Cornwall – Britain’s Wild, West Coastline

Cornwall – Britain’s Wild, West Coastline

Cornwall, land of captivating coastlines, Celtic culture and clotted cream lies in the far south-west of Great Britain. In fact you can’t get any further south or west on British mainland as the peninsular of Cornwall reaches right out and dips its toe into the choppy Atlantic Ocean.  The Lizard is Cornwall’s most southerly point and Land’s End the most westerly – two extremities of a wildly, beautiful coastline that goes on for nearly 300 miles.

Boats by Polpeor Lifeboat Station

Boats by Polpeor Lifeboat Station

To say I’ve been tardy in not visiting Cornwall before is an understatement.  We’ve holidayed in pounding rain in neighbouring Devon and even made it as far as Plymouth.  I’ve hauled the kids up the 93 steps to the top of Plymouth lighthouse from where you can almost touch the county of Cornwall but I’d never stepped foot on Cornish soil.  And now I’m annoyed with myself for leaving it so long.  Too long.  We spent a few days there this month exploring just a little part of the county and it’s utterly gorgeous.

From Truro to St Ives

Our first two nights were spent in Truro for a family wedding.  The wedding ceremony took place at St Just in Roseland which has got to be one of the most picturesque churches in the UK.  Two miles from St Mawes it’s 13c and built next to a small creek. Surrounded by sub-tropical gardens it’s the perfect setting for a fairy-tale wedding.  And it was. But that’s another story.

The Lizard

St Ives, on the west coast, was to be our base for the next two nights.  But en route we wanted to explore some of the dramatic Cornish coastline with its hidden coves and rugged scenery.  So, instead of taking a direct route across country we went the long way round via the coast.   First stop was The Lizard the most southerly point on the Cornish coastline.  We parked up at Lizard Village, leaving a donation in the honesty box at the car park, and walked the half mile to the sea. It was a brisk but bright day, the sea sparkled in the sunshine and wild grasses and plants fluttered in the breeze.

Telescope at The Lizard, Cornwall

The Lizard, Cornwall

There’s an old lifeboat station at Polpeor Cove, just a few minutes’ walk from the Point, which was in use from 1914 to 1961.  A state of the art lifeboat station is based half a mile away at Kilcobben Cove today and it’s essential.  This westerly approach to the English Channel is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world with up to 400 ships passing by every day.

Polpeor Lifeboat Station, Cornwall

Polpeor Lifeboat Station

Wild Flora at The Lizard, Cornwall

Wild Plants at Lizard Point

Kynance Cove

Two miles north from The Lizard, and a scenic walk if you have time, is Kynance Cove, said to be one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  It looks most gorgeous on a sunny day at low tide when the white sands gleam all the way to Asparagus Island (love that name!) and the turquoise water laps against the red and green serpentine rocks and offshore stacks.  When we arrived the day was becoming increasingly blustery and grey and the tide was high.  Despite the weather and a darkening afternoon the cove was stunning but still showed a hint of turquoise in the swirling sea.  We parked up at the cliff-top car park, paid our £3 and were advised to take the right-hand path which leads down to the beach and the café.  This was the steepest but fastest route and we’d make it down before the waves covered the beach completely. We got some dramatic views on the way down.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

It was wild and woolly and the wind whipped our faces as we walked but I loved that we saw a rugged, invigorating, windswept side to the cove.  At low tide it’s possible to cross the beach by the caves and climb back up to the car park via another cliff path. By the time we got there it was just a narrow slither of sand and every few seconds another wave would rush at the rocks.  We considered legging it across but eventually went back the way we came to avoid a good soaking.  We’d have got wet either way because the rain let rip just before we made it back to the car!

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Kynance Cove from the Beach

The Minack Theatre at Porthcurno

We carry on westwards towards Penzance and Porthcurno where The Minack Theatre is carved into the cliff-face.  Minack means ‘rocky place’ and the open-air theatre overlooks a dark rocky crag and gully far below.  The perfect dramatic backdrop.

Turfed Seating at The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Grassy seats

I’d always thought the Minack was an ancient theatre built hundreds of years ago but a fascinating exhibition tells the story of a remarkable woman, Rowena Cade, who breathed life into the theatre.  This slight woman, together with her gardener and his friend built the theatre with their bare hands over many years.  When the cost of granite become too much they devised a technique of using concrete and she carved elaborate Celtic designs into the blocks.    The first production was The Tempest staged in 1932 but the theatre carried on evolving and Rowena worked on it year on year until she was well into her 80s.  Sub-tropical gardens add to the beauty of the theatre whose season runs from May to September.

