“This post contains Affiliate Links. I get a commission from qualifying purchases.”

Footloose in Cornwall

A little backpacking and sketching trip along the North Cornish Coast Path, with my old pal, Paul.
We are off on a little weekends backpacking trip, which we haven’t done for quite a while now. So the boot of the car is full of rucksacks, walking boots, tent, waterproofs and stove. The plan is to park the car at Tintagel, catch the bus to Bude and then walk back to the car along the coast path. The weather forecast is for heavy showers, but at the moment it’s pretty pleasant and sunny. We are running out of weekends this summer that the pair of us can get together. So it’s now or never!

The above sketch

Boscastle Harbour

A5 Watercolour sketch looking down on the twisting entrance into Boscastle Harbour.
In the past sailing ships had to be towed to their berth by nine men (‘Hobblers’) rowing in a boat. As the entrance is so difficult to sail into. The entrance is also guarded by the Meachard Rock, the island off Penally Point.

Best laid plan’s and Car Parks…

We have cut it fine on time to park the car and then catch the bus that we wanted to get (my fault). We find the bus stop – park the car opposite. Paul goes for a quick wee and I go to the car park machine to pay for our stay. Disaster – you can only pay for 24 hours, then you need to buy another 24-hour ticket. Which we obviously can’t do as in the morning we’ll be somewhere along the coast path!
While we are discussing this with the man in the tourist information shop (which is in the car park), our bus comes and goes… Which actually takes the pressure off, as we now have time to find somewhere to park without worrying about getting clamped! However, this is easier said than done. In the car park that is recommended to us, we find that half of it is not overnight and in the other half, we can’t work the machine… Grrrr.

Deciding to abandon the Tintagel car parks we are driving up the road looking for parking places. The next village out of Tintagel is Bossiney. No problem parking in the little car park here – just as long as you can fit in it!
We now sit on the roadside bench, having a chat and wait the 3/4 hour for the next bus. The driver is a very nice guy and we are soon hurtling along the coast road. As we are running a little later than hoped for, so we decide to go to Widemouth Bay and start our walk there. The driver points out the footpath that we want and stops just a little beyond, before whizzing off, wishing us good luck!
Pen sketch of the headland, 'Raven's Beak' on the Cornish Coast Path.
This sketch of ‘Raven’s Beak’ (the name of the headland here) was produced with a black brush pen ~ A5

Materials Used

I’m using a small sketching kit. That will pack up small into a plastic bag and fit into my the top of my rucksack. It includes an A5 Daler Rowney, Red & Yellow cartridge pad. My trusty Winsor & Newton, watercolour field paint box and a couple of round brushes – sable no.6 & a no.1. Also a black brush pen and a 6B pencil.

Starting Off

Hurrah! Starting the walk proper. Looking down to the shore below us the tide is out and the rocks of Widemouth Bay stretch away from us in both directions. We are soon climbing up the steep cliff paths and then dropping back down into the sheltered coves & havens. Something that will happen often along our weekend walk!
It is great to be back on the Cornish Coast Path again. With the stunning scenery and the path stretching out before us!
Setting off later in the day though also has another drawback ~ hunger soon comes over us and it is not long before we stop for lunch. Overlooking the little cove of Millook and a little sketching for me. Opposite us is the dramatic cliffs of ‘Raven’s Beak’. The Killas strata here, occurred during the Carboniferous period. With the sedimentary rocks altered by heat as the Granite intruded under them. These layers have then been pushed up at angles, which I have tried to show here with the pen marks for the rocks all going in one direction – at about 45 degrees. After lunch, we see that the cliffs we were sitting on, the layers of rock are folded back on themselves again. Making ‘Chevron’ formations.

The sun is still shining and we are rather hot – no need of our waterproofs so far!!

