The tiny ‘drive through’ village was quaint as were the surrounding villages. The accommodation was lovely, definitely small but very charming. Our gracious and kind host Diana met us on arrival, welcomed us in and bestowed on us a few secrets of her own. We’ll share with you our favourite one…
Kennack Sands on the east coast of the Lizard peninsula is separated into two beaches by a sizeable rock formation (Caerverracks) responsible for a terribly exciting amount of rock pools. The second of the two beaches is a designated nature reserve and can be reached by the footpath that runs along the back of the beach and over Carn Kennack.
Well known by surfers for its regular 4 to 5-foot waves, it also boasts many of its own shipwreck stories that this stretch of coastline is so famous for. The remains of vessels can still be seen today from Kennack Sands on exceptionally low tides. It is purported that one, in particular, ran aground on the rocks, laden with treasure and now lies sunken just offshore. “This belief was reinforced when, in 1960, a visitor and his son came across something shimmering in a rock pool by the beach. On closer inspection, it was found to be a gold hand-hammered coin dating back to 1366 and originating from Belgium” (simplyseaviews.co.uk).
The beach itself is one “hiiighnormous” (Evie Warren aged 3 3/4) expanse of sand bookended by rugged headlands and littered with oh, so many rock pools. I imagine it will suffer the same fate as most of Cornwall’s beaches do in the summer with the mass invasion of holidaymakers, but on this particular day, we were almost the only people around. We walked along the shoreline as our daughter plunged through ‘sand pools’ and delved into rock pools. Every step was an adventure accentuated by stories of pirates and treasure.
But the real secret of Kennack Sands is in the rocks. Here you can find Serpentine. Once a favourite of the Victorians, who had jewellery and trinkets made out of it now can be found in variously sized pebbles strewn across the beach. We set to looking, all three of us caught up in the hunt, we were not disappointed. I have heard that if you are very lucky, it is even possible to find the most favoured of gemstones, Amethyst. We searched for luck that day but alas there was none to be found.
We traversed the beach, heads bowed, scouring the sand. To Evie, every stone was an “Amazing” and “very important” find, and so as the day waned, we left the beach with soggy, sagging pockets, crammed full of her ‘treasures’.
Here, by the ocean, fresh footprints were made, tiny crabs were discovered hiding under their rocks in sun-warmed pools, while the waves came rolling in to gently stop at our wellie boots. In this place, we were reminded that this really is what life is all about. During the summer months, beaches are a place to relax, cool off, play and soak up the sun… during the winter they take on a completely different persona. The winter beach speaks of the full force of nature at it’s wildest. It accentuates solitude yet holds a strange comfort. It brings peace and clarity of mind but most of all it allows freedom. Freedom to run, freedom to explore, freedom to let go. Freedom at the very edge of the world.
It turns out that when the sun goes down, the feeling of freedom is cold, incredibly cold, freezing in fact. When that winter wind blows from the ocean and whips up those fierce Atlantic waves, you really do feel like all your extremities might just freeze and drop off all at once.
It was the same for us this week as it was for many, the timely return to school for our adorable, bored, wall climbing offspring. And so it was, that we dropped Evie off for her first day back and wondered to ourselves… “now what do we do?” Last term we decided on a nice pub lunch at the Cheesewring Hotel (a blog for another day), this term, the two of us (missing our very loud tiny person) headed to Looe for a pasty.
Of course, it was raining but dressed in our wet weather gear and armed with our new found freedom, we were not deterred.
The Tourists Have Left, It’s Our Cornwall Once More…
Looe itself had survived this seasons onslaught of holiday makers and now it’s almost deserted car parks and streets seemed a bit like returning the next day to clean up after the party. The newly renovated arcade that a week a go was almost certainly thronging with over excited kids clutching handfuls of 2p’s and ‘totally over it’ teenagers trying to be cool on the point and shoots was now near empty. The familiar fairground style music that called us back as we headed past its slung open doors, melted into the distance as we walked on towards town. Now it was just the two of us, as if we were 18 again and discovering Looe for the very first time. Not much changes here, and I’m fairly certain that statement not only goes back 10 or 20 years but decades upon decades. What some might call ‘kiss me quick’ meets Cornish fishing village, we have got to know over the years and love it for all it’s quirks. There seems to be something for everyone here and it generally doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for a nice afternoon in a small harbour town.
