“We must be nearly there, we’re going to fall off the map in a minute!” I was the one voicing this complaint – not a good sign considering I was the one driving. But it was well past midnight and we’d just pulled out of the dodgiest-looking service station I’ve ever been to. It had the kind of concrete car park that tends to be used as the murder scene in many a crime drama. And we were heading towards the end of the earth. Or, at least, to the end of our little island.
On a map, Cornwall does not look that remote. But to put it in perspective, London to Plymouth is roughly the same distance as New York City to Washington DC – a lot of it down some very congested motorways, which on a Friday night can become unbearable. I had been driving for 5 hours and we had finally come off the motorway and were navigating smaller and smaller winding roads, in the pitch black night.
Finally, we arrived in the Cornish town of Looe, exhausted and just happy to have made it. We were ushered in to my friend’s house and claimed whichever bed or matress we collapsed upon first.
With the dawning of the next day, I was in much brighter spirits and as we ventured out of the house, we had that moment of unveiling you only experience when you arrive somewhere in the dead of night, without a clue what the place looks like. And Looe in the daytime was absolutely charming.
We walked down narrow, cobbled streets and past the prettiest of stone houses. The streets led us down the hill and into the town. Boats bobbed calmly in the harbour, around which the town was built, and quaint little shops offered Fish and Chips and traditional Cornish produce.
It was not a sunny day, but though the wind whipped our hair and made us pull our jackets more tightly around us, we bought fish and chips and went to sit on the harbour wall. On the small beach below, children in swimsuits were playing and building sandcastles, apparently impervious to the chilly breeze. A few crazy people were even swimming in the sea. We went as far as dipping our toes in the freezing water, but only because it’s practically the law at any British beach, just like eating Fish and Chips straight out of the paper whilst fending off seagulls.
Feeling thoroughly satisfied but rather chilled, we retreated to the town. The boys immediately headed for the nearest pub because the football was on, while we girls explored the shops and streets. Buildings were festooned with patriotic bunting in recognition of the summer’s events. Characterful restaurants, with names like ‘The Smuggler’s Cott’, and independent shops selling pretty things vied for space along the streets of old, wonky buildings. I was enchanted with the place.
The following day, we continued South, to Tintagel and Newquay, and it’s fair to say that Cornwall did not disappoint. It may be a fair old trek from, well, anywhere, but I’d do that drive all over again just to wake up in Looe.