Rocky Valley, Pentargon, Fire Beacon Point and now Rusey Cliff. And, of course, there have been numerous smaller climbs inbetween.

Somewhere near the top I find a bench and have a rest. I am almost too tired to appreciate the view.

Rusey Cliff, North Cornwall, Ruth's coastal walk

It is 3:50pm and I must press on.

Northern Door, Ruth's coast walk, near Crackington HavenThe walk is lovely.  Ahead are two beaches called The Stranglers and Little Strand. There is rock with a hole through the middle, called Northern Door. The furthermost rock is the tip of Cambeak. It still looks a long way away.

On this section I meet a fellow walker. Not a stroller, a proper walker with a back pack. He has his head down and seems too tired to speak. I wonder where he has come from and where he is heading. Boscastle? There is no other village. He still has a fair way to go.

The South West Coast Path heads north until it reaches Cambeak. Then it takes a sharp turn to the right, leading east to Crackington Haven.

I still have over an hour before I am due to meet my husband, and so I decide to leave the main path and climb a mound that lies just before the rocky tip of Cambeak. At the top I sit and have a snack. The sun is sinking low behind me and the wind is tugging at my back, but Crackington Haven looks beautiful, glowing in the mellow light of the late afternoon.

Crackington Haven, Ruth's coastal walk, Cornwall

I walk the last section with tired legs. The wind picks up, blowing with increasing strength from the west, pushing me along. At Crackington Haven, the waves roll in along the narrow beach and, despite the lateness and the wind, a few brave men are out surfing.

 surfers on beach, Crackington Haven, Ruth's coastal walk in Cornwall

There is nothing much at Crackington Haven. Just a few houses and – yippee – I can see a pub. And it is open.

Crackington Haven, Ruth on the SWCP, north Cornwall

The wind is even fiercer and makes sitting outside difficult, but without a mobile signal, I have to keep a watch on the road while I wait for my husband to arrive. My cider tastes wonderful.

National Trust, Crackington Haven, Ruth on the SWCPCrackington Haven was given to the National Trust in 1959 by Wing Commander Parnall “in memory of his brother – Flight Lieutenant Parnell RAF – and all who gave their lives in the Battle of Britain 1940.”

I think of all the brave airmen who died in WW2. And I think of all the people who have donated land, or raised subscriptions to buy land, so that the National Trust can keep these wonderful places open for the whole nation to enjoy.

This has been an amazing walk and a perfect day. I feel lucky to be alive.

Miles walked this afternoon = 7
Total today = 12
Total distance = 1,310

Vertical height climbed today (according to Andrew Lack’s wonderful calculator) is 4,000 feet or just over 1,200 metres.


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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15 Responses to 133b Boscastle to Crackington Haven

  1. patriz2012 says:

    You are really cracking on at the moment – I feel quite envious! I have to wait til Easter.

    Take care


  2. mariekeates says:

    The views were amazing on this walk but I don’t envy you all those climbs. The steps look horrendous.

  3. Well done you, 4,000 feet of climbing is huge, a very tough test of stamina.

    To put it in perspective the summit of Snowdon is at 3,560 feet above sea-level, and the various routes to the summit you can choose from there all start well above sea-level.

  4. Since my earlier comment I’ve now been fortunate enough to walk this section myself. I concur, it is utterly amazing, tough going but a fabulous walk. I can’t recommend it highly enough to your readers.

    The long steep hill you mention after Rusey Cliff climbs to the summit of High Cliff, at 731 feet the highest cliff in Cornwall. I too found that climb particularly strenuous. As tough as any I’ve encountered on my journey around the South West Coast Path so far, which includes the notorious Hartland Quay to Bude section.

    I enjoy each of your blog updates thoroughly. Keep up the good work 🙂

  5. Pingback: 193pm Castlemartin to West Angle Bay | Ruth's Coastal Walk (UK)

  6. Pamela Foster says:

    Great portrayal of the walk. So much so we were digging into our boots willing you on. We have visited Crackington Haven a couple of times but haven’t done the walk yet between there and Boscastle but thanks to you we have an insight in what to expect and what to look out for.

  7. Sharon Sadler says:

    Hi Ruth, I’ve only just found your post. I was delighted to see your photo of the seat dedicated to my dad, Paul Heard. Him and my mum walked the South West coastal path years ago. He would be so pleased to know that fellow walkers, like yourself, are able to rest on his bench.

    • Hi Sharon. It was wonderful to find that bench there – just when I needed a rest. It makes a great memorial for your dad, and I’m pleased to hear he was a walker too. Thank you for getting in touch. Best wishes, Ruth

  8. Karen White says:

    You must be super fit now! I know that I clould never get up those steps.

  9. Pingback: 179. Boscastle to Crackington Haven – Albion Ambulations

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