Are you looking for incredible things to do in Boscastle? Read on, as I detail a full guide to this magnificent village.
The Cornish village of Boscastle is a magical place to visit on the northern coast.
As you walk down the river and explore the rocky inlet, you’ll be blown away at the dramatic beauty of this part of the Cornish coastline.
One of the most unspoilt harbour villages in the South West, Boscastle is National Trust-owned and is known for its charming cottages with a gentle river flowing through the centre.
Boscastle’s only a small place, but there’s a surprising amount of things to do here – and it’s also in close proximity to other attractions in North East Cornwall.
My family is from Cornwall, so I spent a large part of my childhood frequenting various towns all over the region.
More recently, I spent an entire summer in Cornwall and now live just over the border in Devon so I can visit whenever I want!
Boscastle has always been a place of mystery and intrigue to me; I love the dramatic coastline around the area, along with the myths and folklore attached to the village (which you can learn all about in the Museum of Witchcraft).
I’ve visited countless times, and every time I head here, I add more to my “what to do in Boscastle” list!
So read on, as I list all of my favourite things to do and see in Boscastle!
Best things to do in Boscastle
The best things to do in Boscastle include walking to the glorious Boscastle harbour, exploring the cobbled cottages of the National Trust-owned village and learning about the village’s folklore and intrigue at places like the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.
It’s in prime position for North Cornwall’s best day trips too!
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
This museum has the largest collection of witchcraft-related items in the world.
Sounds whacky, right? Well, that’s largely because it is!
Boscastle’s Witchcraft Museum documents some of the most spooky happenings in the village and beyond in North Cornwall.
At only £5 for adults and less for concessions, this museum is well worth exploring to learn a little about the legends of the village!
Witches of Boscastle
So, what is it about witches in Boscastle?
There’s a lot of mythology and folklore throughout Cornwall, and one of the main reasons for there being a Museum of Witchcraft in the village!
In fact, this village has been called the “Salem of the UK” as it’s one of THE spookiest places in the country.
Apparently, 3,339 people identified as pagan across Devon and Cornwall in the 2011 census, and nowadays you’ll see lots of tarot card reading signs and witchy displays.
Historically, sea witches used to “bottle the wind” of Boscastle and sell sailors knotted ropes, telling them that if they unknotted the third rope, it would cause a storm.
Just along from Boscastle sits Tintagel, a place of Arthurian legends (it was apparently the birthplace of King Arthur, although this is much more a myth than fact!).
You’ll learn all about this and more as you visit the Museum of Witchcraft!
The natural harbour of Boscastle is without a doubt the best attraction in the village.
The stone wall dates back to the 16th century, although the inlet is, of course, completely natural.
With steep paths running on either side, leading the way to idyllic views of the scenic village, this harbour is a phenomenon.
It used to be a popular place for importing and exporting, however, nowadays it doesn’t see much in the way of boat traffic.
I really recommend visiting at sunset, but the vistas are incredible any time of day.
Be careful when exploring – the terrain can be quite uneven!
Walk along the River Valency
The River Valency runs through the heart of Boscastle Village. In fact, Boscastle is nestled in the Valency Valley, and no trip here would be complete without spending some time soaking it all in!
Most of Boscastle’s main attractions are situated alongside the River Valency, so you can see them just by taking the riverside path from Cobweb Car Park to the harbour.
However, you can enjoy the Valency Valley a little more by walking further up, past Cobweb Car Park, and following a nature trail.
A lovely alternative to the coastal path, this walk is 4 miles long and traverses to Willapark initially, before turning inland to Forrabury and then through Minster Wood along the valley floor.
Find Boscastle’s blow hole
Just under Penally Point, you’ll find a rocky blow hole, where you can witness water gushing out of the rocks!
To see it, walk to the harbour and stay on the left side, so you’re opposite Penally Point.
Keep an eye on the underneath of the cliffs – the blowhole is just here!
The best time to see it is two hours either before or after low tide when it is at its most dramatic!
You’ll hear a loud whooshing noise – it literally sounds like a creature from the sea lives there – before seeing the water gush through.
It’s a really incredible natural phenomenon and isn’t to be missed when you’re in Boscastle!
Hike to Willapark Headland and see the Coastwatch house
If you don’t want to hike all the way to Tintagel but are still keen to check out some of the coastal path, I highly recommend hiking up the steep cliffs to Willapark Headland.
