The romantically named ‘Atlantic Highway’ which runs along the length of Cornwall’s north coast is, I believe, one of the best drives in the county.
The road, otherwise known as the A39, links Falmouth in Cornwall to Bath in Somerset. The route takes in some stunning scenery as it hugs the coast and heads for the heights of Exmoor. It is a little ambition of mine to drive the entire length in one long hot summer’s day. (Perhaps stopping frequently for ice cream and photographs).
But today is not that day and I turn off the Atlantic Highway on to quieter roads soon after the little harbour of Boscastle.
The sign says Crackington Haven and Marshgate. And the narrow road winds its way towards the sea. Today I am in search of Cornwall’s highest cliff – called inventively High Cliff. Say it how it is, that’s the Cornish for you!
The stretch of coastline between Boscastle and Crackington Haven is truly impressive. The cliffs here tower above the sea. The wind-battered, bare rock faces seem to tumble in a series of strange and dramatic formations.
This concertina of black shale, sandstone and quartz was formed millions of years ago. The fascinating zig-zag of rocks forms what is known to geologists and nerds as the Crackington formation and can been seen up close a little further along the coast at Millock Haven.
The Highest Cliff
Just here the highest point on the coast of Cornwall – High Cliff – reaches 735 feet (223m) above sea level. And as I puff my way up the steep path to the top my breath is taken away in more ways than one.
The view is stunning.
I find myself standing too near to the edge gazing down at the waves crashes far below.
C.A. Dawson writes about this place in his little book Nooks and Corners:
“For sheer beauty of crag and precipice, of mighty seas and broken slipped sea front there is nothing in the Duchy that can compare to this piece of coast”.
I think he may be right. The cliffs here are far higher than any where else along the Cornish coast. At Lands End they are only 122m high and at Lizard Point just 70m, and it really would be hard to beat the dramatic beauty of the views.
Unsurprisingly this is a treacherous stretch of coastline too with many tales of ships coming to grief on the jagged rocks and wreckers taking advantage of the gifts the sea provides them.
But more of that in the next post!
Getting to High Cliff isn’t too difficult (I just wish I lived nearer). Although I would say wear good walking shoes and be prepared for steep paths! And please always be aware of cliff edges. There’s no going back if you take a step too far! Sat Nav : EX23 0LQ will get you to the roadside parking.