Rugged Tales

Wherever my feet may take me…


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Mists and legends

Excited by the promise of the legendary King Arthur’s castle I set off today for Tintagel, despite a lingering stiffness in my legs. Early sunshine quickly gave way to moody clouds that threatened rain, but it stayed dry as I made my slow way to Boscastle harbour.

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Scene of one of the most extreme floods ever recorded in Britain, there is little sign now of the devastation that occurred in 2004. I treated myself to a delicious brunch at the Harbour Light, a 16th century harbour-front building completely rebuilt after the flood destroyed it.

Climbing up out of Boscastle, however, the sea mist rolled in as I made my damp and chilly way round Firebeacon Hill.

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I consoled myself that the swirling mists would add to the mystical atmosphere as I approached my destination. But by the time I’d spent a fruitless hour searching for a campsite that turned out to have closed down, the sun had regained the ascendancy and I finally rounded Barras Nose to see Tintagel Head in sun-drenched glory.

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The sun also drew out tourists in considerable number, and upon drawing closer Tintagel revealed itself to be more Monty Python than Malory, with the 19th century Camelot Castle Hotel a particularly prominent and hideous feature. Having reconciled myself to being in a kind of Arthurian theme park, though, I’m actually quite enjoying it. Full of Granny Wobbly’s homemade ice-cream, and homemade fudge (stuck to each other with a generous coating of cream), and with an ATM, two well-stocked convenience stores, and numerous pubs within an easy walk even on my sore legs, I’m finding the amenities compelling. Cosy in Ye Olde Malthouse, the original 14th century village inn, with a glass of wine and free wifi, I’m more than happy to look past the rather lurid depiction of some round table event or another hanging on the wall next to me.


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Tough nut

Today’s walk, from Hartland Quay to Bude, is reputed to be the toughest of the whole Coast Path, with 10 river valleys between the cliffs to navigate and a total ascent/descent of over 1,300m. Not content with that challenge I started proceedings a mile from the start in Stoke (the nearest campsite) and planned to end the day at the campsite in Lynstone, a mile further on than Bude.

Although rain was forecast it was another glorious start to the day and I enjoyed a picture postcard view of the church as I left Stoke.

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Once on the Path I had a good view of the cliffs I would have to climb over. From this distance, with the valleys between them obscured, they didn’t look too bad!

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But by the time I’d slithered down my third steep cliff to cross the footbridge over Marshland Water (crossing from Devon into Cornwall at the same time) it did cross my mind to wonder whether I would run out of energy before I ran out of cliffs to be climbed.

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I had a couple of things to distract me from the pain, however. First, the stunning scenery which was unremittingly spectacular. And second, the fact that I was proving unusually exciting for dogs. Two quite large specimens gave up a boisterous game of chasing each other round the beach to come and bark vigorously at me as I climbed down to Duckpool in the Combe Valley. As I made for the toilets there another dog gave voice, startling her owner into remarking “Goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her bark before!”. Perhaps I’ll try a different outfit tomorrow…

On the up side it stayed dry, and it appears I must have got fitter since I started the walk. Where 8.5 miles with 650m of ascent/descent on day one had me almost on my knees, when Bude finally appeared today I had enough energy left to give, I think, a reasonable impression of a hardy hiker rather than an aged crone.

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My guidebook said that today’s route ‘can be tiring in wet and windy weather’. Having now done it I can confirm that it’s pretty tiring even in close to ideal conditions! But I’m pleased to have cracked the toughest nut, and optimistic now for my chances of staying the course.