Driving on the Edge in Cornwall

Part of our OBT series of articles.

Our roving retirement around the world trip took a detour to attend a Goble family reunion in Sussex. That gave us time to visit Windsor Castle and Cornwall. You might ask, “why Cornwall?” The answer is:

  • We watch a lot of British TV shows that are based in Cornwall like Doc Martin and Poldark
  • We had some time to kill
  • Neither of us had been there

I picked a hotel that I thought was kind of in the middle of the area in a little fishing village, sounds nice doesn’t it? Well, the hotel was nice but 10 miles in Cornwall turns out to be 40 minutes away. This was unexpected. Then Mike got a pretty bad chest cold, which slowed us down too.

Windsor Castle

We arrived in London, picked up a car, figured out driving on the left side of the road and spent the night at a beautiful manor house. We were, so happy to be cool after many weeks in heat and humidity.

The next day, we drove a short distance to Windsor Castle. It has been, dare I say, 40 years since I’ve been here and I didn’t remember a thing. What a great first castle to visit.

The Roads – “It’s an Adventure”

It’s an Adventure: our travel mantra. We say that whenever things aren’t exactly living up to our expectations. We didn’t hear until we left Cornwall that they had the slowest, narrowest and hardest roads to drive in all of England. Talk about trial by fire. We left the airport in a 1000 cc right-hand drive Skoda car and Mike promptly drove up a curb on the passenger side of the car in a roundabout. That set my nerves off, but it was nothing like driving in Cornwall. For the first half a day, it seemed like Mike was constantly driving too close to the left curb, but he got the hang of it. It helped that we’d been driven on the left-hand side in India for about 6 weeks so the turning directions were more familiar.

Many of the roads in Cornwall are single lane tracks with 10 foot high bushes on either side they call a verge. Alternatively, there might be a stone wall bordering the road. So, as you drive, you must always be on the lookout for cars/trucks coming towards you and the nearest place to pull out and stop for the opposing traffic to pass. This makes travel from place to place much slower than expected. Also, our hotel was quite a distance from anywhere, down a lane called Chute Road and they weren’t kidding (stone walls on both sides).

Doc Martin and Port Isaac

Even though it took much longer to get anywhere than we thought it would, we did manage to visit Port Isaac, which is the shooting location for Port Wenn, where Doc Martin is set. They have the tourist trade down, with a new car park, and lots of shops catering to tourists. The town is down a steep hill from the car park and just as cute as it looks on TV, only different. Doc Martin’s surgery is obvious, but we couldn’t find Mrs. Tishell’s pharmacy. Still, it was really fun anyway, even the climb back up the steep hill to the car park.

Lands End

The next day we decided to go to Lands End via Penzance. Thankfully, all the pirates were out at sea when we arrived. By the time we got to Penzance, it was time for lunch, so we stopped at this really small, several hundred-year-old, place advertising real Cornish Pasties. Pasties were invented for the Cornish miners. The filling is a beef stew and the crust around it is designed for holding, so the miners could eat most of pasty without ingesting the arsenic from the mine that was on their hands. A good concept, but not being miners, we ate the delicious crust. They were so large I only ate half, the other half was dinner.

Lands end is the southernmost point in England and is greatly celebrated as a destination for people traveling from the far north of Scotland to the southern end of England. They make the most of their location by offering several movies and other activities. We preferred to walk out to the actual southernmost point and get ice cream (energy for the walk back.)

Tin Mines and Poldark

We knew there were some famous old Tin Mines near Land’s End, but we were just too tired/sick to visit them while were nearby. So on our last day in Cornwall, we decided to visit the Poldark mine. It is the only tin mine you can tour inside and they did film the Poldark mine scenes there. Tin mining ended around 1890 and many mines, like this one, were lost to history.

This particular mine was rediscovered in the 1970s when a large hole opened up in the farmer’s field above. Tin mining is interesting because there is lots of water in these mines that must be removed and the tin veins are usually at a 10-degree angle running north-south. Back in the mining days, they used to remove the water with a conveyer that had rags attached. At the top of the conveyor, they would ring them out and send them down into the mine again, not very efficient.

Cornish miners were so famous for their skills that they migrated around the world bringing their talents to places like South Africa, Australia, and the United States. There are still Cornish communities in these places today. We saw a picture of the train station in Exeter, circa 1900, filled with miners and their families heading off in search of new opportunities.

The Reunion

The reunion turned out to be a lot more fun than we thought it was going to be. We met some wonderful cousins (distant) from all over the U.S. and England. Our first day in Sussex, we visited the house where Squire Goble lived in the 17th century. Apparently, the family was well off, having gained some wealth by cheating others and getting into other people’s wills. However,  Thomas Goble, 12 generations back, being the youngest son, decided to take his chances in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1634. We, actually Mike, and every other Goble at the reunion for the U.S. are descendants of Thomas Goble.

The highlight of the day was having one couple renew their vows in the same church that Thomas was married in, 400 years ago in 1619. After some more Sussex sightseeing, we parted ways with all of the Gobles, feeling better for the experience.

Do you want to have a go at driving in Cornwall?

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  1. What a wonderful experience you had, especially the memorable reunion with the renewal of vows 400 years later!
    This is not a place we have traveled, except for Windsor Castle, so your input and adventures are very entertaining!

  2. Ditto on ur sense of humor. Enjoying your blog immensely. Al and I watch all the British shows, too. Doc Martin is a favorite. Understand the Large patio restaurant is a set prop, not real. Look forward to more.

  3. The restaurant, like the surgery, is a private home. Mrs. Tishell’s serves ice cream. The school is a restaurant. Fun to see in person

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