Starting mileage: 15874 km
Day started: 10:30
Day ended: 22:00
We returned to Wembury in the morning, as it had one of the finest and most dramatic beaches in this part of Devon. Jagged granite folds border the cove beach on both sides; in high tide, it’s good for surfing, in low tide – for rock-pooling. The rocks on the east side are the most impressive, with stunning, vivid colours, with splotches of red veining that makes the place seem like a set of a final battle from Tarantino’s movie. The water here is crystal clear, like liquid glass, so pure you can’t tell the depth of the bottom at all. We found usual set of creatures: limpets on the rocks, prawns in small pools and beautiful, red sea anemones. There’s an old mill right by the water, now closed and from July opened as a cafe.
Off we went into Plymouth, towards the oldest part of the city called Barbican. Plymouth was a bit of a shock to us after two weeks of roaming empty countryside; it’s big and busy, and young. There were great crowds when we arrived, as it was the perfect triple storm of a sunny weekend, Sail Festival (with motorboat races) and Armed Forces Day. The seafront, where the food stalls were, and the Hoe with all the army gear displayed, were heaving with people. We felt quite overwhelmed.
The Barbican is made up of several narrow streets with old, tall houses of grey stone and slate; nowadays these are full of antique shops and tiny, hidden markets. One of the largest buildings, a remnant of the Greyfriars monastery, houses the Plymouth Gin Distillery; this is what we had come for. Plymouth Gin is fiercer stuff than the now-popular, mellow and smooth London style. We bought a standard proof bottle (mere 42%), leaving the “navy proof” 57% (the alcohol content which allows gunpowder to ignite if there is spillage) for some other time.
There are traces of the Mayflower Pilgrims everywhere in the city – it being the last stop on their journey to the Promised Land of America, and the namesake of their first settlement there. A huge plaque with a full list of Pilgrims hangs in the harbour, near the memorial, there are streets and houses named after the Mayflower, and the ship silhouette adorns the label of Plymouth Gin.
We wandered off from the seafront and old town in search of a few supplies, and discovered the new, uglier, utilitarian part of Plymouth, along the pedestrianised commercial thoroughfares of Armada Way and Mayflower Road. The crumbling Civic Centre tower still retains some of its brutal 1950s charm, but the rest of the area is gormless, back-ended by drab shopping centres. It’s not bad as British high streets go, and I’m sure it’s very useful for non-tourists, but makes a very bad impression after the narrow, cosy streets of Barbican or the sweeping panorama of Hoe.
The Hoe is normally an empty space on top of a rock overhanging the harbour, but on this day it was a massive military playground, with kids queuing for hours to get a chance to sit on a gun or in an army truck. Poor old Francis Drake, whose monument stands on a spot where, according to the legend, he watched the Spanish Armada approach as he played bowls, was barely visible among all this hubbub.
We were now heading for our own Promised Land – Cornwall or Kernow. Across the grand Tamar Bridge we went, with Brunel’s railroad masterpiece to our left, with a brief stop at the Saltash Waitrose – never pass a Waitrose without stopping! 🙂 – towards our stopping place in Seaton.
The weather soon turned sour, which matched our expectations and experience, though not the fame of the eternal sunshine that blesses this Godly land. Still, the road to Seaton turned out to be one of the nicest we ever drove on – even if it wasn’t the easiest for the car; it wound along a small river in a forest – more like a jungle, with ferns, vines and an occasional palm – and up a tall hill overlooking the sea and the Rame Head promontory, where at last we came to rest.
Penhale C&CC site is a small, fairly flat square of grass on top of a hill, with basic but clean facilities and a few goats and ponies in a nearby enclosure. Cost with hookup was £18. There is a great view of the sea and ships going in and out of Plymouth in the evening.