A Travellerspoint blog

16: Cornwall, I love it!!!!

all seasons in one day 17 °C
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It was so amazing to wake up this morning with rain beating at the window pane of my dorm room and to see small rabbits eating the grass in front of the hostel! Gosh it is such an amazing part of the world this Cornish coastline. The weather was pretty ordinary first thing this morning so I decided to kick back a bit in the hostel and really enjoy my brekky whilst I waited for a break in the weather. The rain eased up around 10 so off I went for a walk along the shoreline. The moors are really beautiful in this part of England. There isn’t much vegetation on the mountains.. just lots of small shrubs and lots of bracken. Very few trees (I think because of the amount of wind here) and just a few tufts of grass.. Really awesome. Today because of the heavy rain and wind the waves were really quite high up so the whole walk along the coast was really nice.

Decided to head back to the lodge around lunch time and go for a drive out to Land’s End (my hostel is about 5 miles from the actual Land’s End point) the point is actually privately owned and they have turned a part of it into this tacky tourist attraction.. once you get passed the tackiness the actual coastline and point is really beautiful. There was a ranger type person out at the point telling us about the birds and mammals that call Land’s End home. Normally you would be able to see seals and dolphins but none today because of the rough weather. The gulls were having a field day just because the wind was blowing so hard and they were not having to do any work to stay aloft!

From Land’s End I continued my journey around the bottom of the cape to Penzance (a largish town about 10 mins away). I stopped and had a Cornish Pasty (which was actually a bit disappointing just because it was so salty!) before continuing along to St Michael’s Mount. St Michael’s Mount is an old ruined abbey that is on this small island in the middle of the bay and when the tide is low you can walk out to the island! I chose not to walk all the way out to the island (mainly because it was getting late and I was a little worried about tides etc.) but I did get some nice pics from the land side of the island.

I finished off my day by driving back to Cape Cornwall and taking some sunset shots of the cape and the houses of St Just. A really magical end to a pretty amazing day!

Posted by weary_feet 11:52 Archived in England Comments (0)

15: Garden of Eden

all seasons in one day 17 °C
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Early start today as I couldn’t really sleep in my hostel bed (wasn’t super comfy) and there really was no reason for me to hang around Torquay any longer than I needed to, so I got up and got going to see some of the surrounding suburbs and castles on the Devon coast. Unfortunately I had gotten going too early and so nothing was open, so I settled back to just do some suburb touring… Eventually 10am rolled around and I made it to Dartmouth. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the town of Dartmouth is at the mouth of the Dart river about a 40mins drive from Torquay. It is one of those little fishing villages that you see on TV when you think of Devon or Cornwall. Small town set on the cliff, that surrounds a small inlet/ bay of aquamarine water, small fishing boats bobbing up and down… Aah! Really, really pretty. The castle itself (like most castles) is a fort and wasn’t’ actually a living space for the king or something. It was built to protect the inlet to the Dart river which at one time was a trade route to central Devon.

The castle was in itself quite boring to look around.. I more went inside so that I could climb up on the battlements and take some shots of the river and its surrounding hills. Honestly, it is a pretty glorious place to have a small castle and it’s such a beautiful day to day that I didn’t want to miss the sunshine!

From Dartmouth I continued driving south along the Cornish coastline towards Land’s End. I made another stop on my way south and this was to the Eden Project. The Eden Project was made famous by one of the James Bond movies (the one with Pierce Brosnon and the ice palace thingy in Iceland.. if you remember inside his palace the baddie had two bubbles that had inside them plants and stuff.. this is the Eden Project). The Project was setup over ten years ago and was the brain child of a local environmentalist and philanthropist. He turned this old disused open cut mine into his version of the garden of Eden. The entirety of the old mine is covered in plants and parts of it are enclosed in three huge glass bubbles that are the world’s largest conservatories. Two of the bubbles house this huge rainforest (it’s so bizarre to go from about 15 deg into a hot rainforest at well over 35 deg and humid!!) fully equipped with flying fox and viewing platforms and the other one was filled with a Mediterranean semi-arid landscape.. Quite bizarre to find this very well setup tourist attraction in the middle of nowhere!

Finally, continued my journey late in the afternoon to Land’s End. WOW is all I can say.. The hostel I’m staying in is on this wild deserted moor right on the coast. It’s an old farmhouse that has been converted into a hostel and my room looks right out over the ocean.. This is Cornwall and I’m so glad I’ve come.. its everything I thought it would be plus more!!! Outside the hostel are numerous walking trails that take you up and down the coastline and over the moor to the little neighbouring town of St Just. I went for a walk this afternoon to Cape Cornwall.. it’s almost straight up this hill but gosh it is so, so beautiful… I’m so glad I’ve got a couple of nights here on the coast.. I just wish I had’ve booked more! This is why I came to England………

Posted by weary_feet 11:37 Archived in England Comments (0)

14: The America's Cup

sunny 19 °C
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Got an early start as there really wasn’t anything happening in Portland so I decided to get cracking off to Torquay. Torquay is on the Devonshire coast and it should take a couple of hours to get there…. Well, it took me nearly all day!

