En route to Mont St Michel

Tonight we can see Mont St Michel from our room – hopefully we’ll get there tomorrow and I’ll be inspired to write “Why go to Mont St Michel when you can go to St Michaels’s Mount.”

We ended up staying two nights at La Bristellerie. When you find something that good you need to make the most of it. Today though we need to get at least a bit closer to Brittany.

First stop Carteret, from where you can get a ferry to Guernsey, but for us it was just a walk around the Cap.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

Stout shoes for bouldering, Carteret.

On south to the quite lovely Coutances, where the soaring cathedral dominates the view from miles around. Most of the town was closed – except a good little crêperie where we lunched on galettes and cider.

There’s a stunning park/gardens, somewhat unimaginatively called Jardin des Plantes, entered through an arch under one of the more grand houses.

Coutances, Cathedral

Coutances, Cathedral

 

A. Minty. Collins.

A. Minty. Collins.

 

Yellow

Yellow

Now, having looked in on Granville and thought it was a bit like Newquay en France, we’re in our room in a funny little hotel, but overlooking Mont St Michel and just above the strangely named St John Le Thomas.

The Cornish Way in France.

We love learning, and when it’s combined with drinking fine wines, calvados and cider, and eating the best imaginable foods then the whole experience is better still.

View from our room to the gardens

View from our room to the gardens

Yesterday we caught the ferry to Cherbourg from Portsmouth and woke up after a rough crossing in La France.

A short drive to our first mason d’hôtes, La Bristellerie, in the hamlet of Hardinvast, and a wonderful welcome from Jan and Marie. A quick bag drop and we’re back downstairs in their huge and comfortable converted barn sharing stories and excellent wines.

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Dinner at Jan’s friend’s restaurant in nearby Les Pieux was excellent, washed down with local cider. It’s called Le Petite Bourg.

Later, back to the house for a superb sleep in our room that’s a similar size to the flat we rent in Manchester. Slipping between the sheets and breathing in the wonderful smell of French linen before a sweet oblivion descended.

The house is in there somewhere

The house is in there somewhere

It was hard to find the house for a photo from the calming gardens – but here’s a try.

Pussycat on tour - again

Pussycat on tour – again

Saturday’s weather wasn’t amazing, but hey, we were tired, and doing little was ideal.

A short drive around La Hague, Port Racine for photos.

Port Racine

Port Racine

 

The girl - Port Racine

The girl – Port Racine

 

Port Racine

Port Racine

Back to the house for dinner in the garden, simple – cider, great red, cheese, saucisson, great bread. Perfect.

 

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Dinner chez La Bristellerie

Now it’s Sunday morning, the sun’s shining, and we can’t wait to get out there. But just a couple more photos from La Bristellerie…

Gourds - La Bristellerie

 

So many places to sit

So many places to sit

Levant, its working beam engine, and rugged coast.

We’re delighted to be back in the far west after too long away working.

There’s an old Sunday school for sale in Trewellard, and I flirted with the idea of a big project. I dragged Amanda to see it earlier. We concluded that my madcap schemes would be too much to layer on top of everything else right now, but it’s always exciting to look at a plot, or dilapidated building, and let the creative juices flow.

The Sunday School also meant that we stopped off in Trewellard instead of just driving through, and that’s well worthwhile.

It might not seem that there’s a lot to Trewellard, but at night there’s the attraction of the Meadery and the pub with its huge collection of whiskeys, and of course the coast. There was no drinking to be done today though, not yet at least.

Trewellard Sunday School

Trewellard Sunday School

After staring in awe at the stonework of the Sunday school, and dreaming of the plot’s potential, we walked down to the cliffs, stopping off at Old Bal engine house, and then taking a few quick phone shots of Levant mine, before lying in a sheltered spot and loving the sounds and smells of the sea.

Higher Bal, Levant

Higher Bal, Levant

Levant was worked from 1820 to 1930 and is perched right on the cliff edge, with its workings going out a couple of kilometres under the sea. Back in the early 1990s a gang of dedicated engineers restored the beam engine to working order and it now steams regularly. Amanda wasn’t likely to want to spend time with a smelly old steam engine, but I made a note to return soon (Mr Orton?).

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The Oldest steaming beam engine is here at Levant.

The cliffs here are not the highest, but it’s certainly a rugged stretch and interesting with its mining heritage from hundreds of years ago, right up to 1990 when Geevor finally stopped extracting ore.

Thinking of the beauty back home – The Brisons.

I’m sitting on a train from Manchester to London, I’m lucky today, first class on the Virgin pendilino was cheaper than standard, so the air is cool (if a little smelly), the wi-fi is free, and I might even get a sandwich later.

