Skye, part 3

October 6, 2014

Our last full day on Skye! The weather was overcast, and rain was likely to come at some point during the day. We had planned to get going earlier today, but as it turned out we didn’t get going until nearly 10 am. We headed up the A87 towards Uig, where we planned to visit the Fairy Glen.

None of us really knew where the Fairy Glen was, except that Rosemary thought it might be up behind the Uig Hotel. But we didn’t see any signs there, so we continued into Uig. We went into the pottery shop there for a look around, but in the end nothing really appealed to us. Then we continued up the Trotternish Peninsula, still not seeing any signs. After about half an hour we stopped a couple driving the other way along the road and asked them if they knew where it was; it turned out that they were planning to go there too but didn’t really know, so we turned around and followed them back to Uig.

Outside the hotel we caught a tour-bus driver who pointed to the narrow road that went up behind the hotel. It’s too bad that Rosemary wasn’t really sure of this route as it would have saved us an hour of unnecessary driving!

Fairy Glen

Fairy Glen

There were no signs for the Fairy Glen up this road either, but Caroline recognized it as soon as she saw it. It was an enchanting area with a little pond and some small green hills, and a strangely-shaped rock tower (known as Castle Ewan) in the centre. We wandered over the hills for a bit and then climbed up the tower, not for any great view but just to be firmly in the centre of the area. We were lucky with the weather; only a few raindrops fell but we did have strong gusts of wind.

Fairy Glen castle

Fairy Glen castle

Back in the car we headed down to the south of the island, stopping at craft shops along the way. In Broadford we bought a framed print of the Old Man of Storr to take home with us. We also ate our packed lunch before driving down the A851 to Armadale, which was our main destination for the afternoon. At Armadale we could see across the Sound of Sleat to Mallaig, which the two of us had visited on the Jacobite Steam Train, the year we had done our long walks in Scotland.

Armadale Castle

Armadale Castle

We went into the Armadale Castle for a look around. The castle had been owned by Lord Macdonald of Skye and it had been a grand place, but it had been abandoned in the 1920’s and now it’s just a ruin. And since it was now October, there weren’t many flowers in the gardens. However there was a very good museum which chronicled the history of Clan Donald Skye and of the people of the Scottish Highlands in general, from about the year 500 until the 19th century, when they were (sort of) integrated into British society. There was also a place where you could research your Macdonald ancestry, but as far as we know we don’t have any Macdonald ancestors.

Armadale Castle gardens

Armadale Castle gardens

From Armadale we headed back, with a longish diversion to Elgol. On the way there we stopped at a gloomy castle which was a showroom for jewellery and knives. But the jewellery was way out of our price range and we didn’t need any dirks, no matter how finely tooled. Elgol was at the end of the road, looking across the water to the Cuillin Hills. There was almost nothing there, but we bought a few things at the little shop before heading back.

Elgol

Elgol

Rosemary had seen a sweater that she thought she liked at the Skyeskins tannery when we visited there earlier in the trip. They were open until 6 pm, but it was getting late and they were at the far end of the island so it would be touch-and-go whether we could get there in time. The clock ticked on as we rocketed along the narrow roads, and we pulled into the Skyeskins car park at 6:01 pm. The owner was just closing up, but didn’t want to miss a sale so he let us in and Rosemary bought the sweater.

Farewell to Skye

Farewell to Skye

The sun was getting low in the sky and was very beautiful, so we drove down to the water’s edge before going back to the cottage. Dinner was spaghetti and sauce with sausages in it, along with clean-out-the-fridge as we are leaving early tomorrow morning. After dinner we started the process of packing up, as well as cleaning up the cottage, so bedtime was a bit later than usual.

October 7, 2014

We had cleaned the cottage and mostly packed our bags last night, so when we got up at 6 am we only had to eat breakfast and finish up the last cleaning and packing. So we were on our way to Inverness by 6:45 am. Luckily for us although it was still dark outside, there was no wind or rain or traffic so the drive went smoothly. However it got light quite quickly, and before long we had to slow down for a pair of red deer crossing the road in front of us.

In Broadford we stopped at the Cooperative to buy gas and also to dispose of glass bottles at the recycling point, after which we carried on over the Skye Bridge to the mainland. We returned to Inverness the way we had come, through Glen Shiel and past Loch Ness. We saw a moor with a dozen red deer and a field with about a hundred pheasants—good news for Highland hunters!

We filled the car up with gas again in Inverness again before dropping it off at the Hertz office. It didn’t take long to do the paperwork and get a ride to the airport, so we were in plenty of time. Caroline had checked us all in; the boarding process went smoothly and soon we were on our way south. Along the way we saw some views that we recognized, especially Loch Lomond.

Once we arrived at Luton Airport we claimed our checked bag and headed out to the shuttle bus stop. The bus was there so we got on and luckily it left quite soon. The trip into London took over an hour and the traffic was terrible! We wondered how the driver could possibly keep to a schedule and decided maybe he couldn’t. Anyway the bus dropped us off outside Liverpool Street Station, from where it was only a short walk to Caroline’s flat.

