Upon our return from the fantastic Faroe Islands, we spent two nights outside of Edinburgh near the airport. The Hampton Inn was comfortable, had a generous breakfast buffet, and is just a few minutes walk from a direct bus to the city.
We arrived later in the afternoon after another great flight with Atlantic Airways, and trundled our luggage and selves along sometimes bumpy sidewalks, across traffic without any pedestrian footpaths, and checked in. After settling we took an Uber to The Bridge Inn for dinner. It was pretty good and the kitchen was easy to work around my dietary requests.
The next day we spent wandering around the big city. The bus took us right to the center. We walked up to the castle and found a loooooong line for tickets and just too many people in general. A couple of days later the big annual festivals were to begin so it might have been the early crowd. Having been in many castles over the decades, and I had been in this one back in ’77, we meandered on. A couple of workers saw us looking confused as I was looking for a nearby church and cemetery. They kindly helped me figure out which one it was and then gave us directions. We walked the Royal Mile amidst the tourists until we had to turn right and walk several blocks. Greyfriars Kirkyard dates from the mid-1500’s and is well-known for several reasons. One is the statue outside the churchyard of the Skye terrier just who was a celebrity in the 1800’s. He is said to have spent fourteen years guarding his owner’s grave until he died, too. Disney made the movie, “Greyfriar’s Bobby” back in 1961. Harry Potter’s Voldemort is said to be “buried” here as well. In fact, several of the characters from the series are said to have names inspired by several of the headstones. JK Rowling wrote many of books at a nearby cafe and often walked through the cemetery. Many of the tombs have skeletons and such making them a bit creepy. Many ghosts are said to have been seen and felt here making the night tours a bit of interest for some.
Back on the busy Royal Mile we admired ancient buildings and buskers in national dress. At one point we heard bagpipe music coming from a workshop/store so we popped in. A young man was playing while the owner listened and then adjusted a pipe. Then we found our way to the queen’s residence, Holyrood, via the contemporary Scottish Parliament building. Tours are available but for us it was enough just to see the outside. By then it was beginning to sprinkle and my leg needed a rest so we sat down in the outside eating area to rehydrate. Then we made our way to an Apple store for Bill to buy wireless earbuds. This was close to the bus stop but not ready to leave yet we rested again in the park below the castle. Our bench was just next to the WW1 memorial from US citizens with Scottish blood and sympathies to Scotland. We researched a place to eat an early dinner and wound up at a Turkish place which served us tasty dinners, curry for Bill and simple salmon for me.
The next morning Bill walked over to the car rental agency and brought back our wheels for the next week. After gathering our luggage we set out for Roslyn Chapel, made famous in the movie “The DaVinci Code”. Included in the entry fee is a short talk to explain the history of the chapel, which was originally intended to be a cathedral, facts about the movie scenes with Tom Hanks, and suggestions of what to look for in the designs. It was all quite fascinating. As it is still a working church, images could not be taken inside, but the outside we were free to photograph.
From there we had a long drive to Snowdonia National Park where we had a reservation for a two-night stay at a former working farm from the 1500’s. The owners, Tamsyn and Peter, are a lovely couple who have a very visually appealing property. They live in the restored main house and have made various parts of the farm buildings into lodgings. The self-catering section has been around for about fourteen years, but ours just for a few weeks. We had the former cow shed made into a cosy modern dwelling for humans. The three pig sties have been made into very tight quarters with just enough room for a bed and are great for someone or a couple with basic needs. Their bathroom is shared and is located a few steps away.
Meals are not included but are available with advance notice. Since we arrived late in the afternoon and had not made dinner arrangements, they offered us burgers, either lamb or beef, along with chips and beer or wine. We took them up on it and this time enjoyed a proper juicy lamb burger! Breakfast was also a choice so we since we were a drive away from anywhere else, we opted to dine in. Eggs, bacon, toast, tea and coffee were generously served. We also decided on their special lamb dinner which came with roasted vegetable, pate for a starter, and cheesecake for dessert. Since I was off lactose at the time and they didn’t have an alternate, I said I would be fine with just a few berries and suggested blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries. I was served a mountain of all three! They were fresh, flavorful, and juicy! There was so much food that we saved some of the pate and half my berries for breakfast. Tam kindly put them in the refrigerator for us overnight. They also sold Bill a bottle of wine which he drank over the two evenings there. All of these meals, with individual attention to my requests, were all delicious and plentiful. Peter ran a tab for us and everything was so reasonably priced, especially given the individual attention to dietary requests. Although we didn’t use it, a washer and dryer were available at no extra charge.
Another highlight of this wonderful lodge is the resident friendly cat, Patsy. When we first arrived and I saw her, I squatted down and called her over. She came! She was so friendly! A bit later I picked her up and she did NOT want to be let down. She drooled and purred madly. I finally handed her to Bill and she still wanted the cuddles. Her story is that she was the runt of a litter of unwanted kittens. Tragically, they were about to be taken in a sack and drowned in the river. Tam had mentioned to a friend about wanting a farm cat. He knew of the litter and retrieved this darling fur ball for her. She was saved from a horrible death and given a chance to enchant the world and earn her keep by catching lots of mice.
