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Visiting St Nectan's Glen, Cornwall

Updated on May 31, 2013

St Nectan's Glen - The Healing Waterfall of Cornwall

Discover St Nectan's Glen in Cornwall, England

St Nectan's Glen is an area of woodland in Trethevy, Cornwall, near to magical Tintagel. What is so special about this place? It houses a spectacular 60-foot waterfall known as St Nectan's Kieve, the only waterfall of its kind, where the water falls down through a holed stone into the basin below.

The waterfall is said to have healing powers, and is described as being one of the ten most spiritually significant places in the country. Above the kieve is St Nectan's Cell, where people sit for meditation, healing and prayer.

St Nectan's Glen is a wonderful place to track down if you are visiting Cornwall. This page explains all about the history of the kieve, how to reach it, and the folklore surrounding it.

Photo Credit: All images on this page are copyright of the author and may not be used elsewhere without permission.

Where is St Nectan's Glen?

St Nectan's Glen is located in Trethevy, not far from Tintagel, and the woodland stretches for about a mile along the Trevillet River.

The waterfall is situated in a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The walk along the river leads to the Hermitage, where St Nectan's cell is located and the current owners of the glen live.

Access through the gate here leads down to the kieve.

How to Get to St Nectan's Glen

The best way to reach the Glen is to park in the waterfall car park in Trethevy, which lies on the Tintagel to Boscastle road. Upon entering Trethevy from the direction of Tintagel, you will see the car park on your left. A signpost to St Nectan's on the other side of the road points you in the right direction, leading down a path of houses that takes you past St Piran's well (St Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall). This path will lead you to the beautiful woodland riverside walk along the Trevillet River, which is a magical experience in itself, and you can see from the photo gallery below!

Hardy walking shoes with a good grip on the soles are essential, especially if it has been raining, because the walk can get very muddy. We visited in July and although the day was dry, the previous day had seen torrential rain and the steps in particular were extremely slippery.

Despite needing to take a little care with footing, the walk is truly magical, passing otherworldly trees, quartz stone and lush tree ferns. If you visit in May, you should be treated to a carpet of magical bluebells.

The walk leads to some ancient stone steps, taking you up and up to the Hermitage. Here the owners reside, with a small tea shop available for refreshments. Admission is paid here for access to the waterfall. Now it is through the gate and down through a moist, lush landscape, with steam from the kieve rising up around you!

You hear the thunder of the waterfall before you see it. Rounding the corner, it is a sight to truly take your breath away!

Trevillet River Walk to St Nectan's Glen

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The walk to the kieve is beautiful...The riverside walk through the woods is truly magical!The river is called the Trevillet RiverSt Nectan's Glen stretches for around a mile along the riverBridge across the Trevillet RiverThe wood and river have an enchanted aura!Walkway to the kieveStacked stones look like tiny faerie dwellings!More "faerie houses" or shrines!The beautiful steps that lead up to the Hermitage
The walk to the kieve is beautiful...
The walk to the kieve is beautiful...
The riverside walk through the woods is truly magical!
The riverside walk through the woods is truly magical!
The river is called the Trevillet River
The river is called the Trevillet River
St Nectan's Glen stretches for around a mile along the river
St Nectan's Glen stretches for around a mile along the river
Bridge across the Trevillet River
Bridge across the Trevillet River
The wood and river have an enchanted aura!
The wood and river have an enchanted aura!
Walkway to the kieve
Walkway to the kieve
Stacked stones look like tiny faerie dwellings!
Stacked stones look like tiny faerie dwellings!
More "faerie houses" or shrines!
More "faerie houses" or shrines!
The beautiful steps that lead up to the Hermitage
The beautiful steps that lead up to the Hermitage

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The Hermitage, St Nectan's Glen

The Hermitage is a late nineteenth or early twentieth century half-timbered building, presently the private residence of the current owners, which is said to have been constructed on the remains of a Celtic chapel.

St Nectan's Kieve Waterfall and

Hermitage Tea Gardens

Waterfall Admission: Adults £3.50 Children £1.75 Family Ticket £10.00 (2 adults & 2 children)

The waterfall is open from Easter to the end of October, 10.30am to 6.30pm (or dusk) on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Between November and Easter, both the waterfall and the Hermitage Tea Gardens are closed.

