28 May 2010

Arghhh Matey! - A weekend in Cornwall

Penzance - the name automatically makes me think of pirates. I didn't even realise it was a real place until I moved to England! After spending so much time on the European continent - I decided I would devote some time to seeing England. Penzance is in Cornwall, the very South West tip of England. It is about 500kms from London. As I only had the weekend, I decided an overnight bus on Friday would make the most of my time.

The bus was due to depart at 11pm, so I was there nice and early, about 10:40pm. I waited in what i thought was the coach station (I have caught plenty of buses to the airport from there) for about 15 minutes. I couldn't see my bus and there was hardly anyone around. I asked a bus driver where the 404 service left from, and he told me over the road. As I turned to run he yelled after me "you've missed it". All I could think was, there is no way I'm going to miss this bus!

I ran accross the road and couldn't see anything, then out of the corner of my eye I spotted the coach station. I ran in and was surprised - it was huge! Like an airport or something. I ran past all the terminals looking for the 404. Then I saw it about 50m ahead pulling out onto the road. I ran after it - thank god it stopped at the lights just down the road. I got the drivers attention and pleaded that he let me on... But the answer was a firm no. All my plans were falling down around me. Then he said - you can get the 406 and change in Portsmouth, as the two buses meet there at 6am. I wasn't happy, but there was still a glimmer of hope.

The 406 wasn't due to depart until 11:30pm. When it pulled up I walked over to explain my situation to the driver. As it turns out, he was the guy that had told me earlier that I had missed the 404. He was a bit of a dick to be honest - he didn't really want to let me on, but in the end I managed to talk him around. I was not thrilled that I would have to wake at 6am to swap buses, but at least I would get there.

Although there was plenty of room in the bus, it was one of the most uncomfortable trips I have ever taken. I had maybe two hours of interupted sleep. So having to wake up at 6am were the least of my worries. We got to Portsmouth right on time, I jumped out, and within minutes the 404 drove around to pick me up. Thats one good thing I can say about National Express - the buses work like clockwork. This bus was much more comfortable, which just rubbed salt into the wound.

We pulled into Penzance about 9am, and I wandered over to the hostel to drop my gear. I could have taken an hour for a power-nap, but thats just not my style. I headed straight back out to take a look around. I walked down along the coast and headed back into town.

There were three things I wanted to see while in Penzance. Lands End, St Michaels Mount, and the Minack Theatre. With two days, I didn't think that was particularly ambitious.

My luck with public transport from the previous weekend in Sicily had not changed. There was literally only a bus every two to three hours, which made getting around somewhat difficult. I went into the tourist office, and found two extremely helpful woman, who gave me plenty of ideas, but unfortunately couldn't make the buses run any more frequently. St Michaels Mount was closed that day, but the following day there was an open day, so it was free to get in. So it made sense to put that off until Sunday. There was a bus to the Minack, but there was no return bus for about five hours. I had been told the theatre is cool, but not THAT cool. So it seemed as though I was going to have to give something a miss. I even went and enquired about hiring a car, but it was going to be about £80 for the day, which was a little out of my price range. In the end I made up my mind, and decided on Lands End over the theatre - simply because the transport services there were ever so slightly better. I waited around for an hour and jumped on a bus.

Lands End was a bit of an anti-climax. It seems like they have tried to make it into a bit of a tourist attraction, having rides and a movie theatre there. There is a lighthouse just off the coast on a small island, and some rugged coastline, and a sign that says 'Lands End'.

I had been told there was a beautiful beach called Sennen about a mile away, so with at least two hours until the next bus, I had time to kill. The coastline was really nice; huge cliffs and crashing waves - I even saw a shipwreck. On the hills above Sennen I saw a guy paragliding - check out below pics. The beach at Sennen itself looked perfect. I thought I was back in the Mediterranean - white sands and clear blue water.

I made my way back to Lands End with about 30 minutes to spare before the next bus. After studying my map for some time I realised that the Minack theatre was actually just around the coast a bit. I went into the information centre and asked for directions. Turns out it was at least 5 miles (8kms). I looked at my bus timetable and there was one departing Minack in 3.5 hours time. On two hours sleep, and having already walked two miles, I decided to give it a go.

The coastline was spectacular. There are no other words for it. There were rolling hills covered in flowers, massive cliff faces, rocky shores, and beautiful secluded beaches. I literally took hundereds of photos, as every time I got to a new bay it was too amazing to not to take photos.

The walk was hard going, but I am really glad I did it. Along the way I met a friendly older couple and got chatting. When we came across a small village they even stopped to buy me a cup of tea. I also saw some crazy rock climbers. They had reached the top of the rock faces, and were standing on top of a 100m drop with no harness. Mental.

I finally reached the Minack about 30 minutes before closing. Needless to say I would NOT have been impressed if it was closed. The Minak Theatre is an open air theatre built into a rocky cliff face. A woman named Rowena Cade planned, financed and literally built the majority of the theatre. What she has created is very impressive.

I made it to the bus with only 5 minutes to spare. Later that evening I headed out for a dinner of fish and chips at the Turks Head - The oldest pub in Penzance dating back to 1233. The pub has a huge history - it was sacked by Spanish pirates in 1595!

After a huge day I was completely exhausted. I made my way back to the hostel via the harbour to get a few shots at night. I was in bed soon after and had no trouble sleeping.

The next morning the weather had clouded over and it was looking gloomy. The bus service was so poor that I decided it would just be easier to walk to St Michaels Mount - about 4 miles (6.5km). Along the way while crossing a small river I managed to get my foot completely soaked and a shoe full of sand. Perfect.

There is a causeway out to the mount which can only be passed four hours of the day at low tide. I arrived just as the water was dropping away. They were really making a big deal of the open-day, with plenty of bands and other entertainment. The castle was not what I expected on the inside. It was like an old victorian house. I found the 'Chevy Chase' room, not quite sure what that was about. Plenty of art and amazing views over the coast. Unfortunately the weather kept deteriorating and it looked as though the skies were about to open.

After I had a good look around I made my way down the hill. Just as I was walking across the causeway it started to rain. As the bus wasn't due for another hour, I found the nearest pub and stopped in for a bite to eat and a local cider.

The rest of the afternoon was quite uneventful. I headed back to the hostel for a bit to dry out, before heading to catch my train back to London.

All in all, Penzance was cool. It wasn't a very happening place - but I think things pick up in summer. The scenery was spectacular - the beaches reminded me of the Mediterranean (although the water was a little colder). I think I will echo the remarks I made from my trip to Sicily - its not on the 'must do' list, but if you get the chance to go, take it. One quick piece of advice though - hire a car!


  1. wow Neal, what stunning scenery :)

  2. It reminds me of regal novels that I'm reading some time.

  3. I entered this site by chance, but I found very interesting. A greeting to all the people who visit this page.

  4. Penzance sounds like a good place to go for a quiet break from the maddness of London life. And you aint joking about hiring a car mate.

  5. This is a beautiful spot to visit I have fond memories of my visit there! This is where I learnt to drin Drambuie

  6. Thanks for these helpful tips..This is very much useful for everyone. Keep it up.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...