From Coast to Camelot: A Week in North Cornwall

We have just arrived home from an amazing week in North Cornwall. We managed to visit some wonderful places and I’m not sure where I should begin! Cornwall has been on my travel ‘bucket list’ for a while and I’d eventually booked a trip there for June last year. As you can probably guess, the trip was postponed by Covid, so it was a long two year wait from when we booked to when we eventually arrived at our cottage! It was worth the wait to finally see some of the places I’d been drooling over on Instagram in real life. We stayed on the north coast of the county, close to Camelford, which meant that places I’d wanted to visit for years like Tintagel, Trevose Head and Pentire Point were just a stone’s throw away.

Tintagel

Tintagel was at the absolute top of my list of places I wanted to go while we were in Cornwall – legend has it that this was the birthplace of King Arthur, and a potential location of Camelot, home of the Knights of the Round Table.

Regardless of how much stock you put into the legends, Tintagel has a rich history, with evidence of settlements on the island as early as the 5th Century. The site is now managed by English Heritage, and for a rather pricey admission fee you can cross the footbridge connecting the two halves of the castle – one on the island and one on the mainland.

Rather than just calling in to the castle, we did a short circular walk from Tintagel, which passes through Bossiney and along the South West Coast Path before rewarding you with a breath taking view of the castle and bridge at the end of the walk. For such a short easy walk the views are incredible: it took us ages to get around, not because there are lots of steep ascents, but because we had to keep stopping to admire the views. The amount of flowers like sea pinks and fox gloves bursting into life all along the coast path amazed me – I’ve never seen so much colour on a coastal walk.

The path down to Bossiney Haven was closed due to a rock fall, so we couldn’t walk down to this stretch of beach, and we continued along the coast path to reach the headland at Willapark. This spur of land was an Iron Age settlement and gives great views along the coast in both directions. From here its a short stroll to the next headland, Barras Nose, where you get the iconic view of Tintagel Castle.

We followed the route from our Cicerone guide to Cornwall, which has a great variety of routes across the county. If you don’t have this guide, a similar route is available online on iWalkCornwall. There are a few car parks in Tintagel: we parked at the Visitor Centre car park which was £3.50 for up to 3 hours. There were plenty of spaces when we arrived at 9am on a Saturday morning at the end of half term, and still a few left when we arrived back at the car two hours later.

If you want to hang around for a little longer, there are plenty of shops and cafes to explore in Tintagel, or you could walk further down the coast to reach the village of Boscastle. Don’t miss a walk past the charming Tintagel Old Post Office with it’s wavy roof on your way around the village. If you’re hungry, we stopped off at Slice Tintagel to pick up two Cornish Pasties, and I can confirm that they were the best Cornish pasties we’ve ever had. The smells wafting from the shop were so delicious that I actually went back to the car to get my face mask so I could go in to get some!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. The first 1.5km of this walk was along a road on pavement, before picking up the coast path for the remainder of the walk. We kept ours on leads along the coast path due to cliff edges and sea gulls flapping near the edge – too tempting for a gundog to resist! Tintagel Haven is accessible from the coast path if your dog fancies a paddle, but make sure you take some water along for your dog, as you won’t pass any fresh water. A great thing about this walk is that there are no stiles whatsoever – woohoo – just a few kissing gates. There might be livestock in some of the fields you cross so this is something to keep an eye out for.

The Eden Project

Sam had always wanted to visit the Eden Project, so adding it to our itinerary was a no brainer. It was just over an hour from our cottage but this is no distance at all compared to the drive down to Cornwall from North Yorkshire!

The Eden Project, who run a number of ecological projects, is sited close to St Austell. The main attraction of the Eden Project is undoubtedly the two biomes: one for Mediterranean plants and one for rainforest plants. Outside the biomes there are a number of smaller outdoor garden features, although a lot of these weren’t quite in full bloom when we visited.

There were quite a lot of people visiting at the same time as us: the Eden Project seems to be a popular day out for families. It was actually quite crowded in places and we ended up trying to find some quieter parts of the site – it sometimes felt like being in the queue for a rollercoaster! It was a whopping £65 for us both to get in (pre-booked only) which, to be honest, I think is a bit off a rip off. You can no longer book day tickets and have to buy an annual pass – which, at £32.50 each, isn’t (in my opinion) very good value for money for people visiting from further afield.

Dog friendly rating – 2/5. Dogs are allowed on to the site, but not in the biomes. As the rest of the site is actually quite small, there’s not more than an hour or two’s worth of gardens to explore. It was also very, very busy – not ideal when you’ve got a dog, especially when there are lots of small children who want to come and say hello to them! I’d therefore say if you are looking for a dog friendly day out, go for one of the many other gardens in the area, and only go to the Eden Project if there’s something here that you specifically want to see.