Descent to St Nectan's Kieve

Upon admission to the waterfall, a gate leads to the steps winding down to the falls, a mixture of stone slabs and tree roots, where water trickles down in miniature waterfalls of its own, and steam rises up from the kieve!

It is so moist you can see steam coming from your mouth and feel water dripping on your head! A short but slippery descent through gorgeous jungle-like greenery leads down to the kieve - you will hear the roar of the waterfall before you see it.

Rounding the rocky corner, now a shrine bedecked in offerings, you will catch your first glimpse of the utterly breathtaking falls, tucked into craggy rocks covered in lichen.

St Nectan's Glen Kieve

The Kieve is just stunning. The breathtaking, spectacular 60-foot waterfall is the only one of its kind in the world where it falls through a natural holed rock into the basin below.

The word "kieve" refers to the basin at the base of the falls which forms a beautiful healing pool.

Looking up at the top of the falls, it almost seems to be bathed in an ethereal glow!

Offerings of all kinds are left beside the waterfall, which is said to have extremely strong healing properties (more on that in a moment).

The flora and fauna of the kieve and glen are also beautiful. The damp shade even supports a few rarities, including two rare liverworts Jubula hutchinsiae and Trichocolea tomentella, and the mosses Fissidens curnovii and Fissidens osmundoides. There is also a rich wildlife, with dippers nesting in the rocks near Saint Nectan's Kieve.

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Who was Saint Nectan?

St. Nectan is one of the most celebrated saints in the West of England.

It is said that he sailed south from Wales, landing on the Corno-Devon border and finding a beautiful valley there, at Stoke St. Nectan near Hartland, with a never-failing spring.

St Nectan built a small church and hermitage next to a spring, now known as St. Nectan's Well, and lived there for many years. He also built a small retreat at the head of St. Nectan's Kieve at Trethevy, and it is said that the Knights of the Round Table consulted with him there before setting out upon the quest to find the Holy Grail!

St. Nectan also tended to the poor throughout Devon, Cornwall and even Brittany. He is often described as a hermit, and his name lives on in the glen and waterfall.

Some sources, however, claim that the name is a Christianised form of the Cornish water god - Nechtan. The Keive itself has been a place of reverence since pagan times, and was once seen as a potent Pagan symbol of Gaia.

The Healing Power of St Nectan's Glen & St Nectan's Cell

The water of St Nectan's Kieve is said to have been blessed by St Nectan and consequently possess healing properties. People who visit the kieve have been known to bathe or stand in the waters for healing, and there are many offerings left beside the kieve as well.

These offerings are sometimes known as clouties (pronounced "clooties"), and they can be found at many West Country sites such as sacred wells and stone circles. They include rags and trinkets tied to trees, flowers, shells and crystals, left as offerings to the spirits of place.

Another significant part of St Nectan's Glen is St Nectan's Cell. The largest part of the Hermitage includes the remains of the chapel. This is currently the living accommodation of the owners, but beneath this is a room said to be the site of St.Nectan's cell.

Slate steps lead up to the chapel and the rear bedrock wall forms a natural altar. This cell has recently been opened to the public, after increasing numbers of visitors realised the spiritual benefit of the kieve. Visitors sit inside the cell, which has been turned into a beautiful spiritual shrine, for healing and meditation, and to absorb the healing energy that is said to rise up from the waterfall below.

The shrine that has been created inside the cell is beautiful. Statues have been donated by local artists and shops, including those of water goddess Coventina and the god Cernunnos. Angels, mermaids, fairies and other goddesses are also in abundance, along with crystals, rocks and various trinkets.

Pieces of paper are scattered all around the shrine with prayers and tributes to those in need or those who have passed over. Tea light candles are available for those wishing to pay their respects to the spirits of the kieve, and can be lit and placed upon the shrine.