We were planning on doing some walking while in London, but Rosemary didn’t really have suitable shoes for city walking. So later in the afternoon we walked along the Regent’s Canal towpath over to the Cotswold Outdoor shop in Islington High Street. They had some suitable walking shoes, in her size, so we bought them and also two books about the Thames Path, one for London and the other for outside London. Caroline had a 15% discount code which even worked on sale-priced items, so we were happy about that. Back at Caroline’s we had dinner then a quiet evening.

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Skye, part 2

October 4, 2014

This morning the weather looked quite promising for our day of planned walks. We had breakfast and then made packed lunches to take with us, heading out a bit before 10 am.

Our first walk, the Quiraing, took about half an hour to drive to. It was easy to find the car park because it was quite full of cars and tour buses. Just as we got there a heavy rain shower arrived, producing a beautiful rainbow. We sat in the car and waited for it to finish, then got out to don our rain gear and head out.

Us at the Quiraing

Us at the Quiraing

We chose the higher of the two routes, which would take us up to the headland and look down over the Quiraing. It took us about half an hour to reach the height of land and as we climbed we were regretting the warm clothing we had worn. There was no more rain and the views got better and better. The Quiraing is a collection of pinnacles, blocks, and buttresses. These strange cliffy features had been produced by erosion and landslips, and they had names like “The Needle” and “The Table”. Looking down on them was quite spectacular.

The Quiraing

The Quiraing

From the high point, Meall na Suiramach, our trail descended to a stile over a fence and then dropped down into a lovely valley below the rock formations. We walked past a huge tilted square block called “The Prison” and then we came to The Needle, which is a shaft of rock 40 meters high. From below, the formations really did tower over us. We skipped the side trail where you could scramble up The Table and carried on. This part of the trail was really nice to walk on and it was easy going, except for one spot where we had to cross a narrow gully.

Quiraing trail

Quiraing trail

Back at the car we ate our lunch and headed on to our next trail, the Old Man of Storr. Since this was a more famous landmark there were even more tour buses here, with walkers of many nationalities. The little car park was full, so we parked along the road. Our hiking guidebooks said that the first part of the trail climbed steeply through a forest, but in fact there was now a clear-cut to climb through. However there were signs at the entrance explaining that they planned to replace the non-native conifers with native species, so after a few years it should look less ugly.

Old Man of Storr view

Old Man of Storr view

After about 45 minutes we were on a better trail, on the slope below the Old Man. The Old Man is a basalt pillar 49 meters tall, and it can be seen from a great distance as you drive along the local roads. The trail was very busy, but most people seemed to stop well before the part of the trail which ascended between the Old Man and the adjacent rock pillars. Caroline scrambled up the last steep slope to get a close look at the Old Man, and then we continued around to the slope behind it.

Should we go?

Should we go?

From this higher viewpoint the views were much more spectacular and you could really see the shape of the Old Man. There were other smaller rock spires and they were also very impressive seen close up. We could see windows in them and also little caves. We continued along the trail a bit farther to another small headland which had an even better view of the Old Man and his sisters, before descending back to the car.

Portree rainbow

Portree rainbow

By now it was 4 pm so we decided to go down to Portree to look around at the shops. As we arrived there was a short sharp rain shower with a bit of hail, so we sat in the car and waited for it to finish. We went into several shops to see what was available, but we didn’t really see much of interest.

Portree seafront

Portree seafront

We had bought a “Fajita Kit” as part of our food supplies, so that was on the menu for tonight. The kit worked out fine, but the sauce was extremely hot and spicy—not what we had expected from British packaged food! After dinner we wrote our journals and read for a bit; tomorrow’s weather didn’t look very promising, but we would just have to wait and see.

October 5, 2014

We woke up to wind and rain, so we took our time heading out. After the rain stopped we headed south towards the Cuillin Hills. Earlier in the trip they had been spiky mountains in the distance, but today they were shrouded in clouds. Heading for the Fairy Pools we drove for about 50 minutes down the Minginish Peninsula, finally plunging down a one-lane road to the car park at Glen Brittle.

Fairy Pools walk

Fairy Pools walk

The Fairy Pools trail crossed the road and headed downhill to a creek crossing. There was a set of large rocks which served as stepping stones, and they looked a bit dodgy as they were wet from rain. The crossing was made even harder by the strong wind gusts which tried to knock you over. But once across this section the trail was straightforward, following the river as it came down the gentle hillside. There were numerous waterfalls and pools which we passed, some waterfalls larger than others. The pools were supposed to be very clear, whence the name “fairy pools”. But the water was rushing and foaming so much that we couldn’t see to the bottom of the pools very well. It was rather disappointing.

Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools

After a while we turned around and retraced our steps to the car. By now it was lunch time, so we headed back towards Carbost to find a place to eat. It was a Sunday in October so of course most places were shut, but finally we found the Old Inn pub open. It was situated right on the shore of Loch Harport and despite the grey skies it had a lovely view. We decided to make this the main meal of the day, and luckily their food was at the good end of the pub-food spectrum. Rosemary had a large serving of fish and chips, which was very good; Caroline had a big bowl of mussels; and Paul had haggis and tatties and neeps in a puff-pastry strudel. Pretty good pub grub really.

