Tag Archives: Mevagissey

Cornwall, Padstow, Tintagel and Boscastle

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It really doesn’t pay to go back and look again at the things that once delighted you, because it’s unlikely they will delight you now.” – Bill Bryson,

Sally and the grandchildren were returning home today, a day earlier than Kim and I so with a two hundred mile journey to consider we decided to make some visits to places along the first part of their route.

We started with Padstow, a popular fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall.  We could have chosen any one of a number of similar villages but we chose Padstow because we wanted fish and chips from Rick Stein’s chippy.

Rick Stein is a famous English celebrity chef who lives in Padstow and specialises in fish dishes.  He has been so successful that he now owns several restaurants and food shops in the town and the locals now refer to the place as Padstein.

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As we got close it became obvious that a lot of other people wanted Rick Stein’s fish and chips today because on a gloriously sunny day the car parks were full and the charming little harbour was overrun with tourists and day-trippers.

The queue at the fish and chip shop close to the harbour was too long and too slow for my impatient grandchildren so went elsewhere and bought them from an alternative restaurant and I am certain that they tasted just as good.

We spent a couple of hours in Padstow around the boats and the seaside shops and looked across the Camel Estuary to the up-market seaside village of Rock where I holidayed with my parents around about 1965.

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After Padstow  I was keen to visit Tintagel because I had happy memories of it from 1965.  Tintagel Castle is associated with the stories of brave King Arthur, mysterious Merlin, The bold Knights of the Round Table and beautiful Queen Guinevere and this was when I still believed the stories of the Arthurian legend.

Although it is almost certain that King Arthur (if indeed there ever was a King Arthur) never stepped foot at all in Tintagel or its castle (mostly on account of the fact that it wasn’t built until several years after his possible existence) the village and English Heritage (who own the castle) have made a very good job of convincing everyone that he did and have successfully turned it into one of the most visited places in England.

This is a picture of my grandparents visiting the castle in 1960…

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… in 1960 they always seemed old to me but they were only in their mid-50s and now that I am sixty-five I see them in a different way.

I can’t be sure why I remembered Tintagel as somewhere interesting and worth a return because it turned out to be spectacularly unmemorable. We parked the car in the visitor centre which without explanation was closed and walked towards the castle along a long linear street lined with shops and cafés which all had a predictable Arthurian theme and held no interest for us.

After a steep descent to the coast we came upon the castle which was also closed whilst a new footbridge is being constructed across from the mainland to the rocky promontory that is the castle.  I say castle but all there is to justify this description are a few scrappy bits of ruined walls and not much else so I wasn’t too upset that it was closed and at least we saved on the admission fee.

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Tintagel goes onto my list of disappointing places alongside Jamaica Inn.  I had no plans to visit Jamaica Inn today because even as a ten year old I can remember being greatly underwhelmed by the visit there over fifty years ago.

So we went to Boscastle where I remembered the Witches Museum which also turned out to be a place that I didn’t really need to go back to.  I offered my grandchildren money not to go in but they insisted and their assessment was one of disappointment and regret that they hadn’t taken the cash offer.  Boscastle has more charm than Tintagel I have to confess but after a walk alongside the long sinuous harbour and a visit to the National Trust shop there isn’t really a great deal more to see.

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But the real purpose of our visit was to complete the week with a Cornish cream tea so we identified a suitable place where the grandchildren could terrorise the staff and spoil the afternoon for any other visitors and sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a plate of homemade scones, some plain, some with currants and remembered that in Cornwall it is jam first and cream on top unlike in Devon where they reverse the procedure.

After tea we said goodbye to Sally and the children, they headed east towards the Midlands and we returned to Mevagissy and the cottage which now seemed curiously deserted and quiet.  I always get an empty feeling when the children go home.

The following day we enjoyed a long walk along the coastal path in the unexpected sunshine and a week that began requiring raincoats, scarves and gloves ended in shirt-sleeves, shorts and sun-cream.  What a genuinely fascinating and eclectic place England is with its interesting diverse weather conditions that always manage to delight and surprise.

The next day we vacated the lovely Tranquility Cottage and made the long drive home to the East Coast.

