A tour of the spectacular coastal quarries between Tintagel and Trebarwith Strand.
Distance 3 miles (4.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 197ft (60m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Good coastal paths and field paths, 13 stiles
Landscape Spectacular sea cliff quarries
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 111 Bude, Boscastle and Tintagel
Start/finish SX 056885
Dog friendliness Dogs on lead through grazed areas
Parking Several car parks in Tintagel
Public toilets Tintagel, Trebarwith Strand
1 You leave the bustle of Tintagel a few paces from the approach lane to the castle, by turning left down a lane alongside the Cornishman Inn, signposted 'St Materiana's Church and Glebe Cliff'. Descend steeply into immediate leafy peace, then, where the rising lane turns sharply right, leave the lane and go over a stile. Continue to a gate and stile, then go through the next field, bearing right across a narrow field to a stile.
2 Continue alongside the right-hand edges of small fields, (dogs under strict control here) to reach a stile into a lane. Follow the lane to a junction of tracks at Trevillick Farm, then keep straight across, signposted 'Coast Path'.
3 Pass two houses and keep ahead to where the track ends at a field gate and stile by final houses. Cross fields ahead to reach a junction with the coastal footpath. Go left along the coast path for a short distance to reach a junction with a track inland. From behind a secure wall you can look down at the Lanterdan Pinnacle, a tower of uncut rock rising to 80ft (24m) that was left in place by quarryworkers because of its inferior slate. (The route returns north from here, but you can, if you wish, continue along the coast path from Lanterdan Quarry for ½ mile (800m) to descend to Trebarwith Strand and then return to rejoin the main walk).
4 On the main walk retrace your steps from above Lanterdan Quarry to where the path you previously followed from Trevillick Farm joins the coast path. Here take the left branch and follow the path to reach a gap in a wall on Bagalow Cliff. Bear left here, signposted 'Permitted Coast Path', go over a stile then follow the path round Penhallic Point
5 On the tip of the Point a secure timber platform once projected from the cliff edge; trimmed slates were lowered from the platform to cargo ships that lay alongside the base of the cliffs in calm weather. The path now leads past a series of cliffside workings at Gull Point Quarry and Lambshouse Quarry. At these quarries men were lowered down the sheer cliff face on ropes to work out good slate from just above the tideline. Don't dwell for too long on the realities of such everyday work as you follow the path to join a broad track that leads down to Tintagel Youth Hostel, once the offices of the nearby cliff quarries.
6 Go past the hostel then bear up right along a track to join a wider track. Keep left along this track with the Church of St Materiana in sight (PWhile You're There). Turn left just before the church and follow a track along the seaward wall of the churchyard. Remain on this path towards the great headland of the Island and its famous ruins to reach a stile and a path that descends past big pinnacles of rock to reach the approach to the castle.
7 Go left here, if you want to visit the castle, or go down some steps and then turn right and follow a valleyside path to reach the road that leads steeply uphill to Tintagel.
If you're looking for myth, Merlin and mystification, then Tintagel on the North Cornish coast offers the lot. Tintagel and its ruined castle on the spectacular headland known as the Island, is the centre of a resilient King Arthur industry based on Victorian romanticism and a few scraps of historical wishful thinking. In many ways, the real 'kings' of the Tintagel area were the coastal quarryworkers who extracted slate from the area's great cliffs. Their reign lasted from medieval times until the early 20th century and this walk along the rim of the cliff quarries celebrates their memory.
The whole area above the quarries and inland has stone walls of slate laid in herringbone pattern and known locally as curzyway. There is a good example of such a wall above Lanterdan Quarry and Pinnacle. Keep an eye out for the old platforms at the top of the cliffs that once supported wooden gantries used for lowering slates to ships below.
There are no food and drink outlets on the route as described, but if you continue along the coast path from Lanterdan Quarry to Trebarwith Strand you will find cafés and a pub there. Tintagel village is awash with restaurants, cafés and pubs as well as shops and ice cream and soft drinks outlets.
The Church of St Materiana occupies a bleak location just inland from the cliffs, but repays a visit not least because of its great antiquity. It dates chiefly from the 12th century but probably occupies the site of a much earlier Christian oratory. A visit to Tintagel Castle is hard to resist, not least for its spectacular position. The ubiquitous King Arthur apart, the site was the stronghold of the medieval Earls of Cornwall and probably of Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples too. Open all year.