St Austell to Okehampton
Discover a history-rich route that features Arthurian legend and castle ruins
Follow the route – St Austell to Okehampton
> Leave St Austell on the B3274 to the China Clay Country Park. Drive north on the A391, then cross the A30 and follow the A389 to Bodmin.
The only Cornish town recorded in the Domesday Book, Bodmin lies on the steep southwestern edge of Bodmin Moor, which overlooks the town. The Celts, Romans and King Arthur have all had links with the town, and the parish church, the largest in Cornwall, is dedicated to St Petroc, the greatest of all Celtic saints.
Further north, just off the A389, is Pencarrow House, begun in the 1700s by Sir John Molesworth. In the grounds is an ancient Iron Age encampment, and there are flower borders, a sunken Italian garden and a rockery of granite.
Things to do in Bodmin
> Continue north on the A389 to visit Pencarrow House. From Pencarrow return to the A389. Turn left, then after half a mile (0.8km), left again on to the B3266 to Camelford.
Camelford is thought by some to have been Camelot, the fabulous city of King Arthur, and Slaughter Bridge, one mile (1.6km) to the north, is said to have been Arthur’s last battleground.
Places to stay in Camelford
> From Camelford continue on the B3266, turning left on to the B3314 and then almost immediately right to join the B3263 to Tintagel.
Romance and legends connect this area strongly with King Arthur. The dramatic cliffs of slate on ‘the Island’, which is really a peninsula, have caverns and a waterfall. The 12th-century ruins of Tintagel Castle are in a spectacular setting on a wild, wind-lashed promontory.
In the small town the highlight for most visitors is the Old Post Office, a small 14th-century manor house built of local slate. Excellent and beautiful walks can be found along the coast paths nearby and in the Rocky Valley, a few miles further north.
Walks near Tintagel
> Follow the B3263 along the coast to Boscastle.
Boscastle is a picturesque harbour at the head of a deep S-shaped inlet between high cliffs. A few houses are actually built into the side of the road, and oak woods, river valleys and the sea combine to make this a classic beauty spot. The river and the tide occasionally meet with explosive collisions just beyond the outer breakwater.
Where to stay in Boscastle
> From Boscastle, take the B3266 and unclassified roads east across the A39 to join the A395. Turn left on to the A395 and follow it for 3 miles (5km) before branching left on to unclassified roads again through Tresmeer and Egloskerry to Launceston.
Launceston is an ancient town standing on the hilltop around the ruins of a castle. This was the only walled town in Cornwall and the South Gate, a narrow arch, remains.
St Thomas’s Church has the largest font in Cornwall, and the Church of St Mary is famed for the carvings completely covering its external walls. A nostalgic steam railway runs into the Kensey Valley through 3 miles (5km) of glorious countryside. At the station there is a model railway and a small museum.
Things to do in Launceston
> Continue eastwards on the A388, passing under the A30 to join an unclassified road (the old A30). Just past Lobhillcross turn right on to unclassified roads to Lydford.
Formerly a major centre for tin, this secluded village nestled on the edge of Dartmoor is dominated by the haunting remains of its 12th-century castle. Its old prison, a visible reminder of the harsh conditions endured by prisoners in the past, was described as ‘one of the most heinous, contagious and detestable places in the realm’. Lydford Gorge, scooped out by the River Lyd, is approximately one mile (1.6km) to the southwest, where the 90-foot (27m) high tumbling White Lady Falls and the Devil’s Cauldron are to be found.
Places to stay in Lydford
> Follow the A386 north from Lydford, then after a short stretch east on the A30 take the B3260 to Okehampton.
Okehampton is at the foot of the highest part of Dartmoor, accessible to walkers when the army is not using the firing range. An old ruined castle, one of Devon’s largest, is located on a wooded hill to the west of town. The Museum of Dartmoor Life is an innovative museum portraying life in the area over hundreds of years.
Southeast of the town is Okehampton Camp, the remains of an Iron Age hill-fort on a steep ridge.