Two for the price of one, and a long one at that.
After much nagging, I was allowed to drag the family up to the North Coast to visit Tintagel Castle. I'd wanted to do this when we came to Cornwall last year, but somehow in two weeks we hadn't managed to find time to schlep 40 miles to go and see another bloody castle, as Emma might put it. This year I was not to be denied and it also offered us the opportunity to use our new middle-class picnic set, half price from Mountain Warehouse.
Nevertheless it was with some trepidation that I bombed up the country lanes at a speed designed to minimise journey time whilst not causing all my passengers to bowk; was I dragging a disinterested Emma, surly teenager, sceptical Michael and "Are we there yet" Gerry on a marathon journey (well about 1 hour 20 actually) for a deeply underwhelming pile of unidentifiable grassy stones with only Dad-interest value?
Arrived at Tintagel village and was slightly dismayed to find it a somewhat tacky tourist trap, much like the Godawful Lands's End. Thankfully the amusement arcade wasn't open. At this point my credibility hung Iike a thread, but I thought "F*** it I've waited a year and I want to see a castle" and stiffened my resolve, marching unflinching past the hoards of Spanish school kids, pot-bellied staycationers from Slough on a day-trip from their holiday park in Newquay and two lame teenagers dressed in stag-night 'King and Queen' costumes clutching clipboards containing a survey or something.
I need not have worried. The very first sight of the truly amazing landscape and jaw-dropping ambition/folly of the castle (built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall in 1233) caused Emma and even J to exclaim with awe.
Climbing up the very steep and narrow stairway to the top of the island part of the site, it occurred to me how bloody heavy the picnic bag was. Well I suppose it would be, what with 4 plates, 4 cups, 4 sets of cutlery, salt and pepper cellars, napkins, 4 x ice packs, 5 x sandwiches, apples, bananas, 6 x juice cartons and a large bag of hand-cooked crisps to befit the class of the picnic bag.
When we got to the top, of course the first thing we did was sit down and scoff all the grub, without going near the cups, plates, cutlery napkins etc. The food wasn't in the bag long enough to need to ice packs either, but notwithstanding the pointlessness of bringing all this stuff I still had to mule it round the castle all day. Next time we will cut the sarnies with knives, eat them from plates and drink the juice from cups, before wiping our chins with the napkins, and we will wait long enough before eating to justify using ice packs.
I won't bore you with the details of Tintagel, suffice to say that it was the best pile of mossy stones I've seen in a long time, and there was a cool tunnel. Staggering views in all directions, which I will post when I get around to it. As we were descending down the stairway to the entrance point halfway between the two halves of the castle, there was a bit of a commotion down in the cove between. A group of four idiots from London had somehow got themselves stuck on the rocks at the bottom by climbing right through "Merlins's Cave", presumably past a sign saying "Do not pass this point, danger of being cut off by rising tide". Much drama ensued as the coastguard and Air Sea Rescue helicopter were called to winch them back up to safety.
Unfortunately this meant that access to the castle was closed (grrrr) so took M and G down to the bottom of the cliffs where we had an interesting chat about smelting metals. Gerry: "So did people discover copper and tin separately before deciding to make bronze?" That kid worries me.
Noticed some people swimming in the calm turquoise waters of the cove beneath so I offered to yomp back up the hill to the car to get the swimming gear: "Well I might as well take all the bags we're not using." Half an hour later having completed the Iron Man Challenge and returned with wetsuits, the tide was fast coming in so J and M had time only to swim for 10 mins through increasingly choppy and scummy waters before we had to abandon the beach or suffer the indignity of calling the helicopter back again.
Not fancying the climb up the hill again we took the Land Rover taxi, shared as we discovered with members of the family that had been stranded and rescued. Enjoyed watching the stupid selfish prats squirm as the driver, himself a sea rescuer, berated them as ignorant and selfish and pointed out that the rescue cost over £2000. Well they did offer to put a donation in the charity box next time they saw one, so that's alright then.
That's it, nuff castles. Was going to drag them round to Falmouth tomorrow to watch grown men in suits of armours hitting each other it swords and lances from horseback, but the family mutinied and insisted on spending the last two days sitting on the beach, huh.