I was thinking about what would make me feel better whilst nursing a
slight (HUGE) hangover, as I’m sure a few of you are doing too, this being the first day of the New Year! And I decided that taking you on a trip to where I spent Christmas this year with my family would do the trick. Get ready for some stunning coast line, picturesque villages and the best holiday hideaway in England (at least, we think so)!
I’ve holidayed in Cornwall, and in this specific part of Cornwall – which is between Par, St Austell and Fowey – for as long as I can remember. We sometimes came here twice a year at Spring and Summer breaks with our grandparents and stayed in a caravan right next to the beach. It was so comforting to wake up and be able to hear the sound of the sea… mixed with the tap of seagulls padding around on our roof!
Par Beach is big and one of our favourite things to do was go rock-pooling when the tide was out. My mother used to do exactly the same when she was a girl and in these exact spots as well. It was Mama who showed me and my sister the wonderful walk that I am about to take you on. We walked it again on Christmas Eve and it was truly magical.
The stretch we walk (correctly entitled the ‘Gribbin Head Walk’) takes you from Par to Fowey via Gribbin Head, the seaside hamlet of Polkerris and Menabilly Beach, where one of my favourite authors, Daphne du Maurier, used to live. There is a secret path that leads up through the bracken off Par Beach and onto the cliffs beside it, but it is so overgrown and unused that you have to fight your way through and go up on your hands and knees. When you burst out through the top you have the most incredible view of the sea. You are also standing on the path that runs along the headland and takes you straight to the village of Fowey, my favourite spot in Cornwall, home to many pubs and little shops to entertain you when you get there!
When you are on the path above the beach, stand facing the sea and then turn left. Keep walking along and you will see many small paths leading off down the side of the cliff – well-worn tracks used by fishermen casting off the rocks close to the sea and rock-poolers like me. Be careful if you choose to go down any of them – they are not cared for and are very steep. However, there are rock pools galore and hidden coves with private beaches unbeknownst to most walkers that are just itching to be explored when you get down there!
You will come across kindred spirits on the way – people who think nothing of stripping off naked in one of these secret coves and going swimming, even in the dead of winter! Like this gentleman below, watched by his slightly baffled children!
Gribbin Head is the red and white striped cliffside pillar that marks the halfway point for walkers, built originally to warn ships of their proximity to the cliffs. Once you pass the tower, you can catch a glimpse of your destination a few rolling hill dips away from you.
If you time your walk to end with the sunset you are privy to views like these with Gribbin Head behind you.
This tree fascinates me – it looks like a magical portal into another world! As you get closer to Fowey, you will find the ruins of an old house just above Readmoney Cove and the not-to-be-missed St Catherine’s Castle, built under the reign of Henry VIII to warn against invasion from the Holy Roman Empire in 1538.
This is Readymoney Cove with some Christmas canoeists just paddling out. You are now very nearly at Fowey and have the picturesque walk through the winding lanes of the ancient town to look forward to with views of Polruan’s twinkling lights opposite. Polruan is Fowey’s neighbour town that can be reached by ferry every 15 minutes from Fowey’s harbour.
Palm trees and other exotic plants are a very familiar sight in Cornwall – because the climate is so warm, they can easily survive here. The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Trebah Garden are both on my recommendation list for anyone new to Cornwall – you can spend all day in either one of these botanical collections and feel totally refreshed at the end of it. Trebah Garden also handily has a beach!
Finally, the town itself. Don’t take a car right down to the waterfront as there is barely ever space! There are plenty of lovely pubs to have a well-earned drink. The Ship Inn was a particular favourite, and the little shops surrounding it are perfect havens to while the time away.
As you can tell, we’re pretty pleased to have found our hideaway haven! Hope you get to visit someday…