25 – 27 May
Finding somewhere to stay in Cornwall over a Bank Holiday weekend proved to be extremely difficult. After some desperate internet searching and many phone calls, we stumbled across the Innis Inn, near St Austell. Perfect, we thought. A miracle. We would ultimately be proved hilariously wrong. But what an experience it was!
The Innis Inn really is in the middle of nowhere. After arriving in St Austell, we caught the bus out to Penwithick, then walked several kilometres to find the Inn. It’s a hostel/campsite with a pub smack-bang in the middle. As we approached with our bags, we were met by the campsite manager with an apologetic face and informed that there had been a mix-up with the bookings. We were heartily assured that a room would be found for us and ushered into the pub kitchen for a cup of tea. In the kitchen we found the cooks hurriedly preparing for a wedding reception happening that very evening at that very pub. Passing by the wedding cake, we left our bags and were strongly encouraged to go for a long walk, by which time the accommodation muddle would be completely sorted. It being a sunny day and having no real alternative, we obliged and spent a lovely afternoon walking through the local bridle trails. Cornwall really is a stunning place. We passed several trout fisheries and clay mounds (remnants of the ceramic industry here).
Arriving back at the Inn in the early evening, we were welcomed into a twin room with ensuite. We’d no sooner shut the door and sunk down on the beds in relief than we were hastened out again with a further apology – it turned out that room had already been booked. Instead, we were led to an old caravan outside that the campsite manager “only slept in now and then.” Bemused and tired, we sat down in the sunshine outside the caravan as carloads of well-dressed wedding guests began to arrive, followed later on by a blasting 80s and 90s soundtrack into the early hours of the morning.
Accommodation aside, Cornwall was an exciting place to explore. The Eden Project was within walking distance and it was an extraordinary place. It’s an enormous, purpose-built garden and educational charity that also plays host to some epic music gigs over the course of the year. Its main features are two enormous biomes with their own incredible habitats. The Rainforest biome was filled with exotic trees, herbs and crawling plants and suffused with an almost stifling warmth, whereas the Mediterranean biome was sultry and intoxicatingly filled with fruit trees and herbs. There was an enviable outdoor vegetable garden filled with heirloom plant varieties, huge sculptures made of recycled materials, and a fun kid’s area about insects complete with microscope slides of butterfly wings, a dress-up area and a velcro wall.
|Biomes at the Eden Project, Cornwall.|
|Recycled sculpture, Eden Project, Cornwall.|
|Look Mum and Dad! I really am a butterfly princess.|
|Meanwhile, Lyndsay makes an excellent flower.|
After a sunshine-filled day at the Eden Project, we hesitantly returned to the Innis Inn where we now met the pub manager, hereafter dubbed “Crazy Spanish Lady” because I never did catch her name. She apologised for the previous night’s mix-up and informed us that in fact, there had been plenty of rooms available and we should never have talked to the campsite manager. She showed us to a double room where we tentatively moved our belongings and spent a second, baffled, night at the Inn.
High on Lyndsay’s list of UK spots-to-see was Land’s End, the most southerly point of Britain. Thus we determined to day-trip out. Unfortunately, we needed to get back into St Austell, and the buses were running on a very limited timetable due to the Bank Day Holiday. After a painful conversation with Crazy Spanish Lady, we also discovered that the local taxis don’t like to operate early in the morning. She assured us that it would only take an hour to walk back in to the train station. To be honest, after our experience so far, we should have known better than to trust her judgement….
The next morning found us up and showered a little after 4am, rugged up against the freezing cold and out the door by 5am. We opted for the bridle paths instead of the main roads, as per Crazy Spanish Lady’s instructions. This was to prove a mistake, as the bridal paths looped back on themselves and actually cover much more distance. After finally realising this, we cut back onto the highway and eventually made it to the train station around 7.30am – after nearly two and a half hours of walking in the cold dawn. Nevertheless, we managed to catch the next train down to Penzance, arriving just before 9am. We walked along the blustery sea-front to Marazion, with the beautiful St Michael’s Mount looming offshore. It was high tide by the time we arrived, so we caught a dinghy over to the craggy island to explore the Mount. Initially a monastery, a church was first built here in 1135 after an apparition of Archangel St Michael much earlier in 495 AD. It was a popular destination for pilgrims and it certainly remains a stunning setting. The Mount clings to the rocky face, battered by the wind and rain. When the monasteries were eventually dissolved, in 1599 Queen Elizabeth decided to sell the Mount, and after passing through a series of hands it was purchased by Colonel St Aubyn, and has remained the Aubyn family home from 1659 – 1954, until the family donated it to the National Trust. It’s a pretty spectacular place to live. As such, it’s an eclectic mix of ancient monastic wings, the church itself, and more modern additions. But somehow, it works and it feels safe and cosy against the elements outside. At low tide, the causeway to the mainland is revealed and it’s possible to walk back and forth from the Mount.
|St Michael’s Mount in the distance, Marazion.|
|St Michael’s Mount, Marazion.|
|The view to the sea from St Michael’s Mount.|
|Archangel St Michael fighting Satan, St Michael’s Mount Church.|
|View along the exposed causeway to St Michael’s Mount.|
With the rain reaching torrential levels and the wind rising, we walked back to the mainland on the causeway, eerily revealed by the departing tide. Armed with one-pound ponchos from Poundland, we caught the bus out to Land’s End, wandered along the cliff-tops and got even more thoroughly drenched. The weather was truly dismal, which was a shame because the area has some incredible walking trails. Unable to do any hiking, we ignored the strange fair-ground assortment of rides and shops and soaked up the view. Interestingly, Land’s End forms the end-point of the “End to End” journey from John O’Groats in Scotland, a trip that covers the entire length of mainland Britain. It’s been covered in amazing times by athletes, both cyclists and runners; as well as wacky methods such as rollerblading and walking in the nude. Gosh the Brits are crazy.
|View from Land’s End.|
N.B. We did manage to get back to the Inn via train and splurging on a taxi for the final leg. The campsite manager very kindly gave us a lift to the train station when we finally left the Inn the next day. He was a lovely man. The entire operation at the Inn was just very dubious.