Delabole, Our A-Z of Cornwall

Delabole is a small village situated about a mile from the North Coast of Cornwall. It is most famous for its beautiful slate that you will see used in many of the houses throughout our County. Delabole is in the heart of the King Arthur Country and it is close to Camelford, Tintagel, Boscastle and Port Isaac. Many people don’t know this but it is actually the third highest village in Cornwall. 

Aerial view of the Delabole Slate Quarry in Cornwall

The Village

The village of Delabole has the usual churches, post office and many shops but it also has some wonderful spots for both walks and lunch. One of the more well known walks takes you on a picturesque route around Delabole starting from the Slate Quarry. If you are driving you can park your car here as the walk ends here too. 

The walk takes you through beautiful fields that lead you to the first hamlet of Medrose. You then stroll along a wide and grassy cattle-droving track which leads up to the top of Delabole. The route then veers off through Higher Pengelley, the second of three  hamlets. Finally you wander through the woods at Helland Barton that lead to the River Allen. The river leads you back towards the quarry where you can climb the slate tips back up to the quarry and finish your walk. 

This walk is roughly 3.5miles but offers so many beautiful sights. The other added bonus is the chance to stop for lunch at the Bettle & Chisel Inn for a well earned lunch. The food is always delicious and many guests have commented on how lovely the staff were. Our favourite thing about this walk has to be the unbelievable views. You can see right across Cornwall, all the way from Bude to St Austell!

Another interesting thing about Delabole that we learnt is that is that the infamous Great Train Robber spent some of his early years here when he was evacuated from London during the Blitz. Many years later he confessed in an article that his first crime was committed there, when he rolled a giant rock into the infamous quarry!

An example of Quarrying before we had machines

Delabole Slate Quarry – The History 

The Delabole Slate Quarry is the oldest working slate quarry in England and is one of the most important industrial heritage sites in Britain today. The quarry has been in operation for around 1,000 years. In that time over 10 million tonnes of slate has been quarried. The first recording of slate being quarried was in the Domesday Book of 1806 that was commissioned by William the Conqueror in December 1805. Records show that the Manor of Deliou or Delabole as it’s known now was owned then by William the conquerors brother in law, Count de Mortaine. It is thought that the Normans would have acquired the slate for building their castles and estates across the south of England.

For many centuries the ownership of the quarry was split between several families and estates that worked their own section with some of them leasing lans to small groups of the quarrymen. Over time this resulted in many disputes and court battles, that is until 1842 when the Delabole Slate Company was formed. The new company secured all the freehold rights to the quarry and as a result solved the majority of the disputes.

There have been many changes to the workings of the quarry over the years. By 1850 there was over 1,000 men, women and boys working at the quarry. In today’s world we have much more advanced technology and the same amount of work can now be done by a few large machines operated by only five quarrymen. 

Tours at the Delabole Slate Quarry

Today the quarry is almost 500 feet deep and over 1.5 miles around. If you want to experience the whole quarry you will need to book a tour. Unfortunately they only run for a few months of the year but if you are in the area at the time, it is definitely worth a visit. The tours are available from 1st May to 31st August each year. They begin at 2.00pm and run each day, Monday – Friday. 

One of the highlights of the tour is being able to see the age old skill of hand splitting roof slates. This skill has been passed down through generations of Delabole men and boys, and they still use the same methods today. 

It is also worth ringing in advance to see if they have space on one of the Long Walkabout Tours. This usually only takes place for groups of 10 or more but there is a chance that they will have a space. This gives you the chance to see a tour of the pit and shows the diamond wire sawing through 600 tonne slate blocks which is a pretty impressive sight!

A map of Cornwall showing the distance from Delabole to Newquay

Getting to Delabole

Delabole is situated in the North of Cornwall in the parish of St Teath on the B3314 and can be easily accessed from the A39 Trunk Road. If you prefer to use public transport then you can get a bus from Newquay to any of the following; Polzeath, Wadebridge, Camelford, Bude and Tintagel and get a direct bus in from there. Each of the above locations have plenty to offer in their own right, so why not tie one of them in with your day and visit both places at once?

Unfortunately the trains are not very reliable between Newquay and Delabole and it may take you quite a while to get there, with many changes.

If you have visited Delabole before, please let us know if you have any other sights you recommend seeing. Maybe you have a hidden gem close by that you think is worth a detour? Cornwall is full of beautiful places, its always wonderful to learn of something new!

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18 thoughts on “Delabole, Our A-Z of Cornwall”

  1. I plan on returning to Cornwall this year so hopefully I will make it to Delabole as well. So far I have only visited the South parts of Cornwall. It sounds like there are plenty of things to do and see in Delabole.

  2. Oh wow, I’ve never heard about this place before. We did not make it to Cornwall during our last visit to the UK. Maybe we should consider visiting this place on our next trip. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. I have never thought about it but I bet the quarry where we used to go as kids also had a lot of workers replaced by machines. This is an interesting write up.

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