On the road: Tintagel to Bristol

I want to write more about Tintagel (there’s some interesting things going on when you start looking) but I need to get to Bristol. This requires catching four buses, with three changeovers. I could have done it in three but there was a town on the route I wanted to around.

The first stop is at Camelford. It’s a small place. Just this main street (and houses, schools, industrial areas etc). As previously noted, it’s a place to change buses. In particular, between bus 95 (which runs along the north coast) and buses to everywhere else in the world.

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St. Nectan’s Glen

St Nectan’s kieve is revered as a sacred place, where numerous ribbons, crystals, photographs, inscriptions, prayers and other devotions now adorn the foliage and rock walls near the waterfall. You will even find a number of small stacks of flat stones, known as Faerie Stacks, constructed from stones collected from the waters by visitors, marking a special thought or moment in time during their visit, or to commemorate memories and loved ones. . . . It is believed that a building (known as the Hermitage) located at the top of the waterfall belonged to the sixth-century Saint Nectan. The date of the building is uncertain but according to legend, Saint Nectan rang a silver bell in times of stormy weather to warn passing ships of the perils of the rocks at the mouth of Rocky Valley. It is also understood that the ruins of a Christian chapel provide the lower part of the walls of a cottage erected in the 1860s, and extended around 1900.
St Nectan’s Glen

The idea that the sixth-century Saint Nectan had his hermitage above the waterfall is myth. According to legend, Nectan rang a silver bell in times of stormy weather to warn shipping of the perils of the rocks at the mouth of the Rocky Valley. Though other legends are also told of Nectan (such as his burial under the riverbed), no evidence exists to substantiate Nectan’s presence here. His home was further north, in what is now Hartland, Devon. The name is first recorded in 1799 as Nathan’s Cave in reference to a local character, either Nathan Williams or Nathan Cock, and the Cornish word Cuva (pronounced keeva) meaning tub.

The legend connecting St Nectan to the falls is the romantic whimsy of the nineteenth century clergyman, Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker who first attributed the falls to the saint in his poem, The Sisters of the Glen in 1846. The “hermitage” written about by Hawker and others was a simple summerhouse and had no connection to any saint. Many of the site’s legends are the result of Hawker’s poetry and the vivid imagination of nineteenth century Trethevy farmer, William Goard who led tour parties to the falls.

A Visit to Boscastle

I thought Boscastle was another coastal town with an interesting harbour but instead it’s collection of curious cafes and gift shops with an interesting harbour. I spent a happy hour looking through the shops. (There is a regular town further up the hill.)

Over a century ago Boscastle was a busy, bustling place. It was a commercial port throughout most of the 19th century, for the railway did not reach north Cornwall until 1893. Before that date all heavy goods to and from an area stretching many miles inland had to be carried by sea. More than a dozen ketches and schooners of 30 to 200 tons traded regularly through the little port. In one year alone 200 ships called. Many vessels brought supplies in from South Wales and Bristol but even cargoes of timber direct from Canada came into Boscastle. The tortuous harbour entrance, with the island of Meachard as an extra hazard, meant it was never safe for sailing vessels to enter Boscastle un-assisted. They were therefore towed or ‘hobbled’ in by ‘hobbler’ boats manned by eight oarsmen. Gangs of men on shore took other ropes to keep the ships in the middle of the channel.
National Trust

Postmarked 1906
Publisher: Valentine

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This is Tintagel. Do you know the story?”

Back in about 1135 a guy by the name of Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote a book called “The History of the Kings of Britain” and he included a story about a wizard who magicked a king so he could sneak into the castle of the duke he was at war with and have it off with his wife. Then almost a century later, the castle was built by the Earl of Cornwall.

After his death, no one really lived here, other than caretakers. It’s a giant folly. Also over time, bits of it have fallen into the sea.

In 1337 the buildings were in a ruinous state, a part of them joining the work on the mainland to that on the island having fallen into the sea : the drawbridge fell in the sixteenth century.
“The castles of England, their story and structure”, James MacKenzie, 1896

In the background is the village of Tintagel (which was Trevena until according to an English Heritage panel “by about 1900, the village had changed its name . . . making the most of its association with the famous castle”, due to the increased interest in King Arthur in the 19th century.) On the far left is the hotel, unfortunately covered in scaffolding, which was built in 1899 and is an interesting mixture of elaborate late-Victorian decor and worn 1940s furnishings. It’s quirky and comfortable.) The castle is in the middle there, with the mainland section (towards the rear) and the “island” section connected by a bridge.

