Exploring Devon & Cornwall - part 1

Words and photography by Peter Thorpe

Lush green fields, laid out like patchwork quilts, everywhere you look

Having been told for years about how beautiful the south of England is, we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. It didn’t disappoint. Our trip just kept getting better each day as we travelled west from London, through Devon and Cornwall, to the furthest point of England – Land’s End. On the return journey, we visited Tintagel Castle, where the legend of King Arthur began and, the stunning, historic city of Bath.

My wife and I, are booked on a five-day tour of Cornwall and the Cotswolds, with a small independent touring company I discovered on the internet called, GoTours. They specialise in tours for small groups, mainly in the south of England. Our tour vehicle is a small minibus and we have a group of six couples – all seniors – mostly British (apart from us Aussies) and one American couple.

Stone Henge - how on earth did they build this back in 2600BC?

Our journey starts in London, where we are picked up from our hotel in the Earl’s Court district right on time at 8.45am. Our first day takes us out of the suburbs of London and into some of the most beautiful countryside you will ever see. We amble through lush green fields, laid out like patchwork quilts, while our tour guide and bus driver Glen tells us about some of the fascinating places we will be exploring along the way.
Our first stop fulfils the promise nicely – Stone Henge. This incredible structure has to be seen to be believed. Built in around 2,600BC, we can only stare and wonder at how it was constructed in the days before cranes, trucks and machines. Some of the stones weigh 25 tons and they come from Wales – which is a couple of hundred miles away. How on earth did they build this? There are lots of theories – everything from aliens to King Arthur’s wizard but nobody really knows for sure. Fascinating.

The village of Salisbury - the umbrellas are for a gay pride event

Next stop Salisbury. This is where those people got poisoned by a radio-active doorknob, courtesy of Russian spies! Our tour Guide Glen warns us not to pick up anything in the street. Check!
Very pretty place. The highlight was a visit to the Salisbury Cathedral (oh no – we groan – not another one!) By the way, it’s not uncommon when touring Europe for people to get 3C sickness. That’s when you get sick of looking at Churches, Castles and Cathedrals! As magnificent as many of these structures are, there is a limit to how many you can visit before 3C sickness sets in.
But this one really is different, and it has some really interesting things inside. Like: How about the original Magna Carta! The world’s oldest constitutional document, introduced in 1215. Plus, the world’s oldest working clock, dating back to about 1386. The clock has no dial and no hands but it chimes on the hour, every hour. You just have to work out which hour it is!

The world’s oldest working clock, dating back to about 1386

The Salisbury village, like most villages along our journey, is charming and picturesque with quaint, historic buildings everywhere. It also has the most delicious fudge shop. See the photo of Fudge Henge below (Stone Henge made out of fudge – yum!)
Then, after a delicious lunch at a country style pub, it’s on to the Jurassic coast for a visit to a local beach. Despite the fact that the water is freezing and there are no waves, we are amazed to see it’s chock-a-block full of people. Not quite Bondi but certainly very pretty and different.

Fudge Henge - Stone Henge made out of fudge – yum!

Today, we explore the Dartmoor Moors. This is the place where Conan Doyle stayed when he wrote his book, The Hounds of the Baskerville. The moors themselves are beautiful and expansive and sparsely populated, dotted here and there with the odd farm or country cottage. We motor down tight country lanes stopping here and there to admire the views and watch the wild ponies, which wander freely in the National Park. The area has a history built on tin mining, Devonshire cream tea and sheep farming.

We drop in on the town of Princetown for lunch and pay a visit to the infamous Dartmoor Prison and National Park Visitor’s Centre, with its fabulous Sherlock Holmes display, complete with life-size models. Elementary, my dear Watson!

I finally get to meet Sherlock Holmes - elementary, my dear Watson!

We can’t believe how everywhere we go the houses and businesses are covered in beautiful flowers. Why don’t we do this in Australia? So good and looks fantastic.

Everywhere we go - we see beautiful flowers

We also visit a few ports and fishing villages along the way including the port of Charlestown, where they film a lot of the TV series, Poldark. Very enjoyable – nice hotels and nice food. Naturally, we have Devonshire Tea in Devon and the scones are yummy!

Tomorrow more of the same and then – it’s on to Lands End and Doc Martin country.

Click here to continue the journey…