Over a century ago Boscastle was a busy, bustling place. It was a commercial port throughout most of the 19th century, for the railway did not reach north Cornwall until 1893. Before that date all heavy goods to and from an area stretching many miles inland had to be carried by sea. More than a dozen ketches and schooners of 30 to 200 tons traded regularly through the little port. In one year alone 200 ships called. Many vessels brought supplies in from South Wales and Bristol but even cargoes of timber direct from Canada came into Boscastle.
The tortuous harbour entrance, with the island of Meachard as an extra hazard, meant it was never safe for sailing vessels to enter Boscastle un-assisted. They were therefore towed or 'hobbled' in by 'hobbler' boats manned by eight oarsmen. Gangs of men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel.
Hauling goods up Boscastle's steep hills needed strong teams of horses, many of them kept at the Palace Stables, now the youth hostel. There are other buildings such as a lime kiln and blacksmith's forge that can still be seen in the harbour.
The harbour today
The harbour trade declined after the railway came through Camelford in 1893. Nowadays fisherman base themselves here as well as pleasure craft.
Boscastle's blow-hole beneath Penally Point is often called the Devil's Bellows. It can be seen thumping and snorting about an hour either side of low tide, blowing a horizontal waterspout halfway across the harbour entrance if the conditions are right.