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Cornwall, Around Mevagissey Harbour Part 2

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After leaving St Michael’s Mount we had another frustrating drive back to Mevagissey and arrived in the late afternoon.  The sun was shining so I went straight to the harbour with my camera and became fascinated by the boats and the reflections…

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Cornwall, Around Mevagissey Harbour Part 1

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After all that walking I slept especially well and when I woke at about eight o’clock and fearing the worst I immediately listened out for the wind and the rain but all was quite calm.  The only sound was the slow and satisfying rhythmic thud, thud, thud of a diesel engine taking a boat out to sea which I took to mean that if a boat was going out to sea then the gale had surely blown itself out.

Sure enough the sun was shining so I immediately took advantage of this unexpected improvement in the weather, pulled on my clothes and immediately went into the village to capture some pictures.

Mevagissey is a delightful place, the streets are narrow and twist like a corkscrew, some lanes are more like staircases than streets, most are too narrow for cars but that doesn’t stop some people trying to drive down them, there are no pavements and double yellow lines to tell people not to park even though this is surely patently obvious.  A hundred years ago or so the designers of the village were more concerned with keeping out the sea than attracting visitors.

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Cornwall, Mevagissey and a Stormy Arrival

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The early Spring weather in the United Kingdom had been especially good, we had been lucky in the Forest of Dean for a couple of days and enjoyed the sunshine and we were hopeful for more as we drove to Cornwall but when we arrived in the port village of Mevagissey our optimism was literally blown away.

There was a howling south-easterly gale that was roaring into the jaws of the sheltered port and sending sea and spray crashing over the protective harbour walls.  We had been advised to park in the harbour car park but as we drove along the narrow road and waves washed over the car this didn’t look very promising.  As we drove out again I spotted a man sheltering in a doorway and sought advice.  I didn’t catch a lot of what he said because like a thief the wind stole the words almost as soon as they passed his lips.  He expressed surprise to see us driving along the harbour wall in such severe conditions and I deduced from his mannerisms that this was not an specially good idea so we set about finding an alternative place to park.

This was about five hundred yards away from our holiday cottage and with the only access up a steep narrow path there was no chance of getting any closer to unload the luggage so we had to make several journeys back and forth to transfer all of the luggage and the shopping bags from the cars.  Once this was achieved there was time to survey the cottage.

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It was named ‘Tranquility’ but standing right at the top of the path and overlooking the turbulent harbour below there was nothing very tranquil about it tonight.  As the gale grew stronger the windows rattled and the lashing rain streamed down the glass as we looked out and debated who should go back into the village to bring back the fish and chips supper that we had promised ourselves.  Naturally it was me that got the most nominations.

The rain continued through most of the night and I was disturbed several times, not only by the gale outside but by nagging thoughts about how we might amuse ourselves in the morning if the weather showed no significant improvement.

Well, by the morning the rain had stopped but the wind was just as fierce so that ruled out the visit to the beach which was what the children wanted so after breakfast we pulled on our rainwater clothing and stepped out for a walk along the coastal footpath south to the village of Portmellon.  Over the headland we battled against the wind and on arrival took shelter in a coffee shop whilst the children played near the sea.  I had almost forgotten that little people barely take notice of the weather and whist we adults complain and grumble they just get on with enjoying themselves regardless.  Later in a sheltered cove I couldn’t even dissuade them from going into the sea!

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Later in the day we ventured outside again and this time walked in the opposite direction on the coastal path.  We had intended to walk as far as the beach village of Pentewan but at just about the half way point it started to gently rain so we abandoned the plan and returned to the cottage.  Just as well that we did because shortly before we arrived back home then it began to rain with fierce intensity and we had to make a dash for shelter right at the end.

No real harm done at this point until I was later persuaded to walk down to the village to visit the free admission aquarium in the harbour.  Later I was told that it was free right enough, free for a reason.  By now it was pouring with rain and the sea was crashing over the harbour walls so we had to pick the right moment to move forward to avoid a real drenching.

When we got there the place was closed with a sign promising ‘Back in Five Minutes’.  I don’t think the staff were anticipating any visitors this afernoon because we waited for ten but no one showed up so thoroughly damp we made our way back stopping on route for some traditional Cornish pasties for our evening meal. I suspect no one ever went back to the aquarium that afternoon.

We hoped the weather would be better the next day but looking out of the window at the squally sea and the towering columns of water and foam I confess that I was not terribly optimistic.

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