Places to stay: Beach Retreats’ Harbourside Cottage, Boscastle

Magic is thick in the air in Boscastle, a picture-perfect fishing village hidden on the Cornish coast. And a stay in its heart at Beach Retreats’ wonderful Harbourside Cottage is the perfect way to discover its secrets.

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

Witches next door and devils lurking in the ocean – enchantment seems weaved into the very stone and mortar of Boscastle. Three rivers come together in a deep valley which shelters the clustered village set on their banks, the view leading straight out to the wild Cornish sea. Boscastle has stood strong through the centuries and the terrible floods of 2004, and now the cosy delights of its pretty cobbled streets and inviting pubs is the perfect contrast to the rugged coast which surrounds them.

Things to do in Boscastle

Beach Retreats hand pick gorgeous cottages and beach properties along the Cornish coast, but Harbourside Cottage might just be the cosiest of them all. Once an old fisherman’s cottage, it’s now a tiny, beautifully decorated bolthole for two. Inside is a low-beamed living room with squashy sofa and snug wood stove, a sunny courtyard and wooden stairs leading up to a bathroom and bedroom, the latter all simple white linen and a window overlooking the harbour. Arriving at the cottage late at night means waking up to warm early morning light and incredible views out to the ever-changing sea. It’s impossible not to feel calm here.

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

You’re right in the heart of things at Harbourside cottage, in a lineup of pastel-painted houses a few feet from the ocean. And if you can tear yourself away from the delights of curling up by the stove with a huge mug of coffee, Boscastle is a delight to explore, especially when winter begins to nip and it’s a quieter place to ramble around. A walk from the cottage down to the water leads you past a bustling book exchange, the Boscastle Fishing Company (impossible to pass by without giving in to temptation and trying one of their lobster rolls), the Harbour Lights cafe, so cute it looks like it belongs in a children’s book, and the irresistible Museum of Witchcraft.

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

This warren-like museum is one of the most fascinating I’ve ever stepped into, and it’s easy to lose yourself completely in the narrow corridors which wind you through the weird and wonderful history of the occult. Beginning with the apparatus used to torture medieval enchantresses, the collection progresses past a recreation of a wise woman’s cottage, delightful witchy cartoons and sorcerers from vintage Hollywood, a huge display of herbal ointments and potions and some rather grotesque keepsakes (voodoo dummies made of hair and pickled two-headed piglets, anyone?). The final display covers the rather spooky rites and rituals of modern day Wiccans. My favourite exhibit are the lovely depictions of the clever witches of Boscastle itself, who used to sell ‘wind’ to the captains of becalmed ships waiting in the harbour for better sailing weather.

Things to do in Boscastle

Of course, it wouldn’t be a weekend in Cornwall without escaping civilization (and possible conjurors) for the great outdoors. Boscastle’s beautiful, windswept coastline is its crowning glory, rising up in high cliffs on both sides of the water. Hike up to the left and you can tramp all the way to Tintagel, where King Arthur is said to have been born. Beyond it are lesser-visited covers perfect for wild swimming. Or take the path to the right for a panoramic view of the epic, craggy black rocks which rear out of the water beyond the harbour. Wait a while and you may even catch a glimpse of the devil himself – he sends out streams of foam from a blow-hole known as the Devil’s Bellows when the tide is right.

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

Things to do in Boscastle

A long bracing walk along this untouched stretch of coast can be chilly work, of course, but there’s nothing more comforting than coming home to your snug little cottage to hunker down and stoke up a roaring fire.

Things to do in Boscastle

STAY THERE: A week at Beach Retreats’ Harbourside Cottage costs £559. Two dogs are also welcome. Book a three or five night break and get an extra 2 nights free. This offer is only available after October half-term and before Easter, excluding school holidays. Available to book by telephone on 01637 861005.

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