St Nectan's Kieve

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Waterfall in St Nectan's Glen, Trethevy, Cornwall
Video of St Nectan's Kieve
One of the 'makeshift' altars in the Glen

Saint Nectan's Kieve (Cornish: Cuva Nathan, meaning Nathan's tub) in Saint Nectan's Glen, near Tintagel in Cornwall, Great Britain, is a plunge pool or basin fed by a 60-foot-high (18 m) waterfall on the Trevillet River.


The river is carved into Late Devonian slate and several earlier kieves can be seen further up the rock walls of the waterfall. The current basin is estimated to be around 12 feet (3.7 m) deep, and the water emerges through a natural rock arch to drop a further 10 feet (3.0 m) to a wide shallow pool.

Origins of the name[edit]

The sixth-century Saint Nectan was and is believed to have had his hermitage above the waterfall. According to legend, he rang a silver bell in times of stormy weather to warn shipping of the perils of the rocks at the mouth of the Rocky Valley. Though other legends are also told of Nectan (such as his burial under the riverbed[1]), no evidence exists to substantiate Nectan's presence here. His home was further north, in what is now Hartland, Devon. The name is first recorded in 1799 as Nathan's Cave in reference to a local character, either Nathan Williams or Nathan Cock, and the Cornish word Cuva (pronounced keeva) meaning tub.[2]

Recognition as a sacred site[edit]

Saint Nectan's Kieve is believed by some to be a sacred place or cloutie well, and numerous ribbons, crystals, photographs, inscriptions, prayers and other devotions now adorn the foliage and rock walls near the waterfall. Many visitors add small piles of flat stones obtained from the stream.

The Hermitage[edit]

A building reputed to be the site of Saint Nectan's cell is situated at the top of the waterfall; the date of the building is uncertain. It is most probably an 18th-century summerhouse, and the legends are due to the imaginations of R. S. Hawker and William Goard, yeoman of Trethevy.[3] Alternatively, information provided by the current owners suggests that the ruins of the chapel provide the lower part of the walls of a cottage erected in the 1860s, and extended around 1900. Tea gardens are open in the Hermitage grounds between April and October.[4]


  1. ^ Fanthorpe, R. Lionel; Patricia Fanthorpe (1999). "The Mystery of Saint Nectan's Glen". The World's Most Mysterious Places. Hounslow Press. p. 232. ISBN 0-88882-206-5. 
  2. ^ Craig Weatherhill, Place Names of Cornwall and Scilly, Wessex Books, 2005.
  3. ^ Madge (1950); pp. 59-65
  4. ^ The History and Legend of the Hermitage and Waterfall, St. Nectan's Glen, Tintagel, leaflet, 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Madge, Sidney J. (1950) The "Chapel", Kieve and Gorge of "Saint Nectan", Trevillet Millcombe, Tintagel. (82 pp.; illus.) Bodmin: Liddell and Son

Coordinates: 50°39′51″N 4°42′36″W / 50.66417°N 4.71000°W / 50.66417; -4.71000