Cornwall 2015 Other Travel

Cornwall 2015 Day Five – Lost Gardens of Heligan and Mevagissey

Up earlyish for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs – saying cheerio to the professional hosts Mike and Carol and then circumnavigating the town to bring the car back to within case dragging distance of “The Keep”.

Off to The Lost Gardens of Heligan today before flying back later. We arrived just after 10 and it was already getting crowded. Having booked ahead it was great to beat the queue and in no time we were immersed in lovely walkways and grottos. We went down to watch the Tamworth pigs being fed – great fun for all involved.image

We walked the Georgian ride, saw the charcoal burning area and then went through the Jungle section before exploring the walled gardens, including its pineapple frames and large vegetable section.image

Amazing to think the labour that must have been involved in the time when the gardens were active, before WW1 took its toll on the work force and the gardens fell into disrepair before being restored by Tim Smit and colleagues.

Having walked most of the areas in good weather again – sunny and warm, we drive to nearby Mevagissey where we parked just outside the town and walked into the centre.image

We went into the Fountain Inn where we had the best fish and chips ever. When we first arrived, there was no one in the small pub, but after ordering drinks and the food it suddenly filled up completely. image

At £6.95 not only great value but totally delicious – triple cooked chips and beer battered cod. Beat Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth easily.  I was talking about our trip when back at work and a colleague mentioned how much he had enjoyed Mevagissey. “We were there yesterday”, I said. “We had the best meal of our trip to Cornwall in Mevagissey”, he said. “Fish and chips?” “In the Fountain Inn”, he finished my sentence. image

So it proved that expensive Michelin starred restaurants can’t always beat good honest pub food freshly cooked in the right setting. And it certainly helps the budget!

We watched a nutty flatcoat retriever diving off the steps to retrieve the ball and then it was time for the airport.image

We had a brilliant trip to Cornwall and packed such a lot into our long weekend that we felt like we’d been away for a fortnight. It feels like another country down there and the locals are rightly passionately proud of their environment and culture. There is loads to like about both.image

One more gratuitous photo of a quaint harbour with fishing boats? Why not. We’ve got loads…

The flight back was effortless and the reliable Rod was there on time and we were back home in a few hours. Flying down to Newquay worked really well in convenience and even cost.

Time to get back on a lower calorie diet….


Cornwall 2015 Other Travel

Cornwall 2015 Day Four – Lands End & St Michaels Mount

Jumped up early to move the car as we’d only been able to park on the harbour wall, which expired at 8am. Lovely time to be about though as the light in St Ives does have a chalky character first thing – soft and pearlescent. I took loads of photos including some of a gull dragging a bucket around by its handle.

Having parked near the Tate and gone back to the b&b for breakfast of pancakes and berries, we set out for a circular tour of the western end of Cornwall, taking in Lands End and Mousehole before crossing over to St Michaels Mount and then returning to St Ives. About 50 miles in total.

My memory of Land End was of a bleak and barren place with not much to show for the effort so when the car park was seen to be £6 my instinct was to move on. Heather rightly pointed out that we may as well see what there was to see and so we wandered down to the point and admired the view, before buying the essential fridge magnets.image

It was a glorious day and so we wandered around a bit before going to the nearby craft farm where we were gently accosted by the pirate hat wearing silversmith who was short of custom. Heather and the shops cat took kindly to each other and after negotiations for the silver ring were completed – I realised that we didn’t between us have the twenty pound note needed (which would give us a handsome slice of change) and so went up to the centre to use the usurious cash machine there while the craftsman created Heather a ring from scratch in the 15 minutes or so it took me. Lovely to see such skill and we couldn’t understand why he didn’t get more customers. Apparently some people ask for a discount. Maybe the culture of bargaining abroad is seen to be relevant here now. At such low prices for personal work by a skilled hand craftsman there is no scope for discounting.