Thistle

Thistle

Caroline wanted to do the tour of the Talisker distillery, which was right there in Carbost. This would have been interesting, but unfortunately it was closed on Sundays. So we drove down to the village of Talisker (not where the distillery is) to walk down to the beach. Parking at the end of the one-lane road, we walked along a private road which acted as a right of way for the public. This led us to a large manor house and then onward to the beach. The bay was surprisingly sheltered from the wind, but on the far side we could see a waterfall tumbling down the cliff. The wind was blowing so strongly that most of the water was being blown back upwards as spray!

Talisker Bay

Talisker Bay

We headed back to the cottage, stopping in Portree to buy some groceries. None of us were hungry after the large lunch, so we postponed dinner until 8 pm, and even then only had sausages and beans. We planned our route for tomorrow; the weather didn’t look very promising, so we researched out craft shops to visit.

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Skye, part 1

October 2, 2014

We were up at 5 am (ouch) and we had some bagels for breakfast before heading downstairs. We had done most of the packing last night so it was just a matter of putting in the last few things. Caroline took Rocky for a short walk and then at 6 am we were on our way.

We took the Tube from Old Street to Baker Street, where we met the National Express bus which took us to Luton Airport. We were travelling on EasyJet, so we were each allowed only one carry-on bag. We watched the staff enforcing this policy as we lined up to board. The flight to Inverness took about two hours and the time went by quickly. The man from Hertz met the flight and drove us over to the rental car lot to pick up our car, which didn’t take too long.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

Our first task was to buy groceries for our time on Skye. We managed to miss the Tesco which was on the driving instructions we had received, and so finally we had to settle for a much lower-grade supermarket. After buying four days’ worth of food and loading it into the trunk we carried on through a crowded street in the centre of Inverness, which led us to the A82, the scenic route to the west. Once we were out of the city the driving was all fine again.

Glenmoriston

Glenmoriston

Before long we were driving along the shore of Loch Ness, which we remembered from our Great Glen Way walk a few years ago. Through Drumnadrochit we drove, then Invermoriston (Nessie was nowhere to be seen), and then we turned off on the road to Skye, where we hadn’t been before. This road went away from Loch Ness and up into mostly uninhabited territory, with only a few hydroelectric sites on the river. It was beautiful country, grey and green, much like the mountains of Norway with the addition of brown where the bracken was dying off.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

We had planned to take a little ferry over to the island, but due to the gale-force winds on the west coast it was not operating today. So we carried on and drove over the bridge instead. This took us past the castle of Eilean Donan, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Despite the high winds we had a good look around, and then had a snack in the café. It was definitely worth stopping there. The castle is on an island just offshore, and it has featured in numerous movies and whisky ads and the like. But it’s been there for about 800 years and was most recently rebuilt in the 1930’s. Even today it’s available for weddings and similar functions.

Caroline on Skye

Caroline on Skye

We finally reached the Merman Cottage in Upper Edinbane about 6 pm. By this time the wind was so strong that we could hardly stand up in it. The cottage was cold when we arrived, but it had all the modern conveniences so it didn’t take long to warm up. It was really quite nice, with two bedrooms plus a small bathroom upstairs, and kitchen and dining/sitting room downstairs. The kitchen was well-stocked with utensils and so making meals was easy. We had spaghetti and sauce for the main course followed by tea and cookies.

Skye and Cuillin Hills

Skye and Cuillin Hills

Outside the wind was howling furiously, but we were snug in our cottage with the metre-thick stone walls.

October 3, 2014

Sometime during the night the wind stopped howling, and when we got up the sky had the odd patch of blue in it. So this looked promising. After breakfast we got our boots on and headed out to the car to explore our part of the island.

Our cottage in Upper Edinbane

Our cottage in Upper Edinbane

First we drove up the Vaternish peninsula, to the Skyeskins shop. Caroline had booked us into the Three Chimneys restaurant for lunch, so we had time in the morning to look around. Along the route we stopped several times to take photos of the views. The weather had improved considerably so there were now large stretches of blue sky. At Skyeskins they tan sheepskins and make them into a variety of items; they are one of the few working tanneries in the UK. Unfortunately there was nobody to give us a tour, but we checked out the shop and Caroline bought some fur-lined slippers.

Vaternish Peninsula

Vaternish Peninsula

We then continued along the B886 to its end at Trumpan, where we stopped to look at the ruins of the church which dated from the 1500’s. By now it was time to head to the Three Chimneys for lunch. We were thinking it was in Dunvegan, but after asking around we found it was actually in Colbost, about 5 km down the road. So we zoomed over there and were only a few minutes late for our reservation.

Trumpan church

Trumpan church

The Three Chimneys had been awarded one star by Michelin. Everything was excellent and beautifully presented and the service was really good. We each had a different starter; Rosemary had blade and tongue of Black Isle beef and Paul had a Russian salad made mostly with root vegetables. Following this was halibut and mackerel for Rosemary and breast of woodpigeon for Paul. All of the dishes were made with local (i.e. Scottish) ingredients and with great attention to detail, even to the choice of colour of the plates the dishes were served on. And they tasted good too, with no clashing of flavours. Rosemary’s dessert was frangipane with plums and Paul had the cheese selection, a fine variety of Scottish cheeses accompanied by oatcakes and smoky-flavoured chutney.

