Pentargon Waterfall, Boscastle
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Links to novelist Thomas Hardy
The rugged coast near Boscastle is one of the most beautiful sections of Cornwall. If you head south from Boscastle's Tudor harbour you will come to the Iron Age promontory fort of Willapark, but if you head north instead you will find one of north Cornwall's hidden gems, the waterfall of Pentargon, which spills down a sheer drop of over 100 feet at Beeny Cliffs.
Thomas Hardy is most associated with Dorset, but Hardy knew the Boscastle area well. He met his first wife here whilst on assignment as an architect, and the spectacular scenery on the Pentargon walk inspired some of his most eloquent poetry. His poem 'Under the Waterfall' tells the story of a romantic picnic by the waterfall and evokes the ''chasmal beauty' of the location:
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart
And that leaves no smart,
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock
And into a scoop of the self-same block;
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces;
With a hollow, boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.
Pentargon is a hanging valley, where the river has failed to cut through the hard stone of a broad glacial valley, leaving it to plunge down almost sheer cliffs to the shore far below. The hanging valley is formed because the action of the waves haas eroded the cliffs much faster than the action of the stream can cut through the valley floor from above.
At Pentargon the falls spill nearly straight down from the lip of the valley to the shore, a distance of 120 feet (roughly 37 metres). On the shore is Seal's Hole, where large numbers of seals can often be seen sunning themselves on the rocks.
After a heavy rain the waterfall can be spectacular, and in windy conditions the water can be blown almost straight up in a fine spray.
Getting to the waterfall is straightforward, which is not the same thing as easy! This is the Cornish coast, after all, and the clifftop path dips and climbs. The steepest section rises up from Boscastle harbour, following the slope of the hill to the top of Penally Point. From there the trail turns north and follows the contour of the coast along the edge of several stone-walled farm fields.
You see the waterfall ahead of you long before you get there, due to the ragged nature of the cliffs. The best place to see the waterfall is probably several hundred yards before you get there, where a natural viewpoint on the coastal path gives an unobstructed view of the torrent. The closer you get, the more difficult it is to see the entire falls. You can get very close to the waterfall on the north bank of the stream, but please be very careful, as there are no barriers and a fall would certainly be fatal.
Dire warnings aside, its a stunningly beautiful location, and I was thrilled to see seals basking on the rocks at the base of the falls - when I could work up the nerve to step very carefully close to the edge.
It is about 1.7 miles from Boscastle to the waterfall. It took me about 30 minutes from the parking area in Boscastle to the waterfall, and then the same length of time to return. You can turn the walk into a circular one by taking the signed footpath inland near the viewpoint, and turning south beside the B3263, which will take you back to the harbour.
You can also opt to make a longer excursion to Pentargon Falls part of a longer circular walk to Beeny, looping back to the path along the River Valency and then back to Boscastle.
About Pentargon Waterfall
Address: Boscastle, Cornwall, England
Attraction Type: Countryside - Waterfall
Location: From Boscastle take the coastal path north. You will see the falls ahead of you after about 1 mile. Use PL35 0HE for the Boscastle paid parking area.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft and Magic - 0.8 miles (Museum)
Boscastle, Minster Church - 1 miles (Historic Church)
Forrabury Church & Cross - 1.1 miles (Historic Church)
Willapark and Forrabury Stitches - 1.2 miles (Countryside)
St Juliot Church - 1.4 miles (Historic Church)
Lesnewth, St Michael & All Angels Church - 1.7 miles (Historic Church)
Trevalga, St Petroc's Church - 2.1 miles (Historic Church)
Trethevy, St Piran's Chapel and Holy Well - 2.6 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Pentargon Waterfall: