Cornwall

South West Coast Path: Mullion Cove to Falmouth

After walking from St Ives to Falmouth along England’s South West Coast Path (in Cornwall) last October, I’ve written some posts about each of the stages — mainly as a way to share photos and remember some of the detail.

This is the third post, detailing the final four days of my walking itinerary. The first two posts cover the first week (St Ives to Penzance) then the next two days of walking (Marazion to Mullion).

Mullion Cove to Cadgwith (~11 miles)

This was one of my favourite legs of my entire coast path walk, despite the fact it was also the longest at about 11 miles.

I think the favourite points were partly because of the beautiful scenery as I went around the Lizard — England’s most southern mainland point. Partly because it was very pleasant and easy walking — much of it along grassy cliff tops. And partly because I took some ibuprofen, which made a huge difference to all my aches and pains.

I felt awesome for pretty much the whole day.

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View of Mullion Cove from Higher Predannack Cliff

The first mile of the day involved walking down from the town of Mullion to the adorable quay at Mullion Cove. I took a few minutes to look around, then headed up onto the clifftops — Higher Predannack then Lower Predannack Cliff. (The image above shows the view back to Porthleven.)

From here it was gorgeous walking south through grassy fields towards picturesque Kynance Cove (which was teeming with day trippers) and its green serpentine rock.

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Kynance Cove towards Lizard Point

Unfortunately for me, the Kynance Cove cafe wasn’t open, so I kept going towards Lizard Point, another couple of miles away. Luckily there were a couple of cafes open at the bottom of England, and I enjoyed a delicious toastie with coffee at the Polpeor Cafe.

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Lizard Point (with cafes and seals)

By this stage I’d walked six miles along the path (seven in total) and still had four miles to go! The afternoon was getting on, so I couldn’t linger too long at the cafe to watch the seals before heading to Cadgwith.

This next section of the path wasn’t as spectacular, being more heavily vegetated, and I was (needless to say) extremely happy to arrive at my destination, the Cadgwith Cove Inn. Cadgwith is a gorgeous little village, with plenty of thatched fishermen’s cottages, nets and boats.

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Cadgwith – with the historical Cadgwith Cove Inn

Cadgwith to Porthhallow

Ibuprofen or no, I’d previously decided not to walk the 12 miles from Cadgwith to Porthhallow. Too far. After three days walking (two of them more than 10 miles), I was ready for a rest. However, I still needed to get to the village of Porthallow, where my luggage was being deposited and my room was booked.

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Cadgwith in the morning sunshine

It ended up being quite a fun and relaxed day. First I whiled away some time with my kindle in the very pretty village of Cadgwith. Then, a friendly holidaymaker I met the previous evening gave me a lift to the town of Coverack (eliminating seven miles walking).

Coverack is renowned for displaying a geological phenomenon on its beach; that is, it shows the exposed “moho”, which is the boundary between the earth’s mantle and crust. The Serpentine rock to the south (foreground below) would have once been part of the mantle, while the gabbro rock to the north would have once formed part of the crust. I wandered along the beach trying to identify the transition zone. Ha.

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Coverack and its ‘Moho’ on the beach

To avoid walking the next five-mile section of the coast path (which was diverted inland due to floods last year and quarries), I caught a local bus from Coverack to the nearby town of St Keverne. I chose St Keverne because the bus went there and it was only two miles from Porthallow via a well-marked pubic footpath (which also had geocaches along it). So 12 miles of walking became two miles, with extra time to grab a few geocaches. Win-Win!

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Porthallow

Porthallow was a sleepy little town with not much going on, although it is the official half-way point of the entire coast path. I had a great view from my bedroom window — I think that’s Falmouth in the distance.

Porthallow to Mawnan Smith (~7 miles)

This particular leg was something of an adventure, as it involved two river crossings and, although I was hopeful, I was by no means certain the ferries would still be running on 30 October. They were, as it turned out, but had I arrived two days later I would have been out of luck.

It was easy walking for most of the day, the path taking me north from Porthallow to Nare Point, which gave good view of my ultimate destination, Falmouth!

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Nare Point – Falmouth in distance

From Nare Point, the path turns west into Gillan Harbour (Gillan Creek) and Helford Passage.

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Heading west towards Helford Passage

Crossing Gillan Creek was the first challenge. The advertised options were wade/ford (if low tide), stepping stones (if low tide) or maybe, if you’re lucky, an on-demand ferry…

It was not low tide. Fingers crossed, I signalled the ferry. Woo hoo! It cost me five pounds, but I didn’t care. (Otherwise I would have had an extra two miles of walking and by this stage of the walk I was cutting corners wherever possible.)