Food Bloggers Paradise…
Looe itself is not the subject of our blog today but instead we have decided to turn our attention towards a small ‘hole-in-the-wall’; The Pasty Shop, hidden away at the top of town. It’s fresh white and blue sunny exterior (despite the rain) instantly stopped us, and with an…”Ooooh I bet that’s yummy!” we poked our heads inside. We were met with a clean inviting interior and the most charming of staff. Not really that hungry but held to ransom by the delicious aroma coming from the freshly baking oven, we bought pasties and chocolatey treats. A cheerful face from the open kitchen area joined in our conversation as she stood making pasties while the girl ‘up front’ thoughtfully bagged up our chocolate goodies separately from the hot goods.
There are no tables to eat at here, it’s just a bakery counter so we said our goodbyes and vowing to ‘be back soon’ we turned out into the rain and made our way back to our waiting car. We had parked by the river and so we decided the best seat for lunch would be perched in our open boot, the door of which raised over our heads completely sheltering us from the blustery rain.
The Secret To A Happy Cornish Life Is A Good Man and A Good Pasty…
The pasties did not let us down, a peppery cheese and onion – delicate and not overwhelming like most tend to be and a spicy chickpea and lentil. Now, I have to confess I am not a fan of vegan things that were formally un-vegan like cakes, desserts, pastries etc. I was blissfully unaware until it was too late that my chickpea pasty was in fact dairy free, however I openly admit, it was absolutely delicious and the usual dry crumbly pastry as is so often the end result of a vegan pasty was moist and very tasty. The acid test for the pasties integrity: not once was I reprimanded for getting crumbs all over the car. And there we sat, enjoying river, full of wildlife and making the most of the last moments of peace and quiet, the last moments of being people, individuals before collecting our little person from school and becoming ‘mumma’ and daddy again. Changing personas like superheroes but without the red telephone box.
We decided to take the kid to see a big hole, so this week we took ourselves off to Carnglaze Caverns. As far as big holes go, it did not disappoint. Set in a beautiful and peaceful old quarry and dug far under the surrounding woodlands and fields, Carnglaze (Cornish for “blue rock pile”) is a stunning slate mine.
Early 18th century – 1903, slate was mined but tin production continued through to 1911. The mine in it’s latter years was purchased by it’s manager, subsequently the work sheds and coal store were turned into a family home by his son and grandson. Carnglaze was opened to the public as a visitor attraction in 1973.
It’s Fun to Stay at the C.A.V.ERN…
We checked in at the ticket office and were issued our regulation map board and hard hats (the smallest of which, re-named Hattie, spent a large proportion of it’s time falling from it’s intended use to the floor) and started our structured, self tour (some may say obviously) at #1 the owners house. We felt a little uncomfortable staring in through the window of the still inhabited house. Whilst reading the first information sheet, we wondered if they were looking back at us and regretting the decision to open to the public all those years back. Donning our safety head gear and looking a bit like the village people, we moved on, into the cavern, picking up my daughters “one size fits all” hat for the first time and placing it back on her tiny head.
A Good Old Fashioned Cornish Rock Concert…
As we passed through the entrance, we were immediately met by a staggering concert hall ahead. The rum store, once completely backfilled and created from mining the slate this hillside had to offer, is now an unbelievably unique space for performers, revered for it’s incredible acoustics. Today we found it a hive of activity, preparing the space for an elaborate Alice in Wonderland themed wedding. It looked amazing. I found myself secretly resenting the fact I hadn’t thought of that for our wedding all the while I was supposed to be learning about the various forms of rocks and minerals they had on display. You may or may not be pleased to read that this is exactly why I have not written about this part of the tour.
Honey, There are Bats in the Rum Store…
I was snapped out of my preoccupation by my daughters hat hitting the ground and by a large notice about bats. I do like bats, some don’t but I think they are quite sweet. The notice read, that at one stage, bats filled these caverns but with the arrival of the rum during WWII they all disappeared, apparently not liking the smell (this made me laugh), the rum was eventually removed and they returned to their former home. Hiding in the deepest darkest corners, you’ll be lucky if you see one and for us with a very noisy threenager who insisted on whispering so very loudly, it was a lost cause (*if you visit they do ask you not shine any light into the dark corners of the caverns so as not to disturb the wildlife). For all you keen wildlife spotters, the batty inhabitants known to be residing here are as follows: Lesser Horseshoe, Greater Horseshoe, Brown Long-eared, Pipistrelle and Noctule.
