Region Focus – South Devon and Cornwall Part 3 #adeoontheroad
Welcome to the third and last part of adeo’s adventures in South West England! You can check the previous Part 1 and Part 2, or feel free to continue reading below post about the crown of Cornwall, when after a great time in Falmouth, a day full of adventures, stunning landscapes and (luckily) sunny weather begun!
SOUTH WEST CORNWALL
Yes, we started from an English breakfast, again, but you must understand – being on a trip across Britain simply requires that! It’s like being in France and not eating a croissant, or not trying homemade pasta in Italy! You just have to treat yourself and take in all the culture! Especially nowadays, when there are so many options for everyone, including vegetarian, gluten free and even vegan alternatives. You can read more about breakfast (and other must-dos) in our series of blog posts “Great Britain Bucket-List”.
Meanwhile, well-fed, we set towards the ancient market town of Marazion. Passing its charming streets and a beautiful harbour, the spectacular view for St. Michael’s Mount island revealed itself. Used in the ancient times as a Cornish tin trading point, St Michael’s Mount gained its true recognition in the Middle Ages as a holy destination for pilgrims.
Nowadays, it’s mainly inhabited by fishermen and monks, being a tranquil and secluded home to nearly 40 people. The access to the island is possible during low tides via the historic stone causeway, so often used by pilgrims in the past; whilst during higher tide, you can enjoy some beautiful coastal views on a short boat journey from Marazion. Upon arrival you will be welcomed by the lovely harbour, cobbled streets and stone houses decorated with pretty flowers. Passing little arts & crafts stores, local produce shops, charming cafés and seafood eateries around, you’ll be surprised with the variety of choice in this tiny place.
We took a walk through gently steep Giant’s Heart path all the way up to the historic castle and monastery – the highlight of the island. Used in 1979 film “Dracula” as a vampire’s residence, this impressive building from Norman times holds many secrets. Romanticised between 18th and 19th centuries it holds original objects that belonged to St Aubyn’s family, including furniture, paintings, weapons and jewellery. You can find the very first Priory Church from 12th century, located within the castle chapel providing Sunday services until today, or simply admire the astonishing views for the coast and nearby towns of Marazion and Penzance.
Speaking of Penzance… another picturesque fishing town of Cornwall is known from the comic opera “Pirates of Penzance” written by A. Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert in 1879. The town was once raided and inhabited by actual, real pirates. Unfortunately, between 1600s and 1800s British coast, including Cornwall, had barbaric piracy and smuggling problems; easily accessible by sea, without modern navigation the ships full of pirates would often pull in to the shore unnoticeably. With time passing by, pirates were forced to leave and instead remained not only in local stories, but also the humorous operetta still performed today around Cornwall and beyond! (also in the very special Minack Theatre – our next attraction!)
My absolute favourite place of the whole trip, not only thanks to the breath-taking views of incredibly blue and clear ocean waters both crushing its waves onto the high, rugged coastline and calmly entering the golden sandy beaches, but thanks to the dramatically set Minack Theatre.
Inspired by Ancient Greek structures from 600 BC, the Cornish amphitheatre was carved into the cliffs of Porthcurno by the inspiring Rowena Cade. Along with her friends-gardeners, no machinery and only simple tools and bare hands, they built the seats from cement, concrete and, most importantly, the sand from the beach below, which they carried all the way from the bottom to top on their backs! Giving it more natural rocky look together with contrasting grass-covered stairs, a small round stage with the stunning backdrop of the ocean – Minack Theatre embraces an artistic ambiance and inspires with an ancient myth. Nowadays, it stages over 200 performances each year, is complimented by the beauty of subtropical plants and well-looked after by Rowena’s family.
No more spoilers though – there is more to that story awaiting for you to be discovered in theatre’s Exhibition Centre presenting the full story of Rowena, the beginnings of amphitheatre, how the construction changed over the years and how it works today. With old photographs, interesting interviews of Rowena and gardeners themselves, and original tools, the place becomes even more familiar to you. It’s worth taking your time in the museum if you’re interested in such history.
