An Afternoon at St Nectan’s Glen

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 start of the path to St. Nectan’s Glen. These gorgeous old farmhouse walls were wonderful.

Lola was fascinated with this Roman gatepost

Heading into the ancient woodland of St. Nectan’s Glen

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.

Playing pooh sticks

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.

Ella exploring the other side of the river

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.

Ice cream pit stop 🙂

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.

Mimi loved balancing these rocks

The husband and Mimi at the base of the final, spectacular waterfall

This was our favourite place – it was such a beautiful pool surrounded by such gorgeous nature

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.

This old tree-trunk was full of pennies that people had pushed into the wood 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.

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  • Reply May 3, 2018


    This looks like a beautiful and idyllic spot. Def need those pretty wellies!
    leona recently posted…Splashabout Swimwear- all you need to know about the ultimate toddler swimwearMy Profile

    • Reply May 4, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      It’s such a beautiful place Leona. And yes, wellies definitely required!

  • What an idyllic spot – I can’t help thinking it must have looked pretty much the same when the Romans were putting up that gatepost. And what a clever idea to record the sound of the water, it always relaxes me as well, so I might just have to copy that if we find ourselves anywhere similar.
    Cathy (Mummytravels) recently posted…April family travel essentialsMy Profile

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      I thought it was a really lovely thing for her to do as well – such a clever idea!

  • I was very excited to read this, as D and I visited St Nectan’s Glen when I was pregnant with my son. It was our last holiday before we had children! It’s a special place for us, and after reading this, I really want to go back. One of those pennies was ours – although I’m sure the tree trunk was upright when we pushed it in….
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) recently posted…Top holiday cottages in Anglesey, Wales to help you make the most of the islandMy Profile

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Oh Nell, how wonderful! I hope my post has brought back special memories for you and that you are able to return there one day.

  • Oh I hadn’t heard of this place! What a fab idea to visit new places each year as it would be so easy to simply return to the Eden Project!

    I LOVE the photo with the waterfall x

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Exactly! We did love the Eden Project when we visited a couple of years ago and we certainly didn’t ‘do’ it all so we could easily return and spend more time there. I just love finding new, off-the-beaten-track places to explore too.

  • Bude reminds of childhood nostalgia and days gone by. Such a stunning area with so much to offer for all ages. I love how people pushes pennies into the tree. Very sweet.

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Its a lovely tradition isn’t it? We didn’t have one on us to add to the collection but I imagine if we ever go back we’ll push one in and make a wish for sure. I wonder if those who have left their pennies ever return to see if they can find it again?

  • Reply May 4, 2018


    Wow this looks like a gorgeous place to explore Chloe. Love the woodland area – and love hearing about your trip. I love familiar places- they are like home from home xxx

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Thanks Katy. Your three would LOVE it here – splashing in the river, logs to balance on, sticks to find… 🙂

  • This place looks enchanting! We love a good stroll in the woods, especially ones like this with lots of surprises.
    Jenny – TraveLynn Family recently posted…Best beaches in Goa for kidsMy Profile

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Woodland walks are wonderful things aren’t they? This one certainly held plenty of surprises – I’m already looking forward to going back and walking I the opposite direction to see where it takes us!

  • Reply May 6, 2018


    We love the area near Bude too. St Nectan’s Glen looks amazing. And you got lovely weather too. Love the pics x
    susanna recently posted…West Cornwall: 14 things teens will loveMy Profile

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Bude and the surrounding area is a very special place indeed. We were so lucky with the weather – I swear this area has it’s own little microclimate!

  • Reply May 7, 2018

    Emma Raphael

    Cornwall is just so beautiful, I can see why so many people want to live there. Not been to Bude, but I would really love to visit now! x

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      Cornwall is incredibly beautiful isn’t it? And what I really love is that it’s actually quite diverse – each town has it’s own distinct feel and the landscape is ever changing. I hope you make it to Bude one day – it’s a very special place.

  • Reply May 8, 2018

    Zena's Suitcase

    I think there is a lot to be said about familiar holidays and the beauty of Cornwall is I think it would take a lot of visits to run out of things to do. St. Nectan’s Glen sounds like a magical place to visit
    Zena’s Suitcase recently posted…Riverford Field Kitchen Restaurant Review and Farm TourMy Profile

    • Reply May 9, 2018

      Chloe Ridgway

      It certainly felt magical 🙂 And that’s exactly what we love about Cornwall – you can’t run out of things to do and there’s always somewhere new to explore!

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