We replaced the hat, patting it down firmly and walked on.
“What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?”…
Slightly disappointed by the lack of libation it’s name would suggest to be on offer, we moved out of the rum store to the Cathedral Chamber Landing. Again met by another incredibly grand and I’m going to say, beautiful (in an odd way) chamber. Not unlike some alien landscape we looked down into the cavern and I felt like I was in a episode of Star Trek (original of course). Descending now to the lower level, we not so much swept elegantly down the grand stair case as slipped and clambered hanging on to the cold railings as we went.
Fortunately, still in one piece, we found ourselves standing on the lower level and at the first of two pools.
Secret Underground Day Spa…
“Baby Pool” is a hollowed out chamber that is slowly filled by rainfall on the fields above, trickling through cracks and fissures in the slate before seeping back out again and into the valley. There’s a clear vision here of the men and boys aged 14 – 35 working this slate mine. The younger, charged with holding the drill bar against the rock whilst their elders would hit the steel shaft hard with sledge hammers – I am left to wondering how many times the swing was miscalculated at the drill workers expense. At the end of the day when the holes were sufficiently drilled the charge would be laid and and the blasting would begin. Until steam haulage was installed in it’s later years, the slate slabs would have to be dragged or carried up and out. We muse out loud on this ‘hard work’ and compare it to today’s tough working conditions. For my husband, sitting at his desk working on websites and photography, occasionally interrupted by the odd game on the virtual reality rig the slog is real. As I bend down to pick up “Hattie”, my girl brain wanders to the wedding prep going on upstairs, I am still jealous.
Does My Bum Look Big in These Stalactites?…
We make our way over to the “Mother Pool” picking up the hat a further 3 times before arriving not 10 yards on and hopeful of stumbling upon a lost sledge hammer. The third mining chamber, houses the bluest pool, so beautiful you want to jump in and totally reminiscent of the boat scene in Phantom of the Opera. Amazingly this water is the only supply to the owners house and the entire property. Above you can see baby stalactites and at 150 years of age they have reached a grand length of about 10cm long, reaching their full majesty in about 30,000 years. I feel young and inconsequential acknowledging this, it’s not a bad feeling.
With everything to be seen – squinted at and eventually seen, we voted on a walk through the enchanted glen and made for the blinding light piercing through the entrance. Blinky eyed, we returned our hats and with a tearful good bye to ‘Hattie’ we ascended not so ethereally into the glen. There are many different routes to take and secret parts to explore as you make your way through the forest, I am therefore not going to spoil the surprises and delights that this short walk has to offer. All I will say is it helps if you believe in faeries and if not, well it’s still pretty idyllic.
For us, believing in the wee forest folk is mandatory and we finished the day on a elaborate faerie hunt – we heard many and saw few plus 1 x dragon.
I’d imagine in the height of the holiday season, it gets pretty busy here, although I wouldn’t necessarily be put off. The price is reasonable and there are a few well stocked vending machines (no cafe) incase hunger strikes, along with a small gift shop. You can easily loose as few hours here but if you have youngsters that get bored easily, it needn’t be a lengthy attraction to visit.
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl 1916 – 1990.
I know you are probably asking where in Cornwall is this sand dune? I would like to tell you that I found a real secret here but instead this is a picture of me on one of my trips to Death Valley in CA. Once I have a nice picture of me shooting in Cornwall this will be added…
As a professional photographer and outdoor enthusiast, having the right equipment at the right price is vital for me.
Here is a list of gear that I deem essential for my travels: –
A high quality camera is important, but the best camera in any situation is the camera that you have with you.
I always travel with my trusty RX100. It takes great images, has a decent zoom range and is tiny. The video quality is great and the OLED viewfinder makes it feel like I’m shooting with a ‘real’ camera! I still use the mkiii version but iv and v are also amazing (and more money!)
A great DSLR or high end mirrorless camera is a must for professional photography. I am personally a Canon/Leica guy but you can do equally well with Nikon, Sony etc.
Any of the 5d range is amazing. I am currently using a 5dsr but with current pricing would recommend the 5ds. The 5dmiv is amazing for low light but I prefer the larger pixel count for large prints from the 5ds.
A good tripod is the most important purchase a photographer (especially a landscape/travel photographer) can make. There is nothing more debilitating than a bad tripod and a good one will last a lifetime (unlike the camera body which you will replace every few years!)