From here, you can take in views of the quaint harbour and learn about the interesting Coastwatch house.
Built in the early 19th century for Thomas Avery, this house was intended to be built for “coastguarding” but, like so many other locations in Cornwall, it ended up being used for smuggling.
Avery was actually involved in the even darker side of smuggling – he used to tempt ships onto a nearby rocky gorge, and once the ship was wrecked (with the ship captains often dying in the process), him and his men would go aboard and take whatever they could find.
Then, anything and everything was smuggled on shore!
Of course, these days are long gone – nowadays it’s an incredible lookout that’s used by volunteer coastguards.
There aren’t any flashy malls or big chain stores in Boscastle (in fact, there aren’t any malls in all of Cornwall!).
However, Boscastle definitely wins when it comes to fascinating independent shops where you can pick up a souvenir or a present for a friend back home.
Some of these shops include:
- Boscastle Rocks: This is a wonderful place to go to look at and purchase some glamourous stones.
- Bohoboscastle: Here, you’ll find local artwork, crafts and beautiful handmade products.
- Cornish Stores: This is your stop for any Cornish products, like cheeses and ice cream!
Enjoy a Cornish cream tea at Boscastle farm shop
Boscastle Farm Shop is situated just a mile from the village.
The perfect place to buy some local farm-made goods and enjoy coastal views, stop here for a coffee or a Cornish cream tea.
This is a quintessential experience to have when you’re in Cornwall!
Cream teas consist of two halves of a scone, spread with jam and cream.
Very importantly: in Cornwall, you put the jam on first, and in Devon, you put the cream on first.
Boscastle is in Cornwall, so make sure that you put the jam on first!
From the garden, you can enjoy some immense views over the coast.
Pentargon Waterfall is close to Boscastle Farm Shop.
While it’s not quite as impressive as the other waterfalls around Boscastle (read on for those!), it’s an easy walk from the shop!
St Juliot’s Church
Before working as a writer, Hardy had a job as an architect, and he was commissioned to report on the condition of St Juliot’s Church in Boscastle.
Emma was the rector’s sister-in-law, and they met while he was performing the survey!
The medieval church, which was named after St Julitta, is Grade-II* listed and it’s a beautiful building to explore.
As Hardy’s wife sadly passed away in 1912, he returned to the church to install a memorial dedicated to her.
You can also see a stained glass window that commemorates Hardy’s journey from Dorchester to Boscastle and him writing at his desk.
Visit the Wellington Hotel
The Wellington Hotel is a 17th-century coaching inn – it was one of Cornwall’s first.
Nowadays, it’s rumoured to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country!
You can either stay here, pop in for a drink or have a full meal – the restaurant has two AA rosettes.
Head to St Nectan’s Glen
St Nectan’s Glen is home of one of the best waterfalls in Cornwall, St Nectan’s Kieve.
This whole area is renowned for its mythical connections, with locals and tourists alike reporting a calm, zen-like feeling falling upon them as soon as they enter.
Walk on the woodland nature trail to enjoy some incredible plant life – this area of the South West is particularly lush with mossy ferns – and end up at St Nectan’s Kieve.
The River Trevillet waterfall is an 18 metre drop with ferns on either side, crashing through the rocky banks into a plunge pool.
While it’s fairly popular with those in the know, it’s still one of the best hidden gems in Cornwall – especially if you hike along the nature trail rather than just visiting the fall.
Visit Rocky Valley
Rocky Valley is another excellent waterfall close to Boscastle.
In fact, it sits on the coastal path between the village and Tintagel and is also part of the River Trevillet.
This waterfall crashes through two rocky cliffs, which is how it gets its name, before plummeting down into a pool by the ocean.
It’s free to visit, and you can either access it by walking from Boscastle to Tintagel or parking in a layby by the B3263.
Hike to Tintagel
The South West Coast Path leads from Boscastle to Tintagel, with about six miles connecting the two.
This is one of the prettiest SWCP hikes, with breathtaking views over the incredible coastline and its many Mediterranean-esque beaches.
You’ll bypass Rocky Valley en route, so if you want to see this natural phenomenon anyway, then why not pair it with an adrenaline-boosting walk?
Hike to Crackington Haven or Bude
The other way, the coastal path leads to Crackington Haven.
This is a popular spot with geologists, as the rocks are very unique. You can either hike to here, or go further to Widemouth Bay and then Bude.
This area of coastline is the most difficult one on the coastal path, but the beautiful views kind of make up for the very achy feet!