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Crossing Gillan Creek

After crossing Gillan Creek, the path ventured partway around Dennis Head, before doubling back west towards Helford, where there was a more substantial river crossing. It was the second last day for the season, but Helford Ferry was still in operation and I was very relieved. Even if I was surprised it was such a small boat! (The alternative was an expensive taxi ride the long way around.)

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Helford Ferry

I sat down for lunch at the Ferryboat Inn, enjoying the autumn sunshine. Then I walked for another hour or so — first along the coast path a little way, then inland to the town of Mawnan Smith.

Mawnan Smith to Falmouth

For my final day of walking, I elected not to rejoin the coast path where I left it (south at Porth Saxon), but instead headed east from Mawnan Smith to rejoin it at Bream Cove, thereby cutting out a short section. From there it was not long before I passed by Maenporth beach, followed by the outer reaches of Falmouth, such as Swanpool and Gyllyngvase Beach.

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Falmouth coast

Needless to say, I did not walk the long way around Pendennis Point, but instead hightailed it across the narrow peninsula to find the shops and restaurants of Falmouth. As a result, my final day of coast path walking was pretty short. Not that I was complaining.

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Falmouth harbour

I wandered along the streets of Falmouth for a bit, checking out the harbour, before I found Dolly’s! Hands down, my favourite place in Falmouth. I wished I was there with friends so I could do a proper gin tasting. (It’s really not the same on your own.)

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My own heavenly haven – Dolly’s

The following morning I explored Pendennis Castle. The history of this Tudor gun tower, built by Henry VIII, and its subsequent role in the defence of England’s southern shores — as recently as World War II — was very interesting. I spent quite some time there, looking at all the guns of different eras.

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Pendennis Castle

My final afternoon in Cornwall was spent relaxing, wandering the streets of Falmouth, before heading to Dolly’s again for an early dinner. Falmouth is a lovely town. I could definitely live there quite happily!

This marked the end of my South West Coast Path walking expedition. From Falmouth I caught the (very expensive) train up to London to visit a series of friends… and after that I went to Morocco.

But that’s another story entirely.

 

South West Coast Path: Marazion to Mullion

Back in October I spent a couple of weeks hiking the UK’s South West Coast Path in Cornwall — from St Ives to Falmouth. The complete distance is 102 miles (according to the South West Coast Path website).

I wrote about the first stage of my journey while taking a couple of rest days in Penzance. (See my previous post: South West Coast Path: St Ives to Penzance.) Even though I was walking at the so-called “relaxed” pace, I really needed those rest days!

I started writing up the second stage of my trek a few weeks ago while still traveling, but phone blogging just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. So I decided to wait until I was home to finish it — apologies if you’ve been wondering where I got to!

Since the first post ended up so big and took ages to put together, I’m going to break down the second stage into two or possibly three posts. This post covers the next two days of walking: Marazion to Porthleven (11 miles), then Porthleven to Mullion Cove/Mullion (6-7 miles).

Penzance

I didn’t do much during my rest days in Penzance. When I scheduled them, I half thought I might have taken the opportunity to do some work (me having aspirations to be a digital nomad), but in fact I was tired after six days of activity, and thankful I hadn’t committed to any work.

I walked around a little, picked up a few geocaches, and sat in cafes. It was good to rest my body — my feet especially. I didn’t get back to Mousehole or undertake any other excursions I had contemplated. Penzance is a nice town and a major centre for the region. It has good facilities and proved a good spot to chill out for a couple of days.

Marazion to Porthleven (11 miles)

I had always planned to start walking from Marazion, cutting off the 3.5 miles along the foreshore from Penzance. It was a straightforward bus ride, but then I stopped for coffee in Marazion (as you do), so I left the town later than intended.

St Michael’s Mount and Marazion

The walking out of Marazion was pretty easy, through market gardens, with views back to St Michael’s Mount. I didn’t stop to visit the Mount, having walked across the causeway last time I was here.

With 11 miles to walk — my longest day to-date — I was a little apprehensive as to how I would manage and kept an eye on the time. The first milestone was the tiny village of Perran Sands, where there was fortunately a toilet, then around Cudden Point to ‘Prussia Cove’, renowned as the former headquarters of the infamous smuggler John Carter, The King of Prussia. Prussia Cove is actually made up of several small coves, including the pretty and quaint Bessy’s Cove.

