Sunday, September 01, 2013

Day 1: Padstow to Port Isaac

N.B. This is the first of six posts about my trip to the north coast of Cornwall and Devon to walk a portion of the South West Coast Path. 
Cornwall Navigation: [Trip Overview] - [Next Day] 

Overview: A coastal path with some steep bits - one long ascent looked to be a 45 degree angle after we were done with it. Some blackberries along the way.  Blue butterflies/moths.  A good day.

We set off from the ferry at Padstow, a more complex undertaking than it might have been.  We had been told about the "main" ferry dock and the "alternative" dock for low tide - supposedly, the way you can tell if the main dock is in operation is that they are flying a flag there.  The flag was flying, and the schedule board said "N/A" for launch times at the alternative dock, but the tide looked pretty darned low to us - and there was no one there, no sign of activity.  So we climbed the stairs, went up and over a hill, and down to the beach on the other side to the alternative site.  There was no sign of activity there either, but we found some locals walking dogs on the beach, and asked them.  They said the ferry has been coming to the main site all summer, and they reckoned it would be the same today.  There is apparently no set schedule; the ferry crossing is driven by customer demand.  (So if we'd stayed put, the ferry might have come over and picked us up already!!!)  Oh well! It was certain a good warm-up, climbing back up and over to the original site, where there was now another passenger waiting.  Sure enough, the ferry came on over, and we soon reached the Rock.  Our fellow passenger skateboarded off to town (stage right) as we headed through a car park in quest of the acorn-marked path...

The Three Musketeers

We saw a few blue butterflies or moths - the first a dusty blue, the second more of a periwinkle.

After a few climbs, we reached a surfing mecca.  It may not be Hawaii or California, but it is clearly very popular - there were many rival firms offering surfing lessons and surfboard rentals.

I liked the logo on this one!

The bungee swinging contraption looked really fun,
but we were on a mission to find a pub!
We bought some pasties at a local pub (mine was chicken and leek) to enjoy en route, and then got cappuccinos at an ice cream shop.  The locally produced ice cream looked really, really good, but we figured that such places would be easy to find in Cornwall.

The climbs soon resumed.

Northbound boat, southbound island?

Zooming in to the rocks below...
The day was hot, and the ascents and descents were non-stop, so we decided to stop for lunch.

A few folks passed by, and Bill chatted with them.  One young couple was off to go fishing, poles in hand and with their young son (Leo) in a backpack.  The father said he had done the entire SWCP (all 630 miles) in 14 days, when he was in college.  We talked this over later, and decided this was a fish tale.

Sarah wasn't hungry, but Bill and I were.  Unfortunately, the pasties weren't particularly good (more potato than anything else, and very heavy).  Afterward, I wished I'd eaten only half of mine...

We pushed on as beautiful landscapes unfolded beneath us.  One highlight was a natural stone arch with water rushing in and out.

A natural archway
We saw a slow-worm on the path, apparently a common legless lizard in the UK.

Slow-Worm.  It is not a worm!!
We took a small detour up a hill to see tiny Doyden Castle, which is built into the hill (and is not open to the public).

Up close and personal

Doyden Castle, viewed from mid-hill.

Doyden Castle, viewed from SWCP.
View from Doyden Castle.  Why yes, we will be descending nearly to water level again - I'm glad you asked!!

Peaceful landscape... with a nice long ascent.

The road goes ever on and on...

View back to Doyden Castle
Eventually, we came to a really punishing long, steep ascent.

You're almost there, Sarah!!!
"More stairs?!"

View from the top (looking down at another hill we just descended)

And yes, there were more stairs to follow.  Here is a view down the next ravine...

We eventually reached Port Isaac, beautiful in the sunshine.

We had a strange encounter with one of the locals while we were waiting for a taxi to take us to our out-of-town hotel; a passer-by even commented "There's one in every village."  Go figure!

Our hotel had a special garden, which we got to see for free as guests of the hotel.  Some of the promised views were blocked by luxuriant plant growth, but it was nice to stroll around the grounds:

The thistles were magnificent - really huge.   The flowers were easily 3 inches high.

We dined at the hotel restaurant - looking into a lovely sunset.  (Two-thirds of us, at least.)

 (Official mileage for this section of the SWCP: 11.7)

N.B. A six-day walk on the north coast of the South West Coast Path (Padstow to Clovelly).
Cornwall Navigation: [Next Day] 

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