Falmouth to Plymouth

Time has been flying by and we were now suddenly down to our last few days before our ferry to France.

We had a busy day in Falmouth on Thursday, having to visit two attractions in one day to fit things in, and with no time to wander off in search of the town centre.

Pendennis Castle was yet another of Henry VIII’s Device forts.

Falmouth has the third-deepest natural harbour in the world (after Sydney in Australia and Mahon, Menorca) and it’s large enough for a whole armada, so it was important to stop the French and Spanish entering and possibly landing troops.

The inside was very much like the other Device forts we’ve already seen. Pendennis was further developed over time, though, and outside were guns from through the ages as well as a WW2 half moon battery.

In the afternoon we walked down to Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum. It isn’t a huge museum but there was plenty of good stuff to see.

We got quite a good view from the observation tower; it’s pity the visibility wasn’t a bit better:

Falmouth is the most Westerly major port for ships coming into and leaving the English Channel. This made it a very busy place before the introduction of modern communications systems. Captains of ships bringing goods from far-flung lands would have to put in at Falmouth to go see their shipping agent, who would tell them to which port and to whom the goods were to be delivered (the goods could have been traded several times from one investor to another during the time the ship was at sea, so the ship’s captain had to somehow obtain the necessary information). Obvious really but something that had never occurred to me before….. Similarly, ships leaving UK waters would call in for supplies and last instructions from the shipping agent.

There were interesting displays on the Falmouth Packet (an international postal service by fast sailing ship that ran from 1689 until 1851 – very important in transmitting information throughout a growing empire), nineteenth century emigration from Cornwall, Falmouth’s role in the 1942 attack on the dry dock at St Nazaire (Operation Chariot) and a temporary exhibition on the Titanic including the stories of some of those from Cornwall who were on board.

Our top “Quirky Fact” of the day was that the first artificially constructed inflatable boat was invented by a certain Lieutenant Halkett in 1844. It was worn as a cloak, then inflated to make a boat!

It was tested on the river Thames and used in several Arctic expeditions between 1846 and 1857. Mark was surprised that he’d never heard of it, despite all the books on Polar exploration that he read on the ship over the years….

We decided on a more reliable mode of transport to get SOK across the Fal estuary: the King Harry Ferry, which is a chain ferry similar to the one we used at Dartmouth.

We then drove South to St Mawes, which is on the opposite side of the estuary to Pendennis Castle. Yep, once again, Henry VIII built a pair of forts rather than just one…..

St Mawes Castle, the last Device fort we’ll be visiting for some time, is by far and away the cutest:

It’s almost house-like, with big coats of arms and grovelling phrases praising Henry VIII and his son Edward on the outside (“ooh, more brown-nosing”, Mark was heard to comment) and original Tudor carvings above the doorways on the inside. This was definitely my favourite Device fort…..

After a wander round St Mawes village, which is very pretty but is one of those places whose centre consists almost exclusively of holiday cottages. The only sign of local life was the collection of builders’ vans parked outside houses clearly undergoing restoration ready for the holiday let market……

Our next stop was Lostwithiel. On Saturday morning we visited Restormel Castle, which we noticed was just up a lane from the Duchy of Cornwall estate office. A quick check online revealed that this is the “Western” estate office and that the Duchy has quite a few other offices in plush-looking buildings around the South-East; it’s good to see that Prince Charles seems to be doing OK for himself 😉

Anyway, getting back to Restormel Castle, it’s what Mark calls a “Bling Castle” – all for show with very little defensive purpose or capacity.

The current stone castle was probably built for Edmund, Earl of Cornwall in the late 13th century (Edmund was a first cousin of Edward I, who easily trumps poor Edmund on the castle-building front).

The castle had a pleasing “roundness” to it; it no doubt made for a very nice house, even if it wasn’t up to much as a castle.

We spent Saturday night on a “proper” camp site so as to be able to get all our washing done before heading to France. The plan on Sunday was to have a look at Plymouth before heading to the port for our evening ferry.

We did everything properly, checking online then heading to the recommended park & ride car park next to Plymouth Argyle’s football stadium.

There was only one problem…. it turned out that there are no buses on a Sunday! “Right, that’ll be park and.. erm.. park then” said Mark. We decided to head round to a free car park to the East of the city that Mark had found on Search for Sites and just doss for the afternoon. As he commented, “If they can’t be a***ed putting buses on, we can’t be a***ed visiting”. So Plymouth’s shops have not received a penny from us today……

It’s not a bad view from here:

The ferry in the distance is the Pont Aven, which set off towards Santander later in the afternoon.

We’ve had our tea and driven down to the docks, arriving just a couple of minutes before our ferry.

We’re just waiting for them to finish manoeuvring then unload, then we can be on our way to Brittany 😎

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