Anyone who gets to know us as a family quickly realises that Bude in North Cornwall is our happy place. We visit every year without fail and it never gets old. Our week-long trip is usually filled with a variety of favourite excursions: windswept walks along the beach, digging our toes into the sand, jumping the waves and searching for shells amongst the pebbles; playing competitive crazy golf on the colourful nine-hole course right in the centre of town; sauntering along the canal keeping a lookout for the elegant herons that sometimes grace the banks whilst simultaneously watching the diligent peddalo-hirers working hard to travel further than a few metres; and watching the spectacular sunsets from our favourite clifftop restaurant.
We love having somewhere to visit that we consider to be a home-from-home and I’m certain that we’ll keep returning long after our daughters have grown up – we hope to buy a place down there one day which the girls can bring their families to, keeping the tradition going throughout the generations still to come.
However, visiting the same place every year can pose the slight challenge of keeping things interesting. After all, whilst there is comfort to be found in the familiar, there are only so many times you can do the same things and visit the same places without boredom beginning to settle in.
We’ve figured out that the best way to keep our trips to Bude fresh each year is to choose one or two places to explore that we’ve not been to before. In previous years we’ve rubbed shoulders with gnomes (yes, really!), experienced the legends at Tintagel, spent the day at Boscastle, visited The Eden Project, explored the Lost Gardens of Heligan and solved mysteries at Hidden Valley Discovery Park. These days out usually end up being one of my favourite days of the holiday.
This year we decided to pay a visit to St. Nectan’s Glen. I’d been told about it by a couple of different people and thought it sounded like something the girls would enjoy so we took advantage of the surprise sunshine and drove the half hour or so to a little car park on the side of the road between Boscastle and Tintagel. A short walk later (passing a Roman gatepost that Lola was fascinated with – she’s been learning about the Romans at school) and we were suddenly encased in beautiful woodland, the dappled sunlight nudging it’s way through the branches of the trees who’s springtime leaves were only just beginning to unfurl from their long winter hibernation.
The path meandered alongside the River Trevillet gently winding and gurgling it’s way around roots and rocks, carving out it’s course through the undergrowth. The girls, in their usual manner, found plenty to keep them occupied on the “boring walk” (which is what they call every excursion we have until we actually get there and they realise how much fun they’re having!): squelchy mud puddles to jump in; sticks that evolved into magic wands and swords with a flick of the imagination; and plenty of opportunities to dance and leap across giant rocks that served as natural stepping stones in the water itself.
Multiple bridges provided ample opportunity to play pooh sticks and pretend to be explorers trekking through the jungle on a quest to discover new unchartered territory. You can clearly see why it’s been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Ella stopped frequently to snap a photo on her phone and she even recorded the sound of the rushing water as well, explaining to me later that she finds being near water really calming and soothing and that she wanted to keep the sound with her to use during the lead-up to her SATs exams to ease any potential stress she might feel about sitting them.
I love that she knows herself so well and is already finding ways to help herself be ok whatever situation she finds herself in – to me that shows great resilience already and she’s only eleven. Of course she wouldn’t need those resources if she didn’t have to sit the SATs in the first place but that’s a topic for another post.
About 45 minutes later we arrived at a cafe and the entrance to St Nectan’s Glen itself. Small tummies were rumbling so we stopped for an ice cream. I peeked in at the menu of what other food they served and there was a good selection of soup, sandwiches and cakes as well as teas, coffee and cold drinks. A good place to stop no matter what time you turn up there.
Bellies satisfied, we headed for the entrance to St. Nectan’s Glen. I’d already done my research and knew that we would have to pay to go onwards and see the three waterfalls. For us as a family of five it came it at just under £25, which, arguably, is quite a lot for a half hour walk. However, I can honestly say that it’s completely worth it. We donned borrowed wellies (there is a large selection to choose from in all sizes for both children and adults if you haven’t worn your own) and set off along the wooden walkway, following the trail through a rainforest-type habitat. St. Nectan’s Glen is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the rare specimens of plants that exist there.
We stopped every so often to play with balancing rocks, slowed down to admire the colourful ribbons tied onto branches, and paused from time to ime to see if we could spot any Cornish piskies or fairies peeking out at us from the undergrowth.
The waterfalls were quite spectacular and each one was different to the next. The sound of thundering water permeates the air and the anticipation builds as you make your way ever closer to the third and final one, hidden around a corner that you can only access by wading through a pool of flowing shin-deep water. It really is quite spectacular as you round the rocks and see it for the first time, your eyes drawn upwards to gaze at the sixty foot drop, blinking as the cold, fine spray kisses your face.
We stayed there for ages, splashing, exploring, shrieking and adventuring, until wellies filled with water and we decided to call it a day.
Heading back up the path to where we’d left our shoes, the girls chatted non-stop about what they’d just seen – their first experience up close to a proper waterfall. We made our way back through the ancient woodland the same way we’d come several hours ago, the opposite direction giving us a fresh perspective and helping us see things that we’d missed first time around, like the tree trunk stuffed full of pennies that people had left as they made wishes.
We had a fantastic afternoon exploring St. Nectan’s Glen. I can see us returning there in the future, not necessarily to see the waterfalls again but to adventure along the many other offshoot paths that we came across during our walk.
There is more about our trip to St. Nectan’s Glen in the video below, which will probably give a better idea of the power and majesty of the waterfalls. I’m really glad we paid it a visit – it really was a brilliantly fun thing for us to do with the kids that I’m sure they’ll remember for years to come.