Three Chimneys restaurant

Three Chimneys restaurant

Once done with our meals we headed over to the Neist Point lighthouse for a short walk. So far the weather was still good and it was only a short walk, so we didn’t bother with rain gear and just headed down the trail. It was a bit steep going down from the car park and people walking back up were wheezing horribly. From the car park we couldn’t see the lighthouse but once we got down the steps and around a head of land it came into view. It was built in 1909 and over time it had succumbed to the elements, becoming all nasty and battered. At present it is behind a wire fence with “No Admittance” signs posted. We went around to the sea side of the lighthouse to take photos, and from there we could see in the distance a squall rapidly approaching.

Neist Point lighthouse

Neist Point lighthouse

So we started to head back to the car, but before we got very far the squall caught us and beat us with horizontal rain for five minutes and by the time we reached the car park we were quite wet. By then the squall had passed, so we walked out to the headland to see the view from there, and also to let the wind dry our clothes out. By now it was after 4 pm; we had planned to do the short walk to Coral Beaches but we had forgotten to bring anything which told us where that was. So since we couldn’t remember, we headed back to our cottage, stopping at craft shops along the way.

We got back at 5:30 pm and as none of us were particularly hungry we postponed dinner. Finally at around 7:30 pm we cooked up frittata and toast for a light dinner.

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Exeter

September 29, 2014

This morning we were leaving Tintagel, so after breakfast we packed up all of our gear. Before heading off to the bus stop we had our photo taken with Liz and Chris. Today’s bus left at 10 am and headed towards Camelford. The driver couldn’t figure out how to sell us tickets for Exeter, but buying all-day tickets worked just as well. In Camelford the driver showed us where to catch the connecting bus to Exeter, which was good because it wasn’t quite obvious, and soon we were on our way again. The bus alternated between zooming along main roads and puttering through villages, and finally after two and a half hours we arrived outside Exeter St. David’s station.

Old building, Exeter

Old building, Exeter

We squeezed out of the crowded bus and looked around. We had Google Maps directions for how to walk to Chris and Ruth’s house, but they weren’t very good. However we had been here seven years ago, and after consulting a lady in the hotel we headed off in the right direction.

Chris and Ruth were waiting for us and served us a lunch of potato leek soup with garlic bread, after we got our boots off, that is. It was nice seeing them again and getting caught up on news. Chris was suffering from plantar fasciitis, so he couldn’t walk very far at all. So Ruth went out for a walk with us, along the path which ran along the River Exe. It went through the outskirts of Exeter and then through some farmland to Countess Wear, where we crossed a bridge and headed back up the other side of the river to meet Chris at Exeter Quay for tea. The afternoon was warm and sunny so we sat outside the café and enjoyed the last bits of summer.

Exeter Quay

Exeter Quay

After returning to their house we sat and talked before having dinner. It was interesting to hear all about their travels and the various walks they had done.

September 30, 2014

After breakfast Chris drove us all to Exmouth, where we and Ruth would start today’s walk. Because of Chris’s sore heel he wouldn’t be joining us on the walk. The walk was a section of the Southwest Coastal Path; it was far away from the other sections we had done so far, but we had already decided that it didn’t matter what order we walked the sections in. On the way there we stopped at Sainsbury’s to buy sandwiches for our lunch.

Last day of summer in Exmouth

Last day of summer in Exmouth

In Exmouth we started right by the ferry which crosses the estuary of the River Exe and headed through the town along the seafront road. It took quite a while before we came to the end of the town, where we started to climb up the headland. This part of the coast is called the “Jurassic Coast” because of the age of the rocks between here and Bournemouth. (Although Matthew pointed out to us that the rocks at the Exmouth end are actually Triassic in age.) The cliffs are made of red sandstone which had been formed by deserts, and occasionally fossils can be seen.

Jurassic Coast monument

Jurassic Coast monument

The walk along this section was quite gentle as we followed the coastline. We walked past Straight Point, which was an active military firing range, and then came across an extremely large caravan park. There must have been at least a thousand caravans, all neatly lined up and down the hillside. Not many of them seemed to be in use, but then it was the end of September.

Pebble art, Budleigh Salterton

Pebble art, Budleigh Salterton

At 1 pm we decided to stop for lunch, so we sat on a bench overlooking the beach in Budleigh Salterton to enjoy the views as well as the sunshine. The beach was made of fist-sized cobbles rather than sand, and so somebody had gathered up cobbles of various colours and made a lot of “rock art”. Included in the art were penguins, kangaroos, a lighthouse, a violin, and even a Canadian flag.

Jacob’s Ladder at Sidmouth

Jacob’s Ladder at Sidmouth

At the far end of the town was the wetland at the mouth of the River Otter. According to the signs it was home to a variety of wildlife, but summer was over and winter migrants hadn’t arrived yet, so there wasn’t that much wildlife today. The next part of the walk had us making a couple of steep climbs but none of them were very long. We finally made it to Sidmouth at 4:30 pm and found Chris waiting there for us at “Jacob’s Ladder”. While we had been walking he had been visiting a friend who lived nearby in an old folks’ home. Before heading back to Exeter we had tea and a flapjack in the Clock Tower café.

