Today involved a long drive to the end of Cornwall and to some very pretty sites. We were blessed with great weather, but unfortunately at some of the places, so were tons of other people!
Our first port of call was St. Ives, as in the famous riddle “As I was going to St. Ives …”. Apparently the REAL answer is “everyone” as the place was incredibly crowded and the main town parking lot was in overflow mode. I had been hoping to visit the Tate St. Ives and especially to seeing the work and studio of Barbara Hepworth, the sculptor that was particularly featured at the Kroller Muller Museum in the Netherlands we visited earlier this trip. Alas, this was not to be. Apart from the crowds, the parking lot is quite a distance from, and above the town center and it would have been too much for my dad to walk there and back.
So instead we decided to move on to a driving tour of the very Southwest of England. Driving through Penzance, our first stop was the Merry Maidens, an ancient stone circle in a farmer’s field of 19 stones, said to be maidens who were turned into pillars, Lot’s Wife style, for dancing on Sunday. Hmmm, since the stones predate Christian times, sounds a bit post facto to me.
Driving on, we got to pretty Portcurno with its beautiful seaside vista. The Greek style Minack Theater is here, set into the cliffside, but which requires a non-trivially priced ticket just to visit. Since we were only stopping, and since Dad would not be able to climb down and back up, we contented ourselves with the lovely view and drove on a couple more miles west, to the the most westerly point in England, Land’s End. There are more westerly points in Scotland and Northern Ireland, so perhaps this should not be such a big deal, but it is an iconic spot.
One of my pet peeves is being gouged for parking. I understand in cities and towns with limited space and expensive property that parking is going to cost. In the UK, it is virtually impossible to avoid “Pay and Display” parking, even in smaller hamlets, but often it is just a nominal cost. At Lands End, they charge £6 for parking, even though the “lot” is just a grassy field. This is open countryside with nothing nearby, so I can only surmise that such a fee is simply a tourist tax.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at nearby Sennen Cove, where I watch surfers enjoying the waves. Apparently North Cornwall has a strong surfing culture, which in South Cornwall, it is sailing.
Heading north along the coast we drove about an hour and a half to the very small Cornish fishing village of Port Isaac. In many respects this is just a typical, very quaint Cornish fishing village, except that it is the stand in for the fictional town of Port Wenn in the popular British television series “Doc Martin“. Kelly and I enjoyed watching many seasons of the program that I would describe as a brilliant London surgeon with Aspberger’s Syndrome who suddenly can’t stand the sight of blood and essentially runs away to the countryside to setup a general practitioner’s doctor’s office in a small village near where he spend his youth. It is quite funny and full of quirky characters, as well as being a love story. The Cornish countryside plays a big role in the series, with Port Wenn perhaps the jewel in the crown.
We knew we would see some familiar spots from having seen the series on TV, such as the Doctor’s house (in reality a house that can be rented for holiday stays – the interiors are shot elsewhere). What we did not know was that they would be filming new episodes when we got there and we would see virtually everyone in the cast, so that was a bit treat.
They are about to wrap up filming for the season, so it was pure luck that we arrived on a day when they were filming. And yes, I mean filming. This is perhaps the last UK TV series to be shot on real film.
After an enjoyable day out, it was another hour and three quarters to drive back to Torquay. A long day in the car, but one with lots of very pleasant sites. At some point, I would like to come back to this area, but hopefully next time will fly into Newquay, the local airport, and cut out hours of driving to get here.