Okay, last spoiler… Rowena firstly built herself a house here! Protected by the solid rocks, as you can see on the photo, she named it after Cornish “meynek” meaning “a stony or a rocky place”. Unfortunately, it remains closed due to its dangerous location, though you can still imagine how wonderful would it be to live on the beach with some of the most amazing views, basically in your backyard, or rather, front yard! You can reach the Minack House by car (parking by the beach) or take the scenic walk from the top to the beach down a pathway with rails. It does require a bit more effort, however, fortunately you’re not climbing up and the views are compensating it with every step!
It was time for us to move on to our next location – Land’s End, literally. Considered as the most south-western point of the English mainland, it creates a trespass with the most northern point in Scotland, at John O’Groats. The place is perfect to admire the spectacular views of Atlantic Ocean’s deep blue waters and nearby Longships Lighthouse. Aware of being in the westernmost point of English mainland, I felt like I am at least at the end of the world. The most iconic point of Land’s End is definitely the white Signpost established in 1950s and popular for photos. No matter your origins – you can have a photo pointing to any place you want, as the staff calculates the miles from Land’s End to your destination, fitting the personalised sign as your photo background. With family-friendly attractions, a café, a kiosk and a parlour tempt with delicious produce, Land’s End is a place to tick on your list.
On our way back, we stopped at Botallack Mines, a hidden gem dramatically spread across the rugged coast. The industrial ruins are part of the vast Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape, which is a world-recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. The relics of the Cornish tin mining heritage which thrived between 1500s and 1900s, were a filming location for the “Poldark” series. Similarly to Ross Poldark, we wandered amongst chimney stacks, engine houses and even the arsenic labyrinth, before reaching the shores to admire the incredible view for the ocean. Getting a little hungry though, we stopped at nearby café for… Cream Tea!
If you read the first part, you’ll know we had a sweet tooth for Cream Tea, and we couldn’t help ourselves but to have another one at Botallack. This time the Cornish way! Opposite to mentioned in the previous post Devonian, Cornish requires scone, jam first and then clotted cream on top. I know – does that even matter? – one may ask. Well, it does and it causes disputes across both counties! After trying both, I must say – bravely – that I prefer Devon way, as it is less messy… for me! Luckily, there’re always two parts of scones and the choice is always yours – you can even do Devonian on one half and Cornish on the other – because why not?!
Next treat was a delicious ice cream from stunning St Ives’s seafront parlour (beware of seagulls). This seaside town with gorgeous views for the St Ives Bay embraces with the Mediterranean-like atmosphere thanks to clear waters, sandy beaches of Porthmeor and Porthminster, charming narrow streets full of characteristic buildings of shops, bakeries, cafés, restaurants and bars, and of course the beautiful harbour making St Ives one of the top summer destinations in the UK. Home to a vibrant arts and crafts scene and one of just two Tate Galleries outside of London; Tate St Ives is a true aesthetical pleasure with many fascinating paintings, sculptures and exhibitions of many talented artists. Few steps away there is Dame Barbara Hepworth’s former studio, now used as Museum and Sculpture Garden presenting sculptor’s artwork. I’d love to stay a night here!
Last but not least, I’ve mentioned traditional Cornish pasties before – well, that’s exactly what we had in St Ives sitting near the beach, watching the panorama of town and boats resting on the sand during low tide, listening to the squeaks of seagulls flying above our heads, we enjoyed a regional delight. Cornish pasties are turnover-shaped baked shortcrust, usually savoury, filled with various stuffing. The traditional recipe for the pasty filling is beef with potato, onion and swede, however nowadays you will be spoilt with choice – chicken, fish or lamb with veg, and many vegetarian options to choose from. My favourite ones are blue cheese & broccoli ones (revolutionary again, I know), but it was delicious!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our little adventures in Devon and Cornwall, and are inspired to travel to these astonishing parts of South West England with us soon! Our designated small-group tour to that region, Treasures of West Country, will take you to some of its highlights!
You can also check our website for other small group tours, as well as our itineraries for rail or self-drive journeys. Please do not hesitate to contact our agents to get your British journey started!
September 7, 2023