October 1, 2014

This morning we had to repack our bags for travelling, which we did after breakfast. We sat and chatted for a while, and then Chris drove us to the station, where our train to London left at about 11 am. We stowed the large pack in the overhead rack and then took our seats for the two-and-a-half-hour journey.

Our route back to London was different than the route we had followed coming from London a week and a half ago. This time we stopped at Bath (or “Bath Spa” as the railway people call it), and we recognized the area around the station from when we finished the Cotswold Way a couple of years ago.

Upon arrival at Paddington we went to the Underground, where we took three trains to get to the Old Street station. At Caroline’s place we found we had forgotten the door code, but after five or six tries Paul finally hit on the right one. We did some laundry, because we were off to the Isle of Skye tomorrow and we had almost nothing clean to wear, and basically lounged around for the rest of the afternoon.

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Tintagel

September 26, 2014

It was raining this morning when we got up, and outside the clouds were really low and the views almost nonexistent. But by the time we finished our breakfast and packed our bags the skies were brightening and we could see blue sky in the west. It was after 9:30 am when we set out, and now we turned away from Port Isaac and walked eastwards on the coastal path towards our destination for today, Tintagel.

Plunging down into a gully

Plunging down into a gully

We followed the road down to the tiny village of Port Gavarne and then climbed up to the cliff-top path. Our pattern for most of the day was to plunge down into a gully and then plunge right back up again to the top of the cliff. Because of the overnight rain the ground was damp so we slipped and fell a few times, but luckily didn’t hurt ourselves. We had looked into having our large pack transported to Tintagel, but the company wanted £15 to do that and we weren’t sure if they could deliver to the YHA there. So in the end we arranged our stuff into Rosemary’s day pack and her large Serratus pack, and strapped Paul’s almost-empty day pack onto the outside of the Serratus pack. The result was rather heavy but it was still doable.

Trebarwith Strand

Trebarwith Strand

There was nobody living near the path for quite a long time, so it was very quiet, but we did have to chase cows away so we could use one of the stiles. After about three hours we stopped for lunch. Because we had packed everything differently we thought we had forgotten to pack the lunch, but eventually we tracked it down. We sat up on a headland and looked out at the ocean. After lunch we continued the down-and-up routine, finally plunging down to Trebarwith Strand. There were a lot of people on the beach and at the cafés there and we paused for ice-cream cones.

Dunderhole Head

Dunderhole Head

From here we climbed back up to the cliff-tops for the last of nine times. It only took about half an hour to get to the Tintagel YHA, at Dunderhole Head. It was a low-slung white building which sat right by the cliff. Unfortunately it was 3:30 pm and the reception hours were from 5 pm to 10 pm. But luckily for us one of the guests was there, so she let us in and gave us the door code so we could store our packs inside. This made it a lot easier to go into town to buy groceries.

Sunset

Sunset

We walked past the old church, with its “Beware of Adders” sign, and then along the road into the village, where we bought food for the next three days from the Spar. It was hard work carrying the bags of food back to the hostel! Just as we got there we met the volunteer manager, Liz, who checked us in. So we made our beds and had showers, after which it was time for dinner. The kitchen was very well stocked with pots, dishes, and utensils and there were two cooking areas. We had the kitchen all to ourselves while we made our meal, which was very nice. For the rest of the evening a lot of us sat in the common area and chatted for quite a while.

September 27, 2014

Still no rain this morning—our dry-weather streak was still alive! Our plan today was to take the bus from Tintagel to Crackington Haven and then walk back on the coastal path. After breakfast we made up our flasks and packed food for lunch and then set off for the bus stop. We had to walk quickly to catch the bus but we did make it in time.

We boarded at the stop across from the Visitor Centre and off we zoomed down the road. The route took us overland through several small villages; pretty soon we came upon a German tour bus taking up most of the road, and our driver had a sarcastic comment as he took evasive action. At Boscastle a man got on and when the driver told him the fare he said, loudly, “Four pounds fifty? Four pounds fifty to Bude?” We had had similar thoughts about the bus fares, but the bus driver only collects them.

Goats along the trail

Goats along the trail

After about 25 minutes the bus plunged down the hill into Crackington Haven. After we used the public conveniences and put on our packs we set off. As usual we went uphill, and then walked along the cliff edge before descending again. This was the process which we repeated several times this morning. Today there was a herd of long-horned goats on the first headland, which was new for us, but they just watched us as we passed them. We met very few people on this part of the path, except for one man who pointed out a seal bobbing far below in the ocean.

Boscastle

Boscastle

By 1 pm we were both hungry so we sat on a bench to eat our lunch while enjoying the view. The sky was overcast, but the views were still good. There were a couple of kestrels hovering in the area, and then a peregrine shot past us.

Dartmoor pony

Dartmoor pony

After lunch we continued on, reaching Boscastle at about 2 pm. This was a place where we could leave the trail and catch a bus back to Tintagel, but we decided to continue walking. So we went into the National Trust shop to look around and then headed once again up the trail. There were a lot more people on this part of the trail, and we also encountered a group of about eight Dartmoor ponies. As we got closer to Tintagel there were more and more features like caravan parks, although the coastal path still managed to go through grassy areas or gorse-lined paths.

Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

We passed by the Tintagel Castle ruins before climbing the last hill of the day, and arrived back at the hostel at about 5:30 pm. After having showers and rinsing out some sweaty clothing we made our dinner—a repeat of yesterday, so it was easily made. After dinner we chatted with Liz and her friend Chris while also writing our journals.

September 28, 2014

Today was our last day on the Southwest Coastal Path, for this trip anyway. Our plan was to buy return tickets from Tintagel to Bude, but to get off at Crackington Haven and walk from there to Bude before taking the bus back. We were up earlier than usual, so today we didn’t have to rush to catch the bus.

Tintagel’s Old Post Office

Tintagel’s Old Post Office

As our Western Greyhound bounded along the B3623 like a green greyhound there was fog down over the headlands, but by the time we got off at Crackington Haven the fog had lifted, turning into the low clouds we had become used to. The start of our path was up the road a bit, and when we turned onto the path, as usual we went steeply up to the top of the cliff and then walked along it for a while. This part of the path didn’t have as many ups and downs as our previous sections, but the ones we had were very steep. It usually took us 10 or 15 minutes to climb them.

Twisted rocks

Twisted rocks

There were not many walkers on today’s section so we walked for long distances without seeing anyone. By 1 pm we decided it was lunch time, so we stopped at the small village of Millook and sat on the beach to eat. A lot of the rocks along the Cornish coast are very warped and twisted, and Millook had a good example of this. But the layers along the coast turn into flat areas which look like beaches, except not made of sand. Anyway, we headed uphill again from Millook, but now the route became more rolling.

Widemouth Bay

Widemouth Bay

Soon we were at Widemouth (pronounced “Widmouth”) Bay, which had a very large beach. There were a lot of people there and since the tide was low they had to go a long way to reach the water. Our path went through the car park and then through the dunes to the next headland. From there we had a good walk through the fields to Bude.

Selfie

Selfie

Our choices of bus out of Bude were at 3:25 pm and 5:25 pm, with nothing later than that. We figured if we picked up the pace we might just catch the 3:25, so we decided not to do that. When we arrived in Bude we walked along the canal. We had been told that we could rent a swan boat to paddle up the canal, but unfortunately the swan boat rental place was closed on Sundays, so we bought ice-cream cones instead. There was a castle in Bude, not a very big one but still a castle. We went in to look at the exhibits and found that it had been built in the 19th century by Goldsworthy Gurney, a little-known Cornish inventor who had invented a lot of things but somehow failed to get the credit for them. After that we had a look around the Mountain Hardware shop to see if anything of interest was on sale, before heading to the bus stop to wait.

Bude Castle

Bude Castle

Our bus arrived at 5 pm with a “Not In Service” sign, but luckily the driver just had to go and refuel the bus. Then we were off at 5:25 pm and rocketed back to Tintagel, arriving there a bit after 6 pm. We went for dinner at the King Arthur’s Arms pub for Sunday Roast, but unfortunately for us they were sold out of the roast. So we had to settle for fish and chips instead. Not the best fish and chips we have ever had, but at least somebody else was cooking tonight. We walked back to the hostel in the gradually darkening evening, arriving with a bit of pink sunset still in the west. We did a bit of laundry and hung it in the drying room before having some hot chocolate.

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Port Isaac

September 24, 2014

Now we were finished in Penzance and moving on today. We packed our bags and headed for the train station, where we bought all-day passes valid on trains and buses for £10 each. We thought that was a good price considering the distance we would be travelling. Then we caught the 10 am train and were on our way to Port Isaac.

After an hour or so we arrived at Bodmin Parkway, where we changed to bus number 555 to Wadebridge. Travelling with us on the bus were a musician dressed as a pirate, who was going busking in Padstow, and an American tourist who was struggling with the Cornish bus system. In Wadebridge our next bus, number 584, would take us to Port Isaac. His bus, number 595, was supposed to take him to Tintagel, his destination. That’s what the map and the website said, but nobody in Wadebridge knew anything about the 595. Not even the bus driver. So he got onto our bus heading for Camelford in hopes of finding his 595 there.

Steam railway at Bodmin Parkway

Steam railway at Bodmin Parkway

These buses were small community-style vehicles, so climbing on and off with packs was a bit tricky if the bus was full. And the bus was quite full. Our route to Port Isaac was a bit circuitous, but it did show off the countryside to its full advantage. Arriving in Port Isaac we got off at the Pea Pod stop. We were not expected at our B&B until closer to 4 pm, so we walked down the hill towards the village. Port Isaac isn’t just any quaint Cornish fishing village; it’s also the setting for the British TV series “Doc Martin”. So there were a lot of people in the streets. We sat down on a bench outside “May Contain Nuts”, where we bought smoothies and fruit scones for our lunch.

As we sat there we could recognize several buildings which were used as places in the TV series. There was the school and the steep spire which was used in one episode and across the bay was Fern Cottage, which was the doctor’s house in the series.