The Cheshire countryside is good, but my thoughts soon turn to the far west of Cornwall.

I was browsing through photos of our last few days at Tregiffian, Sennen and realised that I haven’t loaded these onto the blog yet, so here goes, a couple of shots of my favourite place.

This is the rugged and simple Cape Cornwall, Priest’s Cove, and the Brisons, the evening shot was taken on a walk back from the Kings Arms in St Just. Big news from the Kings – they also own The Square, the new pizza deli next to McFaddens. Pizza is good, and you can take it to the pub to enjoy with something wet.

Through campion hides the Cape and Brisons.

The fisherman’s huts at Priest’s Cove seem to be breeding again. There are a couple that have been fixed up, and even one that’s a tiny piece of beachside architecture. I just wish I could somehow take on the crumbling concrete hut right on the front and create a small single room retreat there.

The Brisons. Late evening. Mid-summer 2014.

The Brisons. Late evening. Mid-summer 2014.

Life’s always better with a shaggy dog photo – here’s Polly, adjusting to normal life after her taste of stardom, about to join me in the sea at Nanquidno.

Polly at Nanquidno.

Polly at Nanquidno.

It’s gratifying to read of guests at Tregiffian who become as captivated with the far west as we are. We have just started taking bookings on 2016, and winter is getting more popular too.

I dream of when we’ll be in the wild west through the crazy months of winter.

ARCO2 and Umbazi

Anyone who has scanned the shelves at New Forge will know I love great architecture.

Hawkes Point, Carbis Bay

It’s the simple buildings that most appeal to me. The shacks in the middle of nowhere with harpy a facility beyond shelter and a wood burner, the purity of Pawson, or the concrete joy of Tadao Ando.

I hope that New Forge achieves that simplicity, it was what we were seeking when Charly Griffiths and I worked on its design back in 2009.

This week I had an absolute treat when we visited Hawkes Point to see the ARCO2 building being realised there by Umbazi. Umbazi is an interesting build team working with young local lads on a project fuelled by passion and great design, that has seen more challenges than Kevin McCloud could possibly fit into just one programme of Grand Designs.

The site is about 150 metres from the nearest road drop off point, and down a very steep slope. This means that every single item, from a box of essential tea bags, to huge windows, or a wood burring stove, has had to be carried, by hand, to the steep sloping site.

The house will be a private home to some very fortunate people. It offers views that will be up there among the best in the world. You can only really see it from the beach, and it’s worth a trip to this little known beach just to stare up and dream of what it’s like inside.

Porth Kidney, Hayle

I didn’t feel envy – rather I felt inspired, and now I want to create a project for The Cornish Way that involves the beauty, simplicity and honest practises that the design and build team have achieved here.

Well done everyone – and that includes the client, without their faith this wouldn’t have been possible.

 

Evening sun, wine, friends – does it get better than this?

What an amazing day.

You arrive at Tregiffian, buoyed on by the adrenaline that helps you forget just how tired you are from weeks of working too many hours.

You’re excited.

Next day comes the dip. And for me this time it was a big dip. Yesterday, despite knowing that I was in my favourite place in the world, I could barely drag myself along the ten minute walk to the beach. I had to let my lovely friends go to the pub without me.

In bed just after 10.00pm on the longest day. What’s that about?

But then a big sleep. A really big sleep.

And this morning I woke refreshed.

Did the Gurlands Farm walk this morning, across the fields from Tregiffian, up to Gurlands, and on down to Gwenver. A beautiful, if short, walk. Joined for a while by Paddy, the huge lurcher who lives up at Gurlands.

Here are the fluffy Gurlands cattle with their magnificent view.

Highland cattle at Gurland Farm, over Gwenver.

Highland cattle at Gurland Farm, over Gwenver.

During the day we walked over the cliff tops to Cot Valley, looking its very best with so many blossoms, and now the heady sent of honeysuckle too. Skinny dipping at Nanquidno (sorry anyone who may have been offended by a man naked, but for his big beard!). Oh the joy, water just cool enough to make you smile, not cold enough to make you smart.

Naked Man at Nanquidno!

Naked Man at Nanquidno!

Then spent the evening on the balcony at Myn Tea. Friends and neighbours Mark, Wendy and Emmi came over for a bottle and to admire the view of views.

Can we stay here for ever?

Can we stay here for ever?

Now at 10.15 it’s getting a little chilly, and soon we might go inside and close off the best day of the year so far.

Sunset from the balcony at Myn Tea.

Sunset from the balcony at Myn Tea.

Myn Tea might not be the real world. But it surely is a good world.

Nanquidno - joy!

Nanquidno – joy!