The other benefit of buying the ring was his advice to walk down the path behind the craft farm to a point or points where some beautiful views were available. That was the highlight of the trip to Lands End – a stunning set of views on a stunning day. image

After heaps of photos we returned to the car and drove further around the coast line to Mousehole where we lunched in the excellent and most hospitable Ship Inn. Heather had fresh mackerel and I had scampi.


We tried to time our arrival at St Michaels Mount so that we could get the boat over to the island and then take shank’s pony back across the causeway which would be at a low enough tide for us to walk across by 4.30pm or so. image

That worked really well and the car parking facilities and arrangements generally showed how many visitors they must be used to catering for. A national trust property but staffed by professional paid guides employed by the family that still own the island it was a fascinating visit.image


it took us an hour or so to walk around the interior and we then had time to enjoy sitting on the grassy slopes outside soaking up the scenery and the sunshine. image

We wandered back down to the causeway and timed it right for a dry crossing. Quite an experience!


We set off back to St Ives and managed to park in the main carpark at the top of the town. As the astute reader will probably tell – parking in St Ives is a huge challenge. We were lucky on this occasion.

We went out for a lovely meal to the Mermaid seafood restaurant taking a chance on getting in despite not booking, and again we were lucky. I had monkfish and chorizo kebabs and Heather Coquille St Jacques.

Cornwall 2015 Other Travel

Cornwall 2015 Day Three – St Agnes Head & St Ives

imageDay three we got up early and enjoyed another hearty breakfast of Eggs Benedict before the obligatory trip to the Chough Bakery for a couple of medium traditional pasties and then a quick shop at the Mountain Warehouse to take advantage of their sale price on a pink fleece as the blue one that Heather had bought the day before was a bargain at £14.

Luckily they were open at 9am and so shortly thereafter we were on our way from our overnight parking outside the Stein Fish & Chip shop.

Destination St Agnes head where a 5 mile walk was planned which in theory would take 3-4 hours according to the Lonely Planet book we were using as our guide. We parked up not in the village but down by the coast in a rocky bay where the Driftwood Spars pub nestled. Normally they like to have spending customers first and then give them three hours free parking but we persuaded them to do this the other way around and so at 10.30 we set off on our walk with parking available until 2pm.image

We followed the South West Coastal path out of the bay and steeply uphill heading west to start with the wind at our backs and glorious views out to sea, which looked quite rough and foreboding on a windy day with quite a choppy swell.

We enjoyed the walk – with hangliders overhead and a few walkers coming the other way, we did 3 miles of the 630 mile coastal path which made me determined to come and do the whole lot – soon. It is on the list of the 19 trails – of course, it’s the longest of them. And I’ve only got 627 miles to do now….

It must be one of the most stunning walks in the UK and Europe for the beauty of the scenery. A bit up and down, so good fitness required and ideally someone to transport the rucksack.

The Wheal Coates medieval mining ruins were spectacular and the Towanroath engine house is understandably the most photographed relic from the World Heritage site of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape. We added to the record by taking loads of photos ourselves – climbing on the relic and then walking on to Chapel Porth where we could see the lifeguard training and decided to not walk the whole way  down into the bay but retrace our steps and press on to finish the circuit.

We went astray when there were unhelpfully “bulls in the field” in the farm we had to cross. So after scrambling through bracken and beneath barbed wire and over walls we ended up slightly off track before doubling back and having a well earned pasty at the Beacon, with views in all directions, including down to St Agnes, where the church spire could be clearly seen. Luckily, despite having to use the day pack as a gorse protector, the pasties remained uncrushed.

We ended up back at the Driftwood Spars at around 1.30 pm – having taken three hours to do what we think was more like 8 miles. So our free parking allowed for another 30 minutes or so stay.  The downstairs pub was brilliant and filled with happy visitors. We enjoyed a drink – in my case some Bolsters Blood brewed locally which turned out to be an excellent Porter. Shame I was driving, but a good reason to come back one day. Josh Lewsey, the ex English flank forward was responsible for the Micro Brewery over the road from the pub, which we think he owns too. An excellent stopping point for when I do the coastal path in earnest.image

After taking our reluctant leave from the pub, we drove the remainder of the way to St Ives, where we arrived at around 4pm and made our way through the town to the Island car park as suggested by our hosts at the small boutique B&B we had booked into for the next two nights. We found ourselves driving right through the middle of large crowds of holiday makers, along the harbour front, turning left past the Sloop and winding uphill into the fully occupied car park.

