23.45 Night Riviera to Penzance

Last summer I fulfilled another travel wish in the form of an overnight rail adventure on the Night Riviera from London Paddington to Penzance. This service is one of just two long-distance night train journeys in the UK – the other being the Caledonian Express from the capital up to Scotland. The train is ready to board from 10.30pm onwards so you can get nicely tucked up in bed before the train departs the station at 23.45. I, however, was far too intoxicated with excitement to sleep – walking along the narrow corridors in search of my cabin, it really did feel like stepping back in time to an era when rail travel was so slow and leisurely that sleeping on a train was a frequent requisite. I opted for my own cabin (I’m quite claustrophobic and didn’t fancy being in such close proximity to a total stranger) and I was pleasantly surprised at how cosy, compact and comfortable the experience was. That said, the beds are small, so if you are quite a bit larger than average (height or width!) this mode of travel might not offer same level of comfort. My chief reservations about taking the train were a) not being able to sleep and b) the noise; I’m relieved to say that neither were an issue. I managed to get several hours shut eye and the only noise I heard was the rhthymic beat of the train chugging on the tracks and the occasional whistle as we passed through a station. It’s an expensive way to travel (£200 for a return ticket) but a travel experience you won’t forget. You also get to avoid long travel journeys during the day cutting into your holiday time. Below is my single-berth cabin – compact but cosy:20140810_224120I awoke the next morning as the train approached Truro at around 7am. A continental breakfast was delivered to my cabin – a lovely way to start the day, watching the beautiful Cornish countryside from my little window. The train meanders through the country before eventually running alongside the sea – an inviting welcome to Penzance at 7.53am. 20140811_081243Upon arrival in Penzance, my first destination was St Michael’s Mount – a short bus ride or about an hour’s walk from the town. Penzance itself is a pretty little town and a great base due to its proximity to so many places of interest and natural beauty. This part of Cornwall is pretty accessible to those without a car too, as rail and bus links are fairly good.

Penzance IMG_6997 cnSt Michael’s Mount – somewhere inbetween a rail storm and a sun beamIMG_6575The views from the castle were quite spectacular, looking out towards the village of Marazion and a stunning torquioise sea 20140811_114940IMG_6602

Mousehole 

At the other side of Penzance lies the charming little village of Mousehole. This place really seemed to encapsulate the quintessential old Cornish fishing village.IMG_6645 cnIMG_6624 IMG_6622 IMG_6618 cn

St Ives

Over the other side of the peninsula, is the wonderfully picturesque town of St Ives. As I visited in August, I arrived early in the expectation of huge crowds later in the day. However, even mid-pm when the throng was in full force, the atmosphere felt lively rather than congested. I walked for several miles along the coast in both directions and found that it’s easy to escape the crowds if you want to. There are enough galleries and attractions in St Ives to make this an interesting year-round destination but, as I visited in summer, I spent my time outdoors.

The harbour in low tideIMG_6751Walking along one of St Ives beautiful pristine beaches early morningIMG_6692 IMG_6711 cn IMG_6738 cnIMG_6754IMG_6761

Porthcurno

This last jaunt has to be to one of my all time favourite discoveries in the UK. I couldn’t believe such fantastic beaches existed in this country and still when I think of summer, I dream of Porthcurno. Even in mid-August this place only had a sprinkling of visitors who strayed far from the main attractions and down to it’s spectacular coves and Mediterranean-esque beaches. There are two key things to visit here – the unique cliff-side Minack Theatre and the Telegraph Museum – I visited the former but gave the latter a miss in favour of a coastal walk instead.

The superb coastline and crystal-blue sea20140813_124327 cn

The main beach as you reach Porthcurno 20140813_122427 cnWildflowers along the cliffs IMG_6833 cnTropical vegetatation is typical of the area but nowhere more ostentacious than in the sub tropical gardens of the Minack Theatre IMG_6870 crop cnThe Minack Theatre – sculptured into the cliff side. This open-air theatre is the creation of the sheer hard work and determination of Rowena Cade and the theatre museum gives a very interesting account of her life story. IMG_686320140813_112151 cn IMG_6889 cropIMG_6875 cnPorthcurno beachesIMG_6980 cnIMG_6970Lastly, whilst visiting Cornwall I re-discovered my interest in cider, which appears to be making something of a renaissance. This “Cornish Pink” was one I picked up from a local orchard – it’s possible to do sight-seeing trips but unfortunately I wasn’t able to pack this in (an excuse to revisit should I ever need one) – https://www.polgoon.com/20140812_162613 cross p

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