Come here at any time of the year and you’ll experience a different view on your own life.

Back in the far west.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been fortunate to visit some gorgeous places for work and pleasure. A night at The Devonshire fell followed by a long walk up the River Wharfe in North Yorkshire prompted me to say to Minty “Cornwall will have it’s work cut out trying to impress me next week.”

Here’s the bridge at Burnsall Village by the Red Lion, from here there’s good swimming to be done, or diving off rocks a bit further along for an unexpected adrenalin rush in such serene surroundings.

Bridge at Burnsall

The Devonshire Fell was a top place to stay, a super comfortable bed and this view to wake up to. The competition was on!

From The Devonshire Fell

After that work took me through South Wales, filming at Best Western Aberavon Beach hotel followed by The Maldron in Cardiff. Our Polly will be a star in one of the adverts we were working on as the Abeeravon Beach is a dog friendly hotel – and the beach is right outside.

Polly at Aberavon.

Next up was another favourite county, Somerset, and off to the stunning Best Western Swan at Wells. This has the best hotel room I have seen in years, quiet luxury, comfortable not flash, with the best view of Wells Cathedral.

Driving through the A roads from Wells to Salisbury made the thought of motorways  seem brash and angry, we really should get off them more often.

Then came Cornwall’s big testing moment. Would it. could it deliver? Just after Crowlas on the A30 you get the fairytale view of St Michael’s Mount, today sitting in a sparkling azure sea, dotted with sailing dinghies, windsurfs and a visiting tall ship – special already.

Turning down the lane to Tregiffian had tears of joy pricking at my eyes.

The hedges are huge and full of colour, teeming with life as a thousand chicks take unsteadily to the air for their first flights, the sea looks so tempting, and at the end of the lane there’s Myn Tea.

Life is good.

The enchanting path to Gwenver

The visitor’s book is open to a quote from the last guests “As Samuel Johnson may have said, When you tire of Myn Tea you tire of life”.

Gwenver

Perfect!

Myn Tea

That then leaves the question, Yorkshire, Somerset, or Cornwall?

If I can’t have it all then I’ll just stay put where I am thanks.

Kernow kensa!

The Cornish Way go self catering in the north.

The concept of having too much time in Cornwall has no traction with me, but nonetheless we do have to venture beyond the borders now and then.

This weekend was in the name of research to see what excellent self catering there is elsewhere. We always want to know what we can learn to make The Cornish Way even better.

We headed north with the Bronco team to Ingshead, a wonderful old cottage outside of Garsdale, a few miles west of Hawes on the North Yorkshire/Cumbria border.

IngsheadThe drive across the Dales last night should have been wonderful, but fog and lashing rain made it a challenge, although it’s the weather that seems to best suit the barren hills, dotted with sheep, and characterised by their solid looking barns all over.

After Hawes the clouds lifted and the last few miles were amazing. A narrow, largely straight road, but with mad dips and troughs that made it an exciting drive even in a Passat.

The houses has been pretty much rebuilt, and to a high standard too. Generous bedrooms, a big comfortable kitchen with a Rayburn, even a games room with some great musical memorabilia, juke box and pool table. It sleeps six and every couple have their own bathroom as well as big bedrooms.

INgshead from the garden

The scenery is all about high rolling hills, fast streaming clouds, and fast rivers too.

The Cornish Way abroad

We took a fine pint of Theakstons Best in the Moor Cock Inn, a ironic name given the landlady couple. That as part of a gentle walk about with the dogs, then home for a dinner that’s smelling great right now.

Old Beardy, with thr More Cock in the background

Let’s hope there’s a visit to the Wensleydale Creamery tomorrow – that cheese shop is amazing.

God's own country

 

Wensleydale

 

Ethan

Here’s my partner in crime – Ethan.

 

Nanjizel adventure

Nanjizel. A world away, yet so close.

Walk from Tregiffian, through Sennen Churchtown, down to Trevescan for lunch at The Appletree Cafe, or walk around Lands End, or take the easier route and park at either of these places.

Be careful swimming here, I’ve been caught out before on a falling tide and found it a challenge to get back in. But just come for the spectacle, and the fabulous cliffs on the way back to Lands End.

Trevescan

 

Trevescan field. Green.Hawthorn. Nanjizel.Seal rock. Nanjizel.

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Seeing the dawn on holiday

The idea of getting up at dawn while on holiday may not appeal to everyone, but when it means you might catch a glimpse of the sun rising above Chapel Carn Brea, then dipping behind the hill again, then it’s worth the effort.

I was delighted to sit on the door step at New Forge this morning as the sun did its thing. Just a small part of the most amazing pre-Easter week.

Dawn, Chapel Carn Brea