What happened was, as I was leaving, the only other guy in the hostel told me I should go and see Dartmoor National Park (it sort of edges the Devonshire Coast). This sounded to me like a cracking idea so I decided that I would detour into the park to check out whatever there was to check out! I thought at the least it might have some great walking trails or something? I also had this idea that it would be much more lovelier to take the coast road rather than the main road (its classed as a freeway but really it’s only a single lane road that is normal width). Of course the coast road was as windy as it could be, and every couple of miles I would enter another one horse town that meant slowing right down to 30miles/ hr, not to mention the never ending one lane roads that you really have to watch out for oncoming traffic. Needless to say that by 1pm I was thoroughly worn out! It’s incredible how stressful driving on these windy, one lane roads can be here in England—no real ability to sit back and relax and tune out to the radio.. you have to be on your game constantly, especially as nearly every one horse town also has a fixed speed camera so you have to constantly watch what speed you are travelling at!! (No more fines for this little black duck!)

It was well after lunch time (probably around 2pm) when I finally made it to Dartmoor Nat Park. The park isn’t marked (I couldn’t find any signs anywhere) and only had a couple of roads so I finally just decided to drive to a castle (that was marked on my map as being in the park) and find out what was going on with this Nat Park (because as far as I could see it wasn’t any different to any other part of the countryside). In the case of Dartmoor, it is a national park but it is also privately owned by heaps of landowners???? There are heaps of people living in it and villages galore! Quite different to ours!! I couldn’t work out from the guys at the castle why it is a park if it is owned as they didn’t seem to know themselves.. I guess it’ll need to be something to find out on Google. Anyway, the park is nice enough (I suppose) if you like green lush farm land that uses hedges as fences but after spending all morning driving to it I felt slightly let down…

I did a super quick tour of the castle’s grounds (I wasn’t interested in seeing the interior) before getting back into the beast and heading back through Dartmoor to the coast and Torquay. For those who really like all of the juicy details, I was at Castle Drogo which is the “last ever castle to built in Britain” which was completed around 1910. The castle is a working castle, meaning it is still occupied by its owners. A small part of the castle is open to the public as are its grounds (which include a gorgeous croquet field in which you can hire mallets etc. and actually have your own game!)

Finally arrived in Torquay and got myself settled into my hostel. This one is probably one of the poorest I’ve stayed in and I wouldn’t recommend the International Backpackers to anyone thinking of travelling to Torquay! It primarily houses perm tourists (students etc. on working visas) so it wasn’t overly friendly place to hang out. I did a tour of the quay side in Torquay and again wasn’t super impressed… I guess that is probably because it reminds me a lot of a Manly type suburb that time sort of forgot… It has some really tacky tourist attractions as well as a pretty seedy strip of shops.. All in all, I wasn’t impressed with old Torquay! Dinner was some pretty cheap (and fairly tasteless) Chinese before heading back to the hostel to catch up on some emails, blogs etc. Pretty ordinary day all around!

The only thing worth mentioning about Torquay was my encounter with someone famous.. (well sort of) who should I bump into at the Torquay Yacht Club but none other than John Bertrand.. he is here racing in the America's Cup which is being held at Plymouth (half an hour down the road!!) The other famous person who is apparently hanging around is Johnny Depp who is currently shooting some Tim Burton film.. i've had my eyes peeled but so far no luck.....

Posted by weary_feet 11:24 Archived in England Comments (0)

13: Sail Boats

sunny 22 °C
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Nice leisurely start today as I had decided today to head off to Portland (a tiny island off the coast of Wheymouth).

On the way I stopped to see a ruined castle, Corfe, on the Dorset coast. It was a castle built in the early 1300s which has since gone completely to ruin. It sits high on a cliff overlooking the surrounding countryside and the sea. It was a great break this morning as the walk up to the castle was really quite picturesque. The castle is surrounded by this small medieval town which people still live in today! I was lucky today as the weather has held off so the views from the top of the castle were really magic! The grass is so green in this part of England and the sky is a really nice shade of blue! Just awesome.

After my clamber through the ruins I stopped to write a couple of postcards and had a cup of coffee before continuing my journey towards Wheymouth. The drive was probably all up about 2.5hrs but was again a bit stressful just because of all of the narrow windy streets that you have to drive in! Wheymouth is on the Dorset coast not far from Bournemouth. It is a fair sized fishing and sailing town and is to be the location for all of the sailing competitions during next year’s Olympics. I wasn’t staying in Wheymouth but just outside on a really small island that is connected to the mainland by a land bridge. This island is called Portland it is pretty specky!