Things to do near Boscastle
This North Cornwall village isn’t a huge place, but if you’re looking for day trips or things to do near Boscastle, then there’s plenty!
The stretch of coastline running from Hartland Quay in Devon to Polzeath is one of my favourites – it’s dramatic and breathtaking, with incredible white-sand beaches and bright blue water.
There are also quite a few fascinating towns and villages on this coastline (and just inland) with incredible historical tales!
Beaches near Boscastle
While Boscastle doesn’t really have a beach per se, there are quite a few around, including:
- Crackington Haven: Sitting in a cove, this beach is popular with geologists thanks to its unique rock. It’s a wide expanse of sand with plenty of rockpools and is often not as busy as other beaches in the area.
- Widemouth Bay Beach: One of the best beaches near Bude, Widemouth Bay is the place to go if you want to go surfing!
- Tintagel Beach: Home to Merlin’s Cave, this small beach sits in the shadow of Tintagel Castle.
- Polzeath Beach: Another fantastic place for surfing, Polzeath sits at the top of the Camel Estuary. The walk from Polzeath to Rock (from here, you can take a ferry to Padstow), is particularly charming.
Tintagel Castle, with connections to the legendary King Arthur, is close to Boscastle and is well worth visiting while you’re in the area – especially if you’re interested in ancient history or particularly enjoy dramatic, brooding landscapes.
Port Isaac Doc Martin walking tour
Learn all about Doc Martin on this Port Isaac walking tour!
The popular TV show was shot in this location, and a special tour will take you around the different filming locations so you can really envisage your favourite scenes of the show.
The tour isn’t just for fans of the doc – you’ll learn about the fascinating history of the village, from the days of Henry VIII to the modern period.
Plus, it’s a stunning village to walk around too!
Located nearby in Bodmin town, Bodmin Jail is a fascinating place to explore.
Self-guided or guided tours will teach you about the Victorian penal system as you walk through a 4D show that demonstrates exactly how crime and punishment worked in the 19th century.
You’ll also see some of the historic cells and learn about both sides of Bodmin Jail.
On one hand, it was a tough and arduous place for prisoners, but on the other the jail was one of the “more humane” prisons and was thought to inspire a lot of change in the penal system.
It’s the ideal attraction to visit if it’s lashing down with rain, as wet weather only really adds to the sombre mood…
Other attractions in Bodmin town
Bodmin Town Centre isn’t the most beautiful of Cornish towns, but it’s one of its most historic.
It was the county town for nearly 160 years, and nowadays there are a few museums that you can take in when exploring the town!
If you want to spend a day museum-hopping and learning more about Cornwall, don’t miss:
- Bodmin Keep: This is the place to visit if you want to learn about Cornwall’s military history.
- Bodmin Town Museum: This fascinating museum is all about the history of the old county town.
- Discovering 42: This is an award-winning science museum in the heart of the town.
Another attraction near Bodmin is Jamaica Inn.
At first glance, this looks just like a pub with rooms, but there’s actually plenty to do here – you could spend a whole afternoon learning about the history and exploring the museums!
The inn is an old coaching house that had smuggling connections. These were immortalised in Daphne Du Maurier’s book, Jamaica Inn.
She was inspired to write the book after staying at the inn one night, following a spooky situation when she was lost on Bodmin Moor.
After making it to the inn, she was enthralled with stories of its smuggling past, and was inspired to write her now best-selling novel.
The events in the novel are fictional, but they could have easily been fact!
Nowadays, the inn is a more welcoming place, but you can enjoy the cosy atmosphere of the pub with hearty cuisine, see the many reminders of the Jamaica Inn novel and its smuggling past, visit the smuggling museum and Daphne Du Maurier Museum and peruse the farm shop and gift shop.
Again, it’s incredibly atmospheric on a rainy day!
It’s also worth spending a night in Jamaica Inn – you can read all about my experience here.
Along with Tintagel Castle, there are a few other attractions in the village to enjoy!
- King Arthur’s Great Halls: A virtual experience all about King Arthur and his connection to Tintagel.
- Tintagel Toy Museum: A free attraction all about different toys through the ages.
- The Old Post Office: This is a National Trust-owned Medieval hall house that functioned as a post office. Booking may be required.
Don’t get too excited – this isn’t an all-weather Tintagel equivalent, but it is a house that an ingenious inventor, William Goldsworth Gurney (who is sometimes called “Cornwall’s forgotten genius!) lived in, right in the heart of Bude.
