Every walk has to have its awful day, and this day was awful. Poking our heads out of our little annex, we found a good prospect of rain and a howling gale blowing. What to do? We enquired if the owners could do luggage transfer at short notice, to spare us the problem of the rucksacks in a high wind. They would, but at the cost of having to pack in a minute flat. A hairbrush was misfiled into the first aid kit and not found for days.
Free of the southernmost bits of The Lizard, our way was made much easier without our luggage, but it was still a job to avoid being blown off the cliff altogether. Good if windy clifftop walking as far as the impossibly attractive little village of Cadgwith, where we paused for a rest and a drink. Highlights included various telegraph and signalling stations – nothing between The Lizard and Newfoundland, apparently, which is what attracted Marconi – an impressive natural feature called The Devil’s Frying Pan and a lifeboat hut with a frighteningly steep ramp to launch the boat down.
After Cadgwith, the rain started. Things were just about bearable as far as Kennack Sands. After that they were unspeakable. At Kennack Sands we hunkered down in the lee of the toilet block for a snack and were still there when an excitable, sand-covered, puppy spotted Andy and dumped itself affectionately in his lap while still doused in sea water – ignoring explicit instructions to the contrary from its owner. This event is considered one of the high points of the day by Andy, which should give some idea of how few high points there were.
The remainder of the day was utterly miserable – the sort of rain that soaks every item of clothing beyond any hope of redemption and fills boots with puddles. Although we’d been smart enough to send our rucksacks on, we hadn’t been smart enough to hang onto our waterproof trousers. In fact, Andy even had a cap in case of the sun. An irreplaceable cap of some sentimental attachment which hasn’t been the same since.
Near Meludjack we met a friendly young man from the National Trust doing path maintenance who was conversational – although sadly over-optimistic in his prediction of how soon we’d arrive in Coverack. He said ten minutes. He was out by a good half an hour. Or rather, a very bad half an hour.
Black Head has a part-time coast guard look-out hut and Andy insisted we went in for a break, despite Lisa’s protest. She rightly knew that a short time out of the rain would make going back into it difficult and demoralising. This was doubly true as the northward turn after the hut put the wind on our left shoulder, blowing us towards the sea and sending the rain at us from new, unpleasant angles. Normally we would have seriously considered a detour out onto Chynhalls Point – today, there was never a chance of it.
There was little relief when we did finally get into Coverack, as we were staying right at the far end of the very long village at somewhere very odd indeed – perhaps the less said the better, except to hint that the proprietor should perhaps consider retirement to concentrate on their hobby of eccentricity instead – that and cultivating eight-legged monsters for their bathroom. We were ordered at half past six to go and get our evening meal, as otherwise we’d miss everything. In the village, everything was closed because we were too early.
But we’d passed a hotel on the way up. Would they admit us to dine, despite us being dressed like slobs? We were fairly desperate to avoid the B&B for as long as possible. The answer was yes, and what followed was one of the nicest evenings we can remember for a very long time. We were ushered into the lounge to wait for our table and Andy immediately discovered a bottle of 25-year-old Caol Ila – possibly the best whisky available in the world, anywhere – behind the bar.
The lady who had dealt with us in reception appeared through the lounge door to usher us into the dining room. She sent us one way and dodged through the kitchen to rematerialise in the restaurant and show us to our table, conjuring up irresistible comparisons with Fawlty Towers. And this is run by what appears to be a husband and wife team, and she is self-possessed and efficient, and our waitress when we eat is Spanish. But all comparisons end there. The meal is just wonderful – there’s mushroom soup for a starter, and the vegetarian dish of the day is pancakes stuffed with spinach and nuts. We have half a bottle of Californian Chardonnay and follow it all with some suitably sticky desserts and a glass of dessert wine – was a more wonderful alcoholic substance (short of Caol Ila) ever invented? Just as we finish the proprietors came into the restaurant for their own meal, which seemed both pleasantly unusual and a good recommendation – as well as a pretty effective quality control method.
We went back into the lounge for what we expected to be a brief coffee, and then the best bit of all started. It’s important to point out we were the youngest people there by at least 30 years. We amused ourselves for a time by listening to the other people fall into conversation around us. Then the armchairs next to us were taken by a nice couple in their 70s. Andy started a conversation, as is his wont. The man turned out to be a very nearly Olympic-class runner who has run more than 120 marathons in his life, 100 of them between his retirement from first-class competition and his sixtieth birthday. Most of the rest appear to have come afterwards. It was a privilege to be able to talk to him about his running career and he and his wife were really nice people too. We regret not getting their names.
From which we can deduce that there is a lot more to this walking lark than just the walking, that a good dinner can be found in the most unlikely places, and that a miserable cold day slogging through the day with wet feet and the water running down the inside of your waterproof can only serve to heighten the pleasures of the evening. (Though we’re still not sure we want to do it too often.)
So, while we won’t mention the name of the establishment we actually stayed at, we shall unhesitatingly recommend the Bay Hotel, Coverack, should you ever find yourselves in the neighbourhood – if you’re prepared to take it on its own terms, you should have a magnificent time there.