I arrived at my hostel to discover that it didn’t open til 5pm so I kind of wondered what I was going to do for the next 5hrs or so whilst I waited til it opened up! I started off by wandering around the Portland castle. It was built by Henry VIII to protect the Wheymouth harbour and is more of a fort than a castle. It was used right up until WWII as a naval base and fort. Today all you can do is wander about the halls and check out the old cannons that still lie in situ waiting for a ship to attack!

From here I decided to drive up to the top of the island to see what I could see! At the top of the island is a really nice pub that has an outlook right over the Dorset coast and the Wheymouth harbour, so with the weather being so fine I whiled away a couple of hours having some lunch and soaking up the sunshine. Finally, I decided to drive right over to the other side of the island and see the lighthouse. By this stage it was getting quite late (around 4ish) so the light was just about perfect for taking photos of the surrounding sea and lighthouse! (I love it when sometimes you just fluke it!!)

I rounded out the day by enjoying a tasty dinner of lamb chops and veges and watching some idiot box in the hostel. (The hostel is totally empty—it’s just me and one other guy staying here!!) What a wonderfully relaxing day—off to Torquay tomorrow!

Posted by weary_feet 11:03 Archived in England Comments (0)

12: Standing Stones

semi-overcast 17 °C
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Stonehenge day today! I went trekking today to Stonehenge from Amesbury (the little town next door to the stones) with another lady from the hostel, Amanda. We had gotten chatting at breakfast and were both keen to actually go to Stonehenge along the path that the original Britons were thought to have used during their festivals, that is passed the King’s Barrows and walking down the ‘Avenue’.

This walk was a good 6 mile trip which both of us were happy to do, so first stop was to the local supermarket to grab something for lunch before we drove the 15min out to Stonehenge. We parked in the small town of Amesbury and started along the Heritage trail towards Stonehenge. The trail took us through people’s sheep paddocks and grain fields! I love the fact that the National Trust are allowed to build pathways through people’s land for people to walk along to see the ‘real’ Stonehenge!

About 40min into our walk brought us up the first hill to the King’s Barrows. The Barrows are small hills that must have been perfectly round (in their day) and are all neatly lined up to ring Stonehenge! It’s amazing but when you stand at Stonehenge you can see the Barrows for miles around! The Barrows are actually burial mounds. Supposedly they were capped in a white stone thousands of years ago. Therefore the archaeologists think that they would have gleamed quite brightly and would have been clearly visible from the Henge. Today they are small hillocks that ring Stonehenge (I would estimate they are a good mile away from Stonehenge though!) and I would think that the average visitor to Stonehenge would not even know that they are there!

We continued on our trek down from the Barrows and followed the ‘Avenue’ up towards Stonehenge. It is truly incredible to know that you are walking a course that people thousands of years ago walked along during their festivals! The other part that is so amazing is that we were the only ones walking along the route! Of the hundreds of tourists that visited Stonehenge today I think we were the only ones to choose to come the way the old Britons would have come! (I will make a disclaimer here to say that we wouldn’t have known about the route if someone at the hostel hadn’t told us.. it is so poorly advertised by the tourist office that it is hardly surprising that we were the one and only people walking the route) The best part about the Avenue is that as you get closer and closer, Stonehenge rises up from the hill. (This is because the Avenue is more like an old dry river bed with river banks on either side--- it isn’t an old river bed it is just the easiest way to describe what the Avenue looks like—apparently the Avenue was actually dug by hand!) So as you walk along the path on either side you have these hills and then as you slowly climb up the hill you see Stonehenge! It is a very awesome sight! And then you see the tourist buses and the hundreds of people and the Henge loses some of its glamour…

We paid our entry fee, picked up our audio guide and went inside the gates to Stonehenge. I have to say even with heaps of tourists when you get up close it is a pretty awesome sight! Stonehenge is thought to have been built over 5000 years ago and most of the large stones are thought to weigh approx 45 T each!!! That’s pretty awesome, especially when you understand how far some of the stones travelled! It is thought that some of the stones were brought from Wales! Who knows what the stones were used for- certainly there is still much debate- but nothing can take away from the symmetry of the stones, the alignment and the sheer size of the stones! I think the question that I kept asking myself is why? Why build Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain?? What was so important about that particular part of England that meant it needed to be built? What was it used for? I’m sure these are the questions that everyone walks away with, and I guess until we invent a time machine we are never going to really know the answers!

We finished our trek but continuing the journey back from Stonehenge to Woodhenge which was thought to be a henge made of oak trees (this is based on radar testing of the area). Today the oak trees have been replaced by small concrete stumps that have been built in the location of where the oak trees were buried. Woodhenge for me was more eerie than Stonehenge purely because we were the only ones at this henge and almost nothing is known as to the purpose of this henge. I guess like Stonehenge we will never know!

I probably had one of the most memorable days today and happily finished it off by eating a very tasty Indian curry back at the hostel.

Posted by weary_feet 00:23 Archived in England Comments (0)

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