There are two main brands for me when it comes to tripods. Gitzo and Really Right Stuff.
Gitzo make fantastic carbon legs but I recently moved to a Really Right Stuff Ball head.
By far and away the best camera bags I have come across are made by Peak Design. They are incredibly well made and full of amazing innovations. Do check them out and if you buy through this link you will get a free gift!
A good, fast and reliable memory card is vital. CF or SD will be required depending on your camera. Also, invest in a decent USB3 reader. This will dramatically speed up the transfer times!
House hunting in St Agnes isn’t the worst way to spend your free time and that is exactly what we were doing when our afternoon unexpectedly freed up and we were left wondering what to do.
After a quick lunch in the recommended ‘Taphouse‘ (Surfers paradise/Mexican restaurant in appearance – decent food and drinks at a respectable price), we or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I, decided to drag my family to see something I find quite magical. Unsure if they would share my sentiment, we went ‘mine hunting’. Not the loud, explosive, dangerous kind, well not so much these days anyway but the quiet, old, majestic derelict engine houses and chimneys that litter the Cornish countryside and that I have come to (pretty much) obsess about.
I first fell completely under their spell when I was 8 and studying them at school, since then I have never been able to shake the feeling of a deeper connection. Jay, having on more than one occasion found me and without any form of libation (well…not before lunch anyways) casually conversing with these old buildings, I am fairly sure that he now thinks I am completely mad.
We had spotted a few today as we were driving between houses and I was itching to get up close. The first we found was (as is typical) in two parts. The engine house solemn in its duty of dictating the end of someones garden and it’s chimney a few yards away on a neighbours land. My longing to get close to these beautiful giants was short lived, for the rain that had started to come down with increased fervour was enough of a deterrent. We jumped back into the car and off we went, onto the next.
Blue Hills Tin Mine
The second was to our joy, sign posted. Blue Hills Tin Mine in it’s hey-day (1858 – 1897) raised some 2,117 tons of Black Tin. Today unfortunately we reached the visitors centre that demonstrates how the tin ore once was turned into tin metal and subsequently into fine tin jewellery, too late, it had closed for the afternoon.
Although a little disappointed, we turned to regard the remains of a hauntingly beautiful engine house standing before us and with unusual fortune (for the day) discovered it lay on our side of the locked gates. It stood amongst a scattering of time worn buildings each long succumbed to nature. I took my leave, scrabbling through the brambles and undergrowth until I stood at her feet looking up at her daunting facade. Derelict and overgrown she stood there austere and silent yet still seemed to hum an inaudible noise, the bustle of the men going to work and the vibrations of the heavy machinery reminiscent of another time. Aware the others were patiently waiting for me to come back to both the car and to my senses, I said my goodbyes and re-joined them.
The rain had given way to blue skies, so we decided to explore the footpath that lead to a small beach cove. We ambled along, engaged in a rather cheery conversation about the treachery of mining and all who had lived and died at these old workings. As if in answer to our thoughts, we found our selves face to face with a rather stern looking chimney and stopping for a minute, we paid our respects. By now both Jay and Evie had joined me on board the the lunacy train and we stood hands against its rough stone exterior none of us caring if fellow hikers watched on in judgement. Feeling like a new wave of tree huggers, we headed down onto Trevellas Cove.
We had been blown about by the gusting onshore wind for the best part of twenty minutes. Having walked the sandy beach and found at low tide you could walk right round the craggy outcrop at the far end to St Agnes harbour, we decided that was an adventure for another day. We clambered over the boulders left by industry and the elements, back up over the rocks that lead us down onto the sand, back through the ruins and to the car, waving our hearty goodbyes to anything that stood still long enough to listen. We had one more stop to make…
‘Wheal’ meaning ‘place of work’ or ‘mine’, this iconic engine house is a fantastic surprise to the unsuspecting visitor. We were at first greeted by two engine houses once responsible for hoisting and crushing tin. Now over 200 years old, yielding the memories of 140 miners that worked within and worn from the years standing against the unobstructed elements, these derelict buildings are still as majestic today as they ever were.
Wheal Coates Mine: 1815-1914 – produced 335 tons Copper and 717 tons of Tin. It provided the essential raw materials to feed the Industrial Revolution in Britain. By using steam engine technology originally motivated by the need to pump water out of mines it ultimately enabled the development of steam trains.