‘Four’ miles to Crackington Haven

Following on from lunch, we are off again on our ‘roller coaster ride’ along the undulating cliffs of Cornwall. Around Dizzard Point there are lovely Atlantic Oak Woods. With the miniature oak trees hugging the cliff edges. Most of the trees are at that ‘Cornish cliff’ windblown angle. It occurred to me that we had not seen very many people walking today, only two. I would normally expect to see many more than this, to give a cheery ‘hello’ to, as you stroll past. Maybe the forecast put people off?
The signpost for Crackington Haven said that it was only four miles off. So we are aiming to have dinner there, before walking a little further to camp. The coast path took a few more ups & downs, in & outs and we saw another signpost for Crackington Haven. Which said that it was only four miles to go! Hmmm…
After more ups & downs, ins & outs, we finally achieved those splendid, four miles and reached Crackington Haven. Paul by chance met some friends there, who recommended the ‘Cabin Cafe‘. So we settled into the quite small cafe, with our large bags, for some nosh. Paul had a great looking pasty and I had a baked potato with tuna & salad. All washed down with several cups of tea – splendid! Very friendly service too.
After, we shouldered our packs again. Walking on to look for a little piece of flat ground to camp for the night. A sheltered spot on the cliff path was found by the ‘Cambeak’ headland.
Just as we started to put up the tent the forecasted rain started. The tent was erected quickly and we stuffed all our belongings and ourselves in.

I am now sitting here with a cup of tea, looking out of the tent flap. Listening to the patter of rain, Gulls overhead and the waves breaking in the tiny cove below us. Sketching away in pencil at the headland opposite us, as the evening draws in. Friends, what could be better?

Pencil drawing looking across from Crackington Haven to Cambeak headland.

Song of the Seals

We had lots of heavy rain in the night, with lightning but no thunder. My faithful old Robert Saunders Spacepacker tent keeping us dry. It’s now 26 years old, but still giving me good service! I had thought that we would be woken up by Seagulls calling at first light, but I don’t remember hearing any. Through breakfast, we were sitting listening to the rain still coming down.
However, not long after we finished the rain eased and then stopped. We quickly packed up. Checked that our little pitch was clear and headed west again, bound for Tintagel. The path runs up on the high cliffs above ‘Strangers Bay’ (oo-er), we can see the days destination ahead of us. Looking back we can also see Cambeak behind us, suitably far away.

Watercolour sketch looking down the Cornish cliffs to Gull Rock.
We sit for a rest and I sketch ‘Gull Rock’ and ‘Buckator’ headland (one of the many Gull Rocks around Cornwall). Using watercolour and my A5 sketchbook. The white line in the cliff opposite is a band of quartz. In the walls as we walk along you can see large chunks of rock from these quartz bands.
As we sit we are listening to the seals calling below. Somewhere around the base of Gull Rock. Some fellow walkers let us use their binoculars to see them.

Boscastle Harbour

So we are off again, with more ins & outs and ups & downs as we head for Boscastle and lunch. Not that it really matters – it’s just a target to aim for. Some stunning Cornish scenery again. At Pentargon, the sea & a waterfall have eroded a long way inland forming a strange long cove. With a high crag at the end and the waterfall splashing over it – very unusual. 
On reaching Boscastle we sit and eat our sandwiches looking out of the twisting harbour mouth. There are quite a few people about and life here seems very busy compared with the coast path. Which, incidentally has had more people walking along today than yesterday.
We make use of the packed NT shops facilities. Filling our water bottles in the loo ~ the sink in the loo, you know ~ not the loo! Before crossing the river and strolling on our merry way.

On this stretch of coast path, the Cornish ‘old men’ (Quarrymen) have been busy excavating slate. With small cliff-top quarries dotted along the route. Paul and I discuss whether they took out the slate with horse & carts or drop it down into a boat – probably both.

Several times as we walk along we realised that the path is right above a sheer drop and we peep down to the coves below us, before descending down on our winding path.


We reach Bossiney Cove and walk back up to where we have left the car and sit down for a brew up on the bench.

Sitting there we talk about all that we have seen and how lucky we have been with the weather! It’s been great to be back out again on Cornwall’s beautiful coast path again.

© Copyright Nick Watton.
All Rights Reserved.