Ruth & I loved Cornwall. I agree with John Chu who said in Travel & Leisure magazine that it is “…unexpected, unfussy,
and gorgeous”. Nancy Nathan of The Washington Post is correct when she says, “It’s still no picnic to get down to Cornwall, and you really need a car to explore it.” We didn’t have a car because I didn’t want to drive on the left in a difficult and populous place with narrow roads. Someone in the beautiful town of Fowey told me that people like us typically go to Exeter, take a one-day bus tour around Cornwall, and move on, but we wanted to spend 2 weeks there. I seriously tried to preplan train and bus connections but finally gave up. “We’ll figure it out when we get there,” I told Ruth. This was not easy to do.
Kirsty Fergusson’s book, Slow Travel Cornwall, was my guide. In her terrific book Fergusson said she would outline “some of the most feasible options for exploring Cornwall using public transport”, but then she travelled by car. I now understand why. I loved her descriptions of the towns and made a list of my favorites. Rather foolishly, I booked hotels in those that most appealed to me and said again to Ruth, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.” As it turned out, we had far less trouble getting around Iceland, Patagonia, and China.
After several days of frustration, someone in Cornwall finally told me what happened. She was hazy on the details but correct about the result. She told me that 52 years ago, a man named Beecham, who was Minister of Transportation, cut branch lines all over England. She was still angry about this because the station closures made it difficult to get around. I did some research and found The Beeching Report. In 1963 Dr. Beeching proposed many closures to get down to core routes. His plan was put into effect by 1965 and seriously affected travel around Cornwall. Luckily, this southwestern part of England has a good bus transportation system that will get tourists almost anywhere they want to go, but it is S-L-O-W and on weekends your only option is hiring locals. In any event, we did get to all of our accommodations and really fell in love with all the towns Kirsty Fergusson raved about.
We did have train tickets from London to Penzance before leaving on this trip. The train left from Paddington Station. When we got to London’s Paddington, I went to information and enlisted the aid of 2 experienced travel men. They really tried to help me understand how to get around Cornwall, but they were ultimately just as confused as I was. After talking to them I said to Ruth, “We’ll figure it out when we get there” and she looked at me with resignation. We were glad we packed light and DID figure it out. We’ll definitely go back now that we know how to get around…..slowly.