Cornwall is in the extreme south-west of England, beyond Somerset and Devon and is, along with parts of Wales, the last place in the UK where the ancient Celts retreated, during the invasions of the Saxons, the Gauls, the Vikings and the Romans. The Welsh language derives from the Celtic tongue and a form of it is still spoken in Cornwall too, though it has almost died out there now. The people of Brittany in France also speak a dialect which many Welshmen would recognise. This is due to the fact that Cornwall and Brittany were once part of a single land mass, when England itself was still attached to Europe.
Nowadays a Cornishman or woman speaks in a warm, rich English accent very similar to that used by Robert Newton in his part as Long John Silver, in the film ‘Treasure Island’. But there is so much more to Cornwall than a mere accent!
To start with some basics, who hasn’t tried some baker’s idea of what a Cornish Pasty should be like, possibly to be disappointed! The ‘real deal’, made in the traditional way employed by miners wives a couple of hundred years ago was made with lamb (the locally available cheap meat), diced swede, onion and potato, an egg to bind the mix and a dash of seasoning. The case was made with a plain short pastry. The ridge on a pasty was there to act as a ‘handle’ rather than as part of the meal, so the miner could eat with dirty hands and then throw the ridge away. This was a complete one-course meal, but some wives made the pasty bigger, with the above mix at one end and jam or cooked apple, or cherries at the other end, as a sweet!
Cornwall is a county of tiny roads, once you get off the freeways and the highways; narrow lanes with passing places every hundred metres or so, a bit frightening to visitors from overseas, especially as most of these little roads have high banks on either side, so you can’t see what is coming until you almost hit it! But the roads are part of the charm of the county!
To the North-West of the county lies Tintagel with its ancient ‘Camelot’ castle ruins, believed in legend to be the home of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, though there is no actual proof of this. Whatever the truth of the matter, Tintagel and its castle are well worth a visit, but make sure you have a comfortable pair of walking shoes – it’s a bit of a hike from village to castle.
Cornwall was famous from very early times as an area rich in tin, a vital commodity in the manufacture of bronze and copper was extensively mined there as well. Later on, with the development of ceramics in the north of England, china clay became the major money earner and the County is dotted with the massive pyramids of waste from the mines. Today, the main industry is tourism, with most of the once busy fishing villages dotted all along both coasts now attending to the requirements of visitors. Luckily, the county has many beautiful beaches too, those on the north coast boasting heavy seas on many occasions, to the international delight of many surfers!
Bodmin Moor, a place of mystery and smugglers, (at least, many years ago this was the case!), is also very popular with famous writers such as Daphne Du Maurier, who wrote “Jamaica Inn” (an actual building, at the centre of the Moor, still selling beer!), and “Rebecca”, which is also set in the same area. Other famous writers who either lived in Cornwall, or set many of their stories in the County include Charles Kingsley, Arthur Conan-Doyle and Gilbert & Sullivan, (The Pirates of Penzance).
If you have ever watched the television show “Doc Martin”, it is set in the village of Port Isaac, though its name is changed for the series to Portwenn. The views of the village and the countryside around it are pretty well representative of most villages on the Cornish Peninsula.
Keep heading in a South Westerly direction and eventually you will come to Land’s End, in more ways than one. This is literally the very, westernmost tip of England, with nothing west of it until you arrive in America. Because of conflicting currents – the English Channel is on the south of the peninsula and the Atlantic is on the north, the sea always seems to be rough and very dangerous here. Consequently, there is a lighthouse situated about a mile off shore, warning seafarers to keep their distance.
There are some towns dotted about Cornwall, to satisfy the shopping addict, namely Padstow, Falmouth, Newquay, Truro and Bodmin, all bristling with shops and history. About the main tourist attraction in Cornwall these days is the “Eden Project”, the iconic ‘eco’ park and educational facility, reputed to be one of the best and most interesting tourist facilities in Europe, though there was some controversy attached to it when it was first envisaged.
This has given you a very brief tour of facilities and places of interest in Cornwall, designed to whet your appetite, rather than be an extensive travelogue. Just go there yourself and get lost in the wonder of the place – I know you will enjoy it if and when you get there!
Have you visited Cornwall? What did you get up to? Share your favourite memories below!