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A Trip to the West Country, part 1

Every single person to whom we said, "We're going to Cornwall!", replied, "Are you going to see the Eden Project?" We were, but I was still surprised by the ubiquity of the question. Most of them followed up with a recommendation to see the Lost Gardens of Heligan, but our trip was brief enough that we didn't make time for it. Cornwall's gardens are now its primary identifier. It's always had a warmer climate than the rest of England. Its mining heritage still comprises a fair number of museums. The seashore is gorgeous, attract hikers and surfers. It has an excellent collection of standing stones and stone circles, and later ruins. There is much more to Cornwall than the Eden Project.

What would have been the default response before five years ago when those gardens first opened? What would I have been asked if I was going to see? Before this trip, I'd always primarily associated Cornwall with Arthuriana, and indeed, as a good medievalist, Tintagel was our other major stop on this brief trip. Strangely, I'd forgotten it was mining country. (I need to do more mining tourism! Much more!) The Gulf Stream enfolds the land there, but never having been any nearer to southwest England than Salisbury, up until my trip to Bath last month, I'd never seen any land near it for myself. Cornish pasties were all I knew about any local food identities.

I took a new approach to planning the trip. For Scotland, I used the AA Best Places to Stay for Food Lovers. We weren't best successful with the results, so this time I prioritized the restaurants: I chose our hotels based on their restaurants appearing in The Good Food Guide.

But first, to break up the driving, we stopped in the Cotwolds.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
I think clotted cream would have figured strongly in any suggestions, and possibly St Michael's Mount. Personally I love the Chysauster Iron Age village, way down into the Penwith peninsula.

Not only is it mining country, ISTR that the first mention of these islands in the classical written record is a reference to tin from said mines. This is old technology. But you knew that. *g*

It's always worth having a copy of The Good Pub Guide as well for travelling - food as well as beer is given a lot of space - and you can find very good places to stay.
Jan. 9th, 2007 09:14 am (UTC)
Of course, clotted cream! St. Michael's Mount I knew I'd missed. Chysauster I haven't read about. (And our one morning's attempt to see stone circles didn't work out too well thanks to extremely low clouds in a rocky landscape with no signage and no successful parking-and-looking jobs.

I love the idea that tin mining is the earliest reference! I hope it's true. Contracts and commodities do comprise most of the earliest extant writing.
Jan. 9th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
I love the idea that tin mining is the earliest reference! I hope it's true. Contracts and commodities do comprise most of the earliest extant writing.

According to Wikipedia Pytheas was teh first to mention the islands and did mention Cornish tin, already being traded. I had a vague memory there was something earlier, but I'm probably eliding other references and assuming there was some Phoenician document.

Chysauster is well worth the trip. If you're interested in such settlements, at least.

Jan. 8th, 2007 11:54 pm (UTC)
I've been visiting Cornwall every few years for maybe 40 years and I've never been to the Eden project and the only gardens I'd rate are at Llanhydrock. For me, the best of Cornwall is the fgar west and that out of season. I'll take the cliffs at Sennen and Bosigran or the moors between Penzance and St Ives with their astonishing neolithic and bronze age sites over the gentler country further east anytime.
Jan. 9th, 2007 09:16 am (UTC)
We were just sticking our first toe in the Cornish waters - so to speak - with this trip. We certainly succeeded in being there out of season. The first week of January let us book anything we wanted only a few days in advance. But we weren't out of a fairly tame landscape, except insofar as the coastline near Tintagel is cliffs and foam. Thank you for the recommendations of places to go nex time!
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:40 am (UTC)
I guess the other thing I'd say about visiting Cornwall is that it really rewards people prepared to get out of their cars and walk a few miles. I can recall walking from Newquay to Tintagel and arriving to see dozens of people huddled in their cars looking out miserably over an admittedly blustery Atlantic while I'd just enjoyed a half day walking over some of the finest cliff scenery on the coast. Again, for my money, west Penwith has the finest coastal hiking but the whole north coast is pretty good.
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:45 am (UTC)
The Rough Guide too recommended hiking as the best way to see Cornwall. The only degree to which we took any advantage of that was at Tintagel, where we followed some of the paths along the sea cliffs, and approached it from a nearby vista cliff instead of directly. Dartmoor was the biggest waste of walking (not that that's in Cornwall) since we mostly drove through it. Also, it was raining and foggy for most of our time on it, so even the half-dozen times we stopped and looked around, it wasn't the most heartening weather for beginning a longer walk.
Jan. 9th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)
Off the Cornwall topic, but are those Yo!Sushi places any good? And do they really have little robot trolley serving the drinks? I just heard of them today.
Jan. 9th, 2007 09:04 am (UTC)
Conveyor-belt sushi! Yes, they're reasonably good. I tend to go for the non-sushi items, like dumplings and fritters and salads, but it's almost all Japanese-style. The ones I've been to don't have a little robot trolley serving the drinks. The wait staff does that - except for the water, for which there are taps on the table. And not just taps for still water, but sparkling as well!
Jan. 9th, 2007 09:05 am (UTC)
Which is to say, I like sushi, but at Yo!Sushi and Itsu and the like, I generally prefer the non-sushi offerings.
Jan. 9th, 2007 08:41 am (UTC)
Tate St Ives, with particular reference to the Hepworths? (I was wondering about extending my trip to Exeter that didn't in the event happen because of lurghi, and found that the train took 3 hours from Exeter to St Ives, at least one change, and stopping everywhere. This rather deterred me from pursuing this project.)
Jan. 9th, 2007 09:08 am (UTC)
Exeter sounded like a lovely city from the guide book. It sounds like it's worth a trip on its own. I'd love to see the Tate St. Ives, but would probably need to abandon C. to do so. He's quite abandonable (especially on good weather days with good photographic opportunities), but we only had about two-and-a-half days down there. Next time.
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)
I love Cornwall - I honeymooned in Falmouth - but haven't travelled there in a while. Since my last visit they built the Eden Project, as you mention. I really want to go back...
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:15 am (UTC)
With Cornwall I associate:

Dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, ruined mining towers, bleak landscape on open seascapes, Tintagel and surrounding Arthurian legends, Mousehole (and other tiny fishing villages), pasties, St Michael's Mount, and beautiful sunsets over the sea.

I keep forgetting the Eden project exists. *looks somewhat shamed*
Jan. 9th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Had I only talked to you about it, I wouldn't have begun to think that EVERYone asks about the Eden Project when Cornwall is mentioned!

We inevitably seemed to be in valleys for sunset, which means that we didn't see much of them, alas.
Feb. 2nd, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
One more comment...
Hello! ;)
heh... what unhinged comments!
what do U think about it?
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )