Summer holiday in North-East Cornwall (part 1)

We left Fleet in Hampshire early on Saturday morning, joining the A303 and waving to historic Stonehenge as we drove on the stretch of single carriageway through the World Heritage Site at a moving pace (which was good, considering it was summer, sunny and often known to be a stretch of road that can see vehicles moving at the pace of a snail!). Parts of the A303, such as the section through Stonehenge, have been a right of way for people, wagons, and later motor vehicles for millennia. Other sections run on part of the Fosse Way, a section of Roman road, between Exeter and Lincoln constructed around 49 AD.

Passing Stonehenge on our drive down to north east Cornwall.

Quite something to think of all the people that have travelled along that road via various means of transport! Back in the present time, travelling along in the car, I was joined by my 12 year old daughter, her Aunty (my sister) and her Grandad (my Dad). It was the first time in nearly 4 years that my daughter, Alice, had visited the UK and her first time in Cornwall (her oldest sister, Char, visited at the tender age of just 9 months – over 18 years ago!).

Dan & Char, when she was 9 months old, in 2004.

Whilst we were looking forward to coastal walks (well, most of us were… I’m not so sure my 12 year old was – but she came along on them without complaint), boogie boarding in the waves and relaxing into the long nights of summer, my husband and our 16 year old were on the other side of the world (in New Zealand) making the most of the two week mid-winter school break to head down to Queenstown, in the South Island, for a week of snow boarding fun.

Half way on our journey we stopped off at the stunning Stourhead National Trust for lunch and a walk, a place we’ve enjoyed visiting and meeting with family over the years. Stourhead is stunning in all seasons, both the gardens, with the lake as a centre piece of the walk, which winds under magnificent tree canopies, past fascinating sculptures and buildings, even a hidden grotto, and the house itself, built in 1725, and full of treasures!

Arriving at Coombe Mill Holiday Cottages

After a wonderful stop off we continued on, to our place of accommodation for a week’s holiday – Coombe Mill in Bodmin Moor. I was familiar with Coombe Mill from my early blogging days (before Facebook, Instagram etc!) and enjoyed a weekly ‘linky’, called ‘Country Kids’, where families would share posts about getting out in the countryside with their children. This was back in the day when my children were small and easily convinced to accompany their parents on adventures in the countryside. I was of course thousands of miles away from where most families were enjoying the countryside (living in Wellington, New Zealand), but nevertheless loved reading people’s blog posts, recounting their adventures with their little ones, often in places I’d enjoyed as a child growing up in England. Roll on several years and my sister’s old school friend has bought the holiday cottages at Coombe Mill and I’m visiting! These gorgeous cottages are geared up for family farm holidays and magical for families with children, toddlers and babies. I wish I’d been able to visit years ago when my three daughters were younger, but hey ho, grow up they do!

There are a whole raft of wonderful activities to do in this part of Cornwall and we enjoyed a mix of walks, time at the beach, visiting a couple of national trust properties, a fun boat trip spotting marine and bird life, as well as time at Coombe Mill relaxing and petting the animals (Alice loved the guinea pigs very much – but sadly they wouldn’t have travelled well back to New Zealand!). Our wonderful hosts were amazing and it was especially good for my sister to catch up with her friend and her family.

A photograph from our last night in Cornwall, dinner over looking Trebarwith Strand, with my sister’s wonderful friend and amazing family.

As I mentioned, we did a couple of coastal walks, following part of the South West Coastal Path… there’s 630 miles of path, so we barely touched it in the time we were there but what we did see made us wish we had so much more time, as it was so beautiful.

South West Coastal Path, from Tintagel to Trebarwith Strand.

Tintagel to Trebarwith Strand and back, a loop walk.

One day we walked a lovely loop from Tintagel to Trebarwith Strand and back. We walked the coastal path to Trebarwith Strand, a distance of about 4km with around 90 metres of elevation gain. We stopped to admire the Tintagel Bridge to Tintagel Castle, built in 2019 and replacing an old footbridge that disappeared between the 14th and 17th century.

The beach at Trebarwith can only be accessed at low tide and we timed our arrival perfectly, to enjoy a pub lunch whilst waiting for the tide to go out! We then worked off our lunch with a refreshing swim in the waves, which was very invigorating! Our return walk, to Tintagel, took us inland and was just under 3km with 113 metres of elevation gain.

Tintagel Post Office, National Trust

Before starting our walk (and whilst waiting for the rain to pass) we visited the Tintagel Old Post Office – and when I say ‘old’ I mean REALLY OLD! This building holds over 600 years of history and was originally a 14th-century yeoman’s farmhouse, but its name dates from the Victorian period when it briefly held a licence to be the letter receiving station for the district. The furniture now in the building dates back to the 16th century and the beautiful back garden is so worth a visit too (even in the rain!). We stopped a moment in the garden to play a game of naughts and crosses, whilst the rain drizzled down upon us.

After our visit to the old post office we enjoyed a lovely cream tea, discussing how people from Devon and Cornwall like to prepare their scones – with the jam or the cream first… and then we had to wonder how the Queen likes to enjoy her cream tea and we discovered she prefers the Cornish way, which is jam first.

Loop Walk from Port Issac

Another of our coastal walks was again a loop walk, this time visiting Port Issac and Port Gaverne. Fans of the TV series ‘Doc Martin‘ will instantly know that this is the location that’s used in the filming, that’s now in its 10th, and sadly, final season. I have to confess that I did not know this! I have periodically watched the series, when it’s happened to be on and very much enjoyed it, but I had not delved into the details of where it was filmed, and so it happened that we were coming to the end of our walk, following a footpath that led down into the village of Port Issac, and very much looking forward to finding a nice pub to enjoy a much anticipated lunch, when we were met with a human blockade. We waited patiently for a few moments and then asked someone why we were waiting, to be met with a rather surprised expression and reply of, ‘Shhh, they are filming!’.

Doc Martin’s house, on the cliffs overlooking Port Issac.

Our walk started and finished in Port Issac, looping around and taking in both coastal scenery and inland over the rural countryside.

Boscastle Walk

On another day we visited Boscastle, where there are a number of lovely walks. Our walk was a there and back route – with a cafe at the half way point (I do love walking in the UK, where there are frequent opportunities to stop for refreshments at cafes and pubs!).

Boscastle is a picturesque seaside village with spectacular cliff walks overlooking the medieval harbour. We walked up from the village to the Pentargon Waterfall, though due to the very dry conditions there wasn’t much of a waterfall! We then stopped for lunch at Boscastle Farm Shop and Cafe, before returning the way we had come – though there is a loop walk inland.

These coastal walks were so beautiful and I would love to visit Cornwall again and see so much more of the stunning coastline. For my sister and I we especially cherished having time with our Dad, whilst thinking of all the happy years we shared holidaying with our Mum, both before she was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease and after. Walking has always been a special thing to do together as a family. It was amazing how much we managed to do with Mum over the past 5 to 10 years; she kept on walking right up until early 2021, thanks to Dad’s loving support, patience and guiding hands. We thought of her and missed her presence immensely on this holiday, carrying the memories close in our hearts and minds.