We set off for Cornwall without any breakfast. We had run out of flakes and milk and decided that we should treat ourselves to a traditional English breakfast.
Where better to go for such a treat than a quality establishment with fine oak tables.
Architecture that is sympathetic to the natural surroundings.
Yes, we ate breakfast at Morrisons.
Our next stop was to be Truro and we had a game of Camperaderie on the way to while away ths hours. We got this one badly wrong.
Truro is a pleasant, small city with more or less the same shops as you get in any comparable town. It has some quirky, local stuff going on and a lovely Cathedral which is free to enter (always a bonus) – and it’s interesting to boot. It is actually a Victorian building despite the very classic style of architecture. You would assume it had been there for centuries.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the lack of thumbprint access to the side rooms. It seems the abbey at Buckfast has more secrets to keep – or more money to spend.
Anyway, also of a Victorian era is the wonderful tearoom called Victoria’s Tea Room (what an excellent name for a Victorian tea room!). The nice thing about this place (it is award winning by the way) is that the waiting staff dress in the style of the Victorians, that they serve excellent tea in proper china cups, and that their cakes are the size of Dartmoor
After our feast we departed Truro for Sennen Cove on the South West Coast, just a few miles from Land’s End. We took a stop at a camping superstore in Redruth and then got lost in the maze of Cornwall’s B roads trying to find a way back to the main route.
When we got to the campsite we were given an excellent welcome and directed to the coastal path that is ‘just 300 yards from the campsite’ (where have we heard that before?).
Now at this point I should say something of Cornwall’s road network. In fact this probably goes for England generally.
The A-roads are pretty good and drivers are generally well behaved. Some A-roads do end up in the town and villages though in which case they can become quite twisty-turny and extremely hilly. They are often twisty-turny and hilly all at the same time.
The B-roads are all twisty-turny and hilly at the same time. At this time of year they are just as busy as the A-roads.
Now when a local tells you in Cornwall that you can walk down a quiet country lane this generally means you can take your life in your hands and share a narrow path with open top buses, tractors, camper vans, local delivery drivers (particularly dangerous) and frustrated locals who know the corners like the back of their hands (they don’t know what’s round the corners but that is by the by).
And 300 yards of English road is roughly about a mile.
We went to explore the coastal path in the evening and discovered it about two miles away. We arrived at a neighbouring campsite a little dishevelled from all the leaping into the hedgerows. This campsite, it turns out, has the access path to the coastal route and you need to pass through it to get there. It also has better washing and toilet facilities, larger camping spaces, late evening shopping and a restaurant. We should have camped there.
We stopped and ate dinner there.
Diverted by food we decided to do the coastal path to Land’s End (about 4 kilometres apparently) the next morning.
After a comfortable sleep in Daisy we got up sharp to walk to Land’s End from our campsite. The plan was then to get the open-top bus to St Ives and return to campsite late afternoon.
Now the coastal path is absolutely stunning. It takes you through the most beautiful, rugged coastline, looking down on wonderful beaches and into the little town of Sennen Cove. It then rises up and over the hill to Land’s End.
But it is not about 4 kilometres. It’s about 4 miles.
And it is ‘rugged’ coastline – properly rugged coastline.
So it was delightful, but it was four hard miles of delightful.
What was NOT delightful was the revelation at Land’s End.
Now we were told it was a bit commercial these days. But we were not told (and have never at any time had been given any hint or suggestions) that it cost a tenner to stand beside the Land’s End sign!
It’s a family business! A ‘been in the family for generations’ type family business. They are proud of it!
So in order to get your picture taken beside the Land’s End sign you have to first get there. A lot of people walk, cycle, drive, crawl, wheel their chairs or do some other amazing feat of endurance all the way from John O’Groats to get there. Hopefully they don’t have support vehicles because it costs £4 to park them there. They then have to line up a few yards from the finishing post waiting for the photographer from the family run business to position them by the privately owned sign and take their picture. Oh, and pay £9.95 for the basic package.
Now, as you know, I don’t pay to walk on piers so I certainly don’t pay to stand beside signs.
I walked round behind it and (inside my head) screamed ‘nah, nah, nah, nah, nah – I’m further South than your sign!’
We had an ice cream at the First and Last House which was excellent. All the Cornish ice cream has been amazing. We then did a little bit of shopping which included the purchase of my first ever pair of flip-flops. These are required, my lady wife tells me, to prevent nasty campsite shower room diseases getting at my toes.
Thereafter we boarded the bus to St Ives.
Naturally the ‘when I was going to St Ives I met a man with seven wives’ poemy thing went through my head as we boarded and (would you believe it) we DID meet a man who must have seven wives.
He was so grumpy!
The bus driver.
In fact let’s face it. All bus drivers are the same aren’t they? They are always confused at anyone who doesn’t know exactly what they are required to pay for their trip, they don’t give advice and they don’t give change. And they don’t ever do any of it with a smile.
The bus drivers of South Cornwall, however, have a perfectly reasonable excuse for this manner. The roads are turny-twisty and hilly at the same time, and they have to stop and start every few yards to let tourists by. Our driver had to reverse his bus into lanes I would never drive forward into. It was a roller coaster ride I would have paid twice the fare for (if I liked high adrenaline roller coasters).
We were lucky enough to get the front seats at the top of the bus so we had the full effect of the madness. It was also a rather disconcerting vantage point for seeing inside the upper windows of the houses lined either side of the narrow streets. I tried not to look but I have to shout out to the owner of the property on Chapel Road, St Just (the house with the blue beanbag in the first floor flat bay window) – that pile of ironing won’t do itself you know!
Now St Ives is the perfect Cornish town. Great harbour, beaches, quaint shopping areas, twisty-turny and hilly streets, funny street names.
It also has the terrific ‘Yellow Canary’ bakery where we had lunch.
We had two lovely crusty sandwiches, hot tea and a fruit Cornish pasty with a bucket of clotted cream dumped on it. Best lunch I have had on this holiday.
My dear lady wife successfully managed to obtain two garments from a little shop in the town. Having the good sense to provide a ‘man seat’ with magazines is an incredibly mature marketing strategy for such a small business. She will go far.
Now we had a slight mishap during the day’s activities that we must put down to the shock of being asked to pay to stand beside a wooden sign. On the bus to St Ives we discovered that my toes were likely to remain under severe threat of infection due to the fact that the flip-flops we bought were not in the bag (dramatic DUM-DUM-DUM music)!
Our dilemma now was that a) we could return to Land’s End to get them and have to walk back by the coastal path (more long, hard delightfulness), or b) we could forget the £4 we paid and just let it go.
Yes, you guessed it.
So we took the roller coaster back to Land’s End (it all seemed so familiar) and steeled ourselves for the long walk along Cornwall’s rugged coastline. We mused a little that, with it being that bit later in the day, maybe the family business was closed and we could sneak our picture beside the sign.
After a short scare (the shop had closed but the lady was still doing her accounts in the office) we obtained my toe-saving footwear and strolled round to the Land’s End sign.
The cursed family business was still operating. Milking every last visitor.
We noted that they had their cast iron sign cover with 24 digit combination ready for closing time and a van load of Dobermans snarling and barking ready for patrolling the six metre perimeter fence. This put us off waiting the remaining hour until they left for the day and set off for the campsite laden with additional shopping.
By the time we got in our feet were in complete tatters. We completed around 14 miles today (mostly rugged coastline). It was delightful, beautiful, stunning even. It truly is a lovely place.
But I needed a hot shower.
And praise the Lord – I had my flip-flops to protect me.