Sunday, January 31, 2016

Road Trip - Driving toward Land's End (Southwest England)

This Christmas, KLS and I canceled a long holiday to Morocco due to me losing hearing and a lot of pain in one ear from swimming. Unfortunately, since 2010 I seem to get swimmer's ear frequently. In Australia in 2010, I almost had to miss my flight after scuba diving for a week due to intense ear pain. Then, in Nicaragua in 2015, I was irritable all week because my ear hurt so much after swimming.  Of course, while this seemed like a chronic problem, the doctors I saw just said I had a lot of wax and sent me on my way. None of them tried to fix the chronic issue. In England, I was more of less given the same treatment twice except they gave me antibiotic drops and told me to put warm olive oil in my ear for 5 minutes. They suggested I could follow up after the holiday if it still hurt.

When I did follow up, the ENT doctor saw that the drops were not working due to how much wax I had (he couldn't even see the ear drum). He decided to suck the wax out with a vacuum. Weird sensation. He was able to clear one ear, but not the painful ear. I came back a week later after putting about a liter of drops and oil into my ear to soften the wax up and another doctor was able to finish the job. I definitely take being able to hear out of both ears for granted. I am so happy I can hear out of both ears again.

A thatched roof cottage.

Walking around the Avebury circle.

You can just make out semi-circle that the stones make.

Because KLS and I already scheduled the week off work, we still wanted to go adventuring. KLS quickly booked a rental car and had us driving toward Cornwall in Southwest England.  Our first stop was Avebury. Avebury was a really pleasant walk around Britain's largest stone circle (1088 ft) that might be best recognized from the air. Even though, it is an ancient site, they still let people walk freely around and even have their dogs off leash. Unfortunately, we got a pretty late start from London and Stonehenge was closed by the time we got there. You can walk up to the site and see it from a distance, but they don't let you walk in the enclosed area.


After visiting Stonehenge, we stopped in at the first of many King George Inn's that was really a pub for some tasty food. Then, we were on to our first Airbnb house to sleep in. The house belonged to a retired dog trainer who still kennels dogs. I think he had 30 dogs on site, three of his own including 2 yappy dogs and a huge adolescent Irish wolfhound. Lots of petting. They also had horses, goats, pigs, and 5-6 varieties of birds that they had incubated at their house. It was pretty fun. The next morning, we were off to Exmoor National Park.

Star Wars was still on my mind and I was really excited to see a car dealership almost named after Hoth's most famous biped.

Great green countryside.

National parks in the UK are different that the US. I believe most of the land was already privately owned before the government wanted to create national parks so they could not just allocate large tracts of land for parks. In all the parks that we went to visit, there were regular towns and houses inside the park. It definitely made it seem less like a wilderness, but it was still beautiful.

Exmoor National Park.

Free roaming horses along the Tarr Steps 'trail'

Our first plan in Exmoor National Park was to head to one of the small towns and find a place to hike. We borrowed a hiking guide, chose a few hikes, and were about to be on our way.  However, when we asked a local about getting to the trail head, they informed that we definitely did not want to do the hikes we were considering because they were far too wet and muddy, even if you had Wellies (duck boots). EVERYONE had or talked about wearing Wellies if you were hiking.

KLS at her best.

Walking in the field and trying to find the driest route.

and this was the 'dry trail'

After being deterred from our first hikes, we were told to head to the Tarr Steps that should be drier. We used the bare bones map that we had until we saw a sign that said Tarr Steps. We parked our car in the mud with the others and then started following the signs into a farmer's field. There is something called Right of Ways in the UK where you can hike, respectfully, across private property. You'll get to a fence where they likely have a gate for you and then continue on to someone else's property. This was one of those hikes. Unfortunately, these field hikes don't have a clearly marked trail and this one was puddle filled and muddy.

The Tarr Steps

The Tarr Steps

KLS and I gave up before we got to the Tarr steps. It was getting late and the 'trail' we were following seemed to be heading toward a town that we figured we could just drive to.  After a long walk back up and scaring pheasants from the brush, we got back to our car. Then, we hopped in, drove down the hill, and found ourselves at the Tarr Steps that we had not located while walking. If we had made it down the hill, we would have found them. The steps are believed to have been built in 1000BC and some of the stone slabs weigh 2000lbs. That's a lot of work to get across a small creek.

I loved the narrow roads with shrubs that have been shaped by lorries (trucks) preventing growth.

Along the northern coast of Cornwall, I wanted to indulge my childhood and stop by the impregnable Tintagel Castle where Uther Pendragon disguised himself to be let in the castle that he could not get to surrender, slept with another man's wife, and conceived the baby that would become King Arthur. Even though the castle was closed due to bad weather, this was probably our favorite stop due to the scenic coastline and crazy weather making for rough seas.

Tintagel Church

The ruins of Tintagel Castle.

Tintagel Haven/Castle Beach

KLS loves the rough, windy, rainy weather.

Inside part of the ruins of Tintagel Castle.

The bovine that KLS waited to see if they would attack me before walking up.

Looking back toward the town of Tintagel.

Tintagel Church


It was a bit of a bear of a hike to walk around in the wind and rain, but we made up for it with hot cocoa and pasties when we got back to town. Yes, I said pasties, the same pasties that my family had in Wisconsin growing up. I think this was the coldest part of our trip because we were so wet. Unfortunately, we did not start using the rental cars seat heaters for a couple more days. DOH!

The view of Pendennis Castle from the outside, since it was closed.

This photo is for Fraggle. It is a lighthouse keeper's quarters display at the Falmouth Maritime museum. No, I did not touch the board.

For some reason, I feel like my brother David wanted to see this. It was hanging on a viking ship in the Falmouth Maritime Museum.

Pasties are everywhere in Cornwall!

Falmouth Beach where we saw people surfing the next morning.

For some reason or another, we turned South from Tintagel instead of heading West out the peninsula. I think this has to do with being worn down by the wet and cold. Our next couple days were in Falmouth. Falmouth is quiet little beach town.  We spent a few great hours in the Maritime museum and learned that restaurants in Falmouth will serve a risotto in cheese sauce with a 3.5" slightly melted circular block of cheese in the middle. I love cheese, but this was a bit overpowering. The castle never opened and we didn't do much other than eat and stroll along the water and that was just fine.

Saint Catherine's Castle overlooking Polruan another stormy day.

Looking toward the town of Fowey.

This is the house that KLS turned into while we were walking over to Saint Catherine's. It is hers, the current owners just don't know it yet.

Stormy day.

Saint Catherine's Castle.

Readymoney Cove.

Another thatched roof house in Paignton for KLS.

Our next stop was Paignton. KLS and carefully selected this town without a map that showed population density. She thought it would be like the lovely small villages that we had been visiting all around Cornwall.  It turned out to be three or four towns on a peninsula that had become one combined town of 250,000. Oops. We thought it might end up being a good place for New Year's anyway, but since we didn't plan ahead, everything was fully booked. We eventually ended up in an Indian restaurant with a great set of characters working there on New Year's Eve.  We didn't see midnight.


  1. Amazing stories and photos as always! Love that scrabble board :)

  2. I am so pleased that you found that on your own. I had planned on emailing it to you.

    This blog has been asleep so log I don't even know who still has it in their readers.