We headed down the cliff path (not so much a path), and were met by a glittering expanse of ocean. Just below us and exactly as I remembered from my school trip, there stood Towanroath engine house, sat on the edge of the cliff, overlooking the water below. The most photographed of them all for a very good reason – Wheal Coates’ Towanroath is indeed beautiful. Now owned by the National Trust, this site (along with many of the other mines around Cornwall) has celebrated it’s tenth year of UNESCO world heritage status and is definitely worth a visit.
Eventually it was time to head home, three tired and utterly mad explorers piled into the car . I take one last look over my shoulder at the ancient ruins still visible on the horizon resolutely maintaining their watch out over our waters. For us it’s home to sleep and get ready for our next adventure.
We were hungry. We had spent the morning, driving (what felt like) all over Cornwall, doing various errands. Sure everything we had on our ‘to-do’ list could have been done over a period of a few days, even weeks but with my ‘why isn’t it done already?!’ attitude in full force, there was little room for outstanding tasks in our day.
On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air…
Early afternoon found us in the concierge mecca of the West country, Newquay. As a child, I lived and schooled here but that was over 27 years back and although largely unchanged I was struggling to navigate the tourist laden streets. Driven by our appetites we made the easiest and most obvious choice for a hopefully decent lunch and headed to the Headland Hotel.
My vague memory of this award winning establishment, patronised on occasion by royalty, was that it was fancy and that my mother had taken a culinary course there at the same time they were filming Roald Dahl’s The Witches. As a massive fan of this literary giant, this was quite possibly the most exciting thing to ever happen, that and lining up for endless hours at the local cinema awaiting the first screening of Moonwalker. – I digress.
Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice…
The hotel itself was a weird and brilliant mix of high end and beach casual. The staff were fantastically friendly, each one of them engaging our ‘three-nager’ in happy conversation as we were taken through to their Terrace restaurant. We initially opted to sit outside overlooking the clifftop down to the sapphire blue water below and got settled, comfy in their cushioned sofa chairs and making contented comments such as ‘This is the life’ and ‘I could sit here all day’. The breeze was gathering strength, nothing that we couldn’t handle but little did we know the ever present threat of the hungry seagull(s) lurking just out of sight would end this particular idyll. As we sat awaiting our food, two unsuspecting holiday makers on an adjacent table were cheerfully tucking in when ‘The Gull’ came. Out from it’s hiding spot and quicker than you can say ‘I’ll have a pastie and a pint please’ it took an sandwich in it’s entirety from the hands of it’s devourer and with a smug indomitable look on it’s face (surely), flew away. At this point, we decided to move inside, thus avoiding the the inevitable meltdown and future counselling expenses should this happen to Evie.
So I called up the Captain, ‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine’…
The inside was just as pleasant, with it’s fresh, unstuffy decor and floor to ceiling windows. We re-seated and soon enough our food landed. Halloumi, mushroom and chilli jam burgers with chips were the all round adult choice, delicious and reasonably priced. The kids margarita pizza was basic as is usually the case but good and perfect for little tummies. A busy day behind us (for the most part) we indulged in a tasty crisp rhubarb gin and elderflower tonic. One out of so many options at their custom gin bar that so clearly promises an interesting (and completely un-recallable) night out. Perhaps a post for another time!
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!’…
And for those of you left wondering about those poor forlorn tourists… the hotel staff without question, replaced their missing lunch. A clear sign this grand old hotel has not lost it’s class.
“She might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of such a suggestion. Don’t let that put you off. It could be part of cleverness.
I am not, of course, telling you for one second that your teacher actually is a witch. All I am saying is that she might be one. It is most unlikely. But–here comes the big “but”–not impossible.”
We are incredibly lucky to have the beautiful Golitha Falls (old Cornish word for obstruction) on our door step. It is also incredibly convenient if you are launching a blog on stunning Cornish locations such as we are. So, off we set across the moors to our second location.
Three lazy hikers and a Cornish hog roast…
A short trip up the road and we parked up in the large car park opposite the start of our hike (gentle stroll). We had prepared for a picnic and so avoided the resident all American (save for the Cornish ice-cream) BBQ shed/restaurant ‘Inkies‘ – it smelled fantastic! We pressed on resenting our packed lunch and compensated ourselves with the promise of ice cream upon our return.
Holy local weather system Batman!
