London Diary – Cornwall Never fails to Excite me !

Oct 20, 2016

A year ago today I arrived in London.
Today I am taking a road trip to Cornwall. Yes Cornwall again!

Oct 20-23, 2016

After about 6 hours on the road, we reached Land’s End Hotel in the early evening. Our journey had seen clouds and sunshine in alternation but luckily the rest of the evening was perfect, a lovely welcome back to Cornwall indeed. Cornwall never fails to excite me. Once we pulled into the hotel parking lot on the ocean side, we were surrounded by stunning views that made my heart leapt. Literally pulled on by the force of nature, I jumped out of the car and started toward the cliff. From then on, our visit was a feast to the wild Cornish beauty.

Land’s End

South west tip of England, Land’s End’s enduring attraction is its beautiful surrounding, Atlantic Ocean, rugged rocky cliff, jagged rock towers, light house and promontory afar. Icing on the cake are a small visitor center with shop, restaurant, playground and amusement for children and Land’s End Hotel with view that few others can rival, making it a lovely place to stay, for day trip or base for walks to Sennen Cove or Porthcurno in the other direction. We booked a premier double with sea view, which we were very happy with, to make it sweeter, a nice surprise awaited when we checked in, we were given a 3 for 2 deal.

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St Michael’s Mount

In France there is Mont Saint-Michel, in Cornwall, there is St Michael’s Mount, 30 minutes east of Land’s End and south of Marazion, a nice little seaside town.

It is no wonder that I had at a time mistaken St Michael’s Mount for Mont Saint-Michel. Although St Michael’s Mount is smaller, the images are strikingly similar, both of conical shapes, and they were historically linked at one point, both belonging to the same Benedictine religious order, having been awarded to the Benedictines in 12th century by Edward the confessor. The island and church was however confiscated by Henry VIII like many other monasteries in the 16th century. Until the St Aubyn family purchased it from the crown in 17th century and it has been the family’s primary residence for 12th generations. Currently National Trust co-own and manage the island and castle.

It is a fantastic visit. The castle is grand and the interior is rich.  As you climb up by foot, you are surrounded by lovely views that change by every turn and a beautiful garden by the rocky seashore located on south east side of the island can be seen from the Sun Terrace.

Little chat with the guides, we discovered that the St Aubyn family also owns properties outside the island including some in Marazion. While the only way to get up to the castle is by foot, there is an underground tram entered from the harbor that is used to carry things up and down between the castle and the harbor.

As it was the only option, we left our car at a seaside car park at Marazion, which has a stunning view of the little island. A causeway links the island with the mainland, but tide was high at around 10:30am, and we had to take the ferry. Leaving the island at 1:30pm, the tide was low enough to clear up the causeway, with the exception of several feet in the center that was still covered by a shallow puddle. A little more than 5 minute, but it was a fun walk; kids of all ages were making the most of it.

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Porthcurno is a village on the coast south east of Land’s End. A couple of the main attractions we visited are Minack Theater and Porthcurno beach. Minack Theater is a divine outdoor theater carved out on the face of the cliff with a stunning view to Porthcuno beach and Logan Rock promontory. The beach is one of the beautiful locations featured in BBC TV series Poldark.

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A Beautiful Walk to Sennen Cove

Sennen Cove is a seaside village north east of Land’s End. The foot path by the cliff linking Land’s End and Sennen cove is 1.5 mile and according to the hotel staff a 30 minute walk. It took us 3 times as long. With beautiful views at every turn the walk was exhilarating! Around midway, you’d also find the remains of a ship wreck.

Something very cool happened that day too. We spotted from afar someone climbing the cliff near the Coast Guard’s lookout. She, with a long ponytail, was navigating nimbly and quickly through the rocks. She beat us in reaching the lookout tower but we caught up with her and realized the pony tail had misled us. It was a boy, probably in his late teens. He was about to ride away on his bike and helmet, which was the only protection he was wearing while scaling the rocks. I commented what he did was very impressive. He replied he grew up in this area, was used to that sort of thing and today he was out exploring. Just exploring by scaling the rocks, couldn’t be more casual for him.

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Levant Mine and Botallack Mines

Copper and tin mining was an important part of Cornish economy during 18th to 19th century and a number of mines dotted its coast. You can still see a number of chimney stacks tower over the landscape driving around the right spot.

I learnt of these mines for they are the filming locations of BBC show Poldark. BTW I was a fan before the episode that aired on Sunday Oct 23rd. What happens in that episode however greatly disappointed me. Captain Poldark is no longer one in my list of literary heroes.

Nonetheless I am glad I visited these mines for it was more treat to the beautiful coastal scenery and an interesting lesson in Cornish mining history.

Levant Mine is substantial in size and located between St Just and Pendeen, 9 miles north of Land’s End. It was a joint venture and the investors certainly struck gold, eventually having their investment grown more than a thousand folds. It is a National Trust property. Visitors can roam about the ground free but the underground part of the museum is closed that day, albeit a Saturday. Geevor Mine next door appears substantial in size, not a National Trust property and also entirely closed that day.

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Closer to St Just are more mines at Botallack including Wheal Crowns Mine, Grambler in Poldark, and Wheal Owels, Wheal Leisure in Poldark. Botallack is National Trust property. There is a small office building with café and toilets available. Visit is free to all and you can get a map for self guided tour.  Some of the remaining structures were narrow tunnels, a few small kids were crawling through them.

The most striking is Wheal Crowns. Its building is a typical mine engine house like others. It is the location that gives it the stunning edge. The best view of both of these mines is on a terrace towering over the sea. The path to it, as narrow as a sheep’s intestine, is a precarious one; one misstep could cause one to tumble down the dizzying height of the cliff. Fortunately, it isn’t too long, we made it forth and back safely.

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Pendeen Light House

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Cape Cornwall

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Lizzard Point and Kynance Cove

Last day in Cornwall worked out most efficiently and happily. We visited Lizzard Point, Kynance Cove, and had a nice, big meal at Top House, a pub in the cute little village, Lizzard Village, before leaving around 4pm.

Lizzard Point is the Most Southerly Point in England, about 30 miles south east of Land’s End. Leaving Land’s End on a regular day, little did I know it’d be the most intensely windy spot I’d ever been to. As soon as we reached the parking lot next to a light house, I felt the strong wind. But most intense was when walking the short cliff path between the light house and the café and being around the café. My skin was pulling away from my face, my hair was slashing my face left and right, there was fine grits in the air, at times I had to hold on to something to steady myself and even doors of shop and café were rattling. I wonder how those little buildings had withstood the intense wind year after year.

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Kynance Cove is a dramatically beautiful cove with fine sandy beach and interesting rocks. There is also a café right by the cove.

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Both Lizzard Point and Kynance Cove are National Trust property. The foot path on the cliff top between both points should be beautiful. But at more than 5 miles long we did not have time to cover it. Luckily National Trust has parking lot at either end, making it possible for us to visit both points. Parking is free to members. Otherwise it is £3.