I can drive, but I don’t drive (for environmental, financial and social reasons). I love travel and exploring so public transport, cycling and walking are my options. These are great options.
At the start of June my son (11) and I took a train from Bristol to Falmouth via Truro (avoiding strike days). I had booked the tickets in advance to get a reasonably good fare.
We stayed at a family-run hotel within walking distance of Penmere railway station on the GWR Truro to Falmouth branch line. Apparently Penmere has been voted the third most loved railway station in Cornwall, and it’s adorned with flowerbeds and railway memorabilia. Clearly its fan base cherish it. Penmere is a suburb of Falmouth, and it’s well placed for Swanpool beach and the coastal path.
Day One was a trip to Trebah Gardens and Glendurgan Gardens, a few miles west of Falmouth. Both are beautiful gardens. For the young and young-at-heart Trebah has an adventure playground, including a zip wire, and Glendurgan has a maze. Crucially, both properties have bus stops at their entrances, served by a regular bus service between Falmouth and Helford Passage.
These great gardens can also be reached on foot via the coastal path from Falmouth, Penmere and Helford. We used a mix of the bus and the coastal path and it was ideal – a beautiful stretch of coastline and a modern bus with a helpful driver.
After enjoying Trebah sub-tropical gardens and appreciating the beach and its role in history, we walked along the coast path to Glendurgan Gardens (National Trust). We conquered the maze and and took refreshments at the lovely Tea House. We then caught a bus back to Falmouth town centre and spent a good hour in the Art Gallery. Two Falmouth Art College graduates were facilitating art activities – we got stuck in and went away with our A5 sized artistic creations using paint, stencils and cut-outs.
Afterwards, we wandered down to the Prince of Wales pier and caught a ferry across the Fal estuary to St Mawes where we walked from the harbour to the castle (about half a mile). We explored the castle – plenty of history – the fort was commissioned by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1542 and formed part of the King’s Device programme to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire (defending the Carrick Roads waterway at the mouth of the River Fal).
Later, we caught a ferry up the River Fal to National Trust Trelissick. It was a tranquil and delightful trip that took about 45 minutes. Trelissick House is beautifully situated overlooking the Fal River and the estate comprises woodland, formal gardens with lawns and herbaceous borders and an orchard. We sat in Trelissick’s drawing room which overlooks the river. The view was stunning.
Day Two of our west Cornwall adventure involved catching a train from Penmere to Penzance via Truro. The train follows Mount Bay on the approach to Penzance and the view out to St Michael’s Mount is magical. The Scillonian boat was in dock and in sight when we reached Penzance Station – Sunday is its non-sailing day. The sight of Scillonian conjured up images of the Isles of Scilly archipelago – unspoilt islands with white sandy beaches and shorelines teaming with wild birds – a truly special corner of the world reachable in two and a half hours via the ferry from Penzance.
We left Penzance train station and walked a few yards to the bus station where the Lands End Open-Top Coaster was about to depart.
For £5 (adult) and £4 (child) we bought all-day bus tickets. We had a grandstand view from the top of the bus of the historic village of Marazion and St Michael’s Mount. We stayed on the bus as far as St Ives and found a café a few doors down from St Ives bus station – the café had an unremarkable shop front on a busy street, but what a remarkable view from the back room. We were dazzled.
Later, we walked down to the harbour and spent an enjoyable hour or so playing in the sand and admiring the view. The light quality in St Ives is wonderful – no wonder it has attracted artists. No time to visit the galleries as we had another open-top bus to catch. Destination St Just, which is the western-most town on the British mainland. From St Just we caught another double-decker across a landscape dotted with the remains of tin mines. On reaching Penzance we travelled by bus to the delightul harbour village of Mousehole. Finally, bus and trains back to our hotel in Penmere, in time for our evening meal.
Day Three was our day for travelling back home. We had sufficient time in the morning to explore Falmouth, including Pendennis Point, via an open-top bus (the Falmouth Coaster). Then a bus to Truro and a stroll through the City Centre and a glimpse at the impressive Cathedral (which dominates the cityscape). Train from Truro to Taunton, which includes scenic stretches by the River Teign and River Exe estuaries (look out for wading birds), then Taunton to Westbury through bucolic countryside and finally Westbury to home.
Almost can’t wait for the next time when we take to the rails, buses and ferries to explore more of Cornwall. We met wonderful people en route and had some great conversations as we sat back in our bus, boat and train seats and soaked in the scenery of this beautiful corner of the British Isles.