When we decided on our next holiday, 9 of us friends and family, in the last week of 2015, we expected to visit a place with Wild Seas, Salty Lips, Sandy Toes, White Surf, Sea Spray, Hidden Coves - for the cure for anything is Salt Water - Sweat, Tears or the Sea. The preference was unanimous. Cornwall.
When you look at Cornwall on the map, it would appear that there is a bit of arrogance and non-conformity to norms. The South-West corner of the British Isles is like a foot that wants to go off in a different direction. For the Cornish Riviera is unlike any other part of England which is known for it's lush green countrysides and gentle rolling landscapes. Here is a peninsula with rugged landscapes and towering cliffs. On the north and west, it overlooks the Celtic Sea and to the South, the English Channel. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean on the Celtic Sea does bring about the wild and fickle nature of the weather to the northern and the western parts of the county. Supposed to have the mildest temperatures in the entire United Kingdom due to it's southerly latitude, it is no wonder that Cornwall is a retirees haven. It is said that extreme temperatures are rare, but extreme weather is common.
This holiday was intended, from the very beginning, to be a short but relaxing one to bring a hectic year to a gentle closure. It was also meant to prove to ourselves that a group holiday is a lot more fun and to me, personally, it meant that we have plenty of hands to carry the tripod around! However, as with the holiday to Yorkshire Dales, it was not without a plan! We had made a list of places to visit, planned the route well in advance and also added a flexibility factor of abandoning anything that cannot be done without feeling guilty about it. That last bit came in particularly handy eventually, as we had to abandon quite a few places from our plans due to bad weather.
In order to minimise the travel times to and from various places and attractions, we booked ourselves a couple of cottages smack in the centre of the county - an area known as Bodmin Moors that is dominated by dramatic granite moorland and a landscape that is full of ruins of disused tin and copper mines. While the holiday cottages were part of large chain of holiday rentals, we did have a bit of a horrid time with lack of water and lack of attention to issues faced by the guests and we had to assert ourselves a bit forcibly to get our issues resolved. If you can help it, please avoid Hengar Manor Country Park.
With 9 people cramped in 2 cars from 2 opposing corners of London, travelling together was always going to be a bit of a challenge. While the group of 4 departing Dartford took the M25, M3, M5 and A30 as the principal routes, the group departing Ruislip opted for M4, M5 and A30 routes. The 2 groups had timed the departure precisely that we both arrived at Exeter Services on Junction 30 on M5 within 15 minutes of each other to join hands. The weather played it's part with steady rain en route thus necessitating more stops along the way.
On reaching the holiday rentals, it was well past 4 pm and it was getting really dark. So, the evening was spent indoors with some fun and games and "home-cooked" dinner. The boys were meant to step out in the night to try and photograph the night skies and, if lucky, the Milky Way, however, the rains continued to lash out throughout the night thus forcing everyone indoors.
The next morning, when we woke up, there was a bit of a break in the weather and soon we were ready and on our way to our first attraction.
Trebah Gardens is a sub-tropical Garden with miles and miles of foot-path leading to a secluded beach. It is a great place for a day out with family and kids and there are plenty of flora to take in as one traverses the length and breadth of the estate. As a group, we were quite keen on taking advantage of the weather on offer as the forecast for the day was expected to be pretty abysmal - windy and rainy. We took a few pictures along the way and soon descended to the secluded beach, Polgwidden Cove, for some fun time. After about 3 hours spent at Trebah Gardens it was time to head out to the next port of call.
And we set off to Land's End, a coastal landscape that is notoriously wild with steep cliffs and massive waves, coming off the Atlantic, that continuously churn the waters below into a maelstrom of froth and frenzy. In an unexpected twist to the proceedings the winds picked up and soon we were driving in gale force conditions. Under ideal conditions, the 38 mile journey from Trebah Gardens to Land's End would take roughly 75 minutes. We took nearly 2 hours to reach Penzance which is 10 miles short of Land's End. It was a good time to get away from the winds and the rains if only to grab hold of some late lunch - it was already nearing 4pm and the light levels had dropped significantly in the preceding 30 minutes and now bordered on darkness. After about 30 minutes, when we thought, rather than felt, that the winds have dropped down a notch, we decided to continue towards Land's End - darkness or not. The 20 minute journey from Penzance now took about 45 minutes and we were the only 2 cars headed towards Land's End when all the other vehicles were returning!
When we arrived at Land's End it was nearly dark, but as soon as we stepped out of the car, the winds were howling and we could hear the waters of the Atlantic crash on the cliffs. We soon took up the coastal path walk, in near darkness, and the 15 minute walk to the edge of the cliffs was pretty eventful - walking into a 40 - 50 mile headwind was extremely awkward. And what we witnessed was one that cannot be erased from our memories for a very long time. The huge waves were rolling in from the Atlantic and crashing into the rocks below, but the sea-spray reached all the way up to where we stood - about 60 metres above the sea level. We were hardly able to hear each other in the tempestuous weather, so we signalled to each other that it was time to head back in the direction we came. The image of Land's End you would see on the video clip below was from an earlier visit when things were a lot calmer.
We soon left Land's End behind and headed back to our cottage upcountry and after a quick freshening up, we had another evening of fun and games.
The next morning, we were pleasantly surprised that despite the weather wreaking havoc the previous evening, it was sunny, but we were told that it wouldn't last the entire day as more weather-front was approaching.
It was time to head to Perranporth - a small seaside town famous for it's big Atlantic swells and miles of spectacular beaches. The place is very popular with water-sport enthusiasts and the busy village has plenty of small eateries. There is also a natural open air pool that fills with salt water in low tide. However, we were fascinated by the stunning coastal walk that ascends over the cliffs, from the beach, and looking out into the Atlantic. After some good time hiking and walking up the cliffs, we decided to take a break and use the good weather, albeit temporary, to capture some pictures - as until that time, we were only carrying the gear with us without ever actually getting an opportunity to photograph - mainly due to the weather. Soon, the winds started to pick up and we all decided to head back to our cars before getting pounded by more stormy weather. After some cornish ice-creams at one of the eateries in the village, we headed back to the cottage - as we clearly knew that visiting another place was not worth the risk in such weather conditions.
On arrival at the cottage, some of us decided to make use of the heated indoor swimming pool and soon the light faded out and the day drifted off into another uneventful night.
The next morning, it was time to check out of our Holiday Cottages and head back to London and all along the way, it rained continuously until we reached home. It was the second time that my own visit to Cornwall was jinxed by bad weather. The group was keen to have another go at Cornwall but this may have to wait a while as we were on the eve of the New Year ushering in 2016.
At the end of the day, you can book a holiday but you can't book the weather and this is rather more pertinent with holidays in the British Isles.