The one full day we had we spent walking. In the morning we ambled through the adjacent fields, came upon some horses and colts, and enjoyed the sun and the occasional fighter jets passing overhead. Later in the afternoon we took a long circular walk up the road, into the woods, alongside a mountain, down through an area being logged, and back through some sheep farms. That set us up nicely for the lovely lamb dinner waiting for us after working off the huge breakfast.
The next morning after finishing off dinner as well as eating the breakfast, we began the very long drive to Cornwall. What should have taken about five hours turned into seven as there were several slow downs on either side of Bristol. Not fun. We finally arrived outside Truro at our next lodging for three nights. This was an annex of a house. It was quite roomy and the kitchenette gave us a chance to cook one night even though there was a one burner induction hot plate. The famous actor John Rhys Davies is a friend of Juliet’s first husband and when in the area, stays in the annex. We have slept in the same bed! That night, as it was getting late, we walked up the hill, through the woods, and ate at a local pub. The food was pretty good.
The purpose for going to Cornwall was for me to revisit Mullion Cove Hotel where I worked as a chambermaid the summer of 1973. This was just before my senior year at Russell Sage College. My cousins had all been quite brave to study overseas and I wanted to also be strong. Reaching deep inside, I decided I would start with just several weeks away rather than a whole semester. Research led me to a book where several hotels with summer jobs were listed, I wrote to a few and ended up choosing this one. I took a charter flight from Bradley and flew to London where I stayed with the family of one of Dad’s business associates. A few days later I traveled by train to Redruth and bus to Helston and then the hotel. The first night I was given a room in the spartan workers’ wings that was so depressing. Homesickness set in pretty badly and I cried all night long. In the morning I spoke with the owner, Mrs. Kenny, who despite being an angry person, decided I was worthy of a room in the attic. I was to share it with another, slightly older female from France who would arrive a week later. This room was so much more appealing, though it, too, was pretty basic. Right by my bed was a window with a view of the English Channel and there was a sink. My roommate eventually arrived and we got along well. For bathing, we had to use a guest bathroom on the next floor down, which only had a tub. We were to use it only certain hours at night, unless we were using the toilet. My job was mainly to clean the guests rooms, but my day started with serving tea and coffee to the guests who requested in before breakfast. That was before rooms had their own kettles. I was always nervous about knocking on the doors that early, especially if they didn’t answer right away. I never knew what I might see when the door opened. I also had to help with the laundry and ironing. Once in a while I filled in for a waitress, something outside of my comfort zone. Cleaning the lounges came after my breakfast before the guests rooms were available. I remember lots of unpleasant ash trays and empty beer glasses.
Bill and I first drove to Falmouth which was nearby. All I really remember from there was the pier where one could take a boat ride to other villages and to see dolphins and whales. My goal in ’73 was to go to Helford Village and explore Frenchman’s Creek, the setting of the novel I loved by Daphne de Maurier. Those options still exist though now there are two piers. Perhaps there were two before but my memory may be fuzzy. We also walked the main street where there are many shops. I stop in the health food store to buy a few items before we had to head back to the parking meter.
From there we made our way to Helford Village. The sat nav seemed a bit confused, again, and we ended up on a single track road for several miles. Brambles threatened to scrape the car and passing another car coming from the other direction was a challenge as passing places were few and far between. Once another car bumped our side mirror but no visible damage was done. We finally arrived at the grass parking area where the PayandDisplay machine wasn’t working. Not being sure where the village was from there, we walked down the slope and around the corner but it was just a boat launch area for a club. Back in the parking lot we went in the other direction down a steep single track only for residents’ cars. The road is paved and steep and it wasn’t until we were close to the bottom that there was an open view of the village. Oh, gosh. It looked just the same. Memories. Several small white buildings stood across the inlet. The only noticeable difference was the very low tide. We rounded the corner and admired the view from the bridge, a bit uglier with the muck but boats out in the distance where the water was still deep enough to keep them afloat. We continued down the main road with houses and a store on the left. A break in the shrubs on the right allowed us entry to the shore but the way was a bit wet. Off the road a bit further on was a trail we followed a short distance to the end and the next cove where the ferry from Falmouth drops off people when the tide is high enough. Back in the village I stopped at the store to buy some much needed water and a pack of local blueberries. They proved to be fresh, juicy, and bursting with flavor.
From Helford we decided it was time to visit Mullion on the other side of the peninsula. It didn’t take long and as we drove through my former community, I found I did not really recognize any of it. Weekly I would go into Mullion to deposit most of my meager pay into my account at the post office. Despite doing that several times that summer, I did not recognize the building as we passed it. In fact, I didn’t recognize much of anything until we were at the bottom of the driveway to the hotel. As Bill drove up it, it seemed longer than before but once we arrived at the top and I could see the hotel, it brought back so many memories and feelings. The hotel exterior looked the same other than a new outdoor dining area and a new pool. The color was still off-white, the views from the top of the cliff the same, and my attic window was still there. I spent much time looking out that window at the water, lighthouses blinking, and stars twinkling. The nearby island was one to which my colleagues and I tried to swim to one day, but nearly froze to death in the process. Glancing down the cliff at the harbor, it was so familiar. I could see the two sand beaches on the other side accessible by a tunnel through the rocks when the tide was low. People were taking advantage of the sunny “warm” day but a few did have on wet suits. The rock and concrete pier was the unchanged.
