Somehow felt my recent trip to Cornwall was more like an extended driving trip out to the countryside as opposed to a beach summer holiday. What would one expect for having only 1 fair weather day out of 5 days out there. Where is UK summer?
Have been dreaming about going off to Cornwall, after missing out on the trip last year with my housemates. Took opportunity when Julia, friend from home who came over to London for work, to spend some time away from London. Armed with our trusty Honda Jazz rental car, brand new tent and basic camping gear, we drove off hoping to prove the weather forecast wrong.
(Scene of the highway leading towards Cornwall)
Day 1 saw us clocking more than 460km as we drove all the way to Land’s End (most western tip of England). Being new to the road system in UK, we actually lost some distance & time when we accidentally took the highway side leading back to London after a midway pit stop. Thank god Julia noticed the familiar grounds we were passing by, and true enough the next big signpost showed the distance heading to London instead.
After setting up camp in a lovely small campsite in Bosavern, we headed to Land’s End to catch the evening sunset. Luckily for us, we came on a Thursday when the fireworks was scheduled for at 9.30pm. So we passed the time away walking along the coastline before the cold wind drove us back to the main buildings at Land’s End site. The fireworks display was not bad, considering the owners put the show twice a week during the summer months.
(Land’s End as seen from the nearby coastline)
Day 2 became our best day in terms of weather and places ventured. We started the day early and arrived at Minack Theatre 30min before the gates open. With the warmth of the sun shining down on us finally, we headed down towards the Porthcurno beach located besides the cliffs where the famous theatre was built on. As it was still pretty early in the morning, we were fortunate to enjoy the quiet sandy beach with just another group of insane adults going for a swim in the cold & choppy sea. No hordes of family with hyperactive children yet, which started to arrive after we walked back towards Minack Theatre.
(Portcurno Beach during early morning hours)
Minack Theatre was definitely a site to behold – intimate theatre built on the cliffs by 3 people who painstakingly cut terraces for the seatings and stage area. What made the theatre more spectacular was its location besides the sea and the dramatic effects from the crashing waves and howling winds. http://www.minack.com
(Minack Theatre as seen from the upper seat terraces. Below is the stage and the coastline beyond that)
(One of the seat engraved with “The Tempest – 1932” which was the first show at Minack Theatre)
We journeyed on towards Marazion, our 2nd campsite destination. Medium sized campsite – our pitch was quite exposed and our tent handled the winds and heavy rain well for 2 nights. But we loved it best for its hot showers with powerful jet head. Too bad we didn’t manage to find any time to enjoy the small heated indoor swimming pool within the campgrounds.
The afternoon at Marazion town was gorgeous. We enjoyed a wonderful warm Cornish pasty and scones with clotted cream cheese+strawberry jam from the local bakery. The pasty was packed full with meat, potatoes & onions – large enough to be a meal by itself for an adult. It’s interesting to note that there is a Cornish Pasty Association who is fighting to protect the reputation of the humble pasty with their application that only pasties made in Cornwall to traditional recipe can be legally called Cornish pasties (http://www.cornishpastyassociation.co.uk). Reckoned something should be done to ensure quality of our M’sian food e.g. Penang Char Kuey Teow or Ipoh Sar Hor Fun to clamp down on those stalls selling crappy imitations.
After lunch break, we ventured across the sea towards St Michael’s Mount. The castle built on a small rocky island was average for me after all the castles I have seen todate. But the amazing thing was the slow emergence of the man-made granite setts linking the island to mainland during the low tide. After our earlier boat ride across, it was a wonderful change to be walking back along the causeway 3 hours later.
(Causeway emerging from the low tide, leading from St Michael’s Mount back to mainland at Marazion)
(Walkway with St Michael’s Mount in the background)
Taking advantage of the great weather, we drove off to St Ives for a look-see. The town centre was quite busy with visitors enjoying the warmth and seaside. Will remembered St Ives for the sea gull who stole my ice cream straight from my hand and Porthminster beach – best beach during this trip for the soft sands and laid back atmosphere.
(Visitors enjoying the sunshine at Porthminster Beach, with St Ives in the background)
Day 3 was the worst day we had because of the never-ending rain and windy conditions. We braved the weather and visited Lizard Point, most southerly point in Great Britain. The place is quite notorious for ship wrecks – and we saw how treacherous the sea conditions can get with plenty of rocky obstacles out at sea. We took some time to tour the Lizard Lighthouse and saw first hand how a modern working lighthouse was from the inside.