Fern Cottage

Fern Cottage

After finishing our lunch we decided to walk back up the hill and find our B&B, Penderris House, so we could leave our packs there. We were at least two hours early but we figured that if our hostess Nancy wasn’t there, we would just leave our packs by the door. Luckily she was home, and our room was nearly ready, so we were able to put our packs directly into the room.

Then we headed back down the steep hill into the village, looking at the shops as we went. At the bottom of the hill we found the pharmacy where Mrs. Tischell works in the series as well as Bert Large’s restaurant, and then climbing up the hill came to the house which is Doc Martin’s surgery. Past that we continued up to the Coastal Path to look at the views. When we had first arrived the tide was a long way out and the fishing boats were grounded, but as the afternoon progressed the tide came in quickly. We had a very pleasant short walk but decided to head back to the village to buy some pasties for our dinner.

Port Isaac

Port Isaac

It was late afternoon so we returned to the B&B and went up to our room. After catching up with e-mail and checking bus schedules for later in the week we went back downstairs. Nancy kindly heated up our pasties in her halogen oven, a device we had never heard of before. Rosemary’s pasty was chicken and bacon and Paul’s was steak and blue cheese, an interesting combination.

Nelson in neck brace

Nelson in neck brace

After dinner we went out for a walk up to Lobber Point to see the sunset, which happens at about 7 pm at this time of year. However the sun set behind some clouds and also behind the next headland along, so it wasn’t that good. Back in the village the sweet shop was just closing, so we were out of luck for some fudge for dessert. We followed a different street up from the harbour, and it led to a public footpath which followed a small stream up past the sewage treatment plant. The footpath carried on, showing no sign of returning to the village, so we turned around and went back. A different hill, Primrose Lane, led us up to the main road across from the Coop, just around from our B&B.

September 25, 2014

This morning we had asked for breakfast at 8:30 am, so we didn’t have to get up very early. Full English breakfast served in the sun-room was a good start to the day. We headed down into the village, down to the beach and onto the sand where we looked at the beach debris. Nothing interesting to see there; we went back up the hill for our 10:30 am walking tour of Port Isaac with John Brown.

Port Isaac lane

Port Isaac lane

John used to be a fisherman but now wore many hats, including musician, volunteer life boat crew, tour guide, and pastry shop server. Our tour had maybe a dozen people signed up, and he had another tour scheduled for this afternoon, so at £10 a head he seemed to be doing quite well. The tour took about an hour and a half and covered all sorts of things including the history of the village, the ups and downs of the fisheries, and most importantly everything about the filming of the Doc Martin series. It was an interesting tour walking around the village, and he pointed out the various Doc Martin locations and told us some funny anecdotes about the filming of the show.

Wall ornament

Wall ornament

It was now noon, so we had a quick lunch of sausage rolls, rock buns, and bread pudding before continuing on. At one of the local shops we bought a lovely watercolour of the village with a fishing boat and Fern Cottage (Doc Martin’s house) in the background. Back at the B&B we changed into hiking clothes and set out for a walk. Our intention was to walk along the coastal path towards Polzeath and then catch a bus back to Port Isaac. Heading west the path went up and down some stairways with excessively large steps, so we had to be careful not to stress our knees on the descents. There were several ups and downs before we reached Port Quin.

Coastal path

Coastal path

By now it was 3 pm, so we sat on a bench enjoying the view which included Doyden Castle, a folly which featured Mrs. Tischell hiding there with Doc Martin’s baby when she was delusional. We still weren’t quite in the hiking mood so we decided that rather than walking another two hours to Polzeath we would return to Port Isaac via the overland route. This went through farm fields with no great elevation changes, so we were back in the village in no time at all.

Doyden Castle

Doyden Castle

In the village we stopped to get pasties and jelly doughnuts for dinner, as well as a tea-towel which was much less artistic than the ones at the bottom of the village but also cost much less than £10. At our B&B the two American ladies who had been there last night were there again, and then two English ladies arrived, having walked part of the coastal path.

Red poppy

Red poppy

Tomorrow we’ll be reorganizing our packs for the walk to Tintagel; everybody says it’s a hard walk but it’s only 15 kilometres so we’ll see.

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Penzance, part 2

September 22, 2014

Originally we had planned to take the bus back to Zennor and continue walking from there, but you had to leave Penzance quite early in the morning if you wanted to get to Zennor by noon. So instead we decided to start from Penzance and walk towards Land’s End. After all we already knew we weren’t going to walk the sections of the path in order.

So we headed down to the waterfront, where we knew the Coast Path was, and headed towards Mousehole (pronounced Mowzl). This section of the path was on tarmac so the going was good. The tide was low and so the boats in the harbour were high and dry. Soon we were in Newlyn where the main industry was fish processing. We passed by a processing plant where they were swabbing the floor, waiting for fish to arrive.

Mousehole harbour

Mousehole harbour

Today’s weather was clear and sunny, and off in the distance we could see St. Michael’s Mount. It was already getting pretty warm as we climbed up out of Newlyn and followed an unpaved path over the hill and down into Mousehole. It was a pretty village, unlike Newlyn which was kind of dingy, but then Mousehole’s main industry is tourism.