We made our way to the front entrance of the hotel. I do not remember the sunroom, per say, but the spacious reception area with high rounded desk tucked in the corner of the staircase looked so similar to what I remember. I wandered into the two lounges which I used to clean in the mornings. They seemed much lighter and brighter and missing the acrid smell of dirty ashtrays and empty beer glasses. The dining room was in the same place but I remember the kitchen being off of that. Now, or perhaps my memory is wrong, is a large bar with a back exit to the outside eating area. I never did find the kitchen. Back off of that is where we lowly staff ate our meals. The food was pretty good. My favorite dessert was gooseberry fool with warm custard. So fattening and delicious. There was a phone booth to the left of the stairs, but that is gone and the alcove opens to another staff area.
From there we took ourselves upstairs which was quite different. Now there are firewalls at the stop of the stairs making the hallways much more narrow and darker. All the rooms have new doors. Wallpaper throughout is fresh and appealing. One room was open and the housekeeping staff were cleaning it. I stopped and spoke with the friendly young woman and told her that back in 1973 I had her job. We chatted for a bit and she let me see the room. I told her I used to live in the attic, and she laughed and replied that now it is empty except for dust and spiders. Bill and I continued on and explored the next floor as well. We think we found the door leading to the attic, but it was locked.
Back outside we descended the cliff path to get to the harbor. Some of the buildings at the bottom seemed new but there was still a place to get ice cream. We explored the harbor outbuildings from the exterior, one a former life saving station. The tunnel was accessible but too dark and still a bit wet, according to a young man who had just come through it, for us to try to navigate. We walked out on the harbor wall and watched the few beach goers, admiring their fortitude for the chilly channel waters.
Finally, I was ready to leave my special cove where I conquered some personal challenges and found inner strength that would carry me through the next adventures in my young adulthood. As we drove back to Mullion I recognized the church hall and the vicarage, now a BnB. We parked on the other side of the village and walked around. The old church is still there and the doors open. I don’t know if I had ever been inside before, but certainly never to a service. After sharing a mediocre Cornish pasty which was scalding hot, we eventually found the old post office. On the outside is a plaque giving the years it was open but in the 90’s it closed. I still didn’t recognize it.
As we still had time we drove to the point of the Lizard Peninsula and Kynance Cove. A half century ago they were largely void of people. Now they are both massive pay parking lots. There were way too many people and haze was interfering with the views so we decided not to stay and went back to our annex. That night we cooked our dinner in stages and rested up for the next day.
Lands End, the most westerly point of Great Britain, has apparently become another parking lot with an amusement park of some sort. So sad. Juliet recommended we skip it and explore Cape Cornwall, a bit north, instead. First we walked around Marazion for a view of St. Michael’s Mount. It wasn’t going to open for almost an hour and with the tide up we would have to take a ferry rather than walk the causeway. Parking was minimal and paid parking was for several hours. With the steep hill up to the castle, which would have likely bothered my healing knee as that had happened in Edinburgh, we opted out. I had been there back in ’73 and found it interesting, but have seen many castles since then. Then we drove on to Penzance where we walked around but nothing really captured us.
The next stop was at the Minack Theater which I don’t remember knowing about. Juliet highly suggested we stop there at it is a stunning outdoor theater set onto a rocky cliff. She has been to several productions there and loved them and the ambiance with dolphins adding to the entertainment at times. It was created by a woman, Rowena Cade, in the early thirties. She designed it and was heavily involved in the building of it, along with Billy Rawlings. She was known to carry weighty timbers and numerous sacks of sand up from the beaches for years. Later she used her rusty cars. Over time it was expanded and details added, all which required maintenance, especially after WWII. Never letting age get in her way, she continued with demanding intense labor into her eighties. This is all explained in a small exhibition and as part of the entry fee. We were fortunate to be able to watch a rehearsal of “I, Don Quixote” while we sat on the formed seating overlooking the coast. It really would be cool to see an actual performance in the evening, as long as the weather was Beth friendly! The show does go on in the rain.
Cape Cornwall is past Lands End as we went around. It was ok, with a view of Lands End in the distance. We parked and walked up the hill to the former tin mine chimney and Bill walked down the steep boat ramp to take pictures of the harbor. Off to the side was a pool with ocean water and something intriguing to three young lads. One climbed a high rock and twice we saw him jump off of it. My brother used to do that at our swimming pond when he was the same age.
By then it was time to head back to our annex as we had an early start in the morning. We were due just southeast of Oxford where the next pet sitter experience awaited.