St Nectan's Glen Shrine Photos

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Cleansing a crystal heart in the healing waters of the kieveA flower offering to St Nectan for a sick friendCrystal in the waters of St Nectan's kieveThe offerings that people have left on the rocks next to the kieve. These are known in Cornwall as "clouties".People leave everything from sacred objects, candles and statues, to ribbons and pieces of material, as well as everyday items they have on them, like pens and stones.The incredible shrine inside St Nectan's Cell includes statues of goddesses such as water goddess Coventina, faeries and angels. Visitors can light a candle and add it to the shrine, and also write prayers for the ill or deceased on pieces of paper a
Cleansing a crystal heart in the healing waters of the kieve
Cleansing a crystal heart in the healing waters of the kieve
A flower offering to St Nectan for a sick friend
A flower offering to St Nectan for a sick friend
Crystal in the waters of St Nectan's kieve
Crystal in the waters of St Nectan's kieve
The offerings that people have left on the rocks next to the kieve. These are known in Cornwall as "clouties".
The offerings that people have left on the rocks next to the kieve. These are known in Cornwall as "clouties".
People leave everything from sacred objects, candles and statues, to ribbons and pieces of material, as well as everyday items they have on them, like pens and stones.
People leave everything from sacred objects, candles and statues, to ribbons and pieces of material, as well as everyday items they have on them, like pens and stones.
The incredible shrine inside St Nectan's Cell includes statues of goddesses such as water goddess Coventina, faeries and angels. Visitors can light a candle and add it to the shrine, and also write prayers for the ill or deceased on pieces of paper a
The incredible shrine inside St Nectan's Cell includes statues of goddesses such as water goddess Coventina, faeries and angels. Visitors can light a candle and add it to the shrine, and also write prayers for the ill or deceased on pieces of paper a

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Spirit Orbs

are mysterious round orbs that appear on photographs (particularly digital ones). Skeptics dismiss them as things like moisture on the camera lens, but others believe that they are spirits, some kind of energy or even angels. They most often appear in photographs taken in sites that are sacred, haunted or special in some similar way.

Photos of Orbs at St Nectan's Glen

St Nectan's kieve is said to be home to spirits and even faeries (see further below for more information). People who visit the kieve pay their respects to the spirits of place and there have been many stories of mysterious happenings at the kieve.

There have also been countless photographs taken of the kieve that contain "orbs", so many in fact that there is a display of them at St Nectan's cell. I was delighted to capture the above shot myself.

What do you think? Moisture? Reflection? Or genuinely something mysterious? I took a number of similar shots of the falls and only two contained this strange phenomenon.

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Folklore & Legends of St Nectan's Glen

Spirits and Faeries

Spirits are thought to dwell within the kieve, and many like to leave offerings or light candles to show their respect and ask for healing or help from the spirits.

St Nectan's Glen is also considered to be a very significant faerie dwelling. In her book West Country Faerie, Diana Mullis says that she feels the faerie presence every time she visits. She describes how clouties (shrine offerings) are hugely attractive to faeries and that any such site housing these items will be visited by the Fae often, as they bridge the divide between the Faerie realm and our own.

Spirit Orbs

As described above, there have been countless spirit orb photographs taken at the kieve. It is assumed that these represent the spirits said to dwell here, but there are numerous theories as to what these orbs are.

According to author Diana Cooper, the appearance of orbs in photographs are supposed to represent the presence of angels, elementals, unicorns and other spirit beings.

Hauntings

Before St Nectan passed away, he realised that his simple faith was being ravaged by the marauding Romans. He asked to be carried to the edge of the Kieve, where he launched his bell into the waters and declared that his bell would never ring for unbelievers. Legend has it that at times the bell tolls to warn of misfortune to come.

Ghostly monks have been witnessed chanting along the pilgrim path, as well as two ghostly grey women, said to be St Nectan's sisters. Legend says they are buried beneath a large flat slab in the river, near the bottom of the water fall. St Nectan himself is buried in an oak chest somewhere below the falls.

When men attempted to dig at the kieve centuries ago, a voice is said to have called out, proclaiming, "The child is not yet born who shall recover this treasure."

Other sightings of ghosts and other mysterious happenings include a man on a bridge being seen and a burning skull in a tree. In the glen on the Halgabron side of the first bridge, fairies have been seen dancing, and the owl living there is said to be a faerie in disguise. At the second bridge, a little fire is often seen, which appears and then vanishes.

Friends of St Nectan's Glen - Saving the Kieve

Sadly, the future of St. Nectan's Glen is unsure. The current owners are having to sell up, and a group has been formed to try to raise enough money (around £1 million) to purchase the Glen and secure its future.

The group aims to save it from being bought and developed for some insensitive commercial purpose, and preserving it as a sacred site available to all for generations to come.

Guides to Cornwall - Discover the Real Cornwall with a Top Cornish Guide

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Would you like to visit St Nectan's Glen?

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    • Missmerfaery444 profile image
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      Missmerfaery444 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Definitely worth a visit! Have been to many places in Cornwall but this is my most favourite :) Hope he enjoys the trip!