Once past Mousehole the path became a proper path and we felt like we were out in the countryside. As with yesterday’s section we went up and down, sometimes walking between hedgerows and other times along the cliff edge. Every time we came to a stream or harbour we climbed down to sea level and then back again up the other side. At one of the beach places we had about 100 metres of boulder-hopping, which we did easily after our intensive Norwegian boulder-hopping course. It did help that the boulders were dry.

Butterfly

Butterfly

The track was much nicer to walk on than yesterday’s section, with fewer rocks to walk over. Later on in the afternoon we turned off the path to have a look at an Iron Age hill fort. But on the way to the fort was a group of Dartmoor ponies who were being pastured there to control the vegetation. One of them came up to us and sniffed our pockets to see if we had any pony treats. Then it tried to chew on the handles of our hiking poles, probably for the salt. As for the cliff fort, we never did find that.

Dartmoor pony

Dartmoor pony

We finally reached Porthcurno, where we could catch a bus. The bus ran every two hours (this week anyway, less frequently after that) and the next bus was leaving in 25 minutes, so we decided to end the day’s walk there. We bought ice-cream cones at the café there, rhubarb crumble for Rosemary and chocolate for Paul. We had decided to carry on from Porthcurno tomorrow and realized we could save some money by getting return tickets for our trip to Penzance. That caught the driver by surprise and it took a bit of discussion before he understood our plan. Again we marvelled at how the driver could drive the bus along the narrow country lanes, and we were amused at cars which had to back up to let us through.

Coast trail

Coast trail

Back at the hostel we had showers and did some laundry before going for dinner. Even though the hostel has a good self-catering kitchen we decided to buy dinner at the restaurant there. Paul had steak and Guinness pie and Rosemary had a burger, which filled us up nicely. We made tea afterwards and drank it while writing up our journals.

September 23, 2014

This morning the fine weather continued, so we had our breakfast and headed down into Penzance to catch the bus back to Porthcurno. We had been planning to catch it at the bus station, but we noticed a fellow walker waiting at a stop in Green Street so we waited there as well. He was going to walk the section we had done yesterday, and he agreed with us that the section from St. Ives to Zennor took longer than either of our guide books indicated. When the bus arrived it was the open-top kind, but to our dismay the seats were quite wet when we went to sit down. We found a Kleenex and sort of got the seats dry before sitting on them.

Porthcurno

Porthcurno

Once we arrived in Porthcurno we walked down to the beach to join the coastal path, and then climbed steeply up the rough stairway past the Minack Theatre. We decided not to pay the entrance fee just to look around the theatre, but thought we would return at a later date to actually attend a performance there. Once past the theatre our route had us walking along the cliff top and a good track. The views were really good once again so it was an enjoyable morning. The walking was easier than yesterday, with fewer ups and downs.

As with other sections of the path there were seabirds and the occasional kestrel flying over. We had heard about the return of the chough to Cornwall, an iconic bird of the county, and to our surprise we actually saw several of them! Apparently they had been extirpated from Cornwall around 70 years ago, but people had been changing agriculture practices to bring them back, and it seems to be working.

Red-billed Chough

Red-billed Chough

Before long we could see the white bulk of the Land’s End shopping centre on the horizon, as well as its massive car park sparkling in the sun. We had lunch before getting there, and then walked around one more headland to arrive there. Despite it being a weekday in late September the place was quite crowded. We continued on the coastal path towards Sennen, which was our destination for today. We were quite surprised to meet a couple who we had bumped into several times yesterday. They were finishing their walk today at Land’s End after having walked from Inverness. Not all at once—their journey had taken them several years to complete and they told us that some of the paths were no longer in use today.

View towards Land’s End

View towards Land’s End

Down by the sea in Sennen we found that we had missed the bus by about 10 minutes. This suited us because we had decided to treat ourselves to a cream tea—tea and scones with lots of jam. So our first stop was the little café to have our treat, which was very yummy. Then we checked out the shops and galleries and walked up and down the main street before returning to the bus stop to wait for the next bus.

After standing there for about 20 minutes Paul was looking at the posted schedule, just for something to do, and noticed that the “1645” bus we were waiting for was footnoted “Starting September 29”. So there would be no bus at 4:45 pm today. The next bus scheduled for departure today was actually at 7:03 pm—not for over two hours! Fortunately Land’s End wasn’t far away and it had hourly bus service, so we walked back there. It was too bad that we hadn’t realized our mistake earlier because the next bus from Land’s End was in 14 minutes and we had over a mile to cover.

Lifeboat at Sennen

Lifeboat at Sennen

The bus stop at Land’s End wasn’t too hard to locate, and we did indeed have nearly an hour to wait. But it was a lovely time of day to be sitting there so it went by quickly. Sure enough, right on time the bus arrived and luckily for us it was a regular double-decker, so we wouldn’t freeze on the way back to Penzance. By now we knew the route so we recognized the landmarks as they went by. So by the time we got back to Penzance it was well after 6 pm, a lot later than we had expected.

After having had cream tea so late in the afternoon, neither of us was particularly hungry. So we sat in the lounge for a while, and then about 8 pm we went and had some soup and our leftover tomatoes for a light dinner.

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