Cornwall: the good, the great, and the ugly
Everyone I know can’t help talking about how incredible Cornwall is. So naturally I had to go see it for myself while I was still only a train ride away.
I had even put aside a full 5 day break over the summer (June) in anticipation for a wonderful English seaside holiday. I usually only save my precious days off work for actual international trips. The fact that I was using this for a domestic jaunt goes to show how high everyone had set my expectations about Cornwall.
So what did I think?
Its was lovely to be in the countryside and it was good to get out of the city. It was a fun holiday.
In all honesty, it just wasn’t a jaw-dropping, pinch-myself, amazing trip like I thought it would be – that it was made out to be.
But nevertheless it was still a good!
For starters, there are lots of natural places to see and we are National Trust members – and boy, did we work that membership for all it was worth while we were there! Yup, we were bypassing all the losers wasting time lining up to pay entry fees to the many National Trust-owned historic and natural sites, and swaggering on in with all the other smart-thinking members – who all seemed to be retired oldies with their binoculars and fanny packs (or bum-bags as we call them).
Honourable mentions go out to Lizard Point, near where we stayed on the south coast of Cornwall, St Michael’s Mount and the Godrevy beach on the north coast. Fantastic spots – all of them. They were definitely the highlights of the trip for me. Here’s why
There is a wonderful walk along the top of the cliffs here that is just spectacular (I only found out writing this that it was actually part of the longer South West Coast Path). I got my face full of the salty sea breeze as the turquoise waves boomed on the rocks below. I could stare off across the blue horizon or just take in the wonderful purples and blues of the wildflowers as we wandered along the compacted dirt track.
I was also delighted to spot seals fishing in the clear waters below!
The best bit of all for me was the cliff-top cafe not far from the National Trust entrance, where you can sit out in the lovely sunshine and admire the cliffs, take in nature’s beauty, and get your lungs full of fresh air as you sip on your Cornish cider and enjoy a light lunch or a Cornish cream tea.
St Michael’s Mount
This is a big old castle on an island, and a travel photographer’s wet dream. Nobody can resist taking a snap or two from the mainland at the imposing and spectacular sight offshore.
We cruised over in a small boat (£2 each, one way) and of course got free access to everything (membership, bitches! Otherwise its £9.50 per adult). This included a poke around through the huge, cold, stone castle with multi-million dollar views across the ocean.
But of course it’s the small things that really amuse us, and there was no question that the best bit was at the end when we saw that the tide was low enough for us to paddle our way back to the mainland across the man-made causeway which is hidden under the ocean half the time. Off came the shoes and socks, up came the bottom of our trousers, and squeal and paddle we did – like a couple of 5 year old kids. Yea sure, I had come within seconds of getting frostbite in my feet by the time we reached the other side, but it was totally worth it.
This beach is part of the Godrevy-Portreath Heritage Coast on the northern coastline of Cornwall, is the closest I’ve seen to an Aussie beach over here.
Long stretching white sands welcomed the arrival of drawn-out cresting waves taking their lazy time getting to shore. Considerate of them, as it allowed the drove of surfers peppering the waters plenty of ride-time, justifying the expense of renting a surfboard.
We went on a short hike to the cliff-tops to see the view from Godrevy Head, including the sight of Godrevy Lighthouse stuck ponderously on a collection of rocks which you could loosely call an island. Taking a closer look at the rocks, we noticed the blobs of at least 30 Grey Seals hauled-out on them, and cursed our stinginess for not owning a pair of binoculars.
Continuing the walk along the cliffs we continued to spot plenty of seals dipping through the water, or simply taking a breather, bopping their heads above the water and watching the tourists walk by. There is also a designated seal-watching quiet zone at Mutton Cove, on the other side of the Head, where you can watch them haul out onto the beach below. But, you know…no patience and no binoculars, so we kept on walking by.
We did also make our way to Land’s End which is Britain’s most southwesterly point. We had made the trip there just so we could get a photo with the famous signpost, and maybe have a walk along the cliffs. But the fact that we had to drive over a place called ‘Misery Hill’ to get there should have given us a clue of what was to come.
We were not prepared for the Vegas-style, gimmicky attractions that have sprung up all around the site. Not only is there £6 entry fee just to park, the sign itself is now fenced off and they charge people £10 to have a photo with it! But that’s not the worst of it.
In addition to the usual souvenir shops and cafe’s which one might expect, it’s also a amusement park, with pay-as-you go attractions including a Shaun The Sheep Experience, a 4D cinema, a shopping ‘village’, as well as a hotel. The whole thing reminded me a lot of Niagara Falls, where the ‘naturalness’ of the site has been removed by the ugly money-making enterprises surrounding it, so that it hardly feels like a nature experience at all.
There was a walk trail along the cliffs where you can apparently spot bird life, but the whole capitalist feel of the place put us off so much we spent as little time there as possible. We just got our photo and tried not to trip over the throng of screaming ankle-biters running around as we hurried to get the hell out of there.
Nevertheless, despite Cornwall not being as amazing as my expectations had built up the place to be, I have to admit I do think I will go back there at some point. It could just be the beaches giving me a sense of home, or the peaceful atmosphere of the small quiet villages, but I think I preferred the northern coastal area better and believe it could offer Cornwall a chance to redeem itself in my mind if we could explore it a little further next time.