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      My dad is going to Cornwall next week - I must tell him about this.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I used to live close by and spent a lot of my youth swimming and diving in the bowl

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image
      Author

      Missmerfaery444 5 years ago

      @anonymous: It is indeed very special! Thank you so much for sharing your stories here.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love St Necton's Glen I have visited twice. My family used to live in the Hermitage and I have grown up hearing all the unusual stories about the place. I remember one story was that my Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather were staying in the Hermitage one summer and every night they used to hear the sound of Monks chanting. The other story was my Grandmother and Aunt were walking through the glen when my Grandmother walked up to an old man who lived in a house on the lane. My Grandmother could not understand why when she talked to him he never replied. When she told Grandfather what had happened he replied that the old man had died two weeks before. There was also a story of a person who looked after the Hermitage when my Grandfather was away. One day my Grandfather returned to find that this man was dead in the waterfall and rumors went around did he fall or was he pushed. Also in the old Manor house at Trethevy there is a ghost of a mad man who was kept locked up at home buy his family and was allowed every night to walk around the house. Before my Grandmother married my Grandfather she was not allowed to spend the night in the new house so she had to stay in the old manor house with her soon to be sister in Law. During the night she was woken up buy chains rattling. Her sister in Law said to be quiet and stay in her room for the rest of the night. In the morning she was told that the rattling chains was from the ghost of the man walking around the house. I would love to visit the area again as there is just something so special about the place. I can't quiet put my finger on what it is. There is just no place like it.

    • bwet profile image

      bwet 5 years ago

      what a lovely place to visit. I'll be sure to go there the next time I go to the west of england :)

    • profile image

      lifeloveliving 6 years ago

      another of my favourite places - the quiz was good fun, made me take in more information. thanks

    • profile image

      miribilist 6 years ago

      Ooh! St Nectans glen is just down the road from me!

      Absolutely beautiful walk on the North Cornwall Coastline :)

    • CustomSquids profile image

      CustomSquids 6 years ago

      Looks like very relaxing place to visit. I love the atmosphere it presents.

    • Northbright profile image

      Norbert Isles 6 years ago from Philippines

      Very beautiful, inviting and enchanting pilgrimage place. Love the St. Nectan story, the folklore and legends of the place.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      St Nectan's Glen is a place I had never heard of before, but I would love to visit there. Thank you for giving the tour and introducing in to this enchanted place. I returned your kindness and lensrolled this to my orbs pictures lenses. ~ You have done a very lovely job of creating this lens, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I really like it.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      wow! this lens is an inspiration...i LOVE cornwall although i've only ever visited the area around st.ives...this has inspired me to venture further on my next visit. the stuff about orbs is also fascinating...

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Oh I forgot - Congratulations on a well deserved Purple Star :)

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I would love to visit. We were in Cornwall in April, but on the south coast. I have been to Tintagel about 20 years ago, but I don't recall going to the waterfall. I love anything that is different and steeped in folklore, so this will be on our list for the next visit.

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      boutiqueshops 6 years ago

      Beautifully done! Congratulations on your purple star! Love the gorgeous photos!

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 6 years ago

      What a cool place! I love how the waterfall goes through a hole. I think there are orbs, but I think yours look like moisture from the spray. On the other hand, maybe the spirits at a watery holy place like that are in patterns like that. Who knows? :)

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      aishu19 6 years ago

      Wow the waterfalls look amazing. Congratulations on the purple star

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 6 years ago

      Yes! Beautiful Photos!

    • SueM11 profile image

      Sue Mah 6 years ago from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

      Those waterfalls look magnificent. Enjoyed your tour. I would love a trip to see St Nectan's Glen with a group of companions. I tend to get more than a little imaginative in spooky places.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I would very much like to visit St. Nectan's Glen. I am so happy to hear about it! Thank you for sharing this wonderful place.

    • JulietJohnson profile image

      JulietJohnson 6 years ago

      I am amazed at what a modern face St. Nectan has! he seems almost normal... which is not what one has come to expect from any kind of folk hero from Cornwal! And I say that with the utmost respect!! LOL Seriously.

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      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      Yes. Never heard of it before. Thanks for the info.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Beautifully illustrated.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Yes, oh yes, I would love to visit St Nectan's Glen, to see the waterfall and to sit quietly with the magic of the past