From Looe to Padstow via Bodmin Moor
Words by Kirstie Newton and Wailim Wong
After a soggy summer, it was a relief to find that September showed some clemency and delivered some sunny autumn days. It was on such a weekend that we borrowed the Kia Sorento, a seven-seater suitable for lengthy journeys with full family in tow. As such, the other half decided a trip to Looe was in order – and, to boot, that we would cross the county to reach the opposite coast in Padstow by dinnertime.
We left Truro at noon, and went via St Austell and Lostwithiel, turning right near the Taphouses to approach Looe past Boconnoc (home of the annual Spring Flower Show) via Pelynt (birth and burial place of Sir Jonathan Trelawny, immortalised by Hawker in The Song Of The Western Men). This route brought us into town via the main car park at Millpool, which has a fab riverside play park for kids. We managed to drag Daughter away with the promise of pasties, which we took down to the beach, where she experienced her first ever seagull swoop. Fortunately, she only lost the bit that would have gone to the knockers in the old days, and she was quickly placated with an ice cream.
Looe was sunny, bright and breezy, with blue and red sail boats bobbing on the sea. It was a shame to leave, but leave we did, setting the satnav for Bolventor. We were given direct and fast options, and chose direct – an as-the-crow-flies route which took us down tiny country lanes, which is exciting yet slightly disconcerting when you’re in a very large car which isn’t yours. Attractions in this neck of the woods include Paul Corin’s Magnificent Music Machines (apparently Wurlitzer heaven); St Keyne holy well, which the Victorians believed conferred supremacy to the marriage partner who first tasted it (if only I’d known when we were passing through); and the Cornish Orchards shop. The scenery looked truly glorious dappled in late afternoon sunlight. Much of the route followed the Looe Valley railway line, which I’ve long fancied doing. it’s a joy for bird watchers and foodies: you can follow a rail ale trail, and in previous years, the Munchtime Express has run every Tuesday in November, with local chefs offering top culinary fare during your journey.
The satnav was a little hazy on left and right in places, but was great at recalculating the route if we overrode it. So it was that we drove through Liskeard, a bustling market town well worth a visit, and out again in the direction of St Cleer and Bolventor. Unexpectedly, this took us past Golitha Falls, a long gorge lined with ancient oak woodland, so we made an unscheduled stop and set off in inappropriate footwear (wellies or stout boots are recommended) to explore the woodlands by the banks of the river Fowey. These are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, when the wood was coppiced and used for timber; today, it is left to grow, and is truly beautiful. The valley is a National Nature Reserve managed by Natural England, and is rich in wildlife: the river supports healthy populations of both salmon and sea trout, otters are often seen exploring the falls, and bats, butterflies and moths thrive here.
We set off once again, and reached Bolventor and Jamaica Inn, made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel. Upon joining the A30, however, we hit a snag. A big one. We had hoped to cross the main road and carry on our journey through St Mabyn and St Tudy (both of which have good inns). However, while we’re grateful that improvements are finally taking place at Temple, which will hopefully banish summer tailbacks to distant memory, it’s a bind that you can’t turn right anywhere along that stretch. We wound up in Bodmin, by which time there was no point in doubling back, so we took the conventional route instead: A389 to Wadebridge (doffing our caps to our favourite Sunday carvery spot, Trehellas House), A39 past the Royal Cornwall Showground, turn right towards Padstow.
We’d arrived in time for dinner, and for a glorious sunset to boot. Padstow is known for its choice of top eateries, but it’s best to book before you go if you want to go to a popular restaurant like Stein’s or Paul Ainsworth. We took our chances on a place by the harbour, and had good food but at overinflated prices. Next time, I’ll be better organised and book Rojano’s in the Square, the little sibling of No.6 which has a great reputation for family-friendly food.