This small village on the North Coast of Cornwall was once one of the county’s best kept secrets but these days it is well and truly on the tourist trail and for good reason!
Not only is Boscastle a picture-perfect example of a hidden Cornish harbour but it also offers the visitor a rather lovely gaggle of interesting, if a little quirky at times, things to do.
A Little History
Things to Do
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
In a county where ancient customs and traditions are still an important part of many people’s lives, this unusual museum seems only fitting. It has to be Boscastle premier tourist ‘attraction’, besides of course the stunning scenery. Founded in by Cecil Williamson in 1960, it has the largest collection of witchcraft and occult related objects in the world! There are 10 galleries with more than 4000 exhibits. A truly fascinating, if a little disturbing at times, place to visit!
Willapark and the Coastguard Lookout
Perched high above the sea with stunning views of the coast in every directions and the wide horizon ahead, a visit to the Coastguard Lookout is well worth the climb. Now occupied by volunteer coastguards who keep a watchful eye on the shipping, it was built in the early 1800’s as a summer house for Thomas Rickard Avery. Rumour has it however that Avery was using the secluded house for far more than picnics, stories of wild parties with booze, gambling and wild women are part of local legend!
Willapark and Forrabury Common often stunning views back onto Boscastle and the surrounding countryside but they are also sites of historic importance. Willapark is also the site of an iron age hillfort or cliff castle with earthworks dating from around 200BC. While Forrabury Stitches, as it is known, has one of the last remnants of a very rare form of medival farming.
The Devil’s Bellows Blow hole
The blow hole in Penally Point is visible for any of the lookout points on the opposite site of the harbour. It is most active 2 hours before and after low tide when it can be heard snorting, rumbling and spitting! If the conditions are right it blows a horizontal spout of water half way across the harbour entrance.
Minster Church and a Grave
The ancient church of Minster makes a lovely walk from Boscastle village. Well inland huddled deep in the woods, Minster church can lay claim to one of the most idyllic, peaceful settings of any church in Cornwall. It’s origins date back to at least the early 6th century, when a Welsh princess named Madryn settled by a spring or holy well.
Joan Wytte, sometimes known as the “Fighting Fairy Woman” or the “Wytte (White) Witch” was born in 1775 in Bodmin, Cornwall. As a clairvoyant and healer local people would often seek her help. It is said that later in life she became very ill-tempered and at time aggressive because of a tooth abscess. People came to believe she was possessed by the devil, sadly she was incarcerated in Bodmin Jail, not for witchcraft but for public brawling. She died in prison aged 38.
Until recently her skeleton was on display in the Witchcraft museum in Boscastle. But in 1998 Joan was finally laid to rest just outside the walls of Minster graveyard and her gravestone reads: “Joan Wytte. Born 1775. Died 1813 in Bodmin Jail. Buried 1998. No longer abused”. Her memorial is very small and hidden close to the bank near the graveyard gate.
Valancy Valley walk
This beautiful wooded valley will forever be associated with Thomas Hardy and his wife Emma. The pair met here while Hardy was working as an architect restoring the nearby St Juliot Church. Several of his poems are about his time in Cornwall including Castle Boterel which is meant to refer to Boscastle. It is possible to follow in the famous poet’s footsteps on a shady walk through Valancy Valley and crossing the river and climbing to Minster Church also makes a great diversion.
Sea Fishing and scenic boat trips
These days the fishermen in the harbour supplement their income by taking visitors out on a variety of boat trips. The fishing boat Rene and its skipper Andy provide fishing or sightseeing tours taking in the rugged coastline, caves and hopefully seals starting from £20 per person.one of the last remnants of a rare medieval form of farming.