Day 144 (6.6.17): Merlin’s Cave, Merlin’s Well, and the Cornish Coast

It rained all day on Monday (6.5.17), which gave us a good chance to catch up on work and school.  More showers were threatening on Tuesday, but we decided to chance it.  It turned out to be a great decisions, as the weather held (for the most part), and we managed to visit some exceptional places.  Here’s a preview of the ground we ultimately covered.

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Our first destination was Tintagel Castle, which according to legend was the birthplace of King Arthur.  Along the way, we passed near Bodmin Moor, another wilderness area like Dartmoor.  We simply *had* to stop for this sign:

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Good news!  When we reached Tintagel it wasn’t raining.  Bad news.  It was incredibly windy.  As a result, the castle, which extends out onto a rocky cliff, was closed.

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This was only a minor disappointment, as Team Hubbard had mostly been looking forward to exploring Merlin’s Cave, which is accessed from the beach underneath the castle and was not closed.  I have been looking forward to visiting this cave for 30 years.  When I was in England as a boy in 1987, we visited Tintagel.  Unfortunately, Merlin’s Cave can only be entered at low tide, and tides were not right for us, which was a crushing disappointment to me as an 11-year-old.  On this trip, we planned our arrival to the cave to be just before low tide.  #BoyhoodBucketlist

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The cave is actually a tunnel, extending from one side of the castle’s rocky prominence to the other.  In the picture below, you can just make out the light filtering through the far side of the tunnel in the upper left.

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We had fun scrambling around in the cave, but even at low tide large sections contain water.  Wearing our wellies helped, but there were deep sections we had to avoid by climb ledges along the walls.

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We returned to the beach and watched massive Cornish waves crash on the jagged rocks.

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We noticed that there was another cave at the other end of the beach, and rushed to explore this one as well.  The entrance to this cave was smaller, but the cave was longer, branching into two tunnels that extended so far into the cliffs that the girls and I had to use the flashlight in my phone to explore deeper.

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We  explored all of the passages we could find, walking across rounded stones and stand in the recesses of the sea cave.  It was clear that the cave would be flooded when the tide came in, so we decided it was time to move on.

Our next destination was another Merlin site:  a waterfall known as Merlin’s Well.  (The area around the waterfall is also known as St. Nectan’s Glen, but we preferred to keep with the Arthurian theme.)  The well can only be reached by hiking for about an hour along a small road and then a trail that follows a twisting stream.  Near the start of the hike, we passed a stone post that had once been used by a local farmer to support a gate.  The post was actually a Roman marker dating to the Third Century AD, complete with a faded Latin inscription.

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The girls had fun cavorting along the lush path, exploring small islands and fern-filled gullies.

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We reached Merlin’s Well, and Lydie and I took off our shoes to enjoy the experience more fully.  This may not have been a great idea.  The water was COLD.

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Over untold years, the water cascading down the falls has worn a hole through the rock, and Cassie (warm and dry in her boots), constructed a small cairn.

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Meanwhile, Lydie and I made our way towards the bank to put our boots back on.

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(Once my feet were dry, I also went back to the well to see if its sacred, restorative powers would work on my hairline.  I guess only time will tell.)

Our Merlin adventures were great, but the kids were tired.  The also had more school work to complete, so we headed back to our cottage.  Julie and I decided to take a walk on some nearby cliffs, known as the Bedruthan Steps.  The cliff-side views during our walk were spectacular, but it was unbelievably windy.  We were glad that the girls were not with us, as we thought they would have been blown off the cliffs.

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We found a staircase that led down to the water, and decided to come back the next day at low tide with the kids.  The rocks looked too enticing to pass up.  Julie and I hiked back to the car, and returned to Wadebridge to pick up the girls so that we could all go to dinner in the small village of Port Isaac.  A British show called “Doc Martin” is filmed in the village, making it moderately famous, and when we arrived, we were excited to see that they were actually filming for the show!

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We headed down to the harbor and had dinner at a tiny, old, and very charming seafood restaurant right on the harbor.  After dinner, we walked around the tiny village, stopping by Doc Martin’s house.  (Our restaurant is the white building on the concrete ramp leading down to the beach near the center of this picture, above and to the left of the small boats.)

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We had fun exploring roads far too small for cars, meandering until we found a walk along the water, where it was once again very windy.

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Our first day of exploring in Cornwall was a huge success!

-Will

 

 

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