Rounding Cudden Point

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Bessy’s Cove (I think)

After 6-1/4 miles, I reached the town of Praa Sands in good spirits, with good energy, in time for a late lunch of soup and bread at a restaurant/bar called the Sandbar — which was right on the long, white beach and seemed very popular.

Although I had originally intended to take packed lunches each day, in the end I mostly relied on cafes etc when they were available. I think a big reason for this was the chance to sit down somewhere warm and comfortable for a bit. (Get off my feet!) The weather was cooler in the second week, so the chance for a hot meal and a coffee was usually too good to pass up. Soup became quite a common lunch for me, since breakfast was always so big and it was a healthy option served with bread instead of fries.

On leaving Praa Sands, I then had another 4.5 miles to Porthleven. As suggested by the guide book, I elected to walk along the very long Praa Sands beach instead of the path… which proved a little annoying as it was literally covered with rivulets of water running into the sea (which I had to jump over).

Wheal Prosper Engine House

The path got more strenuous for the last few miles. My destination, Porthleven, was visible for a very long time, but it seemed to take a very long time to reach it. This included some infuriating sections of path that traversed three sides of a square around the cliff tops… twice! (Honestly!)

I was very tired when I finally made it into Porthleven — after my longest day yet. I went straight to my B&B (Wellmore End), where the welcome was hearty and warm — and included hot chocolate sachets, which went down VERY well.

Porthleven

Porthleven is a gorgeous town, clustered around an extensive constructed cove (typically Cornish, apparently). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time (or energy) to look around. I did, however, drag myself out for dinner to a local restaurant and ate something other than pub food.

Porthleven to Mullion (6-7 miles)

After the first week of gorgeous sunshine, the weather definitely decided to turn colder in this last week of October. I awoke in Porthleven to the coldest, dreariest morning yet. This was the first rain I’d witnessed in Cornwall. There was also hail.

Unfortunately I didn’t get much chance to look around Porthleven in these conditions. I had been planning to wander around a bit and grab a few geocaches before leaving — particularly since I had a much shorter distance to walk. It was very disappointing, particularly as the rain soon eased (if only I’d waited a bit). Oh well.

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Porthleven in the drizzle

Porthleven

Although the morning was mostly cloudy, the sun showed its face here and there. I was a bit stiff and sore after the previous long day, and my energy levels seemed down — it felt as though I was walking slowly. This was frustrating, considering how good I’d felt the previous day.

Looking back to Porthleven

The first landmark was the Loe, a freshwater lagoon renowned for diverse bird life. It is also supposedly the lake into which Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur, the sword of the dying King Arthur. Since my grandfather used to tell us the story of “the lady in the lake”, whose hand came out of the water to catch the sword, this was of particular interest to me.

The Loe is separated from the ocean by a strip of sand/shingle called Loe Bar. The Coast Path forges across this bank and passes a memorial to the 1807 Grylls’ Act, which allowed bodies washed up by the sea to be buried in the nearest consecrated ground without being proven Christian.

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Looking back to the Loe and Loe Bar

Then came Gunwalloe fishing cove, where a path diversion due to a cliff fall saw me take the long way around. And then another case of walking three sides of the square around Halzephron Cliff… It was tempting to follow the more direct road instead, but I stuck to the path and was glad in the end since it was pretty.

Halzephron Cliff (behind) and Dollar Cove with St Winwaloe Church

After a while I reached Poldhu Cove, where there is an all-year beach cafe. Although I was always intending to stop for coffee and lunch, mainly I just wanted to sit down and get warm, because the day was really cold and my feet/ankles/knees were aching.

From Poldhu Cove, I had a number of options: 1) Continue walking to Mullion Cove (~1 mile) then walk inland to my B&B in the town of Mullion (~1 mile); 2) Skip the last section of coast path and walk directly to Mullion along the road (~1mile); 3) Catch the bus from Poldhu Cove to Mullion (and not walk any further).

I ended up hanging out in the drafty cafe for an hour or so and catching the bus. Somehow I managed to get deposited right outside my B&B, but I was way too early for the check-in window, so I holed up with my kindle and hot chocolate in a diner across the road.

The Old Vicarage B&B was a lovely old home, and I had a large room and bathroom with a bath. Thankfully, it was only a short walk to the nearest pub for dinner. Because of the aches and pains in my ankles and knees, I decided to try taking ibuprofen for the next day.

That’s it for now… Only four more days until Falmouth.

