It’s all so civilized. We caught a train out of Bath on Wednesday morning and had a lovely ride across the south of England, arriving in Penzance, Cornwall. This was the leg of our travel that Leslie was in charge of. By selecting our B&B she has proved herself to be a woman of fine taste. Our host and hostess at the Camilla House greeted us warmly. We were invited into the lounge for a cup of tea and Simon drew us a lovely map of all the best restaurants and pubs within walking distance. He made suggestions for day trips, guided tours and general walk-abouts. Enough said! Our bags were taken to our room and we set off to have a look at Penzance.
Our first foray took us through the old churchyard, where we stopped to have a look at the old gravestones. I love to read the stones. From there, we stopped in The Turk’s head for a pint before moving on to the Admiral Benbow for dinner.
What an experience! If anyone has watched the Doc Martin series, you will remember that the imaginary town of Port Wenn is populated with the most unusual characters, quirky and slightly off center. Perhaps you thought that a writer with a very fertile imagination had invented the Doc Martin cast of zanies? You would be wrong. These are real people. As we sat at our table in the Benbow, we were treated to the most incredible parade of locals. In walked a fellow wearing nylon jogging shorts, sandals and a t-shirt, all topped by a navy blue sport coat. The bar maid greeted him by saying “You’re looking particularly dapper this evening, Alan.” Next was an elderly lady in flowing skirts, scarves, wraps, colored mid calf socks and sandals. She wore her silver hair in a disheveled chignon, streaked with purple and green, which of course matched her socks. But, a word about the décor. Please imagine a pirate hoarder. The proprietor and his wife have traveled the world, attending auctions and swap meets so that they could continually add to their collections of cannon balls, mastheads, lanterns, riggings, steins, harness brass, etc. All this is displayed in rooms that have been built with restored sections of old schooners and pirate ships. Between the people and the various collections, our heads were on a constant swivel.
And, the food? OMG. Leslie ordered a root vegetable soup that she swears tasted exactly like Thanksgiving dinner. I choose the Seafood pasta. The seafood had been in the sea just hours before it appeared on my plate, combining prawns, squid rings, scallops, mussels and chunks of various fish in a creamy rose sauce. Magnificent!
Simon had arranged a tour for us on Thursday morning. Following breakfast, we were picked up at our door by our guide, Russ. Russ is a local young man with a couple of degrees in marine biology and botany behind him. He and his Brazilian wife operate guided walking tours and the van tour we were on. Because we were the first pair to be picked up, Leslie grabbed the front seat, next to Russ and I staked out the center of the back seat.
We drove to St. Ives to pick up another couple, leaving them only the third seat. We spent four hours with Russ, asking questions and hearing stories of dancing maidens turned to stone, ship wrecks, government schemes involving loose cows mowing the roadsides, and how to enjoy cream tea.
One of Russ’s stories involved the stone circles we visited. Russ told us that there were eight known remaining stone circles, but none were in England. What? We were standing in one of the stone circles and yet he tells us that there are NO remaining circles? Leslie piped up “But, Russ, we’re in England”. “AhHa” Russ answered. “We are not in England, we are in Cornwall.” Yes, there is some serious pride in being a Cornishman. It was thirty pounds spent for a hundred pounds of enjoyment.
Friday was a clear and calm weather day. It was perfect for taking the two and a half boat trip on the Scillionian, out to the Isles if Scilly.
I’ll wager that very few of you have ever heard of the Scillys.Paradise.Positively paradiseIt’s the southernmost point in England and enjoys a very moderate microclimateThe Scillys are a group of five inhabited islands, incredible beaches, acres of daffodil production, artist’s cottages and B&Bs. There are palm trees everywhere and gardens of succulents.
St Mary’s is the largest island, with a castle that has been turned into a hotel above the town of Hugh.It’s a lovely place to walk about and we took a one hour bus tour to give ourselves a proper overview of the island.In all, we enjoyed four hours on St. Mary’s before heading back to the docks to catch the Scillonian for our ride back to Penzance. We walked about the boat, stopping to chat with wet dogs. Westies, springers, goldens, and jacks, they had all had a lovely day at the beach. Back in Penzance, we stopped off for a pint and reflected on our lovely day. We sat outside, sipping our Guinness and chatting with another fine dog.
In spite of a bit of misty rain Friday morning, we braved a three-mile walk along the promenade from Penzance to Marizion. Our goal was to walk across the beach to the island of St. Michael’s Mount, crossing at low tide.
The castle on St. Michael’s Mount is the home of Lord and Lady St. Aubyn, who still live in an apartment in the former abbey. The castle is perched atop an outcropping of granite that sits just off shore from Marizion. Wear sensible shoes if you plan to visit this castle! The only way to the top is a dizzying rock footpath with little twists and turns and lay-bys where you can stop to catch your breath just before your knees lock up. We managed. The walk was well worth it as the views are stunning. But, of course, if you have walked up to the castle, you must walk down the same path when you are finished. It is a bit easier though. Once we reached ground level we took a walk through the gardens.
Please, don’t say Mouse Hole. It’s Mouze-ull. This is a lovely little village that sits on the coast south of Penzance and Newlyn. It looks a lot like the fictional Port Wenn from Doc Martin! We had intended to get to Port Isaac, which is the actual site of the filming of the series, but time was running out. So, Mousehole it was.
We took a little stroll through the streets, admiring the cottages with their pots of flowers at the door, and an occasional working artist.
Then, it was time for the bus back to Penzance and our final evening in Cornwall. Time to pack up and head back to London.