Things to do in Boscastle in the rain
If you’re visiting Cornwall and it’s raining, don’t worry – here’s a list of wet weather attractions close to Boscastle.
I personally don’t mind Boscastle in the rain – it’s quite atmospheric – and will happily don a parka and explore the drizzly weather!
But do avoid climbing on the cliffs or the headlands when the weather’s wet – slippery paths can be dangerous, and the surroundings are all very exposed!
Here are the best things to do in and around Boscastle in the rain.
- Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
- cream tea at Boscastle Tea Rooms
- Bodmin Jail
- Jamaica Inn
- Other museums in Tintagel
Places to stay in Boscastle
You don’t need all that long in Boscastle, but it’s a lovely place to stay.
By staying at one of Boscastle’s hotels, you’ll have opportunities to see this incredible village with no other tourists, and be in a prime location to see the best attractions around Boscastle.
These holiday cottages sleep 2-4 people, and while they’re traditional (holiday mode will switch on as soon as you walk through the door!), they’re also kitted out with all the mod-cons that you’ll need for a comfy stay, like WiFi, a full kitchen and comfortable bed. You can check them out by clicking here.
This cosy, friendly B&B is right in the heart of Boscastle, and boasts 11 rooms with comfortable beds and homely furnishings, delicious breakfast served every morning and an impressive evening menu with a full wine list. Take a look at The Riverside by clicking here.
Offering 4 bedrooms and 3 aparthotel suites, the Wellington is a little eerie (we said it was haunted, didn’t we?), but offers comfy rooms, friendly hospitality and is a very unique place to stay in Cornwall! Check them out here.
Places to eat in Boscastle
Here it is again… The Wellington Hotel!
Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth checking out the food menu at this hotel’s restaurant.
They offer modern European fare, with dishes like Cornish mussels and ribs on the extensive menu.
To water it all down, choose from a selection of wines or Cornish ales.
Another cosy pub in Boscastle, Cobweb Inn offers a range of delectable starters, mains and desserts.
Choose from British classics like plougmans or enjoy mains like vegan thai curry, beef lasagne, fish and chips or, of course, a Cornish pasty.
The only fish and chip restaurants in Boscastle, Sharon’s Plaice serves up fresh cod and haddock, burgers, Cornish pasties and pizzas.
There’s also a sit-in cafe where you can enjoy a coffee or cake.
Suggested Boscastle Itinerary
One day in Boscastle
Start the day by visiting the Museum of Witchcraft. Then, stroll along the River Valency and snap a photo of the iconic Boscastle Harbour.
Then, make the hike to Tintagel, taking in Rocky Valley en-route. End the day by visiting Tintagel Castle, before taking the bus back to Boscastle.
Two days in Boscastle
Instead of hiking to Tintagel on the first day, walk to Crackington Haven.
The following day, either walk, drive or take the bus to Tintagel.
Check out Tintagel Castle, the Old Post Office and the Toy Museum amongst the rest of the attractions of the village.
If you have a car, head to St Nectan’s Kieve.
One week in Boscastle
Complete the activites of the first two days, and do some day trips to the surrounding towns and villages. You could spend a day on each of the following:
- Port Isaac, Polzeath and Rock
- Bodmin town (including the museums and the jail)
- Bodmin Moor
Of course, there are plenty of other attractions in Cornwall, but these require a bit more of a drive!
Where is Boscastle?
Boscastle is located in North Cornwall, in between the surf town of Bude and Tintagel village.
It’s also not too far from places like Port Isaac and Padstow, and it’s not a million miles from the North Devon border, so you can visit it as an add-on to a North Devon road trip!
How do I get to Boscastle in Cornwall?
Most people drive to Boscastle, and it’s definitely the easiest way to get there.
If you have a car, you can easily access it from other north coast destinations like Bude or Port Isaac, or you can reach it from Bodmin Moor.
It’s not too far from the south coast either (Cornwall is rather long and thin!).
From St Austell, you’re looking at around a 50-minute drive.
However, be prepared for the country roads – they can be narrow and windy here!
Public transport in Boscastle
Public transport options are limited in North Cornwall, but there is one bus, the 95, that connects Boscastle village with Tintagel, Crackington Haven and Bude.
After Tintagel, it journeys all the way down to Newquay.