South West Coast Path: St Ives to Penzance

Hiking the South West Coast Path: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “wow” (out loud, to myself). The scenery — rugged cliffs, sweeping vegetation, sparkling beaches — is stunning. There are ancient monuments and the fascinating and forlorn remnants of tin mining days. And wildlife — seals and birds in particular (haven’t seen any dolphins yet). It’s hard to describe without veering into hyperbole.

The coast path is a 630-mile trail around the coast of southwest England. I first encountered it five years ago, when I walked the sections from Instow to Westward Ho!, then Westward Ho! to Clovelly. Ever since, I’ve wanted to return to tackle a longer section.

So here I am, taking on this solo walking adventure, which will see me complete (more or less) the stretch from St Ives to Falmouth — a total of ~103 miles.

Okay, so I hadn’t added that up until right now… 103 miles! Blimey. No wonder I have sore feet.

I’m currently in Penzance for a couple of rest days. It’s not even halfway, it turns out; but as I limped into Mousehole on Tuesday I was extremely thankful I’d allocated the break. The coast path is TOUGH! It’s very up and down, rocky in parts, muddy in parts, steep in (lots of) parts. At the end of each day my knees ache, my feet scream, and I collapse in a heap.

So two days to mooch around Penzance have been bliss. (Right now I’m in a cafe, using my Bluetooth keyboard with my phone… it’s almost like home. In the last five years England seems to have found out about flat whites!)

St Ives

I arrived in St Ives last Tuesday, after a long journey from Australia. The train ride from Paddington to St Erth seemed never ending. Then the last short train journey to St Ives followed the Hayle estuary — very pretty. My hotel (Regents Hotel) stood high over the town, giving stunning sea views.

I spent the following day exploring (geocaching) the town, completely falling in love with it. It’s a tourist mecca — but I can see why! I loved the harbour, where a couple of seals hung out near the fishing boats bringing in their mackerel haul.

Mackerel haul

Pretty St Ives (with fishermen and seals) — Harbour Beach and Old Town

A stroll about St Ives Head gave views back over the old town with its twisty cobbled streets. I had lunch at the popular Porthmeor Beach Cafe, and found truly good coffee at Mount Zion (where the owner refuses to make cappuccinos… flat whites, espresso, long black or pourover only!). I also hung out in the Cemetery for a while, looking for family names, since we hail from here (Richards, Thomas).

Another view of St Ives — Porthmeor Sands

St Ives to Zennor Head (6 miles/10km)

On Thursday I started walking. This was a “short” but strenuous stage. I encountered many people out for the day, although I seemed to be the only person staying in the village of Zennor. Most availed themselves of the bus to/from St Ives.

Along the coast path…

My approach from the start has been to take my time — take photos, enjoy the views, stop to look and breathe it all in. (I also stopped for a few geocaches along the way.)

Dog or seal?

Trevalgan Ancient Stone Circle

Stunning cliffs

I took a delicious sandwich from a recommended deli, and ate it at River Cove overlooking a beach with seals. Another Australian couple were there too — they pointed out the peregrine falcon perched on the cliff nearby… my jaw dropped. The peregrine perched there for at least 20 minutes and I couldn’t leave until it did.

Lunch with a peregrine falcon

In the afternoon my boots started falling apart. Literally. They were old and I suspect the adhesive had degraded — meaning the soles sheared clean off both boots. I finished the walk gingerly, after taking an alternative path (shortcut) that cut off the final route around Zennor Head. Luckily they didn’t fall apart completely!

At the iconic Tinners Arms pub (where I stayed) I enjoyed a St Ives gin (or two) with tonic in the late afternoon sunshine. I ate dinner in the pub, while chatting to locals. They have folk music there on Thursday evenings, but unfortunately I crashed into bed instead.

Penwith Peninsula Ancient Stones walk (7 miles/12km)

Now, a dilemma. I had arranged for a car to take me onto the moors today, intending to visit some of the ancient stones and walk back to Zennor for a second night. But my boots were dead. I did, however, have my trail runners as a backup, so resolved to keep to the plan and see how they went.

The car took me to Lanyon Quoit, where I clambered over a stile into a field. And immediately my shoes and feet were wet. Not good. The quoit was cool, though. Dated to neolithic times, Lanyon Quoit is one of the best known monuments in the area.

Lanyon Quoit

I then followed a designated route around the moors that took me next to the Ding Dong Mine Engine House (Greenburrow) — its hilltop tower visible for miles around.

