Hartland & Torridge – Devon
This stunning and dramatic coast is steeped in myth. Here lie the ruins of 13th-century Tintagel castle, the legendary birthplace of King Arthur, who was protected and tutored in the ways of magic by the wizard, Merlin, in the spectacular sea caverns beneath the headland.
You can still explore the caves under Tintagel castle. Clambering through with torches, feeling and touching your way over slippery dark rocks and exiting via a narrow chamber into the opposite cove, feels like you’ve just emerged from the underworld.
The sloping rocks of Tintagel Haven make great platforms for a swim in the crystal-clear sea. From here, a dramatic mile-long coast walk leads eastwards towards narrow Bossiney Haven, hidden among the cliffs and featuring a rock arch shaped like an elephant’s trunk. It offers a great sweep of low-tide sand and secluded rocks for sunbathing. Another mile, and you’re at Rocky Valley where waterfalls and giant plunge pools drop down into the sea. In this atmospheric valley, you can explore the 200-year-old ruins of a mill, or go back even further in time and gaze in wonder at the sacred labyrinths on the rock face, carved about 3,500 years ago.
Further upstream, King Arthur is said to have baptised his knights at St Nectan’s Kieve before they embarked on their quest for the Holy Grail. This sacred pool, part of an extraordinary double waterfall, was the home of one of the holiest Cornish saints,St Nectan, who lived in the hermitage around AD 480. The flow of the water has sculpted a deep cylindrical well and a perfect man-sized hole through which the water spills.
At Millook Haven, the cliffs are contorted with dramatic zig-zag fault lines and as you head further south along the cliffs, you might find some tasty rock samphire near the appropriately named Samphire Rock. This stretch of coast is a haven for wildlife and at Beeny Cliff, beyond Boscastle, there is a good chance of spotting the world’s fastest creature, the peregrine falcon, as it dives for prey. A little further on, and you are at Buckator, home to a huge colony of grey seals, which hauled themselves out on the rocks.