Monday, 24 August 2009
Portloe, St. Mawes and The Ship Inn
Our journey from The Gurnard’s Head in Zennor took us through Penzance, past St. Michaels’s Mount and the oyster beds of Helford (where apparently there's a great camp site with a clay pizza oven called Gear Farm) and on to Flushings where we caught the tail end of a regatta and the start of a fete. Patches of blue sky and ribbons of bunting seemed to greet us wherever we went.
We landed up in a farmhouse BnB between Truro and St. Mawes in the most undulating and rugged Cornish scenery you can imagine. Hills didn’t roll, they tumbled; grass wasn’t green, it was emerald. As we arrived at Tregonan Farm we could barely believe we had found it. The driveway was a mile long, down a valley, over a stream and walled in by steep hedges. The tarmac had long worn away leaving a “road” more rutted than a winter ewe.
The farmhouse looked idyllic from the outside, as it did on the website. When our utterly charming host welcomed us in, we couldn’t help but sigh when we were shown to our browny-beige room. It was the least romantic bedroom you can imagine. The interior design equivalent of granny pants held up with a chastity belt. The dated look and rickety fittings were a master stroke in ensuring that amorous guests don’t keep everyone up all night!
We pottered downstairs and were greeted by tea and warm scones that had just emerged from the AGA. It made me wonder whether they had a camera at the bottom of the drive which alerted them when a guest was arriving in order for them to put the scones in the oven… There can be few more enchanting things than fresh scones, home made gooseberry jam, clotted cream and thoughtful hospitality. Full marks.
Prompted by their user-generated restaurant and pub guide we drove down to the stunning fishing harbour of St. Mawes. We loved the quiet atmosphere and sight of boats bobbing about as if they were listening to one of Will Young’s more mellow ballads. But St. Mawes is devoid of a decent pub, with the Rising Sun doing only a half decent job of imitating one. It’s crying out for someone with some vision to do create a cracking fish focussed pub.
So we drove on to Portloe where we found The Ship Inn, which was so full of people they were spilling out all over the nearly vertical street outside. It was abuzz with locals, visitors, old sea-dogs and boozehounds adding character at the bar.
A perfectly grilled whole plaice with lemon butter washed down with a magical pint of Tinners was just what I wanted. Nothing fancy. Light. Spot on. Cowie’s prawn cocktail was straight out of Simon Hopkinson’s world. And why not?
We walked off our light supper and stood looking out to sea feeling refreshed, inspired, liberated and eager to return. When we can afford it, we might even indulge in a trip to the Lugger, which looks like a very smart place for a romantic get away.
Well done Tregonan and Portloe. Timeless, British hospitality at its most genuine. Why can’t other places manage this? It really isn’t hard.
Part of a series of posts about our trip around the South West.