Friday, 14 July 2017

Discovering Cornwall.

It's been many a long, long year since I was last in Cornwall and Himself has never been so when he expressed a passing interest in going I had us booked in before he could even finish the sentence.
As you may have gathered I was feeling in need of a break from the stresses of (working) life.

I have no idea why I plumped for Penzance, maybe because it is the end of the train line and we were travelling by train or just because my Dad was a big Gilbert & Sullivan fan so the name stuck. As it goes I then discovered it is one of the most depressed and run down areas in the South West...oh.
Actually it was fine, sure it's seen better days and there were empty shops, the odd rough sleepers and a level of Chav-tasticness to some of residents, but certainly no worse than the town I call home.
It's also a great base for getting out and about around the very bottom of Cornwall, especially if you have a car (which we don't). We had planned to do a lot of walking so that is exactly what we did and sod the weather.

We arrived in the pouring rain after a dead easy train journey. I chose suitable reading materials for the train, both old favourites and set in Cornwall.  The Empty House by Rosamund Pilcher which I read on the way down and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier which I read on the way back. Light and airy out, dark and twisted back!

As Ann at Polyester Princess said about her recent holiday what a difference a day makes. In our case it was the reverse of her holiday, we had 2 days of pouring rain and high winds to begin with followed by two days of glorious sunshine.

On arrival in the late afternoon we checked into our B&B.
A listed building in the heritage area of the town it only had 5 rooms and was pretty old school in that the bathroom was at the end of the corridor rather than en suite and the hours for breakfast & check in/out were pretty tight. We have become so used to being en suite that this was a surprise at first, but it was no different than being at home once you got used to it, well other than the potential of being spotted staggering to the bathroom in your nightshirt with a terrifying bedhead by a total stranger obviously.

We unpacked, checked out the room and lay side by side on the bed to test the comfort as you do, then woke up about an hour and half later!
We mooched into town and got our bearings, went in some shops, ate some chips, bought some wine at Tesco as we planned an early night in.

We also checked out the amazing Jubilee Lido. An absolutely fabulous Art Deco Lido that has been fully restored
It's gorgeous! It was great to see it busy, even in the pouring rain and the cafe is well worth a visit just in itself. I highly recommend it if you are in the area.

The next day we planned to go to St Michael's Mount because according to the website not very helpfully it was shut on the Saturday. According to Mike at the B&B this is probably due to it being 'Change over day' ?!?
It was a dead easy walk to Marizion with pretty views and would have been lovely if it wasn't for the wind and rain.

When we got there it was to be greeted by big signs in the car park saying the castle was shut but the gardens were open.
I was gutted, as I had been really looking forward to seeing the castle. There seemed little point catching the boat over just to walk round the gardens in such miserable weather and as the causeway wouldn't become clear for another couple of hours we couldn't walk over either.

I don't know if this was a sign of Cornwall in general, or just this part of it, but closing at will and despite your advertised opening hours seemed to be a very common thing!
Wet, cold and just a bit fed-up a decided I cup of tea was in order. We found a tiny, and when I say tiny I mean tiny, cafe called The Copper Kettle where we ordered a black americano and a cream tea.
What can I say? Other than it was Tuna Melt-Gate all over again!!
Of the 4 tables occupied, 3 of us ordered the cream tea only to find when it arrived there was no tea. Apparently it is a food item only and you have to order the drink separately, "so it's not actually a cream TEA then? but a plate of scones and cream?" asked one poor bewildered chap.

All I can say is The Copper Kettle was a dreadful mistake. the scones were so dry they fell to bits when you touched them and sucked every last bit of moisture out of your mouth when you did attempt to eat them. I actually gave up, gave up I tell you and this is me, a gold medal holder in clearing a cake plate. Disappointing does not come close.

We decided to walk back.

 I should add by this point the wind had destroyed Himself's umbrella and my waterproof jacket was starting to let in rain so we were both getting pretty wet. To top it off about half way back one of my shoes gave up the ghost and was letting in a lot of water.
Just to clarify I do have proper withstand a nuclear attack level walking boots but as we were travelling light and they are not exactly going out shoes and also weigh a ton. I left them at home and took my leather Converse.
I know expert walkers would scream in horror at that statement,  but ever since I have been having various issues with my feet I find Converse incredibly comfortable for long distances, in all but the most rugged terrain. These ones were going on for 15 years old so they have had a bloody good innings.
I squelched into New Look which was the first shop we approached and grabbed socks and some royal blue sneakers, then on my way past the sales rack I spotted these babies.
Which were what I actually changed straight into once were were ensconced in a nearby pub.

Chinese print creepers with platform crepe soles, completely impractical for a walking holiday but bloody fabulous and super, super comfortable.

That first pint was absolute nectar so Himself googled real ale pubs in Penzance and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening on a mini pub crawl.