After stalking various returning drivers for a good half an hour or so, we abandoned this plan and went to park in the small short term area near the Tate gallery. We walked our cases from there and found our guest house “The Keep'” tucked away off the Digey in Hicks Court. Mike and Carol made us feel right at home and you can read our review in TripAdvisor shortly.

imageAfter a welcome shower we wandered the town to acclimatise and track down some likely eating establishments for later. This was to prove fruitless as when we went out later everywhere we tried was full. Saturday night I guess. Eventually we plumped for fish and chips in the local chippy The Balancing Eel and had those on a bench on the harbour. Despite not having knives and forks, this traditional finger food was excellent and we went back to our room to watch the warm up rugby for the impending World Cup and enjoy a well earned rest.image

Cornwall 2015 General Other Travel

Cornwall 2015 Day Two – Eden Project and Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant

After waking up to the sound of screaming gulls in Padstow after a restful night in the Old Custom House, we breakfasted heartily on Smoked Haddock with “proper” poached eggs for Heather and Smoked Salmon (loads of it and great quality too) and scrambled eggs for me. After alerting the hosts to the fermenting grapefruit juice we set off in search of the Eden Project.

Wow. What a stunning idea executed so brilliantly.

 We arrived just at opening time at 10am having prebooked online to save 10% and bought the combined ticked for the project and the hidden gardens, which then translated into a free upgrade to an annual ticket to the Eden project. If only we lived closer, we both agreed we’d be regular visitors.

There is just so much to see and do for all ages. If you like plants of course. But who wouldn’t in this amazing arena cut into the old quarry, with science fiction inspired biospheres glinting in the patchy sunlight.

We spent around three hours walking the site, covering every area open to us and marvelling in the diversity and the wonderful ways that the information was being shared with us, with a subtext that was obvious but unobtrusive – look after it and use it carefully or you’ll lose it.

I had never appreciated how many times the slate has been wiped clean of most species on our planet – at least four that are known of, and the timeline reinforces our upstart nature when it comes to occupying and consuming the earths resources.

How brilliant for the opportunity for everyone to visit a rainforest environment in our own country. We sweated like the rest of the bubble inhibitors, cooling off in front of the waterfall where cold blasts of air were most welcome, before I climbed to the roof top outlook while Heather wended her way back to more temperate climes.

After juicing up to refresh, we pastied outside on traditional Cornish Chough champions, purchased that morning and still warm and delicious. It was the morning trip to the bakery that highlighted how dog friendly the Padstow people are, meeting as we did a lovely cocker spaniel with his head in the shop but behaving very un-spaniel like in his restraint. Our Phoebe would have eaten the shop.

Having explored the Mediterranean biosphere with its familiar fynbos, and watching the silhouetted zip liners flying overhead, we stopped off in the Core for a lesson in microbes and a great rusting machine that occupied people winding handles in a frenzy of activity leading to the occasional clanking cannonball run.

Back to the car via the large shop where we avoided temptation.

Our legs were feeling the over 10k steps we had done by now and so with the skies darkening and raindrops threatening, we changed plans and drove to St Austell, ignoring the email traffic trying to spoil the day.

A quick detour to the brewery affirmed that St Austell was all about the beer and then with time to spare to explore Padstow again it was a battle of the car parks – we should have parked and rode for £4 but ended up parting with £8.90 as a hefty premium for parking within walking distance of the centre, just where the Stein fish and chips emporium was doing a roaring trade and so was the deli bearing his name. The town must have benefited hugely from his and Jill’s enterprise over the years.

