Today was our last full day in Cornwall, and the rain that had been flirting with us for days finally arrived in force. We laid low in the morning, with the girls relaxing in our cottage while Julie and I poked around Mousehole. By afternoon, it was time to explore, rain or no rain, so we set out in search of a group of standing stones known as Mên-an-Tol, which were located about 30 minutes north of Mousehole.
I had heard about these stones more than 20 years ago, back when I was in high school. There was a band that wrote a song about the stones, though I must admit that it was not until I spotted the words “Mên-an-Tol” in a guidebook on this trip to the UK that I realized that song had been about stones and Cornwall. (I guess I hadn’t paid close attention to the lyrics when I was younger.)
The stones are also unusual, even as far as standing stones go. It’s not clear exactly how old the stones are, but they were likely erected a few thousand years ago. But lots of standing stones are old. What makes Mên-an-Tol different is the stones themselves, one of which is a circular stone with a large hole in it like a bagel.
The stones are not, however, a major tourist attraction. We drove through the rain down small Cornish roads, and soon spotted a small sign indicating the start of the path to the stones.
The rain was coming down fairly hard as we parked the car in a small layby, so we put on our rain pants, wellies, and rain coats for the 1/2 mile walk. The waterproofing on Julie’s coat has seen better days, unfortunately, so she grabbed an umbrella. We walked down a dirt (mud) road, with the rain mostly blowing into our backs. After about 15 minutes, the path to the stones left the small road and cut across a field.
As we walked through the field, the rain picked up, but we soon found the stones nonetheless.
The stones are steeped in legend. According to some, the stones have a fairy guardian that can cure diseases. For centuries, babies afflicted with rickets were passed through the hole. Women who crawled through the stone backwards seven times apparently became more fertile.
Of course, Lydie and Cassie had to crawl through the hole. I made sure it was frontwards and only once.
It worked! No rickets! The stones were great, but it was cold and wet. As we turned to start back toward the car we realized that the rain had been blowing into our backs on the way to the stones … and that the rain was now blowing in our faces on the return trip. By the time we got back to the car, we were more than a little damp, particularly Julie.
We drove back to Mousehole a little on the early side, at least compared to some of our marathon travelling days. Julie and I had a reservation at the swankiest restaurant in Mousehole. Admittedly, there are only about 5 places to eat in Mousehole, but it was still a nice enough restaurant that we decided to leave the kids at home. Dinner was great — mostly local seafood, but we realized that it was our last night to relax in an English pub. We quickly got the bill, and scooted around the corner to the Ship Inn, where we each enjoyed a Tribute. Our time in the UK was nearly up, and our reluctance to leave added a bitter edge to the evening. But like our pints of ale, the bitter taste was a good one, and hopefully one that would linger in our minds if not on our palates.