As it is always the way when we step out to visit this particular spot, it rained. Although sunny when we left home just a few miles away, the very act of arriving at Golitha Falls, seemed like a Bat-signal to the heavens. It was at this moment I realised the decision to leave behind my waterproof trousers to be a bad one.
Fortune would have it and the trees smiled on us, sheltering us from the worst of the weather, so as we forayed into the not so unknown in our rain macs, hiking boots and backpacks we were less like drowned rats and more like damp nomads.
A little less conversation, a little more information…
Golitha Falls and the ancient woodland surrounding known as Draynes Wood are mentioned in the Domesday Book but the forest management method recorded, by way of coppicing (still continued today), possibly dates back even earlier. The river Fowey (proun.- Foye) nestled in a valley gorge, cascades it’s way through this area of outstanding beauty (ANOB) and is at it’s very best after a heavy rain fall. Further along the river several large stonework structures that were associated with the Wheal Victoria copper mine can be found and hidden in amongst the undergrowth you can still discover the redundant, unobstructed entrances into the mines workings.
A natural nature reserve (NNR) and a site of scientific interest (SSI) on account of its diverse flora, Draynes wood is home to over 120 species of moss and nearly 50 species of lichens. Wildlife is in abundance here with over 80 species of moth, 30 species of birds and bats such as the lesser horseshoe, brown long-eared and nactule. Meanwhile the river boasts various fish including salmon and sea trout, and otters are frequently sighted. Draynes Wood trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order.
Down by the river bank in the depths of the forest, there be treasure…
We took the river path which is flanked by of course the river itself and a smaller stream, each running parallel to each other. Our daughter embarked on an adventure, tracing the stream in hope of discovering where it joined the main tributary. She was not disappointed, the babbling brook, almost lost at times, eventually grew in tempo and joined the roar of the main river as it flooded over the large ancient stones lining it’s bed. Our next adventure was to find a place for lunch and Evie’s main requirement, some quiet shallow water in which to paddle. So onwards we pressed. We made sure we were respectful of the forest, collecting any dropped litter, careful not to tread on any toadstools (lest the faeries become homeless) and gifting the river with fallen oak leaves (because it needed them for “fish dinner”). In return our daughter was rewarded handsomely. “Look mummy! Real treasure!” as she scrabbled around in the mulching leaves and damp soil she proudly produced a dirty old pound coin “from the trees!”
Finally we found our lunch spot. Over a newish wooden bridge and down some make do steps to the waters edge. The wild river now flowed at a sleepy pace here and as the sun started to poke once again through the clouds we sat on a wet rock and ate lunch. Twenty minutes later, sufficiently fed and soggy bottomed, we went paddling in the icy cold water, our ever optimistic daughter contentedly scouring the immediate river bed for more gold.
And the secret award for best ice cream goes to…
We returned to our car a little under four hours later not forgetting the self promised ice cream from Inkies. Moomaid of Zennor, we discovered makes a zillion delicious flavours of which we tried three, strawberry, crunchy mint chip and salted caramel. All were yummy but the salted caramel won out as top in it’s class, if you ever find yourselves in this delicious little hot spot, don’t leave Cornwall without one!
( Gol – eetha ) – Tues 17th July 2017 – Loc: Lanreath, Liskeard PL14 6RU. 3 miles (5 km) north west of Liskeard and 1.2 miles (2 km) west of St Cleer.
Golitha Falls is one of those mysterious places where if absolutely silent you really can hear the trees whispering their secrets to each other and feel the magic of something intangible. The eerie old mine shaft entrances and ethereal looking workings scattered throughout the forest give it a fantastical Tolkien like feel.
PORTLOE a fishing village hidden away and lost in time on Cornwalls coastal path.
Portloe – July 2017 – The break in the damp weather couldn’t have come at a better time, giving us the perfect excuse to get out of the house and kick start our blog – Secrets of Cornwall – Rain macs in the boot, sunglasses on, sweaters and a casual scarf to the ready, off we set, confident we had prepared for most eventualities the Cornish summertime could offer.
As it turned out our inaugural day was perfect. The sun shone and the heat in the air was beautifully tempered by the breeze from the ocean.