Ding Dong Mine — Greenburrow engine house

Next my walking route took me to the neolithic or bronze age Boskednan (Nine Maidens) Stone Circle nestled in the heather. I actually met two different groups of people here and had to wait until they left to take my photos. The circle was quite difficult to capture in full.

Boskednan/Nine Maidens Stone Circle

The Men Scryfa (written) stone stands alone in a field, accessed by a stile. There was more damp grass to traverse (my feet were pretty wet and cold). The stone has writing on it (dated 6th to 8th C AD): RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI (of the Royal Raven, son of the Glorious Prince). It is thought to commemorate the death of a Celtic royal soldier.

Men Scryfa stone

The Men an Tol (stone with hole) is another of the best-known prehistoric monuments on the moor. Apparently holed stones are very rare in Cornwall and it’s likely this one had a specific ritual purpose.

Men an Tol

At this point, I will mention the awesomeness of the British OS Maps App! I downloaded this onto my phone before I left home, and it shows all the tracks, monuments, places of interest etc. It ALSO shows you where you are using GPS. I have used this frequently this past week when figuring out my route. I love it. (You have to buy the maps, though.)

My next stop was the summit of Carn Galver — where there was a geocache. I also managed to stumble and rip my hiking pants while scrambling over rocks. The weather for this day was mostly overcast, although the sun came out a few times.

Carn Galver summit

I was delighted to find the Rosemergy Farm tea rooms open when I descended from the moor. This meant hot coffee and a cream tea! After that I trudged/squelched back to Zennor (couple of miles) where I dived into the shower.

Random standing stone (with hens)

Zennor to Pendeen

Instead of walking this leg (approx. 7-8 miles), I went to Penzance to buy new boots. The bus timetables weren’t friendly, so I caught a taxi there, then a bus straight to Pendeen, once my mission was accomplished. I could have possibly returned to Zennor and walked, but wasn’t sure about the lost time. My walking pace is proving to be slower than I expected. I also thought I should break in the new boots a bit first…

I was sorry, though, to miss Pendour Cove, which birthed the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor.

Once in Pendeen, I checked into my room at the North Inn and then went exploring (geocaching). It was another gorgeous day and, although I missed the coast path leg, I enjoyed my day and got up to the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch. (Had a good view of the path I had skipped.)

Pendeen Lighthouse

The path not travelled

Then I climbed the hill behind the town, where some interesting sights awaited…

Looking down over Pendeen and Boscaswell (beyond)

Bathtub graveyard

By the end of all this I was pretty weary (!) and availed myself of the bath in my suite. So far this has been my only available bath — I’ve wished for one since!

Pendeen to Sennen Cove (9 miles/15km)

Finally back on the coast path! This has been the longest (and possibly my favourite) leg so far. First was the four-mile section to Cape Cornwall, past the fascinating remains of Geevor, Levant and Crown Mines. Geevor has not been closed all that long (1990) and is now a working museum with underground tours. Both Levant and Crown are mostly beautiful ruins.

Geevor Tin Mine

Remains of Levant Mine

Crown Mine (near Botallack)

After leaving the mines, I arrived at Kenidjack Castle, an Iron Age fort. I sat here for a while admiring the view, which included Cape Cornwall. It also happened to be near a geocache, so I clambered down to retrieve it. (I also picked up a couple earlier in the day.)

At Cape Cornwall, the seasonal snack van was still open, so I grabbed a light lunch, plus coffee and cake. To my amusement and delight, this was served on a tray using china crockery.

Cape Cornwall

Then it was another five miles to Sennen Cove, past Ballowal Long Barrow and numerous mine shafts. This was fascinating, since some of the shafts were fenced and signed, but others were not!

Warning: Danger of death!

The walking for this day was rated “moderate”, but I found it just as difficult as the first day. The last couple of miles heading towards Sennen Cove were not hard walking, but I was fairly shattered. At one point, I just sprawled on some grass and rested in the sun for a while, trying to gather my reserves for the last push.

It didn’t help that my B&B was in Sennen village at the top of the hill, with no nearby eating options. My room was also tiny. This was my least favourite accommodation — despite there being nothing intrinsically wrong with it — and I went to bed at 7pm without dinner. (I was just too tired and footsore to get myself anywhere else.)

Sennen Cove to Porthcurno (6-7 miles)

Another “moderate” day of walking, a bit shorter. I had loads more energy at the end of the day, but my feet were still sore!

