St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall


St Nectan's Kieve
The deep, shady, wooded valley of the Trevillet River, containing a 60 foot multi-stage waterfall, the lower part flowing through an arch
Parking along the B3263, 1.5 miles from Tintagel; PL34 0BB
0.6 or 0.9 miles, one-way
The Trevillet River is a short watercourse, less then 3 miles, yet it flows through two very scenic and photogenic locations; Rocky Valley, a narrow gorge that meets the sea, and St Nectan's Glen, a deeper valley, thickly wooded, in which the river runs for a short distance through an enclosed slot-like canyon, framed by dark walls of slate, then descends via a multi-stage waterfall, the lowest component flowing through an arch.

The waterfall is known as St Nectan's Kieve, kieve being an old term for a type of liquid-containing vessel, while St Nectan was a religious figure from the fifth century, associated with Hartland in Devon. A story, cultivated in Victorian times, suggests that St Nectan lived for a while in a hermitage above the glen, though there is no historical basis for this. Nonetheless, the glen has become recognised as one of the most mystical and spiritual places in Cornwall, associated with followers of new age religions.

The waterfall lies near the upper end of a wooded section of the gorge extending about a mile, and it is accessed by two footpaths, a walk of 0.9 or 0.6 miles, approaching from the north or from the west. The glen has unrestricted access, while the waterfall is within a fenced-off area and is open during the day upon payment of a fee, currently (2024) £9 per adult. Above the falls are several buildings, one housing a cafe, another a gift shop.


The usual access to St Nectan's Glen is from the main coast road (B3263), starting from a parking place 1.5 miles northeast of Tintagel. A road, then path leads from the adjacent village of Trethevey, curving across an open hillside then down the north side of the valley, running close to the stream for nearly half a mile, and finally up a little way to the buildings above the falls; after 0.9 miles. The parking place though is often full by morning on busy days, and nearby parking options are rather limited. A slightly easier approach is from the west, beginning in the village of Halgabron, along a minor road; there are several verges allowing parking, for just a few vehicles. The path from the village crosses a small field, enters the woods, descends to the stream, crosses via a footbridge and joins the other path, a little way below the falls. Total walk for this route, to the waterfall, is 0.6 miles.

The waterfall, arch and pool
The waterfall, arch and pool

The Waterfall

St Nectan's Glen is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest on account of its varied plant life - it is always shady, cool and moist, and the valley sides support a range of ferns, mosses and liverworts, some of which are viewable from the paths. The place also has many fungi in the autumn. After climbing from the valley floor, the approach path arrives at an open area containing the various buildings, and gardens. Entry to the falls is through the gift shop; the path from here descends a little way, crosses the stream on a bridge then drops down further to the river; the falls are reached by a short walk upstream. Here is a pool, usually just a few inches deep, below the arch, with the 60 foot waterfall extending above, in two main stages. The return walking route is along a separate path all on the north side of the stream, back to the gardens.

Porcelain mushroom
Porcelain mushroom, oudemansiella mucida

Slate cliff above the waterfall
Slate cliff above the waterfall