We’re now at that time of year when everyone, it seems, is travelling around – everyone, that is, except me.
I’m not a great one for heading off into the summer traffic, but for anyone who has little choice, and prefers somewhere peaceful, perhaps St. Nectan’s Glen may just be the place for you.
Many people travel down to Cornwall for a summer break, and quite a few beat a path to Tintagel. It’s easy to see why; it has a magnificent coastline and a castle that lures people who have a fascination for King Arthur.
The town is a bit too touristy for my liking, but just a 5 minute drive out of town along the road to Boscastle is a car park where you can leave the car behind, and head up through St. Nectan’s Glen to somewhere that is so magical that it could easily be home to Merlin himself.
From the car park you’ll need to cross the road and follow the signposts to the ancient woodland valley that follows the River Trevillit for about a mile up through St. Nectan’s Glen.
St. Nectan was supposedly a 6th century saint who lived in a hermitage at the top of the valley, but as with so many Celtic saints in Cornwall, there’s no real evidence to support the claim that he actually lived here, let alone rang a bell to warn ships of the rocks at the point where the valley meets the sea.
Be that is it may, there are some people who believe that this is one of the UK’s most spiritual sites, so who am I to argue?
What isn’t in doubt though is that the walk up to the ‘Hermitage’ is wonderful.
The valley is a haven of peace and tranquillity, disturbed only by birdsong and the sound of water running over the moss-covered rocks and pebbles.
You won’t fail to notice that these pebbles are used for building Faery Stacks. These piles of pebbles are often used as a wish or as a memory of a deceased loved one.
The woodland alongside the river is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which for those of us who aren’t botanically or scientifically minded, means that it’s just an unspoiled woodland with rare specimens of plants.
The St. Nectan’s Glen website describes this valley as “A place where animals and birds play amid a mysticism of fairies, piskies and spirits”.
I have to admit I did see some birds, but that was about it. I would like to add though that I’m not somebody who doesn’t want to believe in all this spiritual stuff – on the contrary, I’ve been hoping to find something spiritual in my life for ages, but the reality is that the world keeps letting me down.
The site of the Hermitage does have a spiritual feel to it though, or at least it did have. When we were here there was a low-key café, shop, riverside garden and meditation room, but I see that the facilities have been ‘improved’. Whether that means the spiritual ambience has given way to something more commercialized I don’t know, but I sincerely hope not.
Below the café is the Kieve, which for many people is the main reason for coming here.
The Kieve is where a waterfall tumbles 60 ft down over rocks into a basin below, but what makes this waterfall a bit different is that the force of the water has gouged out a hole in the rocks for the waterfall to pass through.
It’s a beautiful spot, there’s no doubt about that, and for some people it’s a very sacred place. Why, I’m not quite sure, but whatever the reason, it’s somewhere to tie ribbons, place crystals and all manner of other things amongst the plants and rocks.
Just to bring you back into the real world for a minute, you should know that the whole valley is in private hands, and although there’s no charge to walk through the valley or use the facilities, there is one for visiting the Kieve.
St. Nectan’s Glen is open throughout the year, and is an undeniably beautiful place to visit. For some it is even more than that, and if Merlin was to wave his magic wand and make the charges to the Kieve disappear, I could even become a believer myself.