Dogs and people everywhere as Friday afternoon filled the port from all directions. We shopped successfully for a lightweight fleece and then had a happy beer before getting ready for the treat of the famous Rick Stein Seafood Restuarant, a handy 100 yards from our hotel. Our 7pm table was ready and you can read the review on Tripadvisor shortly. Suffice to say that in the battle between Stein and Ainsworth, in our opinion Stein was the winner.

We had a celebratory glasses of wine in the now crowded Harbour Inn, the same inn that had been almost deserted the previous evening at the same time, such is the power of the weekend and it’s visiting numbers.

A good nights sleep in readiness for a slightly more active day planned for the morrow.

Cornwall 2015

Cornwall 2015 Day One – Port Isaac & Tintagel

We had booked to come to Cornwall to celebrate Heather’s impending landmark birthday. We flew to Newquay from Gatwick with Flybe, being taxied to the South Terminus by the ever reliable Rod, picked up a hire Polo in electric blue from Europcar for £19 per day and despite a delay of 30 minutes caused by the inconsiderate family that kept us all waiting at Gatwick, we were picking up our luggage and on the road by 11.30 or so.

Windy (wine-dee) and windy (win-dee), green, compact and quaint. Our first impressions of Cornwall. Undeterred by the cloudy weather and a few spots of rain on the windscreen (it’s been a summer for the gardener weather-wise!) we set off on a route along the coast to the charming village of Port Isaac.

We were lucky in the car park to the west of the village and took the coastal path down into the harbour area. Classic views of a broad expanse of tidal sandy beach in an enclosed cove with long painters stretched out from the proud prows of the local fishing fleet.

  And so to lunch, with flame headed Jack talking us through the crab salad and the successful first season which although plagued with a turnover of staff, had been enough to bring the team enthusiasm for the next year, knowing that experience would help. The antique Aussie foursome behind us in the snug bar had taken to Jack and were engaged and engaging in a sort of banter over lunch which in their case was fish ‘n’ chips but in ours a healthier crab salad and doorstop of French bread which we pushed to one side and calorie replaced with a pint of St Austells and a white wine spritzer.

We wandered around a bit after lunch and then back up to the car after purchasing a lovely fleece and shirt in the local pottery shop – which wasn’t much about pottery apart from the very decorative lamps. Near the car we passed an oxygen mask wearing senior citizen who’d obviously found the steep path back to the carpark a bit much. The ambulance arrived as we walked past – hopefully just in time.

So on to Tintagel where we parked up in town and walking down the steep path to the entrance of the castle bumped into Natalie’s brother A-J and his wife Jodie. What a coincidence – had a quick chat and passed on to scale the ramparts – first on the island and then the mainland section whilst talking to Simon in the office about issues with new customers – not of eBusiness’s making I don’t think. Not sure why I answer the phone when on days off – it’s rarely good news….

A spectacular setting for the Arthurian legend although as Heather reminded me, the Welsh would not agree to it. 

 We stopped at another pottery on the way back to the car – odd to think of a potter in training buying a small vase instead of making it, but we were so impressed with her industry and output as she both carved the holes in the incense holders and ran the till that we found ourselves a tenner worse off but the proud owners of a Cornish pasty fridge magnet and a handsome bud vase in handmade stoneware.

Back to Padstow now, having been through Rock earlier and again we were lucky of car park, even though £7 seemed a hefty surcharge on the already expensive Old Custom a House hotel/pub we were staying in. We stumbled through the crowded pub trying to find reception which was cunningly disguised as a tea room with a completely different name.

  Settled in, we took a drive at the London Inn, festooned with flower baskets and chatted to a lovely and lively couple from up North who had brought their Jack Russell to collapse asleep on the bench seating beside them. They had been camping all week and hadn’t seen much sun although it had been “boiling hot” on Tuesday. It’s all relative I guess.

We took ourselves to Paul Ainsworths at number 6 where we had an interesting meal and that review will soon be available on Tripadvisor.

Back to the hotel for a restful night after an eventful full first day of five in this brilliant part of the UK. It has regalvanised my already stated desire to walk the South West Coastal path – all 600 plus miles of it – but that’s a story for another day….