Highlight for me was the Admiral Benbow. I Loved it! Made up of lots of tiny nooks and crammed full from floor to ceiling with 'stuff' mostly nautical themed.

Himself found it too much and felt claustrophobic so we moved on after one pint. He did love the Scooby Doo-esque diving helmet lamp too though.

I should also mention The Turks Head where we got banished to the garden because I was horribly unfeminine and ordered a pint!
Finally it made sense to seek out some food so we ended up in The Smuggler's Den. A cafe with a just slightly over the top pirate theme but decent food none the less. We both had a burger and chips, mine a delicious lamb & mint before trudging home to strip off sodden layers and fall into bed.

The next day dawned glorious and bright. The wet weather plan had been to catch a bus to St Ives the dry weather plan was to walk to Lamorna via Newlyn and Mousehole so that is what we did.

I never studied The Newlyn School during my time as an art student but I knew of it, and I was aware that Lamorna Cove was meant to be breathtaking from an artist's point of view, whereas even Dylan Thomas described Mousehole as 'the loveliest village in England' so this was why I wanted to see them.
 I had printed off the walk before we left, looking at it again when we got back, I see it was described as extremely challenging in parts, the tourist information in Penzance described Mousehole to Lamorna as 'strenuous' on their board. they weren't kidding.

Anyway the first bit was a breeze, flat and easy going with glorious views.
Newlyn was pretty

Mousehole every bit as lovely as expected
and also packed with people. We paused for an ice cream and a comfort (wee) break  before pushing on
up, up, up through the village pausing only when our lungs felt they might explode at the effort (which was often!) we finally found the coastal path
no this isn't it, but some random overgrown gates in the middle of nowhere!

A first it was fine, a narrow overgrown path through trees and hedges where like cars on the narrow roads thereabouts you had to find passing places to step out of the way when other walkers came towards you.
We saw some gorgeous views of the sea when you did come clear of the trees, then it started getting difficult. It has to be said the recent relentless rain and me having a across the body bag instead of a rucksack didn't help, but some parts were treacherous. The path would suddenly plunge terrifyingly down with rough steps of 3 or more foot deep only to turn and go sharply up hill again so you were literally rock climbing, trying to find a safe hand and foothold to heave yourself up. In 3 or 4 places little springs made streams running across the path adding an extra frisson of danger with deep mud and slippery rocks!  
We finally made it to the stunning cove before Lamorna where the path hangs on the very edge of the cliff and took a welcome break.

We thought about turning back but foolishly though that a) Lamorna itself was round the next bend and b) it couldn't be any worse going forward compared to what we had already done so pressed on.

I have to say in some parts it was so hard going I didn't have the chance to enjoy the glory that was around me because I was too busy trying to negotiate the next bit without breaking my neck.

After about another hour of bloody hard climbing we finally could see Lamorna itself, getting there took about another hour and more scrambling, climbing and clinging to rocks.
action shot of me toiling up the last hill!

Just as a final sting in it's tail was the bit of path down to Lamorna. I won't lie, some of it was terrifying, with a sheer drop on one side as you slipped and slid and clutched onto the rocks to the other, it was grim determination that kept me going. I don't suffer from vertigo as a rule but could have easily developed it on that last stretch that's for sure.
The whole walk is only about six and a half miles, nothing at all if you like walking but I felt like I had scaled Mount Everest or something!
We sat for a while with a cold bottle of water to help add recovery (a stiff brandy might have been better) before heading up and out of Lamorna through the woods and onto the road back to Penzance.

The plan had been to walk all the way back too but we couldn't find the path across the fields and it turns out the main road was busy and very narrow in parts so would have been pretty dangerous to walk, also I was bloody knackered.

About a mile out of Lamorna and deep in the woods we found a bus stop, the kind that is in the absolute middle of nowhere with nothing to be seen but trees and probably has one bus a week go by.
More as a reason to stop for another breather than anything else I said "look a bus stop, I wonder when the next bus is" and went to study at the timetable.
Literally that same second a bus came sailing round the corner! I blessed providence and my beautiful guardian angel, stuck my arm out and flagged it down. At the same instant Himself did as it goes. Lord only knows what that poor driver must have thought of these two demented people on foot in the middle of nowhere but he didn't bat an eyelid, sold us two singles to Penzance and said "Thank you my lover" when he gave me my tickets and change which thrilled me no end as his was the first proper Cornish accent I had heard. (For some reason there seem to be a lot of Londoners in Penzance.)

We recovered by eating absolutely delicious chips from a place by the market and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the harbour, enjoying a restorative cup of tea at the Jubilee Lido cafe.