Parking is free to visitors to the theatre.  Entry to the theatre: Adult £4.50 | Over 60 £3.50 15 & under £2.50 | 11 & under 50p. Under 2 FREE.  Winter opening is October – March daily from 10am – last entry is at 3.30pm (closes 4pm) Closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Land’s End

Just a short drive of 4.2 miles from The Minack is Land’s End – the most westerly point on the English mainland and our final stop off before heading for St Ives.  In Greek times Land’s End was called ‘Belerion’ – place of the sun.  When we arrived it was anything but. We paid the usual £3 car par fee and headed down to the cliff edge and stood as near to the end of Land’s End as we dare. The 200ft cliffs face the full force of the elements with dramatically atmospheric views.

Land's End, Cornwall

Land’s End

The raging sea was in full fury crashing into black granite outcrops and spraying high into the air before being gusted away by the wind. We braced it out for about half an hour before seeking out the famous Land’s End signpost – John O’Groats 874 miles, New York 3,147 miles   Ironically New York will be the next trip I take!

Signpost at Land's End

Next stop New York – only 3,147 miles away…

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Discovering Delos – Isle of Light

Discovering Delos – Isle of Light

The island of Delos sits in the sparkling Aegean Sea in the centre of a circle of Greek islands called the Cyclades. Just a 25-minute boat trip away from Mykonos it’s one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece.  It’s also the mythical birthplace of Apollo, god of light, truth and music and his twin sister Artemis. 

For over a thousand years Delos, Isle of Light, font of life, was a sacred place and is today UNESCO protected and part of the World’s Cultural Heritage.  And it’s beautiful.

Pillars at Delos, Greece

Pillars at Delos, Greece

A morning excursion from our cruise was spent exploring the sprawling ruins of the ancient shrine. The island is 3.5km south-west of Mykonos and just 5k long and 1.3 wide so this can be done in less than a day.  Just as well really because the island shuts at 3 pm when the last boat leaves.

For more Greek island inspiration check out this Greek Island hopping itinerary

This tiny island was inhabited from 3000 BC by a population of around 25,000 and by 300 AD was completely abandoned. At one time, Delos was so sacred that people close to death or giving birth were kicked out to a neighbouring island.  It would seem things have gone full circle as the only inhabitants are now the team of archaeologists working on the ruins.  This makes it a peaceful contrast to busy Mykonos just across the water.

The Ruins of Delos, Greece

The Ruins of Delos, Greece

Delos, in ancient Greek, means clear and brought to light.   You can pretty well roam as you please through the ruined streets, arcades and temples and the light gave everything a particular clarity.  The pale golds of the stonework complimented the blue skies and seas perfectly giving it a softer appearance than the pristine whites and crisp blues of Mykonos.  So, what is there to see on Delos?  Here’s what I discovered…

The Theatre District, Delos

Theatre at Delos, Greece

The Theatre from the stage

The theatre once held up to 5,500 spectators.  Nearby is an underground water cistern – there was no fresh-water on Delos so drinking water was captured from the rainfall and stored in the cistern.

The House of Dionysus

The remains of many mansions are near to the theatre.   Obviously ‘the place’ to live.  The mansions must have been impressive with outdoor pillared courtyards, two or three levels have intricate mosaic floors. The House of Dionysus (below) has a mosaic showing Dionysus riding a panther.

Pillars and Mosaics Delos, Greece

Pillars and Mosaics at Delos

Window at the House of Triton, Delos

Window at the House of Triton

The Sanctuary of Apollo

The Sanctuary of Apollo lies at the heart of the ancient remains at the end of The Sacred Way.   The remains of a massive statue of Apollo rests here although only the torso is left – probably because it was too heavy to loot.  One of the hands rests in the Delos museum and a foot resides in the British Museum.

Sanctuary of Apollo, Delos

The torso of the statue is to the right of the right-hand column

Terrace of the Lions

This is probably the most famous of Delos’ sights.  The lions on the Terrace of the Lions are replicas of a possible nine to twelves lions that once guarded the wealthy trading port. The remaining five original lions are now housed in the island’s museum.  The lions were a gift from the people of Naxos in the 7th century BC – an imposing sight to guard the ‘sacred way’.

Terrace of the Lions

Delos Lion Statue

Delos Lion Statue

Delos Museum

Most of the significant finds from Delos are now housed safely in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens but there are still some interesting and beautiful pieces in the museum at Delos so it’s worth taking a look inside at the statues, pottery and mosaics.