Soon after leaving Sennen Cove (where I grabbed a couple of geocaches), I stopped to look at the cliff top Maen Castle, which overlooked the fascinating wreck of the RMS Mühlheim (2003). There was a geocache here too.

Wreck of the RMS Mühlheim

I continued along a beautiful stretch of the path to Land’s End, which is a popular route with day walkers. Lands End itself was surprisingly deserted. I had been hoping to find the restaurant open, but I guess I was too early in the day. Instead, I had to make do with a kiosk that served the worst “coffee” in the history of ever. I also picked up a pre-made wrap to eat later for lunch.

Heading towards Lands End

After Lands End, more walking over and around cliff tops with interesting rock formations towards Porthgwarra. I stopped to eat lunch overlooking Carn Guthensbras, near the holed headland (which I totally missed), before heading down to the cafe and a much better coffee — and cake! Any excuse to rest the feet.

Interesting rock formations

Near my lunch stop

Onwards then for another hour or so to Porthcurno,which is famous for its open air Minack Theatre built into the cliff. You can’t see it from the the path, unfortunately, so I missed this too.

There’s a perilous descent from the entrance of the Minack Theatre into Porthcurno by way of cliff stairs. In Porthcurno, I stayed in the delightful Seaview B&B not too far from a pub — where I had a cider and a chat with the proprietor (and later, dinner).

Porthcurno to Mousehole (7 miles)

This was the final leg of the first stage of my walk, and I was feeling pretty well ready for my Penzance rest days! The trail for this day was rated “strenuous” but felt similar in difficulty to the previous “moderate” sections.

Leaving Porthcurno and Minack Theatre

The Logan Rock

It was yet again beautiful walking on leaving Porthcurno, with views across fields of the Logan Rock, which I elected not to visit. (By this stage of the walk I wasn’t taking many diversions.)

The path passed high and low (i.e. up and down) through scrub, gorse and woodland areas. The small fishing village of Penberth was deserted when I went through (although thankfully there was a toilet).

Penberth

Down… to Porth Guarnon (I think)

Through patches of scraggly forest

Tater Du Lighthouse

This section of the path was far less populated than other sections I’ve walked — possibly not such a popular stretch for day walkers; although I did encounter some here and there. There were a lot more wooded sections too.

At Lamorna Cove there was a cafe where I had soup for lunch — with coffee, of course. Quite a few people lurked here, enjoying the sunshine. I stayed for about an hour to gear up for the final stretch of the week.

And then I only had two and a half miles to go. I had always intended to catch the bus to Penzance from Mousehole, which I reached at about 4pm. It’s a quaint village. I would have liked to wander around a bit, but I was pretty weary by this time and looking forward to having a couple of days break.

Mousehole

It’s now the end of my second rest day (this post has taken me quite a few hours to compile on my phone!) — tomorrow I head off along the path again. It will be a bus to Marazion, then walking to Porthleven and the longest distance yet at over 10 miles. Gulp.

There’s more to say, but phone blogging is a bit limited, so this will have to do for now. I still have almost 60 miles to walk in the next 6 days… reckon I’m gonna feel it! (And there’s always the bus!)

I’ll be back with a report on the second half of this expedition in another week or so.

3 Dec: I’ve edited this post a fair bit. Corrected some things, added some detail and tidied up the formatting.

One and only timer shot of me on the coast path!

A miscellany of adventures in SW England

After spending a couple of weeks in Cornwall and Devon, I have had many random and wonderful experiences. So in this post I’m covering a miscellany of adventures not hitherto covered in recent posts.

Cream Teas
One can’t come to this part of the world and not fall in love with cream teas — otherwise known as scones with jam and clotted cream, with tea (or in my case, coffee). Our first cream tea was enjoyed at Charlotte’s Tea Rooms in Truro, a classy establishment with chandeliers and linen tablecloths (see picture).

After that I was hooked, and have eaten cream teas on Dartmoor, in Appledore and the home-baked variety at my friend’s house in St Dominick. The key is the clotted cream — cream that has been heated and thickened via a unique process to produce a gooey yummy substance that smears on top of (or under, depending where you’re from) the jam on the scone. The scones vary considerably from tearoom to tearoom too. All are delicious. Long live the cream tea!

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Bodmin
We stayed just outside the Cornish stannery (tin mining) town of Bodmin for a week, although didn’t spend a lot of time in the town. We did, however, visit the town’s one main attraction, which was the old gaol, the site of numerous hangings in the region. The gaol is laid out as something like a chamber of horrors, with macabre mannequins reenacting the various crimes. Much of the building is a ruin — my favourite part!

