Cornwall – the British holiday zone

Sunday, 7 July 2024

With a group of friends Maureen and I spent a few days in Cornwall, the ever popular – with tourists – south-west corner of the United Kingdom. A long time ago we made the trek to Lands End, the very furthermost end of England, and we’ve made a couple of other trips to Cornwall over the years.

▲ This time we stayed in Portloe, a pretty-as-a-postcard little port, in the equally pretty Lugger Hotel. Since it’s right on the coast the South West Coast Path runs right through Portloe. The route runs from Poole in Dorset, tracks the entire length of the Cornwall coast and ends – if you’re going that direction – at Minehead in Somerset. At 630 miles (1014km) that’s the longest National Trail in the UK, well over twice the length of the Pennine Way, which I walked back in 1996. In 2011 Maureen and I walked a little bit of the South West Coast Path from Bude, but all I did this trip was walk a mile or so in each direction from Portloe.

◄ As were moving in to our room this robin came to check us out from the room’s terrace. Red-breasted robins are a British avian favourite and a regular feature on Christmas cards.

▲ Eden Project – since it opened in 2001 in a disused clay pit (an awful lot of clay has been dug out of Cornwall) the two dome-like structures of the Eden Project have become one of the most popular eco-attractions in the UK.

▲ The Rainforest Biome replicates the tropics, rainforest, South America, South-East Asia, Africa, it’s all interesting. My main concern is that I know what breadfruit, jackfruit, mangosteens and so on look like, does the general audience? They need more than just the bland descriptions. The Mediterranean Biome is indeed Mediterranean, plus north African, south African, Australian and so on.

▲ Invisible Worlds – third building is invisible world, it’s not so ‘natural’ as the two domed biomes.

▲ Mud Maid, The Lost Gardens of Heligan – we started our Cornwall visit with the Eden Project and some of us concluded at Heligan. The Tremayne family gardens fell into disrepair after WW I, 16 of the 22 gardeners died during the war, and the gardens were completely neglected, yes ‘lost’ before their restoration from the 1990s. They’re certainly back on the radar as a major tourist attraction today. Well people are in a garden mood after they’ve been to the Eden Project.

▲ St Mawes Waterfront – as classic an English seaside frontage as you could ask for.

◄ We took a ferry across the inlet known as the Carrick Roads to Falmouth and visited the Maritime Museum with its interesting maritime history of Cornwall and varied collection of small boats. They don’t come much smaller then this one, the distinctly weird Father’s Day, all of 5 foot 4 inches (that 1.63 metres) in length. In 1991 Hugo Vihlen used it to make an Atlantic crossing, he sat up for the entire 115 day crossing, because there was absolutely no way he could stretch out in this ridiculously tiny vessel.

▲ St Mawes Castle – the artillery fort was built between 1540 and 1542 for Henry VIII to keep the French at bay. With its sister Pendennis Castle on the other side of the Carrick Roads it would have been difficult for enemy shipping to enter the strategic waterway.


◄ Gravestones at St Just Church, Roselands – St Just-in-Roseland, is a 13th century waterside church – it was consecrated in 1216 – with a very extensive collection of gravestones.


▲ Back road from St Mawes to Portloe – Cornwall certainly has some amazingly narrow and winding roads. I definitely felt I was in the front suicide seat as we came back from St Mawes to Portloe one night

◄ We enjoyed our welcoming robin at Portloes but we encountered another bird which is not such a favourite. This gull portrait hung over the Idle Rocks Bar in St Mawes where we had dinner one night. We had a much less peaceful encounter with a seagull at lunchtime in St Mawes. In true British seaside fashion it made a daring swoop on our table and carried off half of Maureen’s crab sandwich. We were at the place reputed to have the best crab sandwiches in St Mawes, at £11 it damned well should have been the best crab sandwich. Sadly for the thieving gull it didn’t get very far with its £5.50 half sandwich, the Lonely Planet England guide I was reading became an instant flying projectile which persuaded it to drop its stolen feast.

▲ Marconi Memorial, Marconi Centre – Guglielmo Marconi was a wealthy Italian inventor and businessman who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909. He founded the Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company, later the Marconi Company, in 1897. On a headland beside the Marconi Centre the memorial marks where where the first radio transmission across the Atlantic – to Newfoundland of course – was made. In 1901 Marconi transmitted the Morse code message S – dot dot dot. Things have moved on since then! Newfoundland is the closest you can get to Europe across the Atlantic and in 1919 the first flight was made from Newfoundland to a lonely spot close to the Irish coast. Once they were across the ocean those pioneer aviators Alcock and Brown put their ungainly Vimy biplane down on the first spot available. I drove up there from Galway to inspect their landing place in 2009.

◄ Cathedral, Truro – The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built between 1880 and 1910 to a Gothic Revival design so it’s not particularly old, but it’s certainly interesting. It’s the first cathedral built on a new site in England since Salisbury Cathedral, which dates from 1220 to 1258. It is one of only three in England to feature three spires and as a result of building on a rather constrained site the choir and the nave are not on the same axis, it’s a ‘bent’ or ‘wonky’ plan.