Lantic Bay

After giving up exploring the Eden Project, we made the most of the sunshine to head along the coast to the absolutely stunning Lantic Bay. As National Trust members we were able to get the most out of our membership by using lots of National Trust car parks – Lantic Bay is one of these, so if you’re a National Trust member, you can park for free.

From the car park it’s a five minute walk to pick up the South West Coast path. You can turn left and walk for five or so miles to reach Polperro, turn right and make the short walk to Polruan, or head down the steep steps to reach the beach.

There are two small, shingly beaches you can choose from: big beach or little beach, although they’re both pretty compact! To get to the bigger stretch of sand, keep right on your descent, or to go to the smaller beach, head left through a gate with a National Trust finger post.

The view of Lantic Bay from the coast path has to be up there with my favourite views from the holiday. The sea was sparkling turquoise and the path was bursting with flowers, something which I noticed was a characteristic of all the walks we did. Even driving along country lanes, the verges were made up of ferns and foxgloves rather than long grass, making it feel like you are driving through the jungle.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. Lantic Bay is dog friendly all year round (something which you need to check as some beaches have dog restrictions – Cornwall Beaches is a really great place to check which beaches do or don’t have restrictions). There may be livestock grazing in the fields you cross to get from the car park to the beach, but once you’re clear of these, dogs can zoom around to their heart’s content on the beach (please be considerate of other beach users). There is no road walking, apart from crossing the road to the car park, and no stiles. Again, remember to take along some water for your dog, as there is no fresh water on the way to or from the beach.

Brown Willy and Rough Tor

When you think of Cornwall, I bet you think of crashing waves and turquoise seas, or maybe fishing harbours with boats bobbing in the water. I expect very few people think of the wild, rugged upland which is Bodmin Moor.

This was another walk which we found in our Cicerone guide, although an online alternative can be found on iWalkCornwall. It’s roughly 5 miles on a circular route, starting from the free Forestry Commission car park at the end of Rough Tor Road, and is pretty easy walking with no very steep sections. When I say ‘easy’ I am purely referring to gradient – navigation skills are a must for any walk on Bodmin Moor, where paths are pretty much non-existent, and you will need to be able to navigate yourself from A to B. We made sure to pick a day when the weather forecast was completely clear to do this walk – it would be horrendously difficult to navigate in fog.

Brown Willy and Rough Tor are the two highest points in Cornwall and are on a mix of privately owned and access land. While the views aren’t quite the same as the drama of the South West Coast Path, don’t let that put you off exploring Bodmin: there’s a wildness here that you don’t find with the very popular coast. Bodmin Moor is in fact a part of Cornwall’s AONB – something I didn’t even know existed until I spied the logo on a fingerpost at the start of the walk.

Make sure you wear sturdy boots on this walk, as the ground is either rocky or marshy. If you’re feeling athletic, climbing to the top of the rocks on Showery Tor is a great photo opportunity!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. Please stick to access land rules and keep your dog on a lead – there are livestock grazing on the moor, as well as ground nesting birds, so please respect the land and keep leads on. We came across cows, sheep and ponies on this walk, as well as seeing a number of different kinds of bird.

There were a couple of stiles which we needed to cross but these weren’t too difficult to get the dogs over – they mostly managed to get across by themselves with a bit of help from us. You cross the river a few times which provides the opportunity to have a paddle, but it’s worth taking extra water on a hot day. This walk was a lot quieter than all of the walks we did on the coast, so this might be a good option for you if you have a reactive dog who likes extra personal space.

Pentire Point

The walk we did around Pentire Point was hands down my favourite walk of the holiday. We did a 10 mile circular walk which we found in our Day Walks in Cornwall book, although we adapted it slightly to start from Pentireglaze National Trust car park where we could park for free as members, rather than starting in Rock. I can’t find any similar routes online, so if you like the sound of this walk, you’ll either have to plot it yourself with a map or invest in the book!

This walk just knocks the views out of the park. Starting along an impressive stretch of the coast path, you then head inland to visit St. Enodoc’s church (burial place of the poet John Betjeman), before climbing Brea Hill for panoramic views across Daymer Bay beach, dropping down to the beach to follow the coast path to Polzeath and then continuing on to pass the incredible promontory of the Rumps.

By the time we arrived in the bustling sea side town of Polzeath, our tummies were rumbling and our legs were starting to get a bit achey. We therefore decided that a pit stop was in order and picked up a few giant sandwiches from Flo’s Kitchen, just off the route through Polzeath. It took a lot of self control not to pick up some of the tasty looking cakes on offer too!

This was probably the toughest walk we did, with lots of steeper up and down sections, but the views were so so worth it. My favourite view has to be a toss up between the Daymer Bay panorama from the top of Brea Hill or the spectacular view walking alongside the Rumps. We had a beautiful sunny day for this walk and the views were all we could want and more.