Statues in Delos Museum

Statues in Delos Museum

Leopard Mosaic in Delos Museum

Leopard Mosaic in Delos Museum

I enjoyed just wandering the island for a couple of hours soaking up the feeling of a place lost in time and bathed in light, seeking out carvings in the stone as tiny lizards scorted through the dust around my feet.    I’d have liked to climb Mount Kynthos for views down over the island and stopped off at the Temple of Isis on the way up but didn’t have quite enough time.  Here’s a few more images of what I discovered on Delos.
 
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Getting to Delos:

Boats leave for Delos from the Old Port of Mykonos daily, weather permitting, except Monday when the site is closed to visitors.

The first boat to Delos leaves at 9:00 am and the last one at 12:50 pm. The first boat  back to Mykonos goes at 11:00 am and the last at 3:00 pm

Travel Tips for Delos:

There are toilet facilities in the museum.

It is not possible to stay overnight in Delos.

It’s very hot with little shelter so I’d advise taking water, a hat and sunscreen.

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises for hosting me on this fabulous cruise.

Memories of Mykonos

Memories of Mykonos

Mykonos is the epitome of Greek prettiness. The island is part of the Cyclades archipelago, adjacent to tiny Delos in the Aegean Sea. Pristine white buildings with azure blue doors and windows are set against the bluest sky. Winding alleyways lined with boutique shops, bars and restaurants festooned with fuschia pink Bougainvillea lead to tiny churches and heavenly  courtyards.  The sun shines and cats laze in doorways soaking up the heat.  And then there are the iconic Mykonos windmills looking down over Chora (Mykonos Town), Little Venice and the clearest, bluest seas ever.

Boats in the Bay in Mykonos Town

The Bay in Mykonos Town

What to see in Mykonos Town (Chora)

You’ll probably arrive into Chora by the harbour in the main area of town which has a little bay busy with restaurants, shops and little sugar-cube houses tumbling down the hillside. Colourful fishing boats bob around in the bay and Agios Nikolaos Church with its blue dome sits right by the water. You’d think it couldn’t get any prettier but, actually, it does.

Agios Nikolaos, Mykonos

Agios Nikolaos, Mykonos

 

Paraportiani Church

Head to the right and up the hill and you’ll soon see.  First you’ll come to the gorgeous Paraportiani Church, the most famous church of 400 on Mykonos.  It’s a cute little pyramid-shaped building made up of  a conglomeration of four churches built asymmetrically together. White-washed to within an inch of its life it has a little bell-tower, dome and is topped with crucifixes which stand out against the cloudless blue sky.

Paraportiani Church, Mykonos

Paraportiani Church, Mykonos

Little Venice

There’s exploring and shopping to be done here in the tiny alleyways but first we’re going to visit the Mykonos windmills. Keep close to the waterside and you’ll pass through Little Venice. Bars and restaurants sit right next to the water, with little wooden balconies hanging over the sea. The crystal clear waves gently lap against the walls and it’s a lovely place to stop for a beer and from my shady little balcony the view over the water to the windmills was gorgeous.

Little Venice, Mykonos

Little Venice, Mykonos

The Mykonos Windmills

As you emerge from the slatted shadiness of Little Venice you can’t fail to spot the iconic Mykonos windmills (Kato Mili) standing sentry at the top of the hill. They’re old, built by the Venetians in the 16th century, for milling flour.  They have wooden sails, white-washed walls and are capped with straw hats.  One is now a museum and there are around a dozen on the island but these are the most famous and very photogenic!

Where to eat in Mykonos Town

Feeling hungry?  Then carry on to the top of the hill,past the windmills, through the car park and meander down to a quiet little bay and the golden sands of Megali Ammos beach. It’s a ten minute walk, sometimes with no pavement, but you’ll find a lovely, chilled restaurant on the beach. Joanna’s Niko’s Place Taverna. Recommended by Elle, from A Bird in the Hand, we stopped here for a fabulous lunch of fresh, crisp Greek salad, perfect in the heat, and little marinated fish which were full of flavour and deliciously tender.

A Wander through Mykonos Town

After a late lunch I had an hour or two to wander which really is the best way to get a feel for Mykonos Town.  Art galleries, hip boutiques selling artisan jewellery, cute cafes and cobblestone alleyways were explored.   I’d have loved to have seen those windmills as the sun set behind the hill but we’d sailed off into a crimson sunset long before the sky turned pink.  Mykonos, I’ll be back.

 

Crystal Clear Mykonos Sea

Crystal Clear Mykonos Sea

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Mykonos windmill

Many thanks to Celebrity Cruises for sending me on this fabulous cruise.  All views, opinions and new-found love for Mykonos is, as always, entirely my own.