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Fowey
In search of a ‘light’ day of touring, we visited the near-to-Bodmin fishing village of Fowey for a ramble about its cobbled streets and lunch in one of its quaint pubs.

Also, as with many old English villages, Fowey has rows upon rows of interesting doors directly onto streets.

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Restormal Castle
A quaint castle I rather liked was Restormal Castle in the village of Lostwithiel, near Fowey. Another ruin, Restormal is almost perfectly round, and very neat and compact. It seemed to be built more for status and show than defence, but was nonetheless very cute. Weird quirks include a ‘secret’ staircase within the wall and several deep pits that might have been tower foundations or storage cellars… The experts aren’t sure.

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Cotehele
While staying in St Dominick, we visited the Tudor Cotehele, an old stone manor house with an impressive collection of old tapestries. We happily explored the rambling old house, which has a lovely old main hall with weapons and armour arrayed on the walls (along with the stuffed head of a baby albatross), and a peephole overlooking it from one of the other rooms. The house had multiple old stone staircases, and a maze-like layout in the style of very old houses. I love the juxtaposition of stone and wood and tapestries.

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The Cotehele estate also includes the old quayside, where limestone and coal were imported and smelted to produce lime, and a working mill. The latter was the highlight for me — I love seeing how such things worked, back in the day. Water wheels make such wonderfully clean energy. Totally ingenious. Alongside the mill, which was grinding wheat into flour while we watched, are other displays — such as a blacksmith, wheelwright, potter, furniture maker… Overall, we had a lovely day at Cotehele. Here’s that fabulous waterwheel.

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This wraps up posts about Cornish subjects, with one more to come from Devon, about Exeter, which I thought a lovely city. Please excuse my brevity; iPhone blogging is losing its appeal… Really looking forward to getting back to a computer. Thanks for bearing with me!

Tomorrow, I head to Brighton for the start of the World Fantasy Convention. Time to get my writing brain back into gear!

Ancient monuments and a lighthouse on the Penwith Peninsula

One of the essential areas of Cornwall to visit is the Penwith Peninsula — essentially the glob of land at the very south west of England… You know, Penzance, Lands End etc. So of course we did a day tour down there in our trusty little red car.

Our first stop was St Michael’s Mount, that distinctive island connected by a causeway to the village of Marazion. We didn’t pay to tour the whole site (chapel and house I think), but we did wander across the causeway and ramble about the quay in the sunlight taking photos. An added bonus was the cafe/kiosk where coffee could be acquired.

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That’s St Michael’s Mount above… When we arrived the tide was out and we happily strode across the causeway — way cool. But we stayed there so long, the tide came in! We had a narrow window of opportunity when we could have taken off our shoes and socks to wade back over… But we missed it due to indecision, and had to pay £2 each to the boat man to convey us back. Oh well.

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We lunched in Marazion — fabulous fish and chips from the King’s Arms hotel — and then forged our way around the coast, squeezing through the quayside area of Penzance, towards the Merry Maidens — an ancient stone circle beside the road. Beautiful.

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Despite the tackometer warnings, we headed then to Land’s End. Just because. It’s tourist city, although I confess not as bad as I expected (though for some of my companions it was worse). We grabbed a coffee and took some photos of the sign. Enough said.

It was mid to late afternoon by now and we decided to make one last stop before heading back to base. On the way we tried to find the impressive Lanyon Quoit… Actually we did find it, but there didn’t appear to be anywhere to stop, or in fact reach it through the blackberry hedge, so after a couple of drive-bys we abandoned our intention to check it out and photograph it. Disappointing.

We headed then to St Ives, but changed our mind at the last minute to go check out Godrevy Lighthouse nearby. It was supposedly the inspiration for Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. I’m sure St Ives would have been lovely at a different time of day, but the lighthouse was perfect in the setting sun.

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We had a delightful hour or so rambling all over the grassy Godrevy Point, taking many photos of that lighthouse and all the birds.

It was a fabulous day, although I would have liked more time to find more ancient monuments and visit St Ives. But as one of my companions said: must save things for next time!

Tintagel – craggy castle on the Cornish coast

Next stop on our Cornish adventure was Tintagel castle – possibly the birthplace of King Arthur, definitely a really cool place to visit. Its vast sprawl atop a rocky promontory, surrounded by stunning views of the wild and rugged coast, way surpassed my expectations.