In true West Country public transport style, the bus only runs once every two hours and doesn’t operate on Sunday – so if you want to take this option, make yourself well aware of the bus schedule before heading out!
If you’re relying on public buses, you could spend a day doing the following:
- take the bus from Bude to Boscastle at the start of the day and spend two hours here
- then take the bus to Tintagel and spend a further two to four hours here
- then head back to Bude
(Bude has direct buses to Plymouth and Exeter).
But do be aware of when the last bus will leave, as the only other option is a rather pricey taxi!
The closest railway station to Boscastle is Bodmin Parkway, but there isn’t a direct bus to the village, so it’s not really feasible to get to Boscastle by rail.
History of Boscastle
This coastal village has a deep association with legends and fascinating history, and it’s impossible to write a Boscastle travel guide without mentioning them!
A historic fishing port, Boscastle dates back all the way to the 12th century when a castle was first built.
The village takes its name from Botreaux Castle, which was made by the de Botreaux family.
Botreaux is pronounced “But’ry”, and ultimately this adapted to create the name “Boscastle”
You can’t see this castle nowadays – none of the foundations nor the structure remains, although you can visit the site and learn a little about it.
The village built up around the castle, and thus, Boscastle was born!
The beginnings of the quay
While Boscastle harbour is a natural inlet, it has a stone wall that protects the land and provides a safe area for boats and ships to dock.
The Elizabethan quay was built by Richard de Grenville, the captain of the HMS Revenge, in the late 16th century.
Today, you can see the quay in all its glory, amidst incredible ocean views, from the South West Coast Path.
Boscastle was a popular trading port in Cornwall.
From here, materials like limestone were imported and slate was exported.
Along with Tintagel, many artifacts from Mediterranean countries and beyond have been found here.
Tourism to Boscastle
The port waned in popularity over the years, and Boscastle remained a sleepy village, not expanding as much as other settlements along the coastline.
However, tales of sea witches started to come from the village, which only boosted the tourism industry when people started coming to Cornwall.
One of the most famous visitors was Thomas Hardy, who came to the village for work and met his wife, Emma, in the village!
The ancient harbour of Boscastle experienced tragedy in 2004, when the Valency and Jordan Rivers both burst their banks and caused a flash flood.
However, the flood still caused a lasting impact on the village.
Thanks to the idyllic location and mythical connections, tourism to Boscastle has been booming over the last few decades.
Nowadays, Boscastle is a tiny village, with just 641 residents at the time of the 2011 census.
However, it’s a popular tourist destination and sees many more tourists pass through each year!
Does Boscastle have a beach?
Not really – it has a harbour and epic coastal views, but there isn’t really a village beach.
However, there are plenty in the local area, like Bossiney Cove which is just before Tintagel.
You can check out the best beaches in Bude, which includes some near to Boscastle, here.
How long should I spend in Boscastle?
Boscastle isn’t a very big place, so you don’t need very long to see all of its main attractions!
You only really need a morning or an afternoon in the village, and then you can spend longer in the surrounding area.
Can I walk from Tintagel to Boscastle?
Yes! Walking from Tintagel to Boscastle along the South West Coast Path is one of the best things to do in the village.
Does Boscastle have a castle?
Boscastle was named after Bottreaux Castle, but the ruins have pretty much all gone, although you can visit the site where it once stood.
So no, it doesn’t really have a castle anymore, but it was named after a castle originally!
Are dogs allowed at Boscastle?
Yes, dogs are allowed in the harbour, and many of the pubs are dog-friendly.
Is Boscastle in Cornwall or Devon?
Boscastle is in Cornwall, about 25 miles from the border with Devon.
Why is Boscastle famous?
Boscastle is famous for its natural harbour and mythical connections.
Is Boscastle worth visiting?
YES, Boscastle is definitely worth visiting!
Not only can you take in the amazing views of the harbour entrance, but it’s worth a visit around the village to experience all the weird-but-wonderful shops and cafes too.
It’s only a small place, and you probably won’t spend too long there, but I consider it a must-stop on any North Cornwall itinerary.
It’s also a fascinating place to stay – although there are limited accommodation options in the village, staying overnight means that you’ll experience the village with minimal tourists.
One of the prettiest villages in Cornwall, Boscastle is a must-add to your Cornish bucket list.
Whether you want to explore the dramatic harbour, take the cliff path up to one of the headlands or explore the enchanting valley with the Valency River snaking through, there’s so much to enjoy here.