When we wake up all hell has broken loose with the weather and it is evident pretty quickly that we are not walking anywhere today. A gale is blowing horizontal rain across the windows and we are unable to see more than a few feet. We would be reluctant to walk down the front path in this, let alone along a cliff-top path. We retreat to the café and order substantial vegetarian breakfasts and hot chocolate while we decide what to do next. We’ve got a room booked in Porthcurno tonight and a reservation on the Penzance to London sleeper tomorrow. We reluctantly decide to take a taxi to Porthcurno later in the day and see how things shape up. It is galling, we have never had to call off a walk before due to weather. Worst of all is being so close to Land’s End. But we decide that at least it will give us a good place to start from next year, and that there is no use in fretting about something we can’t do anything about.
We pack up our worldly goods and retire to the Whitesands Lodge lounge to lie about for a couple of hours. This confirms our view that we have come to somewhere good – partly because it reminds us what we were like a few years ago. At midday we pile us and our rucksacks into a taxi for Porthcurno and venturing outside convinces us we have done the right thing, as we are nearly blown straight back to Sennen again. We were staying at the Mariners Arms, since closed, which leaves us free to say what we really think about it. It is a charmless room above a charmless pub, with a carpet full of dog hairs, unfortunately paid for in advance or we would have followed our instincts and stayed at Sennen. Shortly afterwards, it stops raining and the sun comes out, which is just about the last straw until we realise that the Japanese grand prix is on the telly. We watch the whole thing while scoffing Super Noodles and Cuppa Soups from our rucksacks.
Post-race we stick our noses back outside to see what the weather is like and feel a bit encouraged by how bad it is – howling winds and black skies again. Porthcurno is home to the Minack theatre and the Museum of Wireless Telegraphy, as well as possessing a pretty if vertiginous sandy little cove. We try to see The Minack but are minutes too late. We explore a bit in both directions and realise we really would have been mad to venture onto the path, and also see a bit of the village and the church, all of which are considerably nicer than the pub we are staying at. The evening is not much better. They have pretensions to being a gourmet restaurant but it is being run with supreme ineffectiveness and it doesn’t bother to offer a vegetarian main course. Add a large party of people who – how shall we put this – are perhaps unused to the formal setting of a restaurant meal, who turn up at the last moment without booking, and you will see why we were truly glad to get out of this place. The only redeeming feature was the barman who was pleasant, chatty, interested in classic cars and working there so he could be near the surfing.
The next day is bright and sunny. What to do? Given that we have to be on a train to Penzance that night, which is quite a distance by coast from Porthcurno, we decide walking is still a bad idea. Conditions are fine, but we are strict about walking this path in a continuous line and we feel we will just be better off starting again next year. We book a taxi to take us to Penzance and use the intervening time to see The Minack. It’s certainly in an impressive location, and is a tribute to the determination of its founder, but there is something about it not to our personal taste – it is basically created out of hand-decorated concrete and, when all is said and done, facing countless miles of Atlantic rather than the balmy Mediterranean. There is something of the grand folly about it, although it is practically blasphemy to say so. Visitors tend to potter about reverently, as if viewing a cathedral.
In Penzance we take an impulse decision to jump on the little scenic train for St Ives, since we felt dragged untimely from that place a few days before. Unfortunately it is a lot less fun when you’re dragging a big rucksack about, and the Tate is by now closed for rehanging, so we while away a pleasant afternoon on the beach before heading back to Penzance. Dinner in the restaurant of the wonderful Savoy Cinema where we can eat at leisure and enjoy acres of comfort food like nachos, potato wedges and onion rings. Then to the silent, deserted station in time to board the sleeper home – a tremendously fun experience, if a little short on actual restful sleep. This meant that the holiday went on, despite the last-minute setback, until the very moment we arrived back in London.