Locals vs holiday visitors…
We had expected Portloe to be very much like our old friend, Polperro; with its picture postcard setting, quaint houses and exceptionally busy streets. What we found was a place that felt like we had stumbled upon a great secret frozen in time. We wound our way down a footpath sized road that seemed to keep the distant coastline forever just out of reach. The drive itself was Cornwalls usual abundance of pretty hedgerows and gorgeous old stone houses. We were lucky enough to regularly afford ourselves time for a second glance as reversing became an increasingly important part of our journey, all the while musing, “if only one could drive backwards all the way it would surely save a lot of messing about”. After several seemingly impossible encounters with other road users (of various shapes and sizes), we suddenly emerged as close to the harbour as you would comfortably want to be in something non mollibus extulit (not floaty).
As is the case with most Cornish harbours/villages/towns there is usually a past that is steeped in mystery, intrigue and rum so we did a little research…
Portloe meaning harbour (porth) and inlet (logh) or ‘cove pool’ once thrived as a busy port, with a fleet of more than 50 boats working the rough Cornish waters during the 17th and 18th centuries. The pilchard they fished provided a meagre living and with taxes running high on the salt for curing, the local farmers and fishermen turned their hand to smuggling. French brandy was brought into harbour illicitly and hidden in cellars. In a vain attempt to stamp out this illegal trade, customs ordered a watch station/boathouse and slip to be erected, now a holiday home but still easily recognised as it’s original intention. Today, only two boats remain working from the cove, fishing for crab and lobster.
In more recent years the harbour has played host to a slightly less volatile ambition. Film crews have used the rugged location to shoot scenes for Disney’s Treasure Island, the 1992 serialisation of The Camomile Lawn, BBC’s comedy series Wild West and the villages’ Lugger hotel can be glimpsed at the end of 1963’s Crooks in Cloisters.
(The rum wasn’t bad either!)
A drivers guide to Cornish villages…
Back to todays adventure and having now tackled the parking conundrum, we recalled our earlier approach to this quintessential harbour village as a delightful challenge. The roads to and through Portloe really made us feel we were somehow robbed when we bought our car and since discovered that it did not posses the same ‘springy wheel’ qualities as the Ant-hill Mob in Wacky races. Such a feature would have most definitely made our encounters with other vehicles – cars, tractors etc. less traumatic. Safely in the car park, our now rumbling tummies dictated a certain urgency in figuring out which of the two eateries on offer (The Ship Inn and The Lugger hotel) we should patronise. We are suckers for a sea view so we plumped for the latter, a 17th century inn that saw a former owner sent to the gallows for smuggling and was subsequently closed. The Lugger is now a bespoke (and visitor friendly) hotel.
As we unfolded and extricated ourselves from the car, we wondered where everyone was. For July, it was incredibly quiet, almost deserted save for a scattering of locals and guest house employees going about their business.
The good hotel guide…
The hotel itself, with its white washed walls welcomed us in to its clean, fresh uncluttered interior as did the hotels concierge. We were in luck, the game was not yet afoot for the lunch rush and we had first pick of the tables. The outside balcony boasted just enough patrons to fill it’s small quota of seats and so we opted for a window seat inside the restaurant that afforded a spectacular and dramatic view.
What to eat? Something with chips was definitely the order of the day and that something we decided would come in the form of sandwiches, Cornish cheese & house chutney and smashed avocado & piccalilli. Our choice really did not allow for the resident chef to flex his/her culinary muscles and show off their full potential but nonetheless it was delicious. Sitting watching out over the harbour, closely guarded by Jacka Point and Portloe Point, the glittering water and the rugged coastline along with two full bellies left us feeling refreshed and utterly content (which is short for a little bit fat and very sleepy).
Two bloggers a Kernow rambling…
Next up, a short walk up on the cliff top to work off some of the chips and to find out what awaits us on this stretch of the South West Coast Path (a walk for another less chippy day). The views backdropped by the Cornish countryside did not disappoint. We had just enough time to take in the scenery before we had to head back to the car. As we left Portloe, deservedly accredited with ‘Cornwalls area of outstanding natural beauty’ (AONB) accentuated by it’s chocolate box, Cornish granite cottages, we felt we had spent the day in a working fishing harbour 200 years ago.
Portloe (porth – logh) – Wed 12th July 2017 – Loc: Roseland Peninsula of South Cornwall, near the picturesque village of Veryan.
Harbouring the secrets of it’s Cornish smuggling past, Portloe today plays host to both visitors and locals. Walkers passing through, often stop for a while in one of the villages quirky holiday cottages, catching a glimpse of a live long ago lived.