Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

Home Travel StoriesStatic Caravan in Cornwall 2005 - By Ren Withnell

Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 6

Thursday morning is another slow, relaxed and lazy morning. It takes until lunchtime to muster up the energy to do something. And that something today will be a trip to Tintagel. For anyone reading who does not know, Tintagel is supposed to be the birthplace of the mythical King Arthur. Tintagel is so intertwined with the Arthurian story, for a while I thought it was perhaps Camelot itself. I want to go and have a look, to say I’ve been, I’m not expecting anything amazing.

After a brief look at the map I set off in the general direction. Getting to the correct part of the peninsula is easy enough but I am trying to be clever and find my own way there. Needless to say within 15 minutes I am totally lost. We ride around, quite happy to be lost in such pleasing surroundings. More tiny villages, more green fields, the hedges are lower here which affords better views and the wind farms still impress. I eventually stop by a bus stop to pay a visit to the gentleman’s boudoir to powder my nose. I’m not panicking but I am a little concerned about ever finding Tintagel.

I need not have worried. A mile down the road I spot a sign for Tintagel. I follow the road and finally we arrive in another of Cornwall’s coastal villages but this is much more tourist orientated. All along the street small shops proclaim to be Merlin’s magical suppliers or Arthur’s café. No sign of a castle though. I pull into a car park and we take a moment to look out over the valley that leads to the sea. This must be the place as a white path leads tourists down the valley.

At the mouth of the path Land Rovers stop to drop off then collect people for the trip down the path. With all the bike gear to carry we wonder if we should do the same. We don’t, we both agree we need the exercise. We walk down the path, dodging the occasional Land Rover, but there is no sign of a castle. Looking up to the ridge above the valley are some remains but not at all castle like. Down at the foot of the valley the path turns sharply then climbs up steep stone stairs.

Merlin's Cave, apparently. What was Merlin doing living in a cave under the castle where Arthur was born?

On this steep stairway is a hut with a national heritage worker taking £3.90 for the privilege of walking up another very steep flight of stairs to see “The Castle”. I make disapproving noises but the gf has already got her purse out. We pay and start to climb. We cross a steep bridge and climb, climb, climb up steep and changeable steps made from slate and stone sets. Wearing bike gear designed to protect against 80mph winds in sub zero conditions and carrying helmets and a rucksack, this is proving hard work.

We arrive at the top. I’m sweating and badly out of breath, but I am ahead of the gf. My male ego is pathetic, I needed to get up here before her to prove how manly I am. I know when she was fit the gf could run 10km, was a member of a running club and was 1,000 times fitter than I have ever been. Right at this minute I am thankful for her bad back, I could not stand the embarrassment of being so out of breath while she stands there smiling sweetly asking “are you alright?”

We sit on a wall, part of the ruin. And it is a ruin. There is nothing castle like here at all, just low walls in a jumble that makes no real sense. The plaque informs us this would have been the great hall, the confusion in layout is from later buildings built over the original hall. The scenery is nice enough but the ruin hardly seems to have been worth the effort.

The ruins of the Great Hall

We make our way back down the steep stairs to face another flight of even steeper and more treacherous steps leading up to another ruin. Again I make my way hastily up these, again my heart is pounding inside my chest and my breath is short and heavy. It is with great relief I take the last step, but I have to sit down again, I feel quite sick for a few minutes. When we recover we find another plaque that tells us this would have been the castle. The great hall is outside the castle on what is almost an island. We also learn the castle would have been much bigger, but the medieval builders who took advantage of the natural coastal defence of the cliffs, forgot to take into account erosion. Soon after completion large sections fell away into the sea, new walls were built and these were washed away too.

The really steep and treacherous steps up to the castle, seen from the Great Hall

This section is much larger but there is still little to show you how the castle may once have looked. I did not have any real expectation but I had hoped for battlements and drawbridges. I somehow feel let down. I am quite worried about making my way back down the steep steps, it is harder to go down steps with my bad leg than to come up them. I need not have worried, we can make our way down a gentle path back to the park.

All that is left of the castle

Back at the car park we again catch our breath for a while then mount up. On the way in I had seen signs for Boscastle, the scene of terrible flooding about a year ago that made the national news and several documentaries. I head out there. Riding through the small town you would never imagine it to have been a scene of devastation. The shops are open and the houses are all pretty. I stop to talk with the gf, she says “It’s very nice, where is this?” I explain but she has never heard of it! I ride off, wondering where she has been for the last 12 months.

The ride back is much easier. We get lost in narrow lanes with grass growing down the centre and pass through tiny hamlets with 5 or 10 houses and a letterbox. The trees cover the road in places making dark leafy tunnels and signposts covered in moss casually lean into hedges whilst pointing lazily. Back on the main road we head back but I decide to go into Newquay.

Newquay is a tacky tourist town with arcades, chip shops, hotels and naff toyshops. It is also a surfing capital, recognisable by the large number of VW camper vans full of “Dudes” and surfboards. In town we take a short break and get directions to Fistral Beach from a chap who’s keen to tell me about his bike. I know of Fistral Beach as my friend whose sons caravan we’re in is a keen surfer, when he is here. Fistral Beach is almost legendary in the surfing community.

Fistral Beach is a wide sandy beach with bluffs at either end. At this late stage of the day there is still life here as surfers and bodyboarders make the last of the daylight. There are several people with metal detectors combing the beach, presumably looking for lost change or jewellery. The bike is parked between yet more camper vans full of surfing dudes and ageing surfer gentlemen. We rest on stones at the edge of the beach and talk of surfing, the glorious weather and what to do tomorrow. We mount up and ride back to the caravan.

Fistral Beach in the setting sun.

Thursday evening we do very little. We cook another pizza for tea and this again gives me terrible wind. I have tears of laughter as the gf gets tears from the smell. The gf’s mother is in a hospice. She’s been in and out for quite some time now but this time it seems a little more serious. She’s understandably worried, both her sister and her mother’s friend assure her she is ok and resting. We talk for a while but there is nothing I can say or do to help her not to worry. She smiles and puts on her best brave face and we spend the rest of the evening watching people on TV trying to build their own houses.

Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 1
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 2
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 3
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 4 Just a lazy day at the beach with nary a motorcycle in sight.
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 5
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 6
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 7
Static Caravan In Cornwall 2005 - Day 8

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Home Travel StoriesStatic Caravan in Cornwall 2005 - By Ren Withnell

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