We both fancied Italian for dinner but the only one in Penzance had inexplicably closed, tables still laid, dying flowers in vases.The next nearest was in Newlyn, and the thought of more walking made me want to cry.
So instead we plumped for an early dinner at The Dolphin Tavern. I had the most delicious piece of fresh plaice Mmm, then like the party animals we are we slumped in bed watching tv for the rest of the night!

So there is our Cornish adventure. Would we go again? Definitely! but to somewhere other than Penzance.
There's a lot of Cornwall left to see.

I shall finish with my purchases. Bearing in mind Penzance was full of charity shops I didn't buy anything from any of the ones I  did manage to slip into. There were no vintage shops but I did browse a mad antique/junk centre where I got 2 brooches for £3 each.
I also bought myself this little felted sailor mouse
and that was it, apart from the shoes of course!

We jumped on the train home for what became a journey nightmares are made of. Instead of getting in just before 8pm for a bit of dinner and then Poldark for me, we finally staggered in the door at 11.45pm. Due to my old friend signaling failure We sat for 2 hours at Plymouth before they cancelled our train and we had to get off and onto to another. This sat for another half an hour before finally setting off for Exeter where it would terminate and there would be coaches laid on. As it happened by the time we reached Exeter they had partially opened the line again therefore cancelling the buses and ours was the first train to be let through. This meant every poor soul trying to get to London who had been abandoned by GWR in Exeter dived onto our train. Now I use trains pretty much every day and I have certainly been on a very full train before now, but this was the worst by a country mile. It was so full it was actually scary. there wasn't an inch of space with people standing. It stopped and started and stopped and started before finally getting to Reading where it terminated, meaning all those poor people heading to London had to try and find yet another train, knowing by the time they finally got there the underground would have stopped running!
Luckily we were able to jump straight on a train heading towards Bristol with no extra wait. What a nightmare. As advised by the train manager I filled out the online compensation form only to be told there had been an unprecedented amount of claims for that route so there would be a delay in them getting back to me, no shit!


  1. Banished to the garden lololol!!!!!

  2. Didn't know ordering a pint could get you banished to the garden!

    If nothing else you got some lovely scenery and great shoes out of it. That train home sounds horrible.

  3. I thought all Cornish birds drank pints...of cider? Groovy shoes, better luck next time.

  4. Seriously? banished to the garden for ordering a pint? Bizarre.
    Great shoes and ace mouse! xxx

  5. Love your post. It brings back happy memories of my first holiday with Jos. I don't remember Penzance as being particularly run down, but then again that was over twenty years ago. I remember the Admiral Benbow and The Turk's Head, although I don't think I was banished to the garden, although I drank pints back then! The Copper Kettle, though: are they for real? Really, not tea with a cream tea! A word of advice from an "experienced" coast path walker. What's a great help - apart from proper walking shoes - is a walking stick. Don't laugh! It helps you keep your balance and negotiate slopes and rough terrain. Mine is a collapsible one (which would fit into your over the shoulder bag), and it's even got flowers on it. I've had it for years, and it's going everywhere with me. It's even been used for walking to the Wittenham Clumps ;-) xxx

    1. I will admit if I had known a) the converse were going to die b) we weren't actually going to go out after all so I didn't need to bring nice shoes and c) the walk would be that challenging I would definitely have taken my proper walking boots with me. I will definitely look into the walking stick though I am certainly seeing their worth!

  6. I loved reading this, what fun! And what's a holiday if you don't get lost at least once?

    I approve wholeheartedly of your reading material, and like the look of that lido. Such a shame you had so much rain. But you made the best of it (as you absolutely have to do in the UK).


  7. Hello my lover!

    What an interesting walk that was - I would have had hysterics; I do suffer from vertigo.

    Some fab photos and apart from the scones the food sounds delicious. I loved the brooches and that wee mouse is gorgeous!

    Don't understand the pint/banished to garden thing at all. Have they not heard of sex equality in that establishment?

  8. I'd have thought mucking up a cream tea got café owners run out of Cornwall. Whoever heard of a cream tea coming without tea? As you rightly say, that's a scone. As for getting turfed into the garden for ordering a pint... I'd have complained to the tourist board about that one.

    I quite liked the idea of going to Penzance - the Landmark Trust has an amazing place there - but if it's that rubbish, perhaps it's better missed out. I've only ever been to Padstow, which is pretty.

    1. I'd recommend Penzance for a long weekend, it's fine but there isn't much to do there for longer than that, or as a good base to use to get about the local area if you go down with a car, the surrounding area is gorgeous.

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  10. I must say that has made me laugh, though I simply love Penzance. One of my mates is a bus driver down there, he wouldn't bat an eyelid at demented people in the middle of nowhere :)
    I was a bit disappointed in Lamorna itself, though the views are lovely and the pub is very nice.
    We've never had a bad meal at The Dolphin. :)
    Annie xx

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