Looking back across the Rumps

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This is an absolute cracker of a walk and should more than satisfy any dog’s exercise needs! Ours certainly flopped down and didn’t move until the next day when we got home. The inland section of the walk is very quiet, and we saw zero walkers away from the coast path. We did pass through fields with sheep and cows, as well as across a golf course, so while the dogs needed to be on leads for large sections of the walk, this is more than compensated by the opportunity to have a run on the stunning, and quiet, Daymer Bay. There is also a mile or two of road walking on this hike, but aside from a hundred metre or so stretch along a busy road (which we jogged), the roads were very very quiet with hardly any cars. There were one or two stiles, but both of ours managed to get over these without any assistance from us. Ours also loved the stop at Flo’s kitchen and finishing off our sandwiches! Make sure you take plenty of water for your dogs – ours drank nearly two litres on this hike.

Trevose Head

The original plan for the penultimate day of our holiday was to go and walk along the coast at Godrevy, however, the weather forecast changed and quickly put that idea out of the window. We therefore opted to head down to Trevose Head, which was close enough to the cottage that we would be able to follow the coast path for a while and then head back to the car before the rain arrived!

Rather than following a set route, we parked up at the National Trust’s Trevose Head car park (another one where we could use our membership for free parking), and followed the coast path to just beyond the lighthouse. Not far after this there is a little bench on a spur of land which looks across to Polzeath – we sat and enjoyed the view here for 10 minutes or so before turning around to retrace our steps.

There are two beautiful beaches easily accessible from this stretch of the coast path: Booby’s Bay and Mother Ivey’s Bay. Both of these beaches are dog friendly year round and both were extremely quiet when we visited – although that might have had something to do with the >95% chance of heavy rain all day that the Met Office was forecasting! For a wonderful view across to Booby’s Bay, it’s worth the short detour up the Dinas Head promontory, which has views for miles in both directions.

The path on this walk is similar to much of the South West Coast path: generally a clear path, but with uneven terrain and steep in places. I managed to put my foot down a hole when I wasn’t looking where I was going and went flying!

Dog friendly rating – 4/5. This has many of the same positives as other coastal walks on this post: spacious beaches for zoomies being the main one, no stiles being a close second (at least not on the section we walked along). There is no road walking on this section of the coast path, you go through a gate in the car park and it’s all off road from here. I would definitely advise keeping your dog on a lead along the cliffs if they are likely to chase birds: Coal couldn’t take his eyes off the sea gulls and quite clearly had no idea where he was walking! Similarly to other walks, there is no fresh water available, so again make sure you take some extra for your dog.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

If the Eden Project was a massive let down, the Lost Gardens of Heligan were a wonderful surprise. Just down the road from the Eden Project, close to St Austell, Heligan is much more reasonably priced and has much better established gardens to explore.

In addition to the maze of formal gardens, there is also the Lost Valley and the Jungle, part of the wider estate which has been recovered after falling into disrepair and becoming extremely overgrown during the 20th century. Following a visit from an archaeologist in the 1990s, a massive garden restoration project ensued, and what you see today is a testament to the hard work of the estate team who have brought the gardens back to life.

The Jungle was definitely our favourite part of the gardens, with mirror pools, exotic plants and the infinitely instagrammable rope bridge (dogs not permitted to use this, sensibly). There’s something for all the family though, with a small farmyard section where you can see pigs, sheep, goats and an array of rare breed poultry birds. Look out as well for a variety of sculptures by local artists around the site, including the Mud Maid, which is slightly reminiscent of Te Fiti from the Disney film Moana.

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. This is a rating based on comparison with other similar attractions – not countryside walks (as I’m sure the dogs enjoyed the coastal walks I’ve given slightly lower ratings to more!). Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere at Heligan, apart from on the rope bridge for safety reasons, and there are plenty of poo bins and water bowls dotted around the site. The gardens were also much less busy than Eden, which meant it was much less stressful trying to squeeze past people on narrow paths.

Where we stayed

We stayed in the absolutely beautiful Tye-Ki, which is beautifully decorated and ideally located in the hamlet of Trewalder about 10 minutes away from Camelford (if you fancy a takeaway, Peckish fish and chips in Camelford was amazing – I recommend the Scampi). The cottage sleeps two and has everything you could need for your week away, including a log burner for cosy winter evenings and a BBQ for those gorgeous summer evenings. Sam particularly loved the dartboard in the shed!

Dog friendly rating – 5/5. The cottage was perfect for the dogs: no carpet downstairs, a fully enclosed and secure garden, and a welcome pack of dog biscuits on the table when we arrived! The owners have also helpfully provided a spare set of dog bowls and a bed in case you realise you’ve forgotten something when you arrive – what more could you ask for!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip to Cornwall – it was definitely a lot of fun and it was my first time ever visiting the South West! I’ve now got the post holiday blues and I’m already wondering where we should book for our next trip…

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