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One approaches Tintagel down a valley, then around a headland to cross a narrow bridge onto the promontory (which is connected by a causeway). One then climbs up to the remains of the Great Hall and associated buildings, which cling to the edge of the cliff. The ruined stonework is still very impressive and I easily could imagine the Earl holding court here.

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Beyond this stonework, the remains of the castle sprawl across the top of the grassy promontory. The wind is strong, the jackdaws wheel in flight, the waves seethe and crash against the rocks below. I scrambled over just about every inch of the craggy promontory, explored the ‘dark ages’ ruins, stood at what felt like the edge of the world, letting the wind toss my hair all around…

I spent a deal of time stalking a kestrel (identified later), which hovered perfectly still in the roaring wind — amazing. I took a few bad photos of it, before capturing this one, just before leaving the main promontory. In the background is the wild coast, and the south-west coast path…

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We had amazing weather for our visit to Tintagel, including a sudden squall, which rolled in off the sea with rapid ferocity, only to roll on by to leave this rainbow in its wake…

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The above was taken from some ruins on the opposite side of the bridge to the main promontory. I think the garrison was once stationed there.

We spent a fair few hours at Tintagel, and lunched afterwards at a local pub. On our way home we visited the little town of Port Isaac, which was closing down for the day, but was still lovely to wander through.

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Cornwall has certainly proved something of a challenge from an internet connectivity point of view… and we haven’t had wifi in our cottage this week. But I am hoping to post more frequently over the next couple of weeks as I find accommodation with wifi, especially since I have a few days backed up now! The next posts will cover the Penwith Peninsula and our wonderful day on Dartmoor in Devon.

Exploring Bodmin Moor

It’s been a whirlwind few days since arriving in the UK. This week I’m staying in Cornwall with a group of friends from home and we’re having a blast. As all of us are writers bound for the World Fantasy Convention, our interests are very compatible: striking scenery, quaint villages, ancient monuments and ruins, castles, local cuisine…

After a road trip down from London on Saturday — ducking into the Stonehenge carpark for a free view of the monument along the way — we arrived in the town of Bodmin in time for dinner. We decided to take A roads rather than motorway, convinced it would be more scenic, and we certainly enjoyed the drive immensely. England is so very green compared with Australia, and the south-west has stunning landscapes.

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On Sunday (yesterday) we explored the nearby Bodmin Moor. This involved squeezing our little red Toyota Yaris (nicknamed the Thai Bullet for its chile colour) down narrow roads barely the width of a car, our route twisting and turning up and down across the landscape. We are navigating largely via Google Maps on a smart phone, which is proving both effective and challenging, because 3G coverage in this region is negligible. Yet somehow we manage to make it work.

Our first stop on the moor was Colliford Lakes, then Bolventor Church, by which time we conceived a desire for coffee. Turns out Sunday mornings in this part of the world are not ideal for coffee stops (of the kind we had in mind). We drove around for a while and started to get frustrated before we stumbled across the little town of Upton Cross and its Apple Fair. This is one of the many things I love about travelling. The Apple Fair was a local event. They served instant coffee and home made apple cake in the church hall for 50p each — and we fell upon these with gusto. It was lovely to chat to locals and experience such an authentic celebration of local industry.

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But the highlight of the day was to be found near the small town of Minions (where we finally found food, and I enjoyed my first Cornish pasty for this trip). Minions is home to two celebrated sites: the Hurlers, two prehistoric stone circles; and the Cheesewring, a natural pillar of stones carved into an odd shape by erosion.

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The Hurlers (above) are not too far from the town, set into the grass. We trekked across the spongy peat to reach them, beautiful in the sunshine. (We are having fabulous weather so far — a mix of sun and cloud, but not too much rain.)

But then we kept on walking, along with the locals out with their dogs, past the placid cattle, into the depths of the moor and up a rocky crag of granite to view the Cheesewring.

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The view from the top of the hill was spectacular.

Our final stop involved much crafty navigation, but eventually we found Trevethy Quoit, one of Cornwall’s most striking Neolithic burial chambers (says the Lonely Planet Guide). Alas, my camera battery had run out by this time and I don’t have a photo. But it was very cool.

I’m using my iPhone camera on this trip, and although I hadn’t anticipated the battery issue, I’m quite happy with the photos. Nor had I anticipated the lack of 3G coverage, which is why I’m posting a little later than I had planned. (Yes, OK, it might also have something to do with the socialising in the evening… But it’s so nice to travel with friends for a change!)

Today (Monday) we visited Tintagel castle — but that’s for another post…