Magpie 4 Rick Stein 0

On Saturday we continued our journey, visiting Launceston before moving on to Tintagel for the night. The weather was grim with grey skies and horizontal mizzly rain, but now that we’ve booked a ferry and are committed to a schedule, there was nothing to be done but to don waterproofs and venture out……

Launceston Castle is another motte and bailey castle, similar to the one we saw the other day at Totnes.

It’s associated with Brian de Bretagne (or “Bwian of Bwittany” as Mark is now calling him). Brian was handed this part of England by William the Conqueror (“Billy the B****rd” in Mark-speak) after the Battle of Hastings and is thought to have been responsible for the first (timber) castle on the site in the late 11th century. Wikipedia reliably (😉) informs us that Brian had brothers called both Alan the Red and Alan the Black….. really? The stone castle came later, and was extensively remodelled in the 13th century by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who we’ll come across again at Tintagel.

One interesting little snippet that we learned was that George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, was imprisoned at Launceston Castle in 1656. He used to get arrested all the time as an all-round religious nuisance, but on this occasion, refusing to remove his hat in court (as he believed in social equality blah blah) resulted in an extended stay of several months. He sounds like a right pain in the a*** 😆

The weather cleared up mid-afternoon and the sun came out shortly after we reached Tintagel. King Arthur’s car park, which allows motorhomes to park overnight and only charges £4 for 24 hours, was doing a roaring trade…..

The weather was even better on Sunday – bright sunshine. Mark has been wanting to visit Tintagel for a long time. Tintagel is, of course, famous as the place where King Arthur was conceived (though they never mentioned at primary school that his mum’s husband wasn’t at home when the event took place 😉).

Unfortunately, it seems that the King Arthur tale is a load of old nonsense, made up by a chap called Geoffrey of Monmouth (along with lots of other tall tales) to pad out his circa 1136 bestseller “History of the Kings of Britain”. 12th Century fake news…..

Tintagel is the site of a castle built in the 1230s by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of Henry III (both were sons of King John. All together now… Boooooooo!).

Henry III had a thing for Edward the Confessor (even going so far as to name his eldest son Edward) and had a habit of running off to East Anglia to tour his favourite shrines at the first sign of any trouble in the realm, so I suppose it’s no real surprise to learn that his brother Richard was also a bit unusual.

Richard had a bit of a thing for King Arthur, which is why he built a castle at Tintagel shortly after being given Cornwall as a teenager (he may also have thought it would ingratiate him with the Cornish). He owned plenty of other castles, mind you, his main base being at Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire. Here’s Richard looking the part on his seal:

After Richard died, his family didn’t show any interest in Tintagel and it gradually fell into ruin. In the early 15th century the headland collapsed in the middle, which is why nowadays there are some remains of the castle on the mainland side, then you have to walk down a path, across a bridge and up steps on the other side to get to the remaining bits of wall on what is now pretty much an island.

The more interesting remains, I thought, are of a 5th-6th century settlement on the headland thought to have been a power base of the Dumnonia Kingdom (covering modern-day Cornwall, Devon and part of Somerset). All you can see are the bases of the walls of the various buildings.

There are thought to have been around 100 buildings in the settlement, and artefacts found at the site provide evidence of trading links with places as far afield as the Mediterranean.

From Tintagel we drove to Padstow (or Padstein as it’s often known due to the plethora of establishments in the small town owned by TV chef Rick Stein).

Mark bought his first “proper” Cornish pastie in Padstow. It’s in the fridge for tomorrow…

In case you’re wondering why Mark didn’t immediately scoff the Cornish pastie….. we were off to Rick Stein’s fish & chip shop for our tea and he was “saving space”. Could Rick Stein possibly outdo the Magpie Cafe, we wondered? As a quick recap, here’s the photo of Mark at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby (from our post of 23 Feb 2018):

Well, the answer has to be a resounding no….. We ordered exactly the same meal: cod & chips for Mark, haddock & chips for me, both with mushy peas.

The photos do say it all, really, but if you want the details:

* Chips. Magpie wins. Mark reckoned that the Magpie chips were fatter and crispier.

* Fish. Another clear win for the Magpie. Ignoring the obvious difference in size, Mark noted that the Magpie batter was much better (thicker and crispier). I’d say that the haddock at the Magpie was far superior. Lovely flaky white fish in super-crispy batter. Today’s offering, in comparison, was limp and ever so slightly greasy.

* Value. The only difference that jumped out on the mushy pea front was the price. The Magpie gave us one huge portion of mushy peas between us (which could have been £1.80 for large or £1.10 for medium, we’re not sure). Today we had to have a paper thimble each, total cost £3. The tea was more expensive today too…… In fact, looking at the receipt, every single item we ordered today was more expensive than it is at the Magpie.

* Extras. Mark claims that he was disappointed that there was no bread and butter on Rick Stein’s menu. The Magpie offers a slice of bread and butter for 40p. I’ve double checked and Rick Stein does offer a bread roll for £1.20. Mark claims it’s not the same but I think I’ll have to disallow this one. Let’s face it, the Magpie Cafe doesn’t need the points……

* Finally, Mark was most upset that at Rick Stein, even when you eat in you don’t get a plate…… Another point for the Magpie then…..

As we were finishing our food, and having extracted Mark’s views as we went along, I did ask whether there was really nothing that was better at Rick Stein than at the Magpie. “Er….no….” came the answer.

So there you have it, folks. Whitby trounces Padstein in the fish and chip wars… Mark is muttering something about “Southern softies” not having proper chippies….. I’m taking a slightly more balanced view. I’m not sure we should diss a whole chunk of the nation on the basis of one ageing TV chef. Poor old Rick Stein. He’s never been the same since Chalky died……

3 comments

  1. Looks really nice, maybe I should plan a visit in that direction sometime. I think Mark needs to try the ‘award winning’ fish and chip shop in Stonehaven. See how it compares to the Magpie!

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    1. I’ll add that to our “to do” list for Scotland later this year. Mark has already decided that we should go to a good chip shop he’s previously frequented in Peel when we’re in the Isle of Man next month…. This may be the year Mark finally puts some weight on 😱

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  2. If you must go to tourist traps like Rick Steins, you should expect everything you get. I’ll bet it was a franchise. It’s just like going to Harry Ramsdens, Best to make your own F& Cs on board then you can have them exactly as you like them. Better luck next time.

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