(Looking out to sea from Lizard Point)
(Dramatic coastline as the waves crashed into the rugged coastline at Lizard Point)
As the weather failed to improve, we decided for another indoor destination and headed off to the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek (http://www.sealsanctuary.co.uk). We checked out the pools where different species of seals & sea lions were kept. Saw more playfulness from the animals during the feeding times and were briefed by the Animal Care team on the creature’s background and how these animals came to the rehab centre. The most interesting residents for me were actually the pair of Asian short-clawed Otters who scurried about their home closely together.
After all the dampness from the day, we finally found some dry & warm refuge in Falmouth. First stop was to feed our hungry stomachs with some yummy fish & chips – heavenly to finally get some warm food after being constantly wet walking around the whole day. With a full belly, we walked around the fishing town and was treated to a marching carnival parade as part of the annual Henri Lloyd Falmouth Week. Pity camera was not taken out of the car because of the earlier downpour – there were plenty of interesting characters marching through the streets.
We started Day 4 with better weather in the morning and paid Trebah Garden a visit. The original plan was to go for Glendurgan Gardens, famous for its laurel maze but was closed on Sundays. We took a leisurely stroll through Trebah Garden towards the beach and back to the main entrance. Interesting plant found was the Gunnera Manicata or Giant Rhubarb from Brazil. As the plant can grow up to 5m in height, it was amazing walking amongst the giant plants with big open leaves towering above us.
(Trebah Garden as seen from the beach end)
(Gunnera Manicata or Giant Rhubarb at Trebah Garden)
Our next campsite was located nearby Padstow and huge in comparisons to the first 2 sites stayed at. There were about 88 superior pitches for campervans and 94 smaller pitches for basic tents. Felt like being in a small suburb itself, except we were living in tents rather than built up houses.
Spent rest of the afternoon exploring Tintagel castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur and awesome coastline views. The castle was mainly in ruins and nothing much to see. It was instead the dramatic coastline which took up most of my attention – pure adrenaline standing on the edge and looking at the crashing waves down below, and battling against the strong winds to stay upright. Amazed that no barriers were put up along the cliffs, only small warning signs by operator against standing too close to the edge.
(Tintagel Castle ruins as seen from mainland)
(Another great dramatic coastline from Tintagel Castle site……check out the sheer drop to the seas below)
We didn’t do too bad for food on that day. Managed to stop for a traditional Sunday roast enroute to Tintagel Castle. The pub / restaurant was served pork, turkey and beef bred from their own farm nearby along with a variety of vegetables. Highlight of the day would be the best ice cream I had tasted during the whole trip – vanilla ice cream, coated with clotted cream cheese and coated with chopped fudge made by Granny Wobbly’s Fudge Pantry (www.tintagelweb.co.uk/Granny%20Wobbly.htm)
Spent our last day in Padstow with lunch at Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips restaurant. Having seen the long queue from last night, we decided to be the typical kiasu Asian and waited outside the restaurant from 11.30am for lunch which starts at 12noon. We chatted with an old man behind us, who is a regular diner at this restaurant for years. He claimed the fish was still the best here, despite the deluge of restaurants selling fish+chips and all manners of seafood in Padstow. And normally there will be no queue except for August due to school holidays.
We ordered fried scallops and oysters for starters, and grilled monkfish for Julia and battered sea bream for myself. The seafood was definitely fresh – meat was sweet and succulent without any need for further seasoning or sauce. My fish & chips were light and crispy, and Julia enjoyed her salad too. Somehow, the meal was still on the oily side – probably we were used to the asian style of cooking seafood with simple steaming or pan-frying. But all round good – we didn’t regret staying longer in Padstow to dine at one of Rick Stein’s outlets.
(Standing outside Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips restaurant)
(Grilled monkfish in the background and the battered seabream in the front)
After clocking up 954miles (1,535km) over 5 days, both Julia and myself arrive safely back in London. Tired from all the walking and driving, but delighted to have seen the English beach and coastline. Though weather has not been the best, it will be remembered for being my first camping trip in UK. Now to head off to Seven Sisters on a good day!
Check out http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=50873&l=9ff89&id=650084814 for more pics of Cornwall trip. For what Cornwall would have looked like in better weather, check out exposeofchloe.blogspot.com/2007/09/journey-of-thousand-milesa-somewhat.html