The “island” (you can see the connecting bridge and some of the ruins to the right).

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Three cool places in one day!

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise there is something on the other side of this gate.

This is Castle Dore, an Iron Age hill fort/defended settlement (the last one 🙁 ) It is interesting for three reasons. First, it is easy to get to. You get off the bus, walk 3 minutes down the road and there’s this well-maintained gate. No trudging along muddy ditches claiming to be paths or clambering up bracken-covered hills.

Second, Dore is associated with the story of Tristan & Iseult* as the main residence of King Mark. There is the slight problem of there being no evidence of the site being inhabited beyond the Iron Age, except for a battle during the civil war in the 17th centure.

(*If you’re not familiar with the story: Iseult, an Irish princess comes to Cornwall to marry the king, Mark, but she falls in love with her nephew Tristan. Adventures ensue. Tristan dies tragically. Remember this, it will come up again.)

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Some photos of Truro

Now it’s November, I won’t have as much time to edit & upload photos. So it’ll either be less photos or less often.

For today, some pictures of Truro, the administrative centre for Cornwall. It’s a cathedral city with a population of about 20,000.

I’ll start with the cathedral because (as you might notice) it dominates the town. Everywhere you look, there’s the cathedral spires. I walk out of the door of the hotel and there’s the cathedral. OK that might be because it’s next door. It doesn’t look next door on the map but there it is.

This is the cathedral. Inside it’s pretty much the same as any other cathedral but less interesting. Maybe because it hasn’t had time to develop interestingness. It was only built in 1880. St David’s is older than that.

Except for the reredos. It is a very cool reredos.

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(Content Warning: contains giant millipedes)

After visiting the Maidens and friends yesterday morning, I was back on the bus by 11 am. It was a sunny day and the Land’s End Coaster that I was on went around to St Ives, where I’d been the day before but it was raining. Drenching, solid rain, and the streets were full of people dragging along bored kids and miserable dogs. It wasn’t much fun. So, with a sunny day and no plans, I thought I’d give it a second chance.

The Land End’s Coaster also stops at Land’s End. My earlier visit there was… brief. Again, it was raining and miserable. I got off one bus and caught the next on in the other direction. I felt it might be a bit better on a sunny day.

Land’s End Landmark this place calls itself. I think it’s trying to be a theme park. They have these “experiences”.

The Aardman one might actually be all right if you’re into Wallace & Gromit or Shaun the Sheep. I’m not and I didn’t feel like handing over 5.50  to find out. There are also some eating places and a very big, possibly mutli-shops, souvenir place. There’s another souvenir shop at the experience exit, with Aardman & pireate souvenirs.

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Lots of stones!

About halfway between Penzance and Land’s End by bus, you’ll find this lovely stone circle in a field.

This late Stone/early Bronze Age (2500-1500BC) stone circle is renowned for both its beauty and the stories connected to it. . . . The regularity of spacing between stones and its truly circular form make the Boleigh Merry Maidens unusual in Cornwall, however restorations in the C19th (on the orders of the land owner Lord Falmouth who wanted to avoid the fate which had befallen other nearby circles and stones, namely field clearance and their use in construction) led to some stones being put back slightly skewed. There are 19 stones in all, with a gap in the eastern section which is common to almost all British stone circles. In addition to the regular spacing, the stones were also obviously carefully chosen and positioned as they gradually diminish in size from the southwest to the northeast; this waxing and waning in size believed to mirror the cycle of the moon.
Cornwall Guide

As you can see it’s early in the morning. There’s just me and nineteen stones in a perfect circle.

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The Mine of Botallack

Yesterday the forecast was overcast in the morning with heavy rain starting around noon. I had my doubts about going all the way to the other coast to check out Botallack. Even if it wasn’t going to be raining in the morning, overcast and grey wasn’t going to be good for the photos I wanted to take. Maybe it could wait until the next day. Which seemed  a waste of my second last day here.

But “the other coast” is only 25 minutes away by bus, so I could go for a look and if necessary, come back!

It is rather cool to be sitting on a bus, doing a bit of reading, checking the map, then to look out and see these odd shaped ruins.

They don’t know when mining first started in this area. Maybe not long after people first looked at rocks and thought they could do something more useful than just banging them together, which lead to the Bronze Age. (Do you ever wonder how someone came up with the idea of melting stone to make weapons and other cool stuff? And did they call it melted stone at first?)

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